Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Artist Spotight: Pressure Bus Pipe

My name is Delyno Brown also known as Pressure. I was born on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on the fifth day of August, 1981.
Ever since the tender age of five years, I became aware of my mystical talent in music and with the help of my parents nurtured it. At nine years, I was old enough to join the Lockhart Elementary School band and I started by playing the trumpet. Two years later, I joined the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra, where I learned how to play the lead tenor pan. Eventually, I became more musically inclined to listening and playing other types of music and instruments. I was introduced to the drums and I was good at beating them. It felt great to hear and feel the beats/bass/rhythm vibrating through my body; I did not want to play any other instrument. However, I always thought more of myself. I had a vision of performing in front of thousands and thousands of people, whether beating on drums, blowing the trumpet or playing the steel pan. I never knew that the Most High had a greater vision (iration) in store for me. By the time I enrolled into Charlotte Amalie High School, I was playing for the concert band, jazz band, marching band, and the school steel band. Various types of music surrounded my every daily life. My mind was made up - I would major in Music Engineering and become a top class producer.
Latter Reggae music enthused me. I listened to artists such as Shabba Ranks, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Capleton, Buju Banton, Anthony B and Sizzla, and many more. I would purchase their compact disc (CD), memorize their songs from beginning to end and try to sing it exactly like they did. I received so many compliments from my classmates, expressing to me how well I sound and advising me to write my own lyrics. I was really into black consciousness. I was searching my inner self, seeking for my African roots and purpose in creation. My main concern in school was music, thus, academically my grades were poor. As a result, my mother sent me to the mainland (America) to live with my uncle and complete my high school education. In an effort to get me to stay focus on my academics, my uncle banned me from all the musical activities I took part in. It was only then that I stayed more to myself and reggae artists such as Capleton, Anthony B, and Sizzla who were a big strength to me in the livity of Rastafari. Thereafter, I began to write my own lyrics. In school (USA) I became well known for chanting reggae music. I sang in various talent shows around Lowed County in Valdosta, Georgia, and performed for Amateur Night at the Apollo in New York in January, 1999. It was all coming together and this was just the beginning of the vision I had for myself this is what I really wanted to do. I know that spreading a positive message through reggae music “I see Rastafari” and “Ghetto Youth.”
All my friends were in love with the songs. Everybody was talking about them, but they were never publicly broadcast. I used these demos to constructively criticize myself. Subsequently, I linked with Black Juice Records, where I was introduced to six other artists who seemed to be on the same path as I was.
We united our efforts and stepped out as the “Star Lion Family.” We all came from seven different communities with one common goal to spread the message of Ras Tafari righteousness through our musical talent. Our first time exposing the Star Lion Family was at Sizzla’s premiere to the Virgin Islands in April, 2000.
We opened the show with the “Star Lion Family Anthem”. We received a standing ovation from the audience. The very next day we were the talk of the town. Every local promoter wanted to book a show with Star Lion Family. Before long, we were opening shows for the Virgin Islands own Star Fest, and artists such as Capleton, Buju Banton, Bunny Wailer, Junior Reid, Junior Kelly, Glen Washington, etc. Individually, I opened shows in Atlanta Georgia for Sizzla, Sean Paul, Elephant Man, Midnite Band, Merciless, Mega Banton, and many more.

Monday, December 07, 2009

VP Records Re-strategising for 2010

FOR almost 20 years, VP Records has ruled the dancehall roost from its Queens, New York, headquarters. But changing music-industry trends and artiste flight made 2009 a challenging year for the all-reggae powerhouse.
VP's marketing manager, Randy Chin, blamed the decline in compact disc sales for sluggish figures. The growth of the digital market, he said, made things even more complicated.
"The digital market is doing well but the problem is, the offset from the drop-off in CD sales is not compensating for the increase in digital," Chin told The Sunday Gleaner.
"That's the crux of the problem with everyone in media today, whether it is the film, print or music industry," he added. "The whole transition that's going on on the digital side is reverberating and everyone is trying to find their footing."
Below-par performances
Chin would not discuss the below-par performances of albums by 'brand' artistes like Mavado and Tarrus Riley. Given the unstable climate in which their music was released, he still believes their figures are encouraging.
According to sales tracker Nielsen-SoundScan, Mavado's much-touted Mr Brooks ... A Better Tomorrow was released in March but sold just over 14,000 copies. Riley's highly anticipated Contagious set hit record stores in August but has barely trickled past the 4,000-unit mark.
VP also got a double jolt with the departure of Lady Saw and Tanya Stephens, two of its stalwart acts. Chin declined to comment on what impact that may have on the company.
He says VP is excited about its foray into publishing. The label's stocks in that field soared when they purchased British independent company Greensleeves Records for £3.1 million in early 2008.
The sale guaranteed VP ownership of Greensleeves Publishing, the most lucrative in reggae with big-selling songs, such as Oh Carolina by Shaggy and Sean Paul's Get Busy. The Greensleeves catalogue has nearly 500 titles, including quality albums by roots acts like Dr Alimantado, Barrington Levy and Eek-A-Mouse.
Chin said VP has signed new acts, including Etana, Elephant Man and Busy Signal to Greensleeves Publishing. Company and artiste, he stressed, stand to profit tremendously from this deal.
Another area VP plans to concentrate on is touring, once the most effective form of exposure for reggae acts. Chin says while music videos and appearances on high-profile cable and television shows help, live shows can still do the trick.
Two of the most successful reggae acts in the US this year have been the American bands John Brown's Body and Rebelution. Tireless touring has done wonders for both.
"It's the one area I think we can improve on and we have been emphasising with the artistes that they need to go on tour," Chin said. "The Internet has made the music more available but at the end of the day, people still want to see the artistes."
VP Records was founded in 1979 in Queens, New York, by Chin's parents, Vincent and Pat. Vincent operated the successful Randy's label in downtown Kingston during the 1960s and 1970s before relocating to the United States.
Strong-selling albums
VP hit its stride in the 1990s as the leading producer of dancehall music in the US. They had strong-selling albums by Beres Hammond, Garnet Silk, Luciano, Freddie McGregor and Beenie Man.
The latter's 1998 album, Many Moods Of Moses, contained the song Who Am I, which was a runaway smash in the US. It set the tone for a fruitful period for VP which distributed platinum-selling (over one million units) albums by Sean Paul, and songs by singer Wayne Wonder and the deejay-singer duo of Tanto Metro and Devonte, that made the Billboard magazine pop charts.
Chin says VP will be churning out new albums in the first quarter of 2010, one of them being Escape To Babylon by Italian singer Alberosie.
There will also be projects from old-school singer Sanchez, Etana and Romain Virgo. -Gleaner

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Duane Stephenson Telling His Own Story

Singer Duane Stephenson is one of those artistes quietly making an impact internationally and who perhaps doesn't yet get the type of ratings he deserves locally. But he aint mad at anybody. Duane is simply doing what he does best, "Music", he says with that reassuring smile.
Still basking in the success of his debut solo album project for VP Records, August Town, the former member of boy group, To-Issis, is looking to release his sophomore album by February 2010.
"This will be the second of a two-album deal for VP," he explained. "With the success of August Town, which was one of the best selling albums for VP for 2008, there is the temptation to duplicate it, but we are actually doing things a little different," Duane said.

