Local DJ revives unique music

Jared Ferrie/Metro Vancouver


Vancouver DJ Kevin Howes peruses the wax yesterday at Vinyl Records (319 West Hastings St.). Howes put together Jamaica To Toronto, a group of musicians who emigrated to Canada in the late 1960s and produced records with a distinctive Jamaican flair. The group performs tomorrow night as part of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.

When Vancouver DJ Kevin Howes stumbled across records produced by Jamaicans in Toronto 40 years ago, he had no idea it would be the beginning of a decade-long musical odyssey.

He dove into the music — a mix of soul, funk and reggae — and eventually tracked down the artists. Some will be performing at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival this week under the moniker Jamaica To Toronto.

“I wanted to learn more about how these records got made in Canada by Jamaican people,” said Howes.

But finding them proved even harder than finding their rare 45s. Some had returned to Jamaica, while others had died — a fact that made Howes even more convinced that he had to preserve this unique musical era.

Some of the songs were released on a compilation CD last year, but Howes wanted to take the project a step further. He convinced some of the artists to come out of retirement.

“When Kevin got a hold of me I was saying no, but he’s pretty persistent,” recalled Earle Heedram, a.k.a The Mighty Pope, who emigrated to Toronto in 1965 at age 19.

The project became even more reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club when Howes began producing a documentary.

“I want to celebrate the music and stories behind these artists,” he said.


  • Jamaica To Toronto performs tomorrow night at The Yale and Saturday on stage six at 11:45 a.m.

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