Captain Barkey, a veteran Jamaican dancehall deejay, was fatally shot in front of a Bronx motel in the early morning hours on Saturday Oct. 13. Best known for the mid ’90s No. 1 dancehall hits “Go Go Wine” and “Bun Fi Bun,” his sound was characterized by quick paced, humorous rhymes delivered with his signature robust vocal style..
Barkey, born Joslyn Hamilton on November 4, 1951, was reportedly shot as he sat in a car with a female companion named Tracy Bennett, 38, after they exited the Holiday Motel in the Eastchester section of the Bronx. The New York Police Department says the alleged gunman, who remains at large, is Joseph Kernizan, 42, the father of two of Bennett’s three children. Bennett, who was also murdered, had reportedly taken out a restraining order against Kernizan who had on more than one occasion warned Hamilton to end his relationship with Bennett.
Captain Barkey’s longstanding collaborator fellow deejay Wickerman (b. David Taylor) with whom he recorded the dancehall hits “Fat Man Slim Man and “Unuu Memba” told Jamaican radio host Ragashanti on his Saturday afternoon program broadcast on New York’s WVIP (93.5) FM, that he had cautioned Barkey to sever ties with Bennett because Kernizan was “a serious man”. “He (Kernizan) had already broadsided their car, but Barkey never listened to me; the man wanted to kill the woman for a long time but he waited until he could get them together before he acted,” Wickerman said.
In a tragic case of life imitating art Barkey’s 2010 single “She Nah Lef Joe”, produced by Truckback Records, written about his relationship with Bennett and her relationship with Kernizan features the (now cryptic) patois lyrics “mi life dun over bun,” which translates to my life is over (dun) because of cheating (bun).”
Born and raised in Kingston Captain Barkey had been based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for many years where he resided with his wife, Mavis but he frequently returned to Jamaica. “It’s like he never left here,” said bassist Owen “Bassie” Rennalls who created the rhythm track and played every instrument on Barkey’s biggest hit, “Go Go Wine” produced by Winston “Wee Pow” Powell for Stone Love Music. Along with musicians Paul Krasdale and Danny Dennis, Rennalls also created the rhythm for another big song for Barkey, “Bun Fi Bun”, released on producer John T’s Shalom Music label. “Barkey was a jovial fun person, I never saw him in a fuss with anyone,” Bassie continued, “and it hurts to hear what happened to him.”
A member of the Jamaica defense force for six years, Captain Barkey hails from an era when deejays (in Jamaican parlance, a deejay is an entertainer who raps or toasts lyrics, usually delivered in patois, over a rhythm track) refined their vocals working with a variety of sound systems, that is mobile discos which feature selectors playing the latest reggae (and other) hits. Barkey established a sizable following working with Stereo One sound system in the late 1980s alongside fellow deejays Lieutenant Stitchie and Wickerman who became his most frequent collaborator.
In an interview with Billboard.biz producer Cleveland Browne, one half of the hit making musician/production duo Steely and Clevie (Steely, b. Wyclef Johnson, passed away in 2009) recalls hearing about Captain Barkey during the Stereo One era. “I heard about a soldier who was mashing up the dances all over Jamaica. He brought a very disciplined approach to the music and his talent was exceptional. He had a great sense of humor that came out in his music,” Clevie remembered. “In 1991 we recorded two songs with him, “Original Get And No Chat” and “Gun”. The latter talked about his knowledge of the different types of guns, being an ex army man, but not condoning their use. It is so ironic that same weapon is what took his life.”
Although Captain Barkey and Wickerman’s biggest hits, individually as well as a duo, were released in the mid ’90s through the early ’00s, their witty lyrics and humorous onstage antics established them as an enduringly popular live act. They twosome has performed throughout North America, Japan and the Caribbean and in August 2012 they performed in Europe for the first time at Germany’s Reggae Jam and Reggae Geel in Belgium, which marked a new chapter in their careers but one that can never be fully realized with last weekend’s tragic turn of events.
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