Among the big tunes on August Town were the title track, which went number one in most of the Caribbean islands, except Trinidad, where it peaked at number 3; Ghetto Pain and the cover of the Tyrone Taylor hit single, Cottage In Negril.
The working title for the soon-to-be-released CD is Black Gold, and Duane is quite excited about this project.
"It's coming together very well," he enthused. "It's versatile, but like August Town, it's still anchored in roots reggae, which is my true love. However, over the years during my travels, I have become more exposed to world music, and have learnt what other people like, so that influence is definitely there. And we are also deliberately giving it some youth music, hence the decision to use Christopher Birch as one of the producers," he stated.
Duane noted that he believes in what he calls "intelligent music", whatever the genre. "Birch is one of those dancehall producers who keeps his things on a certain level. You will never see something half-baked out there with Birch's name on it," he said.
Among the other producers on the album are Duane himself and, of course, Dean Fraser.
Black Gold will have collaborations with Tanya Stephens, Jah Cure, Jimmy and Tarrus Riley and possibly one more artiste.
It was in summer 2004 that Duane embarked on his solo journey, having come to the realisation that after being with a group for almost 10 years, he needed to chart his own destiny. And he has no regrets.
"It's been great so far. I have surpassed many of the things I hoped to accomplish. I really can't complain," he said frankly.
He has been closely aligned to Dean Fraser and has opened for Tarrus Riley on occasions. "But I have been doing a lot of shows by myself as well," he told the Observer. "Lots of times Tarrus is in one part of the world and I am in another," he explained.
Increasingly popular within the Caribbean, he lists a show in the Dutch-speaking island of Suriname of this year as one of his most memorable. "They wanted me to come back three weeks after that event, but that felt like I would be exploiting them, so we set the date for next January instead."
Duane recently performed in Amsterdam at a concert headlined by Shabba Ranks, and that too, he said was a moment. "The promoters expected 5000 people at the Heineken Centre in Amsterdam, but over 8000 people turned out and they stayed till the last note. It was awesome," he recalled. -Jamaica Observer

Thursday, December 03, 2009

2009 Best Reggae Album Grammy Nominees Announced

Despite heavy criticism and pressure from gay rights groups while on his U.S. tour this summer, nominations for the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards were announced earlier this evening, and controversial dancehall / reggae artiste Buju Banton heads the list of nominees for Best Reggae Album.Here is the complete list of nominees for Best Reggae Album (Vocal or Instrumental) for the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards:

* Rasta Got Soul – Buju Banton [Gargamel Music, Inc.]
* Brand New Me – Gregory Isaacs [Tad's Record]
* Awake – Julian Marley [Ghetto Youths/Tuff Gong/Universal Republic]
* Mind Control — Acoustic – Stephen Marley [Ghetto Youths/Tuff Gong/Universal Republic] * Imperial Blaze – Sean Paul [VP/Atlantic]

The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards will be held on Sunday, January 31, 2010, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, and will be broadcast live on CBS television from 8–11:30 p.m.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Morgan Heritage 'The Journey Thus Far' Review

The journey began for Morgan Heritage with their first performance in Jamaica in 1992 on the opening night of Reggae Sunsplash. Their precocious musicianship and assured stage presence generated such excitement, they were invited to perform on Sunsplash's Saturday night finale. The years that followed were truly remarkable. Morgan Heritage has firmly stamped their place in the Reggae World, with numerous hit singles and several top shelf albums to their credit.

Their latest release 'The Journey Thus Far' showcases the finely honed modern roots identity that has made Morgan Heritage one of reggae's most enduringly successful acts. It's a compilation of the group's finest recordings to date, plus two previously unreleased tracks.
The journey begins with 5 tracks produced by the legendary Bobby 'Digital' Dixon for Digital-B Productions. Protect Us Jah, a bended- knee supplication to the most high, and Let's Make Up, a bubbling, lover's rock ballad featuring Gramps and Una in tandem, appear from 1997's 'Protect Us Jah' album, followed by 3 tunes from 1999's 'Don't Haffi Dread' including the anthemic title track, Reggae Bring Back Love, and New Time, New Sign.
Next comes the empowering Liberation on the self-produced Mt. Zion riddim from the album 'Morgan Heritage Family and Friends Volume 1. The classic, Dean Fraser produced, Down By the River, followed by the self -produced Jah Seed and Meskal Square come next via their 4th album, 2001's 'More Teachings'.
2003's 'Three In One' is showcased next with the lovers track She's Still Loving Me and two more Digital B tunes. A Man is Still a Man is a rocking tune with a timeless message and Jump Around(Remix) will definitely make you want to do just that, although the original version would have suited this collection better than the remix. 'Three In One' is probably their best effort to date and honestly could almost stand alone as a greatest hits album. So, needless to say, there could have easily been 10 other tracks from the album included in The Journey Thus Far. Tunes like A Who Dem, The Truth, Everything is Still Everything, Judge Not, Works To Do, Nice Up U Medi, and Falling Race, to name a few.
The journey continues with 3 boom tunes from 2006's 'Full Circle'. The Donovan Bennett -produced Tell Me How Come is a wicked denunciation of the injustices that continue to plague Jamaica and the world, while Your Best Friend, on Bennett's iconic 'Drop Leaf' riddim, earned cheers from women everywhere. Nestled between these gems is the Robert Livingston- produced I'm Coming Home. Gramps takes the lead in testifying about the loneliness that accompanies life on the road.
2008's 'Mission In Progress' is represented with the tunes Brooklyn and Jamaica, produced by Shane Brown, Love You Right with production handled well by fellow artist Singing Melody, and the classic boom shot produced by Kemar McGregor, Nothing to Smile About. Again, there are at least a few other tunes that could have been included such as Yute Dem Share, Faithful, and Youths Today.
The set closes with two previously unreleased tracks. Kurt Riley produces a nice, one drop, love song on Here To Stay and Frenchie, of the U.K.'s Maximum Sound, lends his support on Guards Up, another hard-hitting commentary about the violence in Jamaica.
Overall, 'The Journey Thus Far' is a solid representation of Morgan Heritage's body of work. True, there are a few question marks regarding selection here, however, let's blame that on the fact that there was just too much quality work from Morgan Heritage over the years for VP records to choose from and that's definitely not a bad thing. 'The Journey Thus Far' is a great album and will make a nice addition to any collection. If you're left wanting more than their 2003 release 'Three In One' is highly recommended!!
Track Listing:
1. Protect Us Jah
2. Let's Make Up
3. Don't Haffi Dread
4. Reggae Bring Back Love
5. New Time, New Sign
6. Liberation
7. Down By The River
8. Jah Seed
9. Meskal Square
10. She's Still Loving Me
11. A Man Is Still A Man
12. Jump Around (Remix)
13. Tell Me How Come
14. I'm Coming Home
15. Your Best Friend (With L.M.S.)
16. Brooklyn And Jamaica
17. Love You Right
18. Nothing To Smile About
19. Here To Stay
20. Guards Up

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Essential Reggae Albums: Buju Banton 'Til Shiloh'

1993's Voice of Jamaica was a stellar set, an aural collage of the island, with its swirl of diverse styles, sounds and themes. Bringing dancehall to the wider world, that album was a revelation, and to attempt to better it would have been futile. And so, Buju Banton didn't try, instead he moved in a new direction. After the completion of Voice of Jamaica, two of the Banton's friends were killed; their murders prompting him to re-evaluate his own life, leading to his conversion to Rastafarianism, and bringing to an end his glorification of the gun. These life-changing events are reflected throughout much of 'Til Shiloh, which proves a much more introspective set than anything heard from Banton before. This is most evident on the haunting sufferer's song "Untold Stories," as Banton reflects on the world around him, beautifully accompanied by a gentle rhythm and Glen Browne's evocative acoustic guitar. But Jah now sustains him, prompting the artist to open the album with the brief a cappella psalm, "Shiloh," then launching into "Til I'm Laid to Rest," which revisits the sufferer's theme, but intertwines it with an homage to Africa and his faith in the promised land. Still, Banton has not yet found peace, and his inner turmoil is at its rawest on "Murderer." Written in the aftermath of the aforementioned killings, Banton struggles with his grief and fierce desire for vengeance; all else pales before this most emotionally powerful of songs. It's "Not an Easy Road," as Banton vividly relates on that song, and he has been left vulnerable. Still, he opens his soul on "Wanna Be Loved," and exposes his loneliness on "What Ya Gonna Do" joined by Wayne Wonder. "Complaint" has Banton toasting over this fabulous Garnett Silk number, praising Jah and scattering the heathens before him. "Chuck It So" takes a similar stance, as Banton takes on a Big Man, with the 2 Friends Crew sweetening his ferocious assault. It's a heavy-hitting album, with only "Hush Baby Hush," a jubilant version of the 1960 classic "Stay," adding a lighter note to the proceedings. Musically, however, this is a gentler album than its predecessor, although still very much in a dancehall style. Another masterpiece.

