There are those particular interviews, which happen at the right time. They happen at the moment; in ways they should be. When you have those kind of interviews, you hold onto them. They are the kind that makes her/history, that much more realistic. Certain truths are revealed and bring light to events, culture, and things we were unaware of. In order to know and collect this information, you have to hear it from those, who were there. Those sacred voices who were there from the very beginning, and saw it all. Once they leave, we don’t get that information of what things were like, during a certain period. So, its better to get them now! Get them while they are in the land of the living, and while the memory is fresh! Record them in the now. That way, when the time comes, the story can be re-read, re-played, and re-experienced all over again.
The August 29, 2020 interview of legendary Reggae musician and artist-TOOTS HIBBERT– by Senior Editor COREY SEYMOUR of Vogue Magazine, and author of Gonzo: The Life Of Hunter S. Thompson, is one of those interviews. We know about Bob Marley-the international sensation, who made Reggae popular for the main stage. He was literally the face of Reggae. He symbolized the genre. He symbolized Jamaica. Marley has been honored, and his legacy lives on through his wife and children. Yet, there was another player. He is responsible for naming the very music of “Reggae”-taking a term in his Jamaican Patois, and moving it into a linguistic transition, for what the world knows it to be. (Note: See link of the interview. https://www.vogue.com/article/zooming-in-with-toots-hibbert-reggae-music)
We know Bob Marley, but do you know Toots Hibbert? Do you know the man behind the term? Do you know the poetry and genius behind those, who laid the foundation for what became a nourishment for Jamaicans, and those who could relate to the Jamaican breeze. Life’s funny that way, isn’t it? We get so caught up in one story, one musical story. And yet, there are others more. Untold stories, which balance out the entire painting. Certain doubt, fears, or questions become answered, when hearing these stories. In fact, these stories make our understanding of her/history that much more interesting. It illuminates untold richness within any event, aesthetic, or creative revolution. That’s what makes them beautiful. They draw us closer to the realness of a society. Forget about the lights, glam, and attempts to make a musical art form “more acceptable” for those wanting a prettier and more comforting picture. No! When these stories are told, they dislodge any foundation of blind comfort, and force us to deal with things as they are-as they were!
“Its a story that’s really true-when I tell a story, it has to be true.”Toots Hibbert-August 29, 2020 Vogue Magazine article interview with Senior Editor Corey Seymour
When examining the interview conducted, and written by, Senior Editor of Vogue Magazine what we are reading (and witnessing) is this special narrative; a happy ending! Yes, its a happy ending because before he left, the story was told. In the beginning of the article Corey Seymour provides a brief, historical lens of Reggae and Toots Hibbert’s role in it. From the creation of the term (its connection to a societal perception within Jamaican landscapes), affiliate acts and legendary acts he has performed with; persons and artistry, who remain oblivious to many in the “Western world.” He was there-in the rawness of Reggae’s evolution; that nitty gritty, and the “unpleasant realities,” which made Reggae the voice of the people. And yet, so many don’t know his name.
When Corey Seymour interviewed this man, she put his name on the center stage. What better than a major fashion, cultural, and iconic platform, than Vogue Magazine! After the his/herstory lesson was conveyed, Seymour is clever in her ability to direct the current times, in correlation with certain past times. Same themes, different tune. Connecting older generations with the young, and conveying another reality in the performance of Reggae on the island and nation-state of Jamaica.
The interview between Corey Seymour and Toots Hibbert is one that quiets the imagination of what we think the article is going to be. It silences our expectations, regarding how we expect the evolution of Reggae, to be. Contrary to our hopes, and yearning to be comforted by another’s reality, it wasn’t a bed of roses. The poetry of the article is that it reveals the truth. There is the revelation of truth, as it pertains to how his nation responded to him. Unlike his well-known counterpart, he was not viewed as the “suitable” image for Jamaica’s representation of this musical genre; this dressing called, Reggae. Seymour is very keen in her ability to highlight those particular colors in a musician’s journey. Those moments when they are not viewed as being, “good enough.” Somehow, class, region, or socio-economic background of one’s country is supposed to determine who is allowed access into this wonder, known as–music! Isn’t that something? If only music were as restricted, prejudiced, and superficial as many human experiences. Thank goodness, it isn’t. If only they knew. If only those deciding to judge Toots Hibbert on that day, at the 1966 Jamaican Independence Festival Popular Song Competition understood that the greatest visual artists, musicians, orators, and other performer in the creative world, came from spaces and places deemed “void” of creativity. If only they knew that perhaps a “country boy” had been nourished by the land in a different way, than someone growing up in the city. Perhaps, just perhaps, it added to the richness of his music. If only they allowed themselves, to know!
