Pioneer record producer, Ken Khouri passes on

BASIL WALTERS, Observer staff reporter
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

KHOURI ... recently named as an awardee for the Musgrave Medal

PIONEER Jamaican record producer, Ken Khouri died early Saturday morning at age 86.

The veteran studio operator was one of the honourees at the 2003 Tribute to the Greats Awards -- the annual salute to stalwarts of the music fraternity stage by King Omar's Promotions at the Curphey Place in August. Khouri was recently named, by the Institute of Jamaica, as an awardee for the Musgrave Medal for his contribution to the music industry.

Born Kenneth Lloyd Khouri in 1917 in the parish of St Catherine, he is credited for establishing Jamaica's first recording facility called Federal Recording Studio, now Tuff Gong, at 220 Marcus Garvey Drive .

Long time associate, 84 year-old Winston Willis who worked with Khouri as plant manager from the time that Khouri started the pressing plant, Records Limited, at 129 King Street in the mid-50s; commenting on the passing of his former boss said: "He was very forgiving and sympathetic. I can't remember Khouri firing anybody."

Legendary producer Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd shared some fond memories of Khouri whom he described as a nice guy.

"Me and him usually move closely, as I was one of the earliest persons to record at his studios. Through me and him use to move so good, people would say, I was his little black son. As a matter of fact he usually had the rights for labels such as Decca, Capital and Brunswick, and he would allow me to scratch off the labels which would give me a jump on the market ahead of competitors before he would release them," Coxsone told the Observer.

And Gina Shoucair, one of Khouri's three daughters, says she was happy she had a father like him.

"There could be no better father than the one I had. We are going to miss him very much," she said.

In his recent book on Reggae music Lou Gooden describes Khouri as follows: Stalwart, pioneer, visionary, all adequately describes Ken Khouri. The entire recording industry in Jamaica owes a lot to him. With a simple cutting machine and a version he started the development of the music industry in Jamaica. Ken moved from recording simple birthday function, to the start of recording artistes of mento music Lord Flea and Lord Fly."

Khouri retired in the 1980s.

The service of thanksgiving for the life of Khouri, who also left behind three sons, will be held next Monday (September 29) at the Stella Maris Church at 10:00 am.