Friday, November 06, 2009

1980 Reggae Movie ‘Rockers’ Still Has Cult Following

Reggae and a 30-year-old movie about its Jamaican culture has become popular with a new generation.

Inner Circle includes founding members Ian and Roger Lewis, who both appeared in the 1978 film “Rockers.”

“We didn’t know the reggae sounds was so popular there now, but the movie has become like an underground cult movie in Asia,” Ian Lewis told Lake Tahoe Action after arriving in the United States from the Far East last week. “Remember that ‘Rocky Horror (Picture) Show?’ It became like a cult. ‘Rockers’ movie is like that now in Vietnam and Singapore because younger kids, they like that culture.”

The movie, filmed in six weeks in 1977 at the Kingston ghetto Trenchtown and two weeks in Ocho Rios, is an authentic representation of the Jamaican culture during that era because all the characters portrayed themselves. The loosely written and improvised storyline is a reggae version of Robin Hood.

“When we made that movie everybody was laughing because nobody was no actor,” Lewis said. “It offered up our true vibe because everybody was playing ourselves. They wasn’t trying to be no actor. So that’s the best kind of acting, just be yourself.”

Zephyr Cove real-estate agent Richard Bolen was a “post-production producer” for “Rockers.” Bolen negotiated performance rights, located 26 master recordings and raised $350,000 to finish putting the film together. He also made all the domestic and international film and record distribution deals.

“We knew what we had was good,” Bolen said. “We didn’t know we were catching the roots reggae culture at its epitome.”

While there was extreme poverty, it was also seminal period for Jamaica, which influenced cultures throughout the world.

“It was tantamount to the ’60s generation,” Bolen said. “They thought they were changing the world for a better way.”

Just a few years after “Rockers” was filmed some of reggae’s pioneers were gone. Inner Circle’s Jacob Miller was killed in a 1980 car accident, Bob Marley died of cancer in 1981 and Peter Tosh was murdered in 1987.

“Bob Marley was a living god with them,” Bolen said. “He was significant here but so much more palpable in the Caribbean and Africa and Europe. He was a genuine world spokesman of human spirit and hope, and he knew it.”

Marley did not appear in “Rockers,” but his peers did. And while Bolen was in Jamaica dealing with people who claimed to be in the movie and demanded to be paid, Peter Tosh was on tour with the Rolling Stones, often appearing onstage with a “Rockers” T-shirt.

Although Bolen was surrounded by desperate and dirt-poor Kingston residents during a three-year period, he had two guides and never felt he was in danger.
“They were guides to how the ghetto worked,” Bolen said. “They did protect me but it was more of a vibratory thing. The general consensus was we were there doing Jah works.”

Lewis understands why a new generation appreciates “Rockers.”

“They see it’s real,” he said. “It’s natural. Some of the older folks might see the weed smoking and they’re not used to that. But what they see is a real culture, and the kids like that.

“It made me happy to see something that was done 20, 30 years ago has come full circle to fruition, that people appreciate it for what it is.”
- By Tim Parsons, Lake Tahoe Action

Rockers’ (1980)
Writer-director: Ted Bafaloukos
Producer: Patrick Hulsey
Cast: (Each member portrays himself) Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Richard “Dirty Harry” Hall, Gregory “Jah Tooth” Isaacs, Jacob “Jakes” Miller, Robbie “Robbie” Shakespeare, Frank “Kiddus I” Dowding, Winston “Burning Spear” Rodney, Manley “Big Youth” Buchanan, Lester “Dillinger” Bullocks
Plot: Horsemouth is a drummer who lives in a Kingston ghetto. He sells and delivers records from his motorcycle, which is stolen by gangsters. The movie begins as a loose interpretation of Vittorio de Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief” and turns into a reggae interpretation of the story of Robin Hood.

"Rockers" soundtrack: (Side one)
1. “We ‘A’ Rockers,” Inner Circle
2. “Money Worries,” the Maytones
3. “Police and Thieves,” Junior Murvin
4. “Books of Rules,” The Heptones
5. “Stepping Razor,” Peter Tosh
6. “Tenement Yard,” Jacob Miller (Inner Circle)
7. “Fade Away,” Junior Byles
(Side two)1. “Rockers,” Bunny Wailer
2. “Slave Master,” Gregory Isaacs
3. “Man in the Street,” Rockers All Stars
4. “Graduation in Zion,” Kiddus I
5. “Jah No Dead,” Burning Spear (Winston Rodney)
6. “Satta Massagana,” Third World
7. “Natty Take Over,” Justin Hines & the Dominoes

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Shabba Ranks Tours Europe with Ruff Kut

It's been over ten years since dancehall's original Grammy Kid, Shabba Ranks, performed in Europe and from all accounts, his following there has not diminished significantly.
Shabba Ranks
Staying true to the genre, Shabba called for none other than the experienced band Ruff Kut - Beenie Man's band - to accompany him on tour, and quite sensibly, Ruff Kut packed their bags and caught a flight. That's probably not the prescription the Doctor, Beenie Man, would have ordered, but this has been a rough season for bands; they have been feeling the pinch of the recession as artistes have increasingly been forced to accept gigs that stipulate them working with tracks.
On Friday, Shabba played at the O2 Academy Brixton, to a sold-out venue, but even before that, the legendary status of the Ranks became apparent.
"People were lined up outside the rehearsal venue on Thursday evening waiting to get a glimpse of Shabba," a member of his touring party reported. "And at the concert itself, it was just 'maaad'. From Telephone Love with JC Lodge, who accompanied him on stage, to Housecall with with Maxi Priest, it was nothing short of electrifying."
But this is not surprising since Shabba, as a trailblazer, carved out his own destiny - with the ingenuity of his Specs Shang team - and took dancehall to places it had never been before and has not been since.
As one Shabba Ranks fan recalled, "Shabba during his heydays couldn't walk in peace through any airport, any part of the world, as he would be hounded by fans wanting autographs. Which of these dancehall acts with them whole heap of hype can say this?"
And Shabba, unlike many of the current crop of ghetto superstar artistes, knows how to show humility and respect for the elders. In an interview after the Ice Cream Summerfest in the US, in July this year, Shabba said whatever he achieved was made possible through the hard work of artistes like Yellow Man, Josey Wales, Brigadier Jerry, General Echo and Major Worries. "That's five people who would have already worked in order for me to update certain things", he said.
He gave the reason for his hiatus as his desire to focus on his family life. "Make good money... and then me chill out to make sure that the educational development of mi sons dem well potent," he said.
When asked about his legacy, Shabba noted, "Mi legacy a di youths dem who a come up right now and a do the music... Buju, Shaggy Bounty, Mavado and Vybz Kartel. Me mek a million dollars, the next man come up and mek 10 million and the next one mek a hundred million, and so on."
Declaring that this year is his time to shine, Shabba announced: "Me deh yah!"

