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Dec 22, 04 09:18 AM

Dervin and Joseph.

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I was amazed to find two buskers I had seen ten years ago on the beach in Negril.

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We were walking down the beach, and ran across this duo playing for a bunch of scowling, reddened Germans. They played a phenomenal, skeletal reggae, with fantastic, booming, slippery basslines over hypnotic, spare beats. A master class in Jamaican rhythms disguised as busking for tourists' change.

I had seen these guys play when I was in Negril in 1994--a father and son named Dervin and Joseph. At the time, Dervin was an eight or nine year old boy, singing in a ghostly boyish voice. They played a haunting tune called "When I Fall in Love"--I don't know who the original artist was--that I later would try to emulate when I wrote "How Many Cans?"

(I later referenced the two of them in "Disseminated"--sadly, my absolute least favorite of all the Soul Coughing songs I'm fully responsible for--having hooked up both the Raymond Scott loop and the lyric/melody--Lord how I loathe that tune--"Like Genius/like Dervin/like Joseph/like Jason." Jason and Genius were Negril beach hustlers from that 1994 trip)

I was astonished to reencounter them. I asked them to play "When I Fall in Love," which took them a little head-scratching, but eventually they did play, after a few interminable Bob Marley songs and a cover of "Under the Boardwalk."

"We should tip them exorbitantly not to play Bob Marley," I said to my companion. I'm tortured in Negril by the bland omnipresence of the 14 songs on Legend, a cherrypicking of the most syrupy, least fiery tunes of his career. Daily, we were asking some waitress to switch off the Bob and put on the infinitely weirder and off-kilter tunes on Jamaican pop radio.

They must've heard us. We were laying on the beach the next day, and they came strolling by, as they moved from tourist-cluster to tourist-cluster, and they recognized us and stopped, and played not a single Bob tune, or boring lite-soul cover. At the end of one tune, Dervin transitioned into Biggie's "Ten Crack Commandments," modestly omitting the "I heard he let her sniff a whole cake up/'cause she knew how to suck a dick and cook a good steak up" verse in the presence of sandcastle-building toddlers.

We made them play "When I Fall in Love" a couple times that week--each time we bumped into them. What a scary, eerie tune--I have such a clear recollection of the nine-year-old, supernaturally wise voice of Dervin singing: When I fall in love...it will be forever...

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Posted by Mike at December 22, 2004 9:18 AM