‘“I took the word from a slang word we have in Jamaica called “streggae”-that was just a nickname for people who don’t dress properly, people who don’t look good-girls or boys-we say “Aaaaye. . .that’s streggae! So me and Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias were recording songs one day, and I said ‘Let’s do the reggay.'”Toots Hibbert-August 29, 2020 Vogue Magazine article interview with Senior Editor Corey Seymour
Seymour’s practice of including Hibbert’s encounter with police, the slander against his very name, and the oddity people felt in his rising popularity is superb. Yet, being from the country was crucial in painting the reality for the “underdog” story. Through selected questions, and the words of Toots Hibbert, readers gain understanding in knowing that there was a struggle in the representation of Reggae music. Even in Jamaica, there was skepticism in who was deemed worthy of performing it, and representing the imagery of Jamaica. Such is highlighted in the section of the interview, where Toots Hibbert articulates his experience of being in solitary confinement for 12 months, and taken to a different part of Jamaica by police authorities; with the intentions of causing him and his band to miss his international tour. Sigh! Its interesting how certain faces are allowed to serve as representations for a musical artistry. Those faces are presented and repeated for us; especially, those of us living outside of its nation of origin. Its as if we have gotten into a particular point, where the masses of people allow themselves to be brainwashed in accepting the popular image, as the most important. And yet, there are many Reggae tales, which have blossomed in the countryside.
There are magical moments within the interview. The kind of questions asked by Corey Seymour permits further articulation and expansion of that music. A key moment in her interview of Toots Hibbert is the description for the song “54-46.” Within the interview, Hibbert addresses how his writing of the song, came after being shortly released from his 12-month solitary confinement. The song becomes an international hit. Its a living testimony into having to sometimes go away, in order for one’s greatness to be amplified. Then, let’s not forget the beginning of the song. I don’t know about you, but hints of Soul have been used in the opening of the song. It makes you wonder if Toots Hibbert felt a connection to the Black American experience, of the time; and therefore decided to use traces of its perfumes in this particular song. You can hear the audacity of Funk and Soul. It makes you wonder about the interconnection of silence, and how those having been silenced, have a silent connection with each other. Perhaps, its this silent language and feeling, where one is able to connect with other silenced Beings, around the world. You hear it, and you hear the audacity of Reggae, within the mix; carrying his Jamaican rhythms across waters, into distant lands, without even moving. Wow! That’s genius. Yet, that’s what legends are able to do. You hear that same kind of musical intertwining in his song, “Funky Kingston.” In fact, he even mentions Black America in this particular song. Talk about the power of music. More entailed discussion and depth is needed for this narrative of musical travels. Again, Corey Seymour’s selection of this particular song for questioning provides us with the opportunity to gain access to these hidden gems in Reggae’s initial formation.
And then, there was the name-the actual coining of the term, “Reggae.” Too often when it comes to names, identities, and the reason for why things are called as they are, we miss out on that important journey, and story, for how things came to be. Yet, here in this interview, the international community gets to experience such journey all over again. In the article, Toots Hibbert recalls how the term “Reggae” comes from the Jamaican Patois word, “Streggae,” which “was a slang word we have in Jamaica for people who don’t dress properly, people who don’t look good-girls or boys-we say “Aaaaye. . .that’s streggae!” When you hear the story, things become clearer. In fact, they make much more sense in understanding the deeper contextualization of the music. It becomes understood, as to why the music radiated with Jamaican people; the metaphorical clarity of the greater dressings of Jamaican society, of that time. Perhaps, it hinted to the improper dressings of the socio-economic and systematic structures, within Jamaican landscapes and the country, at hand. What’s interesting is that even in the midst of such realities, it didn’t stop the production of aesthetics, culture, and beauty for Jamaica’s voiceless. The creative lens of the term is what adds more flavor to the spice of Jamaica’s sound.
