In a world of “acceptable musical nihilism”, Clinton Fearon is a citizen-musician, in the ideal sense of the word. He produces music that goes beyond expressing the sun, mountains, rooms, etc, associated with his native Jamaica (he now lives in Washington State), and instead is a troubadour, open to the cosmos, carrying around commitment to lay it down wherever women and men have committed themselves to adding some music to public space.
While chatting to Clinton, it was obvious that the man has chosen a utopia, and a very respectable one: that of a society where all are kind and concerned about each other, whatever that may look like (tall steel building, small round hut). He laughed when I asked him what sort of society he wants to build with his music, but answered with a precise answer. That’s the thing about Clinton, he introduces himself nonchalantly but is mostly a very serious person, as is the case for his music.
Writer Jean Claude Fignole in Revue Noire was exact in describing much of Caribbean culture as a “slow march of oneself towards oneself”, and those words should be kept in mind when listening to Fearon and reading this interview. It’s a journey towards a new thing, and that is his music.
How would you describe your music, in your own words?
“I would say that it is from the heart, danceable, and good to listen to. I would say that it has a positive message”.
What’s important about positive music?
“We need positive music in this world, and have needed it for a long time”.
For how long?
“For as long as I can remember. For as long as I know, this world has been bad man versus bad man, police versus police”.
Can musical positivity actually fix the world?
“Yes, it’s doing one’s bit. If we all do our bit, the world will become a better place”.
“Rhythm with the intent of producing good vibrations can. The message is immediately felt”.
How did you get into this line of work?
“There were two roads for me: badness, or goodness. I took the guitar road, the good road, in a world where we kill one another. Growing up, cops killed one another, and bad men killed one another…I just try to do good each day, and for me that’s music”.
Would you consider yourself a poet?
[Laughs] “I would say that I am, but way down there in the totem pole. I’m going slowly still, and I am at around 20% in terms of producing 100% beautiful poetry”.
At age of 66 and with a career spanning almost 50 years, Clinton Fearon could be peacefully considering retirement. But age must apply differently to Jamaican musicians. Just look at Kiddus I (72) and Cedric Myton (70), whose last effort – The Soul of Jamaica: Inna de Yard (Chapter Two)…