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As one-third of the quintessential Rasta harmony trio, The Abyssinians, Bernard Collins has a unique place in the history of Jamaican music. In Jamaica, Collins is still known as The Abyssinian, and he still performs with George Henry, who sang on the original recording of "Declaration of Rights" at Studio One. Collins continues to run The Abyssinians’ Clinch label from his Kingston home, issuing the group’s catalog of 7" singles and albums in the vinyl format.

Collins recently saw the cd release of his first solo album, Last Days (TABOU.1). The album collects tracks recorded over a span of twelve years, including the last recordings of the original Abyssinians line-up (Collins, Donald Manning, and Linford Manning).

Collins recalls the recording project in New York that formed the basis of the Last Days album. "[Andy Bassford] used to work with Lloyd Parks [in We The People] here. He is American, but a very good musician. As I say, while I was in America, 1986-1987, I get a vibes to start doing something there. That’s how that album started getting together. And then Andy Bassford laid about ten tracks, and I came down here and laid four more tracks, to make fourteen tracks.

Sierra Nevada World Music Festival

Bernard Collins of the Abyssinians

Photo forthcoming...

"This album have a mixture [of songs]. Love songs [and] songs dealing with prophesy. You have songs dealing with slavery, ‘Soon We’ll Be Free.’ ‘Jahoviah.’ Tracks like ‘Cheating Is Wrong.’ All those tracks combine together to make this album a strong album. It’s the strongest album I feel I ever do . . . I have confidence in the Last Days album. It really a deal with the signs of the time, also -- the fulfillment of the prophesies. And everything coming from the heart, cause deep down I & I a sing the music really fe Jah, and the people. Not just money alone. ‘Keep On’ is a next experience that show Bernard Collins keep on keeping on, you know. Because, regardless what I do I still keeping on, [that] is how it works."

The album also features a Bob Marley tribute, "Jah Marley," recorded with Familyman Barrett of the Wailers on bass. The lead single from the set was "Young Wings," which was released on a Clinch 45 in 1998.

Collins explains that while many of his contemporaries are trained musicians, he is largely self-taught. "I don’t even know how equipped I am inna this music business, cause a lotta musicians you have go to school and learn . . . Me is a mon now me haffe meditate and deal with it. Me a go deal with my own tings. And count how the vibes really come. Cause me never really been to a music school as such . . . Me still learning though because through me have the idea and the talent in me, me always a search fe develop myself. My tings [that I] create maybe something abstract, but I just come out with my lickle tings, and at the end of the day maybe people say them sound good."

Collins seems genuinely proud of Jamaican music and supportive of the music as a cultural voice. "In terms of the direction the music takes now, it’s still doing good, because reggae music is really for the poor people here in Jamaica -- the poor and the have-not. Cause most of them come and exist from the music including myself, cause that’s the only thing [we] have to hold onto."

by Carter Van Pelt, May 2001

 

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