I was reminded recently by an email from LinkedIn about my work anniversary for my DJ activities which I included as my work history and suddenly realised that some twenty years plus have passed since my sojourn and journey in party promotions and disc jockeying, in fact it’s twenty three years in total if I am to count my apprenticeship periods after I left high school and my short time at two radio stations as the technical operator and music librarian then who helped to pick the tunes for shows, playlists and royalty payment preparation sheets for artists behalf to collect for or from publishing companies such as BMI/ASCAP and PRS of London. It is however twenty years in as far as LGBT events since my days starting out at the main venue in Kingston, Club Entourage.
I also has a short stint at the then Trelawny Beach Hotel now known as Starfish Resorts and in that transitional period to a family type resort the offerings at the club with a more multi genre playlists feel and at Grande Puba skating rink and guest house now closed in Negril both in 2003; complete with other gigs some of which I cannot remember off hand but the old flyers tell a story. Time has indeed flown by and it never occurred to me if not for the email reminder. It has been and continued to be a pleasure to play the beats even though over time I have made some major decisions in what, where and how I play nowadays.
Certainly coming from the days of vinyl turntables through to the early days of software such as Automix now Virtual DJ through to Mac based mixers technology has certainly played a role in my growth, I was the first DJ on the LGBT circuit to move from vinyl/CDS to PC mixing then to laptops and now a Mac with Serato, I still do like Virtual DJ especially the DJ Console skin, everything is sitting right there before me and perfect for dance-music as well. Adaptation is key if one is to grow I guess.
The early years I played everything at LGBT mainly events from soca, pop, rap, dancehall, r&b, reggae and adult contemporary while privately or at special events such as commitment ceremonies or bridal showers which I still do to this date even as gay marriage is not yet legal I do light jazz, instrumentals and even as out there as the classical stuff and hosted karaoke. I did a short stint at two sound systems known as Soul Symphony Disco and Pepper seed Sound (named after a popular dancehall riddim then which was re-released some time after) prior to the larger sound that came later and used the name as the older was defunct.
My big break came soon after my release from prison in December 1996 where I was formerly introduced to the late great Brian Williamson, co founder of JFLAG, club owner of Club Entourage located in New Kingston just a couple hundred yards away from the Shoemaker Gully where the present crop of homeless MSM/transgender folks now reside. I auditioned for him alongside three other DJs and we were all selected, my first gig was on Christmas Eve, I eventually worked closely with one of the resident DJs the late Boswell as we had a similar style while DJ Ricky and DJs Whiteman (the latter who was forced to flee Jamaica after the party DVD leak to the public in 2007) and DJ Jermaine who now lives in Canada and whose sister was a rising star in dancehall but was killed by her boyfriend.
I made a crucial decision to stop playing dancehall after my work with JFLAG in its infancy years on the Stop Murder Music Campaign, it became rather conflicting to me to be spinning music from dancehall artists who on one hand have music in their repertoire calling for and legitimising the murder and violence to gays and yet on the other we are dancing to their other songs, so I placed a total block on that genre. I lost some fans but managed to recover as those days dancemusic was more acceptable then.
Here is a short trajectory from memory, apologies for little photos as in the early years there was a strict no photo policy for LGBT events, especially after an outing incident by one of the major tabloids who took photos of the Entourage inside and out and carried a headline suggesting young boys were being ‘recruited’ into homosexuality by richer gay men with no proof to boot and left the Club almost coming to a close as Mr Williamson took evasive action until things calmed, he eventually instituted an invitation only policy for starters but other heterosexual sharks tried to wade into the business offering open events to gays for a short time.
Club Entourage years
Played dance music predominantly then on Fridays mostly and then moved to the peak hour nights on Saturdays, aided in drag shows and live shows with special events for NGOs and so on. Worked with leading promoters and co manager Michael Melbourne and the staff which came to an end in 2005 after Mr Williamson was murdered in June 2004, an attempt was made to continue it even as the family gave some tacit support but the fire had died with Mr Williamson so all things had to come to an end. Other private individual promoters became more bullish and went ahead hosting events at various venues and houses; trouble was the rentals sometimes would be high given the type of party in the minds of the owners and managers of those properties.
Kling Kling Villas
A small guest house beach front outfit just on the highway leaving Runaway Bay and which was featured in the threats made by police to now Canadian living activist Gareth Henry who hosted several LGBT events including the most successful one that of Harmonica Sunbeam’s first appearance in Jamaica, memories of that one still linger, a 2006 pride event also comes to mind but the outing incident as well where a gay party held there and that was on DVD (mentioned above) was leaked to the public and exposed the DJ named and the property eventually.
The property manager eventually discontinued rentals for LGBT events just for a peaceful life and by that time Club Heavens came in and filled the void.
