Inna De Yard: Ann Arbor's Evan Haywood directs a music video for Jamaica's Israel Voice


Israel Voice in the video for his song Nyomi

Longtime Ann Arbor creative Evan Haywood is known for his solo work as a singer-songwriter and as one of the voices in the Tree City hip-hop collective.

He's about to add filmmaker to his resume after traveling around Jamaica in May 2019 to film Blood & Fire, "a documentary on anti-colonial narratives in Jamaican music and culture," Haywood said, with one of the biggest stars in the movie being Lee "Scratch" Perry, reggae's eccentric genius. Haywood is still editing the film, but while in Jamaica, he also shot footage for several music videos, one of which has just debuted: Israel Voice's "Nyomi," which features the sweet-voiced veteran crooner looking for spiritual love; the roots-reggae tune was co-produced by Earl "Chinna" Smith. Haywood filmed part of the video at Chinna's yard as well as the surfing hot spot Bull Bay. 

We asked Haywood about the making of the video, so he wrote a narrative on the process and also updated us on the other music videos he has planned and where he's at with Blood & Fire.

Evan Haywood:

When I was traveling through Jamaica, I was generally collecting footage for several hours a day—whenever I wasn't traveling or resting. In addition to the core interviews and performances for my documentary film—Blood & Fire—I shot footage for four music videos. There are a ton of extremely talented artists in Jamaica, but many don't have access to the resources to make their own pro-quality music videos. So, when someone from overseas shows up with a camera, they tend to be very open to working together to create visuals for their songs. I was happy to be able to give back to a community of Rasta music veterans who accepted me with open arms, by shooting music videos and helping these artists increase their international exposure. "Nyomi" by Israel Voice is my first video as a director, and I am thrilled that it was released on Reggaeville, an internationally known channel for Jamaican music with 1.3 Million followers on YouTube.

In working with Israel and shooting footage for his "Nyomi" video, I was able to gain access to film the Binghistra Movement and Inna De Yard. Reggae legend Earl "Chinna" Smith is the ringleader of these collectives, so it was with his permission that I filmed. I shot a long performance by the Binghistra Movement at the Jamnesia Surf Camp in Bull Bay, which included a Nyabinghi rendition of "Nyomi"—that's what you're hearing at the end of the video.

Dainion Goehagen and Earl "Chinna" Smith produced this song, which has also recently been released as "Naomi" by Binghistra Movement featuring Israel Voice. We put a slightly different spin on it for the video by spelling it "Nyomi" and releasing it as an Israel Voice solo tune—but indeed, the backing band is the marvelous Binghistra Movement, with the vocals of Israel Voice taking center stage.

For the past year, I've been working on editing the documentary film I shot in Jamaica, having collected around 50 hours of footage when I was there. It's a major responsibility, being the interpreter and editor of such a wealth of culturally important content. So, I've had to really grow into that role gradually, while also teaching myself how to edit on Adobe Premiere Pro, with the help of Youtube tutorials and some filmmaker friends. The Israel Voice "Nyomi" video and the next one—"Please Consider Me" by Phillip Crucial, which I'm planning to release via Reggaeville on December 22—are the first videos I have ever edited. I'm used to being in front of the camera! Behind the camera, there's a lot more to think about.

Some of the most exciting footage I gathered for my documentary was during my time spent hanging out with Lee "Scratch" Perry, but there is a lot more going on beyond that. I interviewed superstars like Ken Boothe and Donald "Tabby" Shaw of the Mighty Diamonds, but also met with inspiring figures like Irie FM radio DJ Talia Powers and Maroon spiritual leader Mama G, who may not be as well known to viewers outside of Jamaica. Every person I interviewed in-depth was deeply involved in the spiritual and creative life of Jamaica. I asked heavy questions that were meant to explore the multifaceted realities of Jamaican music and culture and provide an opportunity for my interviewees to express their own experiences of life, as an alternative to providing a voice-over narration. They can tell their own story far more eloquently and creatively than I could ever hope to. But now, it's my job to stitch it all together and preserve the many important moments I collected for future generations.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

➥ "Video Premiere: Evan Haywood's politically pointed 'Do Right by My Kin'" [Pulp, March 26, 2020]