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Essential Reggae Albums: The Wailers 'Catch A Fire: The Original Jamaican Versions'

Catch a Fire was the major label debut for Bob Marley and the Wailers, and it was an international success upon its release in 1973. Although Bob Marley may have been the main voice, every member of the Wailers made valuable contributions and they were never more united in their vision and sound. All the songs were originals, and the instrumentation was minimalistic in order to bring out the passionate, often politically charged lyrics. Much of the appeal of the album lies in its sincerity and sense of purpose — these are streetwise yet disarmingly idealistic young men who look around themselves and believe they might help change the world through music. Marley sings about the current state of urban poverty ("Concrete Jungle") and connects the present to past injustices ("Slave Driver"), but he is a not a one-trick pony. He is a versatile songwriter who also excels at singing love songs such as his classic "Stir It Up." Peter Tosh sings the lead vocal on two of his own compositions — his powerful presence and immense talent hint that he would eventually leave for his own successful solo career. More than anything else, however, this marks the emergence of Bob Marley and the international debut of reggae music. Marley would continue to achieve great critical and commercial success during the 1970s, but Catch a Fire is one of the finest reggae albums ever. This album is essential for any music collection.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Peter Tosh Revival: New Album for 2010

Newly appointed manager of the Peter Tosh estate, Jam Inc, plans to resurrect the late reggae legend's slumping royalties via a marketing campaign involving albums, apparel, internet, film, TV and video game exposure.
Jam Inc will release a Tosh album next year and is currently focussing on building an official website and creating pages on Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites. It will also align Tosh's image and philosophy with human rights organisations in an effort to raise publicity. Jam Inc said it is acquiring the services of seven different marketing companies including US-based Rocket Science to increase the presence of Tosh in various media.
"Next year 2010 is the 50th anniversary of Reggae and actually we are working with Sony to do a couple of things surrounding the albums Legalise It and Equal Rights," said Jeff Jampol head of Jam Inc.
Asked if Tosh's image would be aligned to ganja legalisation lobbies, he stated: "Stay tuned...We want to work with charities that were important to Peter such as anti-apartheid and anti-slavery."
The late Peter Tosh, is arguably the most important reggae star after the late Bob Marley, but while Marley dominates the charts and has an incomparable online popularity, this eludes Tosh.
Jam Inc said it received the rights to manage the Tosh estate last year on behalf of Tosh's children, the estate's owners. Jam Inc a nine-year-old company also manages the estates of rock icons such as the Doors and Janis Joplin.
Currently the Tosh brand is "moribund" due to lack of prior management said Jampol in an Observer interview.
"There is a little bit of Peter Tosh lying all over the place and nobody is really doing anything," said Jampol. "There has never been a united front or management."
He explained that Tosh's masters are with some five labels and releasing albums requires co-operation.
"The problem is we have to figure out where all the Peter Tosh masters are. There are different publishing companies and different record companies so what we have to do is gather them all together and get them to either do it themselves or partner up with us," he added.
Jampol blamed poor marketing for Tosh's apparent waning of influence, especially amongst teenagers.
"Peter Tosh's message is completely relevant today, if not more so...So for this generation a 13-year-old kid has never heard of Peter Tosh, but it can be completely relevant to them, you just have to introduce them to Peter Tosh," he said.
Dancehall stars Vybz Kartel and Mavado have since April this year usurped Tosh in terms of Internet searches - a measure of popularity. In previous years it was the reverse. The Sunday Observer utilised Google Trends which compared as a ratio, the search activity for each artiste over time. Currently, for every 100 searches for Vybz Kartel there were 63 for Tosh.
Mavado has an advantage over Tosh of two more searches per 100. These two deejays are the latest to usurp Tosh following Sizzla, Shaggy, Sean Paul or Damian Marley. Conversely, Bob Marley is so popular online that for every 100 searches for Marley there are 26 for Sean Paul and three for Tosh.
Despite the fall in dominance Tosh is still comparatively very popular and towers over most other reggae and dancehall stars. He is three searches more popular than Beenie Man per 100 and is three times more popular online than Bounty Killer, Dennis Brown and Beres Hammond. Hammond however is more popular in New York.
By Steven Jackson, Jamaica Observer writer
Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Marley Heirs Wage Global War on Trademark Pirates

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Coming to a store near you: Bob Marley video games, shoes ... snowboards?
Heirs of the Jamaican reggae legend are plunging into the global trademark wars, seeking to enforce their exclusive rights to an image that has grown steadily in scope and appeal since the Jamaican superstar died of brain cancer in 1981 at age 36.
The Marley name, look and sound are estimated to generate an estimated $600 million a year in sales of unlicensed wares. Legal sales are much smaller — just $4 million for his descendants in 2007, according to Forbes magazine. The Marleys refuse to give a figure.
Now the family has hired Toronto-based Hilco Consumer Capital to protect their rights to the brand. Hilco CEO Jamie Salter believes Marley products could be a $1 billion business in a few years.
"The family managed all the rights before Hilco was brought on board," said Marley's fourth son, Rohan. "We didn't have a real good grasp on the international scope prior to Hilco, nor the proper management."
The turn to big business has stirred some grousing from die-hard fans in Internet chat rooms, who say it goes against the grain of a singer who preached nonmaterialism and popularized the Rastafarian credo of oneness with nature and marijuana consumption as a sacrament.
But Lorna Wainwright, who manages a Kingston studio and music shop called Tuff Gong, Marley's nickname during his slum boyhood in a nearby slum, backed the move, saying "the world needs the Bob Marley police."
"It's a free-for-all out there with all the fakes, all the piracy," she said. "It's important to continue getting his real message out like when he was alive because the world is in a crisis and Bob Marley's lyrics provide a solution."
A representative of the Bobo Ashanti order, a Rastafarian group, also expressed support.
"Bob Marley was and still is a stepping stone for many around the world who seek Rastafari roots and culture," said the Rasta rep who identified himself as the Honorable Prophet Moambeh Acosta in an e-mail. "We can only hope and pray for the (family's) success ... as the task seems insurmountable due to the years of piracy and counterfeiting."
Rather than focusing on street vendors, who hawk everything from Bob Marley T-shirts to beach towels, the partnership is creating a new line of products dubbed "House of Marley" and will police the trademark vigilantly.
"You're never going to stop the guys in the streets, flea markets ... but you try as much as you can," said Salter.
Snowboards and tropical Jamaica may seem an odd pairing, but they're among a wide variety of planned merchandise featuring the dreadlocked musician's image, name or message — backpacks, stationery, headphones, musical instruments, restaurants.
Items are expected to hit the market in mid-2010.
Marley "would be amused to know that his face is being used to brand a wide range of products and services, some of which he himself might never have thought of using," said Professor Carolyn Cooper, former coordinator of the reggae studies unit at Jamaica's University of the West Indies.
But Cooper added in an interview that the Marley family is absolutely right to emulate the estates of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and other pop heroes in protecting the trademark. Presley's estate brought in nearly $55 million in revenue last year.
Marley's lyrics promoting social justice made him an icon. His acceptance by mainstream America was sealed when the Budweiser frogs grooved to his song "Jamming" in a 1999 beer ad. His "One Love" anthem woos tourists to Jamaica on TV spots featuring white-sand beaches and swaying palms.
Mark Roesler, whose marketing and talent agency, CMG Worldwide, has a client list that includes the estates of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, says protecting a famous name is a long-term task.
"If a celebrity has not had the focus and the attention that a personality like James Dean has had over the years, it is much more difficult to just suddenly get started and 'clean up the market,'" said Roesler, who is not involved with the Marley effort.
Most of Marley's heirs are also musicians, including his widow, Rita, and son Ziggy, who won four Grammys with the Melody Makers, a band that included another son, Stephen, and daughters Sharon and Cedella. Son Damian has won three Grammys.
The family says it cares less about moving merchandise than about preserving the patriarch's legacy in such efforts as the Marley organic coffee farm, whose product is dried, roasted and packaged in bags emblazoned with Marley song titles such as "One Love" and "Mystic Morning."
"People need to know what they're getting is from the Marley movement, a movement of sustainability," said son Rohan as he showed The Associated Press around the farm, a teeth-rattling drive over rutted roads from Kingston, the capital.
The former University of Miami star linebacker, who resembles his father, said an undisclosed share of Marley Coffee proceeds will go toward youth soccer programs in Jamaica, an island as crime-ridden and poor as it is alluringly beautiful.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Bonner Brothers Bond

