“Ras Kitchen”, “Italian cuisine”, reggae music and Jamaican culture
Like most people, my introduction to Jamaican music began with Bob Marley, whose well-titled collection of hits Legend set my standard for all other reggae music. Soon after, I discovered Peter Tosh, Toots and The Maytals, Black Uhuru, and more.
A family trip to Jamaica in the Spring of ’87 introduced me to the dancehall styles of Admiral Bailey and the sweet, soulful sounds of Gregory Isaacs, as well as the incredible vistas and fragrant scents of this beautiful island. Smells of salty sea air, wood smoke, fertile jungle, wild flowers, tropical fruits, sugar cane, rum and of course ganja are engraved in my olfactory memory banks.
In the summer of 87, I joined my long lost cousin Ross in San Francisco on a trip to the epic Reggae On The River festival in the heart of Humboldt County where (I think) I saw bands. like The Mighty Diamonds, The Itals, and Culturelle. This experience only deepened my love for Reggae music and Jamaican culture.
Today I am happy to say that I have made some wonderful new discoveries online. It started with searching for bass reggae lessons on YouTube and finding excellent instructional videos from Devon Bradshaw, longtime Burning Spear bassist. Devon is accompanied by the best drummer Donovan Miller, which has its own episode with essential reggae rhythms and grooves. These guys have the knowledge and the feeling to teach you the reggae beat!
One of the great things about YouTube is that it often lets you follow unexpected threads. This was the case when the following video showed Bradshaw and Miller backing up heavy rasta music led by shriveled and dreadlocked elders, including Johnny Walker and The Dissappointers with American saxophonist Henley Douglas Jr.
With documentary-style footage, Walker’s air “BusyBrags: “You think you’re busy, you’re not busy like me.” ” “In the streets” allows you to get a glimpse of Jamaican street life. As powerful is Jah youth singing and showing around his farm in the jungle.
Shot in the Nonsuch Hills, Portland, it’s all part of a documentary titled Reggae In The Ruff and features real Rastafarian musicians named Kultural, Stannie, Splick, FarEye, Bassey, Bushman, Jah Roy and the aforementioned Johnnie Walker and Jah Youth. Sadly, a few of them died, and searching for the movie online only revealed expired links. I will keep looking cause this promises to be a real situation, like a Jamaican Buena Vista Social Club.
The frenzy of watching it all led me to a fantastic show called Food produced by Matthew Pancer, a young Canadian with a background in media production, artistic camera skills and access to high-quality material that allows him to capture stunning footage, including spectacular aerial shots of the countryside surrounding.
Strong since 2010 and now in its 4th season, Food focuses on the backyard and family life of Rastaman âMokkoâ who runs Riverside Cool Cottages, a small group of rustic cabins in Sunning Hill in St. Thomas Parish on the eastern end of Jamaica.
Mokko is a sweet, fit and edgy boy with amazing 45 year old seven foot dreadlocks. In one episode, he shows how he keeps them clean by bathing in a nearby river with strawberry shampoo. Once they’ve dried, he neatly tucks them away under a variety of giant, funky hats.
Mokko’s culinary expertise shines brightly as he works languidly over a smoky open fire on an old oil drum and guides the viewer through a variety of recipes including Ital Stew, Janga (fried river shrimp), Chocolate tea, Irish Mousse, and more.
âSpliff Catsâ is a series within the series, where Mokko burns the sacred grass and scatters sweet wisdom. He said, âIf you sit down, nothing will come to you. No one should be surprised. When a man’s time comes, a man’s time comes. That’s it …! Yeah man. Every man has a day, every man has a time. And I say to you: âEvery hoe has planted a bush! “
This loosely translates to “Carpe Diem, and there is someone for everyone.
Luckily for the viewer, this is all captioned, as it would otherwise be difficult to understand Mokko’s thick Jamaican patois. He has his own classic expressions like “no fucking” which basically means “no fucking”.
Mokko knows everything about all the living things in his garden and their medicinal and dietary properties. He planted bananas, plantains, potatoes, yams, coffee, coconuts, ackee, breadfruit, dasheen, cocoa, soursop, pumpkin , Scotch Bonnet peppers, etc. He cooks Italian, vegetarian, entirely natural dishes from the land. Although he doesn’t eat animal protein, he can cook “any kind of food you want” and can be seen making fried chicken, fish, and janga (river shrimp) for Matthew in various episodes. . âGood for the reptileâ (male endurance), he says. All this is offered to guests staying in the cottages.
A pack of puppies, chickens and her adorable grandson Rattie, aka “Rat Rat”, are still running around the yard, always ready to mess around. Other family members come in and out. Doret, Mokko’s wife, bakes tasty banana fritters in one episode, while daughter Shannel takes the lead in cellphone shopping on a family trip to nearby Morant Bay. It’s a glimpse into authentic Jamaican life.
Other highlights include hiking to the top of the Blue Mountains with Rasta Buru aka Judge Abel who conveys more Rasta wisdom. âWe are not here to judge, we are here to listen. With Mokko by his side, he later performed his excellent aria “Ranking officer,” praising Jah and extolling the virtues of the herb for “the healing of the nation”.
The special thing about this show is Matthew’s relationship with Mokko and his family. The two have a friendly and jovial joke, and Matthew’s sincere desire to capture the real Jamaica is evident.
Stylistically FoodThe cinematography of is smooth and efficient, stitching together candid hand-held footage with more intricate drone shots for an organic view of Jamaica, which helps the viewer feel like they’re there. Ras Kitchen has a fundraising page for those who want to support this unique show: https://www.gofundme.com/f/helpmokko.
In an episode titled “How Ras Kitchen Began”, Matthew explains his original vision of marketing it as a travel show, his encounters with various networks, and their appreciation but ultimate rejection of the concept. So much the better because the production has a family and independent atmosphere which allows things to unfold in a natural way without interference from the producers of the network. And he seems to be doing well on his own. Food broadcast nationally on Jamaican Flow TV and YouTube with 351,000 subscribers. One can easily imagine the series on Netflix, but if it ever does, hopefully Matthew and Mokko can keep it real. I believe they will.
Food, Reggae In The Ruff, and Jamaica are full of real, larger-than-life characters. The depth of personality on display is a big part of the success of each show. Discovering this fantastic music, cuisine and culture is like opening a sunken pirate treasure chest, a secret to be discovered.
For more on Ras Kitchen, Mokko, and Riverside Cool Cottages, check out https://raskitchen.com and http://rastamokko.com. Respect to all artists and people mentioned in this article. I dream of returning to Jamaica one day and hope to meet these good people in person. Bless!