Singer and activist Hon Jah Paul is not your typical entertainer. First of all, when he enters his Brooklyn community, mounted on a white horse and with a Samurai sword on his hip, members of the famed New York Police Department are likely to be among the first people to wave fondly at him.
Born Paul Haughton in Granville, St James, Jamaica, Hon Jah Paul who migrated in 1986, prides himself on his work with the NYPD to keep down crime in all five NY boroughs — Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island.
“I am one of the community leaders and I see it as my role as a statesman and militant Rastaman to work for the upliftment of the people. I use my talent as an entertainer to channel the positive energy of the community from which I gain my sustenance,” Paul tells the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
The singer’s motivation to help fight crime, among his other community activities in New York, is not by chance. He has seen up close the brutality of violence against someone who was near and dear to him and the man most responsible for him making music his career.
Hon Jah Paul was in Jamaica last week to perform on his first local stage show since teaming up with Florida-based manager Courtney McDonald of On Top Promotions. The sold-out show dubbed “Female DJ Dalvy Dance Passport”, was held at the Echo Nightclub in thriving Buff Bay, Portland.
Paul is best known for his single, Morning Train, which he released on his own label, Twinkle Star Record in 1989; his cover of Afternoon Delight in 2012 and Anything A Anything just released on YouTube, the popular American video-sharing website headquartered in San Bruno, California.
Paul says he had always been drawn to music, but his first love was athletics. He competed in long distance running as a member of the famous Montego Bay club, Comets, which launched many athletic careers in western Jamaica.
Still, the music was never far behind as he performed at many concerts, with DJ Papa Ritchie at the Montego Bay High School and Mount Alvernia High School for girls, among other venues, before going to Kingston to visit one of his sisters in the early 1980s.
By then he was sporting dreadlocks and while walking in Meadowbrook, he met another Rastaman, Hugh Mundell who was already an entertainer. The two became fast friends and Mundell encouraged him to pursue music as a career.
Through Mundell who is best remembered for his Africa Must Be Free album, Paul met the likes of Junior Reid and Augustus Pablo, which further encouraged him into music. Mundell suggested a change of stage name from “Time Benjamin” to Jah Paul, later Hon Jah Paul.
As he got closer to Reid, Paul says, he assisted in directing the Montego Bay scenes for the video for Foreign Mind, the wildly popular hit which launched Reid under Youthman Promotions.
After releasing Africa Must Be Free and producing Junior Reid’s first song, Speak The Truth, Mundell had gone off to England to promote his own album. Upon his return to Jamaica, tragedy struck.
“Things happened and Mundell was shot and killed in the streets in the late 70s,” Paul recounts, still finding it painful to discuss the incident. “Junior Reid was in the car but thankfully escaped. I was really hurt by this violent incident because Mundell was a true friend and mentor.”
On the day of the interview, May 9, Paul marked 30 years since he officially launched his entertainment career in the States. The release of the single Morning Train, featuring Terry Ganzie, came in 1989, opening many doors for him, Paul says.
He has since performed on numerous stage shows and released multiple videos on YouTube, including the singles Love You and Big Body Girls. His music is distributed by VP-V Pal Music.
Hon Jah Paul says he is currently working on a single called Wild Flower with Jay Ice, one of the artistes being managed by On Top Promotions. The others are Female DJ Dalvy; Spangy, Spotless and Ras Imaric. The song is expected to be out in the summer on the Homegrown Studio label, with engineer Ras Sarge.
McDonald, commenting on Paul’s progress, says he met the artiste through Female DJ Dalvy who was co-ordinating a WhatsApp group they called Entertainment World three months ago.
“I’m very impressed with Paul and I can see him going very far. The Buff Bay show was our first project together and that went very well. We are currently looking at some studio work. It’s a matter of putting him with a good engineer and video team. I really like his prospects,” says McDonald.
Back in New York, Paul will also help to stage the annual Family Fun Day with the 71st precinct of the NYPD in June at Crown Heights and perform on the popular entertainment show.
Paul also started a yearly Marcus Garvey Day Parade in Brooklyn, creating much buzz and excitement by making his much anticipated appearance on horses rented from the Cowboy Federation, to ensure “there are some black cowboys in the parade”.
He is full of praise for two outstanding New York citizens — former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the longest serving Commissioner in the history of the NYPD — with whom he worked to establish some of his community activities.
Hon Jah Paul is married to Dr Gwendolyn Haughton and has five sons, including two sets of twins.
By: Desmond Allen