In the world of reggae music, few families rival the Bonner brothers in international music success.
Recently, The Gleaner caught up with the brothers, which includes Richie Spice (Richell Bonner), to talk about their various life challenges, their thoughts on music's current state and their upcoming projects.
Richie Spice's musical talents were kept quiet until his smash hit Earth A Run Red was released in November 2004 on Fifth Element Records. He has so far enjoyed most of the individual success compared to his brothers, but was very humble when reflecting on his accomplishments.
Pliers, born Everton, was a recognised act during the late 1980s, but earned international attention when he teamed with Chaka Demus in the early 1990s, their most popular production being Murder She Wrote.
The duo was the first Jamaican act to have three consecutive top five hits on the UK Singles Chart, which was surpassed by Shaggy when he recorded four number ones during 2001.
Successful studio effort
Spanner Banner, christened as Joseph, is now promoting his new album I'm A Winner, which comes eight years after his last studio effort. He has experienced a balanced music career and got his first major recognition from the single Life Goes On, which was produced by Winston Riley. Later, he had his most successful studio effort in the form of What We Need Is Love.
The eldest, Jah Mikes, born Michael, takes on the managerial role, and is the catalyst of Bonner Cornerstone Music, which was formed in 1995. One of his greatest achievements was pioneering Richie Spice's career, making it an irresistible force to be reckoned with.
Glenroy Bonner, performing as Snatcha Lion, recognises the challenge ahead of being the youngest one coming up from the musical family. He, however, believes his new singles No War, Creation, and Love Boat will leave an indelible impression on its listeners.
All of the Bonner brothers grew up with parents Violet and Ivan in Rock Hall, St Andrew, and have a shared passion for reggae music.
"I feel really good to know all my brothers are involved in music," said Pliers, who spoke to The Gleaner via telephone as he was on a European tour with Chaka Demus. "I encourage and help them along the way. It seems that we have carried on well the music tradition in our family."
Transitional phase
While the Bonner family may be OK musically, the music, they believe, is going through a transitional phase, particularly with the local dominance of dancehall.
"The reggae message can't die. It's a creativity that comes from the Almighty God. The thing is that if there is a popular style, most young artistes might take on to it," said Spanner Banner.
"Reggae music is more creative and it's not so much about the beat as in other genres. The messages have to be strong," he said.
Richie Spice sided with Spanner Banner's theory, saying that more people are latching on to what's popular.
He, however, believes that upcoming reggae artistes lack opportunity and said that an effective body, which would serve as a nurturing school for young talents, is something the music industry must focus on.
"Music is a teaching tool and youngsters listen to it. More opportunities are needed for these artistes to explore because there are a lot of young artistes out there," said Richie Spice, who is currently working on a 12-track album with Penthouse's Donovan Germaine, set to be released by VP Records.
Richie Spice also said he believes some of the content in dancehall music was contributing negatively to society.
Current leaders
Although the current pace is being set by dancehall artistes locally, Richie Spice said that it is overseas where reggae has flourished.
"People are recognising and accepting reggae music more. It's a music with a positive force and it represents life to the fullest. Dancehall music is a lot different," he pointed out.
Throughout the interview, a very quiet Snatcha Lion sat and observed, but when asked what fans can expect of him, he had a confident response.
Snatcha Lion is a singjay who delivers his message with a hard-core edge. He said all his brothers have chipped in with advice and he made it clear that he's coming with his own style.
"Due to the road they took, I'm inspired by that. It wasn't no violence. I respect that and that even influence me to be more stronger in myself," he said.
"I began loving the music from school days when me used to go concerts, plus I have always had a love for artistes and the music. I get a lot of courage from Spanner, Pliers and Richie, but it's something (music) I wanted to do in my head from a long time. Plus, I'm coming with my own style."
Spanner Banner, who recently returned from a US tour promoting I'm a Winner, leaned back and recalled the years when they grew up in humble circumstances, and oftentimes witnessed his parents working very hard to provide the necessities. That, he said, created a bond among the siblings, which they have carried over into adulthood. There were times when they didn't see eye to eye, but that's something they were keen on not perpetuating.
"I grew up in a home where mother and father and 11 of us in one room. People will have their little differences at times but that was sorted out easily. We grew up with brotherly love and that has carried over in our adult lives," said Spanner Banner, who is in talks with Motown for the distribution of I'm A Winner.
It was refreshing to see the love and respect they shared for each other. Success, for many, breeds negativity and, unfortunately, it corrupts some. But the Bonner brothers continue to exercise humility and mutual respect in whatever they do.
"We work in togetherness as brothers. It's a joy to know that we can come together and play music for the people out there and do it in a form of vibration where we are not jealous of each other," said Richie Spice. -The Gleaner

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Essential Reggae Albums: Gregory Isaacs 'Night Nurse'

One of Isaacs' most popular and enjoyable releases, 1982's Night Nurse sports the kind of slicked-up roots sound that emerged in the early days of dancehall-era reggae. In addition to effortlessly delivering the same smooth, "lonely lover" vocals that graced his many successful sides from the '70s, Isaacs, along with bassist "Flabba" Holt, also produced the eight high-quality tracks here. Showing his secular, dancehall-minded hand, Isaacs works magic on the classic lovers rock titles "Night Nurse," "Objection Overruled," and "Cool Down the Pace." The singer is in his best and most vulnerable lovers mode, though, on outsider themes like "Stranger in Town" and "Sad to Know (You're Leaving)." And as was his way — and many other of his contemporaries for that matter (Dennis Brown, Frankie Paul, etc.) — Isaacs mixes his concerns with the flesh with those of a more spiritual nature, coming up here with two of his finest Rasta-cultural themes in "Material Man" and "Hot Stepper." Isaacs once again utilizes the incredible talents of the Roots Radics band (the favored early-'80s Jamaican studio outfit), which includes Holt on bass, Eric "Bingy Bunny" Lamont on rhythm guitar, "Style" Scott on drums, and Wycliffe "Steelie" Johnson on keyboards. With a crossover hit in their sights, Mango also brought in funk synthesizer player Wally Badarou to liven things up. Along with other fine Isaacs titles like Cool Ruler and More Gregory, Night Nurse is essential listening for reggae fans.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Black Seeds: 'Take Your Chances' Video

The brand new video for 'Take Your Chances' from The Black Seeds.

In other news regarding The Black Seeds, there were two very positive reviews of Solid Ground this past week on Jambase and We at Easy Star are particularly proud of this quote: "Here’s where I’m at as of this point in 2009: Easy Star has two of the year’s best reggae releases to their credit – their in-house Lonely Hearts Dub Band project (by the Easy Star All-Stars) and The Black Seeds’ Solid Ground. The former will make you feel good; the latter will make you feel good...and make you feel."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Essential Reggae Albums: Garnett Silk 'It's Growing'

Only one Garnett Silk album was actually cut and released as the artist planned — It's Growing. His projected debut, Love Is the Answer, recorded between 1990 and 1991 for Steely & Clevie, wasn't released until 1994. Nothing Can Divide Us appeared the following year, and compiled songs cut in 1992 for Courtney Cole. Silky Mood, also released posthumously, rounded up numbers cut for the Jammys label, and a myriad of other sets compiled up hits, earlier offerings, and pretty much anything and everything that the singer had recorded. So, It's Growing remains Silk's only "true" album, and a masterpiece it is, as across ten tracks the singer showcases his stunning power on both romantic and cultural numbers. On the gorgeous title track, Silk combines both into a spectacular lovefest. "Move on Slow" finds the singer at his sultriest, and "Come to Me" at his most passionate, while "Commitment" takes him into soulful territory. "Place in Your Heart" is a total charmer, and was a huge Jamaican hit; Silk would recut the song two years later for his projected debut for Atlantic. "Bless Me" was also a smash, a fervent prayer for Jah's intervention, backed by Michael Spense and Jazzwad's jazzy, high-stepping accompaniment. "Keep Them Talking" boasts an equally inspired backing from the Firehouse Crew, a dangerous, thumping riddim that will indeed keep them talking, as Silk puts those who reject Jah firmly in their place. "I Am Vex" was even angrier, and another deserved hit, where the singer ferociously addresses racists, while his righteous anger also fires "Disadvantage." Both these numbers were vehemently backed by Danny Browne, who supplied accompaniment on two other tracks as well. Sly & Robbie and Steely & Clevie also provide phenomenal riddims, with Brian & Tony Gold and Dean Fraser offering excellent vocal support. Bobby "Digital" Dixon's expert production and arrangements makes the whole set sizzle, adding glow to the romantic numbers, and fire to the cultural tracks. Every song within is a classic, the lyrics are strong, all penned by the singer and/or his writing partner Anthony Rochester. It's Growing is the album that established Silk's reputation, and is a continuing reminder of his ferocious talent.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pluto Shervington Moves to 'Kingston 21'

