WHILE in jail in 1974, Sylford Walker began writing an ode to his Rastafarian faith. Shortly after his release he recorded a song that would become his signature.
That song, Jah Golden Pen, was produced by Joe Gibbs and released in 1975. Typical of many roots songs from that era, it was an underground hit in Jamaica that gradually found a cult following overseas. “It use to play on radio fi a likkle while. Den it jus’ bus’ inna England an dem place, Jah Golden Pen has opened new doors for the old Rastafarian. He did several shows in Brazil last month and has performed throughout Europe and Israel since
Recently, Walker and upcoming singer Rachaad covered Jah Golden Pen.
The Brazilian experience was a revelation for the soft-spoken vocalist.
“Mi sign (autograph) till mi finger dem numb,” Walker said.
The diminutive artiste was born in rural Penline Castle, St Andrew, but grew up in the gritty Central Kingston community known as ‘South’. It is where he discovered Rasta and music. As a budding artiste in the early 1970s, he hung around Randy’s studio with Clive Chin, son of Randy’s founder Vincent Chin.
After his stint in jail, Walker shopped his song to several producers before impressing Gibbs, who had acts like Dennis Brown and Culture on his books. “Mi start write di song inna jail an’ when mi come out, mi finish it. Mi walk one year before mi find a producer an’ it was Joe Gibbs,” he recalled.
Walker did several songs for Gibbs.
Jah Golden Pen and Babylon Burning were the best known.
He also recorded for Chin and Glen Brown, but like many artistes from the 1970s, slipped into obscurity a decade later when computerised dancehall took over.
Six years ago, he met Swiss producer and long-time admirer Asher Selector, through singer Prince Alla.That led to shows in Europe in 2012. Walker has not looked back.
In 2019 he has shows lined up in the United Kingdom and Mexico. He has also produced a rhythm called I Mean It for his Walk Yah Walk Records, with songs by Chezidek, Glen Washington and Rachaad.