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Fanton Mojah - "Bless the Ghetto Youth"

by Rich Lowe

            In 2004, singer Fanton Mojah burst onto the scene with a poor people's tune called "People Hungry."  This song supported the ghetto youth who were under stress and pain over the most basic need - food.  "People Hungry" made the connection with people all over the world and Fanton Mojah has continued his defense of the poor and needy.  Being relatively new on the scene, Fanton Mojah's full impact is still in development.  We do know that this artiste has already had significant impact, but his future path can be related through his music origins, his family life, and his musical philosophy.

An early link with music for Fanton Mojah occurred when he was growing up in St. Elizabeth and visited Apple Valley Park for a dance.  Apple Valley Park is in Maggoty, St Elizabeth and is surrounded by Jamaica's longest river - The Black River.  At this dance, Professor Nuts and Papa San performed and left a lasting impression. Fanton commented in an interview: "The first artistes mi really hide and go watch - Professor Nuts and Papa San.  I usual thief outa my house as a lickle youth go watch dem.  I wonder if one day I go come to be like these persons wey mi like.  Cyaan forget one of mi favorite songs dem time.  Ya have the one wey (General) Trees say: ‘Minivan people control Jamaica, one driver a dozen conductor!'"   Fanton further describes how he expanded his time in the street, by staying with his grandparents:  "We lef gone a grandma and grandpa.  We come to love the street.  We love to know what going on in the street.  With grandma and grandpa, those are the time we really get to go out and look to see wha a gwaan. Whether a dance or a party.  Around Daddy, we can't lef the yard!  Daddy have ya under strict rule."  At present, Fanton's father is preparing land in St Elizabeth for proper farming.  Fanton comments, "We try to put in an acre of banana now in St Elizabeth, mi an mi old man.  My old man down dere cutting down the place now to start all of this farming.  My old man is a man weh grow up inna de bush and we come see him as a powerful man." 

Fanton originally left the country for Kingston when an uncle made an offer for Fanton to do some work and earn some money.  Upon moving to Kingston, Jamaica Fanton worked in a furniture refinishing shop where he sanded down furniture in preparation for stain and varnish.  Fanton was always searching for contacts in the music business, so in his spare time he would pursue musical contacts.   It was Papa Jaro's Dub Store that became a central focus.  Fanton comments, "Kilamanjaro studio de near.  Mi is a man who leave the business and waan know aritistes, so always pon de lookout.  Lunchtime me stop sand down furniture and go look pon artists.  Ya might see Leroy Smart pop on more time, Hammermouth, Ninja Man an' Garnet Silk."  During this period, Fanton began singing under the name "The Mad Killer."  He never recorded any formal releases under this name, but he did cut sound system dubplates.  Under a later nickname of "Phantom," Fanton Mojah did begin recording songs in the studio.  Close friend and singer Zareb (formerly known as "Singer Flasher") recalls Fanton's early visits to The Dub Store, "[Fanton Mojah] is a man love come a the studio.  So the link made  an' it real from that time."    

Fanton Mojah is a music lover and can track the history of artistes and sound systems.  In a recent conversation, Fanton was able to site chapter and verse on the sound history and differences between Exodus Nuclear sound and Exodus 4x4 sound.  Exodus Nuclear is run by Gary Exodus and his father Romie.  This sound has been in operation in different forms for a number of decades.  With a similar name, Exodus 4x4 is a completely separate sound run by Father Duss.  Some of this knowledge comes from years of working with Kilamanjaro Sound.  From the connection made at The Dub Store, Fanton would also move with "Jaro" sound and work with Jaro by setting up speaker boxes and running wires.  A good portion of this day-to-day work was built on a passion for reggae music.  Fanton comments that, "Music make the people dem feel free and secure their mind."  The message in the music can also be controversial.  There is strong disagreement on the issue of the production and sale of guns.  Fanton was firm in his distain for the large companies that produce so many guns, like Smith & Wesson.  Fanton commented, "Babylon need fe implement a ting would cut out war, violence, and crime by stop building guns, bombs, [that] make destruction.  If I did have the power to lock down Smith and Wesson factory, I would lock it!"  In the video of the Mojah tune "Corruption," a police is shown mashing up a vendor's fruit stand.  We discussed how lyrics can be sensitive and if Fanton is cautious on how he addresses issues, "Mi a bun dem.  A corruption a crack up pon dem.  Ya can't stop the people dem food a sell on the roadside to help dem kids.  If you don't sell it on the roadside, you build a nice place an' give them.  Set up somewhere properly.  Something convenient wey them can sell an' the youth can eat.  Babylon system never really take time and set thing for the youth.  Them start bun fire an' say mi really start get inna trouble for these things, but it natural.  It cannot hidden under the plastic under the cellar." 

When listening to music by Fanton Mojah, you may hear him singing in his raspy voice, he may dj, and at times he may stop singing abruptly and talk for a section of a recorded song.  In whatever form, Fanton has established a style that is  based on a love of music and a distinct social consciousness.  The direction from the start, was connected with that early anthem "People Hungry" and Fanton Mojah has continued moving forward with that essence of ghetto music.



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