Pluto Shervington remembers the moment he decided to leave Jamaica and resettle in Miami clearly.
"I was termed as the uptown one because I would play for all the private parties. Other artistes were doing more the big shows," Shervington told The Sunday Gleaner.
Right after the 1976 election which returned the Michael Manley-led PNP to power, early in 1977, Shervington said, "I had at least 10 to 12 cancellations. It dawned on me that most of my market was leaving the country. Business took a serious dive. Even the studio, the jingles. At the same time, Ernie was going through his thing over Power and the Glory".
Even Federal Records, where a lot of the major recording sessions were held, pulled up, shipping out the studio equipment in the process.
"So it was the natural thing to do. Most of my customers were in Miami anyway. I said I am going up there. I have work there. It worked out that way," Shervington said.
Enthusiastic response
He performed I Man Born Ya to those 'customers', the newly transplanted Jamaicans responding enthusiastically to the song. "People who have moved out of the country use that song as their theme song even more than the people who live here," Shervington said. If anyone asked how he had done that song and then migrated anyway, he told them the truth about his experience.
Still, Shervingtion pointed out "Miami isn't out of the country. I think we have another Kingston between Dale and Broward. We don't lack anything. It's like Kingston over again. We have the shows, the food, the people. You're talking about 1.5 million of us".
The numbers were, of course, smaller, but the culture was just as strong when Shervington moved there in 1977. He referred to an event called Sundays on the Bay in Miami which ran for nearly two decades, which he says had the greatest impact, with more than 2,000 persons gathering regularly on a Sunday evening.
"It made Americans and Cubans aware of us and how strong we were," Shervington said. And he added, "we were the only culture to challenge the Latin American women in terms of looks. Only the Cuban women could challenge."
Shervington still travels a lot between 'Kingston 21' and Kingston a lot these days. Over the past month he has had three shows in Jamaica, including one with Ernie Smith in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, and last night's Jamaica College benefit on the grounds of the Hope Road, St Andrew school.
He emphasised "I have never left here. Even when I am over there. If you ever come and see how we live. It is Kingston 21. Anything that is here is over there, good and bad." -Sunday Gleaner

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Story of a Song: 'I Man Born Ya'- Pluto Shervington

"But I man born ya ..I man on ya ..I nah leave yah ..Fe go America ..No way sah ..Pot a boil ya ..Belly full ya ..Sweet Jamaica"
Chorus, 'I Man Born Ya'.

In 1975, things were humming along for Pluto Shervington as surely as a new turntable needle set solidly in a clean LP groove, with no dust mites or vibration determined to disturb the melodic flow of the audio.
"Things were good here. Things were happening. Business was good. I was in the jingles business as well," Shervington told The Sunday Gleaner. "I had my own studio. That year, 1975, I think I wrote 50 of the major jingles I heard on radio and produced them. I had a studio that was doing very well, records were doing well. I was touring all over the world; life was good."
In that period of optimism, three years after the election which had swept Michael Manley into power, Shervington wrote the nationalistic, celebratory I Man Born Ya in a series of jolly jams which rocked the nation. There was Ram Goat Liver about a running belly encounter with a 'lick dung' goat; Your Honour explored the predicament of a man caught nude in a woman's closet by an irate husband; and Dat Ting Dere rummaged through the parcel of a Rastafarian who had to resort to eating pork.
I Man Born Ya was actually written ahead of Dat Ting Dere, but was the last of the quality quartet released. Shervington tells The Sunday Gleaner when he wrote it, "I truly didn't think I was leaving anywhere.
"A lot can happen in that year and a half," he said.
That 'lot' was a violent 1976 general election, which Michael Manley-led People's National Party (PNP) also won, the period including a state of emergency.
"It was a hell of a year. A lot hinged on who was going to win that election," Shervington told The Sunday Gleaner.
Although some persons had already started the exodus from Jamaica, mostly to the United States, Shervington said "it was not until right ahead of the election at the end of 1976 that everyone started to get jumpy. The crime went sky high".
I Man Born Ya got caught up in the vortex of nationalism, as he says "the PNP used that song as their theme song. Nobody asked me. I was not unhappy, but I would not have wanted that because it tended to align me to one side. I wanted to be neutral". Still, nobody branded Shervington a PNP supporter openly, this while his good friend Ernie Smith was getting flack for Power and the Glory, which bemoaned the fighting while the kingdom goes to waste.
I Man Born Ya was recorded at Federal Records (now Tuff Gong) with musicians Val Douglas (bass), Willie Lindo (guitar), Wya Lindo (organ), Robbie Lyn (piano) and Mikey Boo (drums). Shervington said while they were recording the song "it had not hit us yet, the value of what it was going to be".
"I don't think the impact of that song hit us until after I left the country in 1977, moved to Florida. And that song ... all the people who moved away, although it contradicted what they did, they held on to it. None of them let go of Jamaica."
The night that made I Man Born Ya
He remembers the night that literally made I Man Born Ya, a concert held on the Jamaica House lawns with Fabulous Five Incorporated playing the music for the performers. "I was way down at the end," he said. He would later find out that the line-up had been organised that way specifically because of I Man Born Ya. In front of a crowd Shervington estimates was more than 70,000 people, Prime Minister Michael Manley walked onstage and demanded the 'pull up'.
"After that you could not turn it back," Shervington said, the song going on to top the charts for weeks.
And the lasting impact of I Man Born Ya in Jamaica did not hit Shervington until 20 years after he left Jamaica for Florida. Although he had come back and done small shows, his first major concert appearance was on Ernie Smith's celebratory 30 years and Life is Just for Living event at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, with Johnny Nash, Ken Lazarus and the original band which had played the hits.
"It wasn't 'til then I saw Jamaicans were not angry at me because I had written that song and left," he told The Sunday Gleaner. He chuckles as he said "I had no shame at all. I would walk up onstage and sing it like I had never left."
Over time, Shervingtion has adjusted lines when he performs I Man Born Ya, the change including "nuff ganja grow ya" and "nah leave ya till me get me visa" in the chorus, as well as "meanwhile Portia lock the gate" in one of the verses.
The Sunday Gleaner asked Shervington if there was any line he would change in the original recording and he paused, looked up and right into the distance of 32 years ago, the rise and fall of his chest the only movement of his body. Then he said "belly full ya". I would not have written that in the song. There were people here who were starving. That was a selfish line."
"Mine was full and others were OK, but you had a lot of poor people who were not eating. That is why they took to Michael as they did. He promised them all of you will eat now. Which was a promise he could not keep, unfortunately," Shervington said. -Sunday Gleaner

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dancehall Dreams: The Roots of Reggae

