The Music Diaries, in the Jamaica Gleaner, recently featured Chin’s Calypso Sextet and the contributions of Chinese-Jamaican record producers to Jamaican popular music, including Ivan Chin, who, according the article, has not received the attention he deserves. The article also highlights the work he did with Alerth Bedasse, vocalist and music arranger, and Everard Williams, a prolific songwriter. Read the full story in the Gleaner.
The works of the Chin’s Calypso Sextet from the golden age of mento music and particularly the production skills of Ivan Chin for the group, bring into sharp focus the contribution made by several Chinese-Jamaican record producers to Jamaican popular music. But although Ivan Chin’s contribution was crucial to the early development of the music and to mento in particular, his name is seldom mentioned among a list of such prominent Chinese-Jamaican producers like Byron Lee, Randy Chin, Leslie Kong. Justin Yap, The Hoo Kim brothers, and others.
One explanation given for this was that many musicologists tended to do ratings, beginning with the birth of the Jamaica music industry in 1957, perhaps a year after mento lost its popularity. Mento, nevertheless, contained rhythms that were later reflected in ska and reggae in later years, and as such, cannot be discounted. Reggae songs like Sweet and Dandy by Toots and the Maytals and Long Shot Kick The Bucket by the Pioneers remind us so much of the colourful and golden years of mento music.
The plain truth is that without Ivan Chin, there would never have been a Chin’s Calypso Sextet, and without a Chin’s Calypso Sextet, mento would never have achieved great success. Chin – an electronic technician – recorded, produced, and financed all the recordings done by the group at his store, situated at 48 Church Street, downtown Kingston. It was at his instigation that the group was formed between 1952 and 1953 and duly named after him.
[. . .] The entire episode was, however, highly ironic, because Chin had earlier turned down a request from the same group of musicians (before they were named Chin’s Calypso Sextet) to record and produce a song called Night Food. Chin steered clear of the request because he doubted whether it would take the market, or be a success, because of its suggestive lyrics. As it turned out, the recording became the fastest-selling record in the history of Jamaican music at the time and led the way in terms of Jamaican hit recordings. It also spurred Chin into action. He was now convinced that songs like Night Food, which had suggestive and ambiguous lyrics, were the type of songs that Jamaicans loved and promptly sent for Alerth Bedasse – the vocalist and music arranger of Night Food – and Everard Williams, the incomparable and prolific songwriter of the song, and countless others, to engage them in a contract to produce two mento recordings per month at a cost of 18 pounds per month. In a real way, the Chin’s Calypso Sextet was born. [. . .]