One of the longest serving clubs in Discovery Bay and which also made news in 2010 after a raid by cops looking for alleged lotto scammers, it served the community for some near ten years in total originally run by the late great Kirk Lester, the man whose funeral service was mobbed and which made international news, homophobes rained down on the service and effectively desecrated the church property. The venue saw management through many hands, from Kirk Lester to Gareth Henry, Macey Antibellum Grey, Yvonne & Narchi, Angel Talkbout, Pinky (the part owner) and myself for a short spell. After the aforementioned raid however things came to a close but not before one of the most successful event occurred which was dubbed “Club Heavens the Rebirth” as posted back then on the wordpress blog of GLBTQ Jamaica. Other traditional events were kept alive such as Grammy Awards, Dancehall Queen, Oscars LGBT Awards and the now defunct Glamour Girl competition. I remained one of the resident DJs alongside DJ Buck and other guest DJs during its long run. Only the Club Entourage has a longer time since recorded history where it lasted 12 years.
Retter Drive & Kirk
Located in Belverdere it operated as a stand in of sorts when Club Heavens was not having any major event or as an alternative for those who did not want to travel by a three hour drive to Discovery Bay, barring the completion of the highway which now shortens the journey by half. Worked with the resident DJs then as my true residency was at Club Heavens then but the fights by persons made things little problematic. The venue lasted some four years as well before the decision was made to close it by Kirk.
Club Escape (its two locations)
A club which was on the hills of upper St Andrew ran by two women with ‘Sophia’ being the more out front operative, I was not the resident DJ as DJ Ricky was still around alongside DJ Whiteman prior to his asylum to the UK. My guest appearances were great as my fans followed me there and the base was also growing given my decision to stop playing dancehall. The club then moved to another part of Stony Hill and continued for a year or so and closed effectively in 2007 after some four years.
Located in Montego Bay was one of the few venues I had residency in western Jamaica, though short lived it catered to Montegonians and other rural folks who couldn’t or didn’t want to travel all the way to Kingston where most of the things were happening. It too was forced closed as ran by the late Kenrick ‘BeBe’ Stevenson as cops raided the venue, beat up a few of the homeless guys who BeBe was helping in search of alleged lotto scammers and they found none but not before thrashing the place, it closed after BeBe’s arrest and then his subsequent murder, a matter that is yet to be properly proven and presented.
A short lived venue smack in the middle of Half Way Tree atop a fire breathing church at that as operated then by the Sankofa team and which hosted it most memorable event the performance of Rupaul’s Drag race winner Nina Flowers for the first time in Jamaica. I was one of the resident DJs then alongside the other main spinners. It came under some pressure from police as word spread but it was eventually closed by the team as they did not see it as viable. Santa’s List became the team’s most successful franchise end of year ditty as it attracted local and overseas Jamaicans who would often fly in just for that.
Other memorable events
Hot Girls Roll Out (2010), Divas Live featuring diva Michelle Ross (2007), “Full White Affair –Gucci Birthday Bash”, September 10th, 2005, Romain's Birthday Bash 2012, Romain's Birthday Bash 2012, Sin City's Anniversary event, Cockiness Part I, II & III to name a few and there some other spots that were short lived such as ‘Cranborne’ ‘Top House’ and ‘The Hill’ which was another hillside venue on a rather steep slope hence the name. It feels good rehashing some of this
Present residency Bubbles Bar
A membership only gay bar for older gay and bisexual men some loyal patrons formerly of the previous clubs notoriety and international guests via clever marketing and some AirBnB usage, music genres are mostly dancemusic if not EDM, classic house, tech-house, runway tribalism, electro-house, 2 step and related styles including vogue-femme. The atmosphere is a more relaxative one, a more listening party feel more so than all out dancing with theme nights and domino tournaments from Fridays to Sundays. I like this residency now as it affords me room to try new things, introduce songs easier as older audiences do more deeper listening, audiences are more patient and willing to go with you so long as the outcome is pleasing and brings me to a whole new market of visitors to Jamaica at the venue in the Discovery Bay area. It’s not about popularity anymore and that ever problematic hetero-normative atmosphere event framed as ‘LGBT’ by merely mimicking or importing a dancehall str8-actin’ mess to make events feel legitimate or getting a ‘forward’ frankly I have stopped doing those. After all house music and all its subsequent derivatives and sub-genres were developed by gay/bi producers/remixers, DJs, club owners and gay friendly record companies so its ours to appreciate, let there be house!
Time really flies indeed and as long as I can spin and have the impetus to do so I will continue to serve; I had thought of hanging up my stockings but the interest is still there.
Thanks for your support and on December 24, Christmas Eve I intend to mark the occasion.
Peace & tolerance
Time really flies indeed and as long as I can spin and have the impetus to do so I will continue to serve.
Thanks for your support and on December 24, Christmas Eve I intend to mark the occasion.
Peace & tolerance