A new documentary on the emergence of reggae paints a vivid picture of social upheaval and musical brilliance.
The small nation of Jamaica had its social issues, and, like the very best of art's creations, the discontent gave rise to a musical movement in the 1970s: reggae, which led to the later emergence of dancehall.
A new documentary by director Jérôme Laperrousaz, Made in Jamaica, is being shown in the UK for the first time, to coincide with Black History Month. The film, which the director Wim Wenders has hailed as "a true masterpiece", "the ultimate reference about reggae" and "a pure gem", portrays the rich and vibrant music scene that emerged from the misery of colonialisation and slavery faced by the inhabitants of the Caribbean island, which went on to become a groundbreaking, global musical genre.
That the film, shot on the streets of Kingston and the beaches of Jamaica, starts with the murder of Bogle, one of the leading stars of dancehall, puts the movement in context. Reggae is the sound of the ghettos and is said to be Jamaica's blues, telling of the people's hopes and dreams.
Rather than solely charting the history of Jamaican reggae and dancehall culture, the film focuses on the past and present performers' experiences and perspectives, while looking to the themes explored in its powerful lyrics: religion, violence, gender and social issues.
The compelling documentary shows live performances and interviews with Reggae's stars, young and old. There are appearances in the film from some big hitters, including Gregory Isaacs, who has close to 60 studio albums to his name and can be seen in performance in the main photograph, Bunny Wailer, a founding member of Bob Marley's seminal Wailers and a reggae standard-bearer, seen in the middle picture, Tanya Stephens, Toots Frederick, Elephant Man, Bounty Killer, Third World and Capleton.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Essential Reggae Albums: Junior Reid 'One Blood'

Junior Reid's first solo outing since 1985, his first after departing from Black Uhuru, One Blood was a revolutionary set and a revelation. The stage was set with the release of the title track as an album taster, which proved to be a massive hit and one of the greatest reggae anthems of the decade. The single could have ended up overshadowing the rest of the set, as often happens in these cases, but in fact, the entire album was of equal caliber. Surprisingly, then, only one other track within, the equally anthemic "Sound," was spun off as a single, although at least another half a dozen tracks could have joined it on 45. One of the obvious choices was "Searching for Better," an emphatic, adamantly optimistic number that blends a sharp dancehall style with thumping hip-hop. "Fast Car" revs into the dancehalls, with its tattoo of beats counterpointing the dark, rootsy bass and riffs. While that's all ragamuffin boasts, "Married Life" takes an insightful look at marriage and its many pitfalls. Moving into the wider cultural realm, "A Nuh So" juxtaposes happy reminiscence of childhood with today's ugly world; it's an emotional number that Reid delivers with passion. "When It Snows" heads north to offer consolation to the sufferers there with one of the album's loveliest numbers. Reid's sympathetic performance, beautifully backed by the Tamlins, who provide harmonies throughout the set, is superb, while the rich, urbanized throb of a rhythm is stellar. "Who Done It" returns to the island, where Reid demands to know who killed the reggae don in a coiled shout for justice in the album's most vehement song. The cover of "Eleanor Rigby" is the most surprising, not least because of its closeness in sound to the original...assuming the Beatles had brought in Sly & Robbie to lay down the rhythm. Besides the Riddim Twins, Steely & Clevie, Carlton "Santa" Davis, Tony "Asher" Brissett, Chris Meridith, Tyrone Downie, Earl "Chinna" Smith, and Dean Fraser all add their considerable talents to the set. The musical backings are phenomenal, with Reid, who self-produces, creating an almost hypnotic atmosphere around many of the numbers that totally belies the insistent dancehall rhythms that fuel them. There's astonishing diversity in the stylings and moods that puts paid to the notion that all dancehall riddims are interchangeable, as the album runs the gamut from the moodiest, militant roots to fist-in-the-air anthems through brighter numbers and crossing into both the R&B and hip-hop worlds. It's a breathtaking achievement, one that garnered rave reviews at the time and that has lost none of its power with the passing years.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Earl 'Chinna' Smith and Idrens 'Inna De Yard Volume 1'

Beginning this month The Reggae Review will give attention to a classic collection of reggae music. Reggae at it's finest. Reggae in it simplest form. Reggae Inna De Yard...literally!
Inna De Yard is a relatively new label, a collection supported by Makasound. It presents the songs the way they were created, in the yards and backyards of Jamaica. With a lead voice and a guitar, sometimes accompanied by nyabinghi drums or background vocals, depending on the vibes. It's back to the roots of reggae music as it was when it arose from the yards......

The collection opens with an album from the famous guitarist- composer, author, singer and arranger- of the Soul Syndicate, who also played with the Wailers and more recently Sizzla: Earl 'Chinna' Smith, nicknamed Earl Flute by Keith Hudson for his vocal feats. He notably wrote the unforgettable Junior Byles' hit, 'Fade Away' . In the last 30 years he arranged countless instrumentals for almost every Jamaican artist. He remains one of the most sought after musicians on the island.

On this first Inna De Yard opus, Chinna plays seven of his own songs- including the famed Satan Side, Fade Away and We Got Love. On every other piece, he gives up his place to artists he wanted to introduce on his Inna De Yard album. Young talents such as Jah Youth, Emmanuel I, The Maestro, and elder artists such as Ken Bob and Ras Michael Jr.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cherine Anderson on the Ellen Show

Jamaican actress and artist Cherine Anderson recently appeared on th Ellen Show with Michael Franti and Spearhead singing their top 10 hit 'Say Hey(I love you)' from Franti's latest album 'All Rebel Rockers'.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Julian 'JuJu' Marley Ready to 'Awake' the U.S.

Singer Julian 'Juju' Marley has a lot on his plate of late, what with the April release of his third album, Awake, and the start of his cross-country tour of the United States.

Despite his hectic schedule, when The Gleaner spoke with Marley recently at the Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road, he was mellow when talking about his new music. Marley and his Uprising Band begin their US tour today in Jacksonville, Florida. Accompanying him on tour will be his brother Stephen Marley and Ghetto Youth International artiste Javaughn. "I'm looking forward to going on the road. I hope I'll be getting a good response. I have very good music to give di people and music is di message, so I hope it is embraced," said Marley.

The music will be from the rootsy Awake, which has been labelled as the artiste's best album to date. Awake comes after the release of his 1996 debut album, Lion in the Morning, and his 2003 sophomore album, Time and Place.

Marley said Awake was two years in the making and was inspired by the Almighty and his experiences during that time. The album was recorded in Miami, Jamaica and London and features brother Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley as well as production work from himself, his brothers, the Uprising Band, Owen 'Dreddy' Reid and Noel Davey.

"This album is about everything I have to talk about. The title track Awake speaks for every song on the album. It's different from the other albums in that it's been quite a few years and I've grown. My voice has gotten more mature and I'm not as shy as before, writing wise," he said.

The first song released from the album was the herb-inspired Boom Draw, closely followed by Violence in the Streets, which Marley feels is applicable to every country. Violence in the Streets features Damian Marley and an edgy video for the song was released recently.
"I choose that song to do as the first video from di album 'cause I needed something hardcore to shove at di whole system 'cause dere is too much violence in di streets. It's gonna earthquake di place and it's a hard King Tubby's riddim," he said.

An admirer of current acts such as Tarrus Riley and Queen Ifrica, Marley describes himself as a "roots man" who loves to listen to old-school music. While Marley hasn't played a lot in Jamaica, he's hoping to do so soon to introduce Jamaica to his new music. He cites Africa, Europe and America as having his biggest fan base.

As for the future, Marley hopes to continue on the same path of putting out good music and exposing new talent through the Marley brothers label, Ghetto Youths International.

(The Gleaner, 10/8/09)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Tarrus Riley Shines for Athletes

Reggae artiste Tarrus Riley delivered a delightful set at the Trelawny Multi-Purpose stadium in Florence Hall on Sunday night, to bring the curtains down on the three-day celebrations in honour of the performance of the Jamaican athletes at the 12th IAAF World Championship in Berlin, Germany, in August.

From the moment the artiste was called on stage by Konshens, it was clear that the jam-packed stadium was eagerly awaiting his performance - and he didn't disappoint.
And at the end of his nearly 30-minute set, it was Riley who stood tall atop the many performances of the night.

Dressed in full black, Riley delivered hit after hit, and had particularly his female fans singing along to almost every word and note he uttered.