There is a sacred aura about this interview! From the questions asked, to how they were answered, the simpleness of it directs us to a greater depth in the genre of Reggae music. It will remain hidden, unless one attempts to seek the story. Just in the way of Corey Seymour, certain questions must be asked, in order for its richness to be illuminated. This interview, this story, was published at the right time, and the right spacing. Its like the realm of musical Divinity mandated that it be done.
On September 11, 2020, the world received news of Toots Hibbert’s passing. It appeared shocking. After all, wasn’t he just here with us? Didn’t he just convey to us the prolific meaning of “Reggae,’ and why it had to be born? Furthermore, did he not share with us his personal journey, the resistance against his artistry, and why “54-46” had to be whispered? That’s why we have to get those stories. Get them when they are living because the stories are alive even more, after the legends have passed on. Its as if in Heaven’s domain, they are working and operating on a level of musical greatness, in which humanity cannot comprehend. That’s how sacred it is! The sadness of it all is, that as opposed to embracing it, a significant portion of humanity would rather, lock it away; silencing it so that the world does not see the face matched with it. Isn’t that insane? After all, they can’t possibly allow humanity to open themselves to this level of imagination and wonder. Perhaps, just perhaps, they would start to think that they were, GREAT!
Fortunately, we have his story. Fortunately, we captured his sound. Thankfully, we can hear his words. When the whole of humanity is able to do such, we come to comprehend that there is a unique atmosphere in how we deal with the transition of legends. Our mentalities shift, and we don’t see them as truly gone. In fact, we can envision them operating in another realm; continuing to work on a different plane, in order to sing, play, and speak humanity into a realignment, that it needs to be. Singing the Earth back into a paradise of nurture, care, tranquility, and connection with Heaven’s Divinity!
For this particular article, there are even more gems and jewels, laying hidden. Its why, how we interview is so important. The questions we ask, and how we craft them, determines if readers will be exposed to the treasures of certain stories. What’s fascinating is that it doesn’t mean the questions will be complicated, or have to be structured into fancy language. There is nothing wrong with that option, either. Nevertheless, what it does convey is there being a certain level of verbal intimacy when it comes to writing. A writer, editor, or interviewer has to be fully in tune with their own sensory. Listening to the music, studying its texture, and observing oneself in it, is necessary in getting to those musical gems. Anything else is forbidden. Another interesting dynamic also lays in one’s ability to move through the difference in time. Seymour is masterful in hinting to this, when articulating the current social dynamics in the United States. The fact that what we see now, is also happening in the past, bridges the lens of time. It is beautiful! Furthermore, it shows that the artistry of time is fluid, and actually, timeless.
After the publication of this article, from Vogue Magazine, another eye will be added in the study and discourse on Reggae music. Now, another story will have to be discussed on the mainstream level. Furthermore, it will be conveyed in a way, where people will understand the different paths in the telling and unfolding of a story. The creation story of Reggae, will not simply be focused on who we have been accustomed to seeing, as the prominent gaze. Nevertheless, they will be positioned, side-by-side, in a manner, displaying the coloration of Reggae music. From here on out, that display will be conducted, and it will transform our perception of the genre, as we know it. From now to the future, we will hear this enchanting story. It will remind us of the beauties and intimacies in the power of what’s hidden, and our journey to locate, re-discover, and find, its Universal gems! Sing on Toots Hibbert. There are some of us, listening to the treasures, in the many DRESSINGS, it entails!
“Reggae is a message of consolation; a message of salvation. The youth are going to the school and they have to listen to the words. The parents have to listen to the words. God has to listen to the words. So, we have to make it positive. If you sing nursery rhymes, it is nothing. You just blow up tomorrow, and the record dies at the same time. But if you give positive words, that song lives forever.”Toot Hibbert–Legendary Reggae Singer and Musician, Creator of the Term “Reggae”
For more information on Toots Hibbert, you can go to the following link:
To stay up-to-date on the work of Vogue Magazine’s Senior Editor, Corey Seymour, you may go to the following: