On the afternoon of October 14 1983, the course of reggae music was changed in the most unfortunate way. While  in a car on Grants Pen Road with an 18yr old aspiring reggae artist called Delroy Jr. Reid seated beside him, one of the brightest talents and true prodigies in Jamaican music was gunned down and killed.

His name was Hugh Mundell.

Mundell was 21 years old when he died but left behind a legacy of at least 5 albums and numerous singles. He recorded as a singer under his given name and recorded many of his DJ style songs under the alias Jah Levi. He was born in 1962 into a firmly middle-class East Kingston family. His father was a  lawyer. At age 13, with the help of singer/musician Boris Gardner(who appears to have been a neighbour at some point) Mundell recorded his first song for producer Joe Gibbs. He was attending Ardenne High but was already firmly rooted in Rastafari, Pan Africanism,  Black Consciousness and non-violence. I can only assume that this unlikely progressive thought for a middle-class child was rooted in the availability of conscious literature and consistent exposure to news and issues in his household. I have never been able to speak to anyone close to Mundell to give me the full picture. Augustus Pablo was saddened when I brought up the topic and said we would speak another time. Pablo passed before we had the conversation. Jr Reid who was Mundell’s protege and in the car with him when he was slain is a friend of mine, but the subject still seems hard to broach. Whatever his inspiration, Ardenne student Hugh Mundell aka Jah Levi in 1978 at the age of 16 recorded what is arguably one of the greatest roots reggae albums ever made.

Africa Must Be Free By 1983 received a maximum 5 star rating from Rolling Stone Magazine. Mundell’s smooth wailing vocal innocence paired with Pablo’s supreme production plus a cast of  legendary musicians and engineers had created a classic.  The album is included in Tom Moon’s 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die.  And yes. The album is that good. With its dub mixes of all the songs, Africa Must Be Free kept my meds firm through many dark and difficult situations. I humbly suggest that if you are a lover of good  music you give the album a listen. In this our 50th year,  Mundell would have been 50 years old and could have potentially evolved into our next Marley.

Gone but not forgotten. Hugh Mundell.