A: Silford Walker – Jah golden pen

B: Mighty Two – Golden dub


After running away from home at a young age, Sylford Walker grew up in the tough Kingston 5 area. He filled his days with smoking a little herb, selling wood roots (health juices), running a restaurant and singing. After being arrested for possession of ganja, Sylford used his time in jail well and wrote a song about Babylon. He had not recorded before and getting into a studio wasn’t easy, as Sylford states in the great interview Peter I conducted with him in 2006 and which is published on Reggae Vibes:

Yeah, I really was walkin’ around, checking like Randy’s and a couple more all around the place, like Gussie Clarke an’ those man, Niney an’ all those man I was checkin’ in my younger days, but all of them goes around me.”

Errol Thompson gave him a chance, though, and Sylford Walker recorded two songs for him in 1975. The first, called ‘Burn Babylon’, was to become a huge roots anthem, although it took a long time to reach that status. The second tune, ‘Jah Golden Pen’ had more impact on the local crowd upon release:

“How I come to be at Joe Gibbs, I am passing an’ aks him – ’cause I hear ’bout him an’ t’ing, producing like Dennis Brown an’ some man, so I aks him seh bwoy, if him can give me a lickle burst or help me. He said to me that I’ve got to walk to the studio up by Retirement Crescent, that is way up – uptown, yunno. That time he just had a lickle shoemaker shop by Parade, wasn’t so big, and I did walk. And [..] I do the first song, I see nutten much come and he tell me that – I don’t see nutten come, so he told me that I mus’ come back and do somet’ing else. So I turn ’round one of my Christian song now that named ‘Golden Pen’, I turn it around on him an’ sing ‘Jah Golden Pen’. And it goes well, y’know..”

With a church on every corner, it’s no wonder Jah Golden Pen struck a chord with the godfearing Jamaican society. Loosely based on a gospel hymn (‘Sign my name’), its repetitive, yet ever so slightly changing lyrics are sung over a well crafted, minor key riddim that could never fail. Check that bassline!

After getting little or no money at all for the two songs, Sylford Walker recorded the superb ‘I can’t understand‘ for Clive Hunt and then went into a partnership with Glen Brown, with whom he arguably recorded his best material. Look up ‘roots reggae’ in a dictionary and it’ll play tunes like ‘Lambs Bread‘, ‘Prophecies fulflling‘ and ‘Chant down Babylon.’  Yet, despite the great music, Sylford’s debut album was not released until 1988. Sylford was long unaware of the impact his music made on the reggae scenes in Europe and the States, but luckily made a comeback. In 2006 he found himself back at Joe Gibbs, where he re-recorded Jah Golden Pen over the original riddim. Though still sounding good, his voice on this cut sounds is a bit more frail and he’s joined on backing vocals by Errol ‘Black Steel’ Nicholson. The recut was issued as a 7″, causing much chagrin and confusion ‘pon the scene because people were unaware it was recut, and later included on the album ‘Nuttin’ a Gwan‘, for which yours truly was kindly asked to write the liner notes (I kid you not), but that never materialized. Sylford, in the meantime, is back on the scene, performing to eager crowds and sharing the half that has never been told.


Label: Joe Gibbs Record Globe
Release date: 1975
Riddim: original
Matrix: DSR 2998 A / DSR 2999B

Posted: 11-09-2016


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