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.