Opening his set with his current hit, Good Girl Gone Bad, to huge cheers from the large crowd, Riley then belted out catching lyrics in honour of double world record holder and triple Olympic gold medallist, Usain Bolt.

His songlist also included Human Nature and Lion Paw and his antics with saxophonist Dean Frazer brought the house down.

He closed his magnificent set with his hit, She's Royal.

The Strong One, Etana, who was, like Riley, dressed in full black - also performed credibly.
Her song, Blessings, done with reggae singer Alborosie, was well received by the audience. So too were her hit songs, Warrior Love and I am not afraid.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Gramps Morgan Performs at NY Mets' Caribbean Day Celebration

Queens, NY - This past weekend, Citi Field Stadium in New York City, home to the legendary New York Mets baseball team celebrated Caribbean Day at the Mets vs Houston Astros game and reggae crooner Gramps Morgan filled the ball park with the sounds of reggae music, delivering a sizzling pre-game performance that warmed the hearts of thousands of baseball fans on a cool Fall afternoon.

Gramps, performing his single Don't Cry for Jamaica off his chart-topping solo album, 2 Sides of My Heart Vol 1 was in fine nick and was well received by baseball fans who gave him a thunderous applause.

"This is a historic moment for me as it is first time I have performed in a stadium before thousands of baseball fans in my entire career," an elated Gramps Morgan declared moments after he left the mound.

"To have my image beamed live on the big jumbotron TV monitors at a ballpark that I grew up close to as a youngster is a very special moment for me. I am happy I was able to represent for Jamaica, the Caribbean and all my reggae fans" he said.

Gramps was not the only one rejoicing as NY Mets Community and Group Sales & Services spokesperson Michael Renzulli said, "We are very pleased to have a taste of the Jamaican culture here today at the Citi Field as we celebrate Caribbean Day here at the game."
Prior to Gramps' performance, Danglin sang Jamaica We Love, a passionate and patriotic proclamation showcasing all the wonderful things that make Jamaica special. The festivities concluded with a presentation to columnist Sandy Daley from Street Hype newspaper.
Media marketer Anthony Turner of IMAGES LLC, who, along with Dave Rodney and the Queens Economic Development Corporation, coordinated the pre-game event said, "We applaud the NY Mets and the Queens Borough President's Office for giving two Caribbean acts the opportunity to showcase our Caribbean culture before thousands of baseball fans. Gramps and Danglin are two talented artistes who today have broken new ground in their respective careers," he noted.

Gramps, who was born Roy Morgan, has been having a whirlwind year that included a major US tour with Grammy winner India.Arie and John Legend. In August he performed at two sold-out back-to-back events at the world-famous Madison Square Gardens and topped off the summer with a strong performance at Irie Jamboree in New York. His debut album Two Side oF My Heart had one of the strongest reggae debuts ever, racking up impressive sales of over 12,000 units in its first week. Currently the album is the top-selling reggae disc in South Florida and New York. Morgan is currently on a US tour with reggae star Buju Banton

Friday, October 02, 2009

Exclusive Interview with Eric Rachmany of Rebelution PART 3

RR: Are you listening to anything in particular lately?

Eric: Lately I’ve been into writing my own stuff. Definitely stuff with the band. I like writing on acoustic guitar. I can’t say I’ve been listening to one artist that much. I think it’s good that I’m into my own thing because sometimes I won’t be as motivated to write as other times and now seems like a good time. I feel creative.

RR: It seems like bands and artists do a lot of their writing on the road do you find that to be the case?

Eric: I think so. There’s a lot of down time. For me, I like to be in a quiet spot when I’m thinking about song writing. You do see a lot of things. There’s constantly a lot of action going on when on tour. Your witnessing a lot of things going on. I think you’re right. A lot of song writing happens either on tour or relates to being on tour.

RR: Are you surprised at all with the albums’ reception – Bright Side of Life?

Eric: I think there was a little bit of pressure coming off of ‘Courage to Grow’ because it did so well and we’ve always had high expectations for anything that we put out. We feel confident in it and we love playing it and we feel like it’s music people like. I thought that it was going to do good. I enjoy listening to it myself. I think we did a really good project. It’s definitely a progression of the band. I think people have witnessed that. I feel like they see the progression in the song writing and instrumentation so when I hear people say that I feel really stoked that they can say that about the album.

RR: I agree. When I first heard it, yeah, it was Rebelution but you did a lot of different things with the instruments and I noticed a lot of characteristics of Dub. The more I listen to it, the more I enjoy it. Coming off of Courage to grow I wondered 'How are they going to top that?' because, in my opinion, that was one of the best Reggae albums to come out in the last 5/10 years.

Eric: There was that sort of pressure but I think each album’s going to be a little bit different from each other. I think people will end up liking it. It might take them a few listens to get used to it, but by the time they get used to it, they’ll appreciate it.

RR: I hear you’re going to be doing an i-Tunes exclusive release. Is that true?

Eric: Yeah. A few months ago we went to Las Vegas to record an I-Tunes exclusive in the Palms Hotel. Sometimes they do these live exclusive albums. We went in and recorded about eight tracks some acoustic and some are electric – our live sound. That should come out in the next couple of months.

RR: Where do you see yourselves in the next 5/10 years?

Eric: I see us in the studio and on the road, doing what we’re doing right now. Seeing the crowds getting bigger and the positivity getting spread around. All that goodness.

RR: Thank you so much for your time Eric!

Eric: Thank you. Great questions!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Exclusive Interview with Eric Rachmany of Rebelution PART 2

RR: Any other influential artists that you give credit to?

Eric: Not as much as Don Carlos but I guess all of the Black Uhuru stuff is something that I got into pretty heavily. The genre is so…there’s so many songs that I’ve heard and learned over the years that I’ve got into. I’ve been into different artists at different points.

RR: The Jamaica Observer recently did an article about the band. How does that feel?

Eric: Yeah, I saw that. That’s awesome! Wow! I can’t believe it! Also, the Gleaner did an article on us a little while ago. That was cool. Very, very cool.

RR: Have you been to Jamaica? Do you have any plans to perform or record there?

Eric: I haven’t been yet but it’s on the list. I gotta go there.
We don’t have any plans right now but we definitely would like to, that’s for sure. There’s a lot artists you can collaborate with. There’s also probably a lot of music I could gather just by going to Jamaica and bring it back and see what I like. I’m actually super particular about what I listen to. For every song that I like there’s so many that I don’t. Once you get into that one song that you like I play it over and over again until I’m sick of it and then move on to another song that I love. That’s how I song write too. I like to think of a melody in my head just over and over again and I think about it all the time until it turns into a song and then I’ll move on to the next song. It’s hard for me to write multiple songs at once.

RR: I think that’s why your lyrics and songs have such quality to them, because of that effort.

Eric: Thank you.

RR: You guys have really developed a good following in the States. Do you have any plans Internationally?

Eric: We’ve been talking a little bit about going to Aruba. We have a lot of good fans in Aruba and we’ve been to Guam before and played for the fans out there and that was amazing. Of course, Hawaii is part of the country but it sort of feels like another country. We definitely have been talking about going to Europe. I don’t know if our publicist told you but when we released ’Bright Side of Life’ I was looking on my computer and saw that in France we were the #5 most down-loaded Reggae album when it first came out. That was really surprising. I had no idea that people knew our stuff there. We definitely want to go to Europe we think we’d be really great out there and to see that part of the world. We’ve never been out there. We’d love to go.

RR: Any particular artist that you would at some point like to work with?

Eric: Definitely, Don Carlos is my #1. I just got to meet him in Ft. Lauderdale the day before we did the show in Orlando. We were talking about maybe collaborating at some point. That would be really cool. As far as some of the new artists and some of the dance hall artists. Collie Budz would be pretty cool. I like him a lot. I think he’s pretty innovative. There’s a guy out of Sweden named Million Stylz, he seems pretty cool. I like his message a lot. He’s a little more Dance Hall than Rebelution. It would still be a pretty neat combination.

Part 3 Coming Friday.........