Gospel Spotlight: Old pianos lead Paul Barclay into music

  • May 4, 2018

Taken from the Jamaican Star

The Katalys Crew of musician/producer Paul Barclay (left) and singer Shalom.4

Even in a sector where multitasking is the order of the day, Paul Barclay’s multiple music involvement stands out. As the owner of the label Katsjam Records, a bass guitarist, bandleader, and producer, predominantly for gospel artistes (he has been a Christian since childhood), he has worked with Papa San, Judy Mowatt, the Grace Thrillers, Sandra Brooks, Junior Tucker, and more. As an administrator, Barclay chairs the Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (JACAP), that role leading his chairing the Association of Caribbean Copyright Societies (ACCS), as well as involvement with the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), and Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS), among others. As he puts it: “Invariably I represent the interests of gospel.”

It was an interest in the old pianos on the Munro College campus in St Elizabeth that put the youngster, who travelled from Black River to school every weekday on a path to the fun and business of music.

“I grew up in the church. While at Munro, there were a number of dilapidated pianos across the property. We did not have a proper music programme and I always liked music,” he said. A woman at his place of worship, the Holiness Christian Church, taught him three chords on the guitar, C, F and G, and told him that it was the same combination on the piano.


So off Barclay went to practise on the rundown instruments at his school, managing to develop to the point where he started playing piano at Holiness Christian Church in Black River. However, when he was in fifth form, the husband and wife team of Angela and Mike Elliott changed his life through music. Mrs Elliott, a pianist, was teaching music class and playing a cantata when she left to take a phone call at a nearby office. Barclay, realising the song was in his favourite key, promptly sat at the piano and played, his teacher hearing and returning to ask who had been playing. After hesitation, he confessed – and was complimented, encouraged, and his talent fostered.

That connection led to his accompanying the Elliots to see pianist Monty Alexander play at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel. “Imagine a country boy getting to go with his favourite teacher and a jazz player (Mr Elliott) to see Monty,” Barclay toldĀ THE WEEKEND STAR.

When he came to Kingston after high school there was no space for a pianist so it was suggested that he tried the bass – so Barclay did. And he has not stopped.

He has been committed to learning along the way, relating how he observed Change Band at every chance. He has taken initiative; when Judy Mowatt was saved in his church, he foresaw that she would need a band, and without her knowing, gathered a team and started rehearsing from tapes he collected of live performances carried on radio, such as Reggae Bash. The day came to show Mowatt what they had been doing and “When she walked into the rehearsal, she could not believe it.”

He became a producer just by doing things Mowatt asked him to, ending up with multiple credits on her gospel album debut.

Transforming ‘catalyst’ from his preferred chemistry classes at Munro to the Katalyst brand, Barclay said, with gospel at the centre of it all, with the influence of persons like Carl Ayton and Stevie Golding and his natural interest in the business of music, “I ended up being more a business practitioner than a musician.”