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Ricky Trooper
By Lady Zimma, Dainty Crew
(more articles from this author)
2000-03-01
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(Zim-Zimma, Ricky Trooper & Miss Mention)
The name Ricky Trooper is associated with a man who is revered around the world in the Dancehall Reggae genre as a talented sound killing machine. The word war fits in very nicely with Ricky Trooper as he is highly skilled in the art of sound clashing and has won most of his battles bar the odd one here and there.

Born Garfield McKoy in St. Mary, Jamaica, Ricky Trooper (commonly referred to as just Trooper) got his 'stage' name through a couple of things. The first being that he played on a marching band's drum core when he was young whose name was Magnificent Troopers. So, when he ventured into the Dancehall setting, he was unable to find a suitable name prompting his colleagues in the drum core to call him Trooper. Attaining the name Ricky was through the artist Junior cat.

On first starting to play with the legendary sound Killamanjaro, Junior Cat was a DJ on the sound and could not pronounce Trooper properly due to having a lisp. So, as Trooper recalls "anytime fe pass de mic to me, him a seh 'come here Ricky'" and the name Ricky Trooper was born and stuck to this day.

The story of how Ricky Trooper came into the world might account for his life's path taking him into the sound business. Born in a home delivery, Trooper's household used to keep a dance in their yard. He was born on the Saturday morning whilst a Friday night dance was still in session. He was "born come hear de music a play" and so his younger years were centred around music and he would create his own sound out of soap and detergent boxes combined with mud. As he says "tru is a dancehall me born inna, me jus get to love de sound system."

His journey to get to Killamanjaro went through various phases. He started out with a sound called Coptic and from there moved on to Volume One and then progressed onto owning his own sound system called Ultimate Touch. At this point in his life he started to DJ and worked on a sound called Creation Rock with Papa San, Bunny General and the now late, Dirtsman. It was Copy, the selector and owner of Coptic sound system, who gave Trooper inspiration and taught him how to play rub-a-dub. Copy was the one who "taught me all de tricks an how we fe do an how yuh mek counteraction an all dem stuff de," says Trooper.

He joined Killamanjaro (commonly known as Jaro) as a DJ working alongside people such as Junior Cat. By the time Trooper joined, the sound had already been through many phases having been going for approximately 35/36 years up to present day.

In the 70's and early 80's Super Cat, Ainsley and Burro Banton used to work on the sound. When they left and went on to work with Stereomars, only Ainsley remained alongside early B. There was a slight decline in the sound's popularity and then Ninja Man came along and brought it back up in the stakes.

By the time Trooper arrived he was prime and new giving the sound fresh flavour. However, it was not until a chance incident that his selector skills were discovered and put to good use. One night the sound were playing with Stone Love, Metro Media and Kenyata when Germalene, the selector at the time, got cold feet Trooper started to play the sound system.

The 3 phases Jaro has been through brings us to it's present day line-up if 4 selectors, a driver and 6 other people who deal with the lifting of the equipment. Including Trooper, the other selectors on the sound are Hype, Freddy and Keith. It was founded by Noel Harper when he was still in school. He had a bad experience when playing at a class party and his amplifier gave out on him, hence he was determined he would build the sound up and make it the talk of the town. His idea of giving the sound a symbolic name has panned out as after he called it after Mount Killimanjaro in Africa, Jamaican people started pronouncing it Kill-A-Manjaro and the hard-core killing machine that the sound is gives the name justice.

As a sound, Jaro play a lot of vocal songs, i.e. singing tunes. Trooper reckons they play "95% original riddims and 5% see wha gwan" dealing with legendary artists and Studio One rhythms, but the thing he enjoys most about being in a sound is "when me kill a sound and de people dem a go wild!" With the joys come the pressures and that is what he enjoyed least about it as "you have a lot of bad-mind people inna de music."

Although Killamanjaro are seen as the number 1 sound system in the world, Trooper is realistic when he says that he can't drop his guard at any time due to any sound deciding they might want to war with him at a dance. It might be a juggling dance, but that would not necessarily be a deterrent. Any one of these new or young sounds could prove to be a serious contender to the number 1 spot and as such he has to ensure he is alert at all times.

One thing Trooper did state was that regardless of what a person says about who won a clash, he will "never walk an tell people seh me win a dance becah people who was at de dance, dem a de judge an a dem know what went on." Hence, he leaves the people to decide.

The sound business as a whole is not viewed very favourably in Trooper's eyes right now as he believes that too many sounds are not being original enough, hence the industry is at a standstill. He thinks around "95% or seh 98% of de sound dem a play de same ting" repeating the same songs over and over. Ideally, he'd love to go back to the original days where "if a sound play a song, dem no bodder play back cah de amount a reggae music dem mek every day" The sounds these days he feels are "afraid fe buss new music"

His time in Killamanjaro has seen him travel extensively touring places such as the USA, all the Caribbean islands, Japan, Canada, the UK and Europe. Africa would be his choice of destination to reach for the first time as a sound, but his best response internationally has come from the Japanese people. He marvels at how hardly any of them knew the English language yet "when yuh play de Reggae, dem can sing every song inna English" The emotion he felt was "mek me cry star" to see people who are not even of the Jamaican culture or race loving the music so much.

As we all know, dubplates are very important in the sound business and Jaro have a unique way of making theirs. They listen to the songs and find the weakness, then "mek de weakness strong an change up de lyrics." That way their dubs stand out from those of other sound systems and the fact that Jaro have a vast amount of foundation dubs gives them an additional advantage in the clash arena.

Trooper has no favourite artist as he believes that each artist has "fe him time" when he's the most played or the most popular within Dancehall. He also believes that "all type a people come a dance an each have fe him own special artist" and the whole selection of tunes is just a package that the sound deliver within a dance setting.

His most memorable dance was in 1994 against King Addies in Portmore as he recalls that was the dance that Jaro used "fe internationally buss," but currently he believes that Dancehall culture has forgotten it's roots. He says "dem have Dancehall as girls dress naked an man over one side a de dance inna dis namebrand an dat is not Dancehall" He refers to the continuos changes in trends for Dancehall Reggae, hence he enjoys listening to older sound system cassettes such as Sturgav and Stereophonic.

In this era of Dancehall, he believes any up and coming sound systems need to be original as they will then be able to stand out from the crowd. Trooper himself has his own sound system that he is working on called Trooper's. So far it only features himself and one selector called Mario, but he has big plans for the sound. Trooper's, the new sound system, has to be tough or tougher than Jaro as Trooper believes he gave Jaro 'belly'. He has the backing of the artist industry in his new venture which is a plus.

When asked what happened to his playing on Jaro and the reasons for starting his own sound, Trooper is adamant that he still plays on Jaro, but started a new sound "cah God tell you blessed is the child who have him own" As he sees it, Jaro is not his sound system, it's owned by Noel Harper and "me jus play it tru playing sake." Of his one time interest in Jaro, he states "me nuh have dat interest again."

His accomplishments in the business are known world-wide, yet he claims "me nuh like de praise an dem ting deh cah all a me talents, God gimme. Me jus a next selecta." Humble to a fault, he has proved that you can make a living off the sound business even though his mother was sceptical about it when he first started out. He has garnered a multitude of fans internationally and he "jus love all a dem cah without dem, there couldn't be a Trooper." Their love and encouragement is highly valued by Trooper and hopefully, they will continue their support of him in his new endeavour, Trooper's.


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