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Toots and Tessanne Receive US Congressional Proclamation

Behind a vintage performance that captured the hearts of thousands of music fans, legendary entertainer Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals fame, and current singing sensation Tessanne Chin were on Sunday presented with the United States Congressional Proclamation at the annual ‘Groovin In The Park’ reggae and R&B concert here.

The proclamations were made through the efforts of US-born Jamaican Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. It recognised Toots’s “contribution to Jamaica’s musical development for more than 50 years”.

Chin, the winner of NBC’s The Voice singing competition three years ago, was recognised for her “sterling performance and achievements” during that competition that inspired an outburst of patriotism then and since.

For Toots, Sunday’s appearance was special. Booked as one of the performers three years ago, he was forced to withdraw after being injured while performing in Virginia.

He began his act with the single I will never grow old, as an indication that he will continue to perform for sometime yet. But it was the super hits Country Road and 5446 That’s My Number which sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Reggae super star Beres Hammond — a crowd favourite — and R&B singer Peabo Bryson delivered performances that brought the large and appreciative crowed to its feet several times.


Brits Covering Reggae and Hitting Music Charts

Who Do You Think Of by British girl group MO made a big jump on the UK Pop Singles Chart last week, vaulting from 73 to 47 in its third week.

Released by Polydor, the song samples Lonely Girl, a 2004 hit for singjay Bascom X.

Another song with a Jamaican connection, Is this Love (remix), enters the chart at number 75. It is credited to Bob Marley featuring Lvndscape/Bolier. The Marley original got as far as number nine in 1978.

A number of British acts have charted with songs originally recorded by Jamaicans or sampling songs by Jamaicans.

Dance group Bus Stop sampled singer Carl Douglas’s 1974 chart-topper Kung Fu Fighting on their 1998 cover. Their version peaked at number eight.

Reggae band UB40 covered songs by several Jamaican acts on their Labour of Love albums. The first volume, released in 1983 featured a remake of Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross which reached number 16.

Their take on Eric Donaldson’s Cherry Oh Baby peaked at number 12 in 1984, while their update of 1960s singer Winston Groovy’s Please Don’t Make Me Cry reached number 10 in 1983.

UB40’s remake of Johnny Osbourne’s Come Back Darling went to number 10 that year. Another cover, was Ken Boothe’s The Train Is Coming which went number 30 in 1984.

Sly And Robbie’s Grammy-winning album Friends, released in 1998 by Elektra Records, featured the track Night Nurse, a remake of the Gregory Isaacs hit by Simply Red. It reached number 13.

Bob Marley’s I Shot the Sheriff was a UK chart hit in 1974 courtesy of British rock star Eric Clapton whose version got to number nine.

The Paragons’ late 1960s hit The Tide is High went number one twice on the UK pop chart. In 1980 rock band Blondie topped the chart with their cover; 22 years later, girl group Atomic Kitten repeated the feat.


Reggae Rebel - Stephen Marley New Album Release

DON’T SAY that Stephen Marley isn’t versatile. With his new album, Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life, boasting collaborations with acts including reggae star Shaggy, hip-hop hero Black Thought and Australian rapstress Iggy Azalea, it’s clear that Bob Marley’s second son knows how to mix and blend musical styles.

“We had a concept,” Stephen says of his latest offering. “This album is the second part of a two-part series. The first part was [the 2011 album] Revelation Part 1: The Root Of Life. And this is Revelation Part 2: The Fruit of Life.

“The plan this time was to cross-pollinate other genres with reggae music, in order to produce a colourful album. So there’s a little jazz, a little hip-hop, a little dance – it’s like a fruit basket. You know, you can have grapes today, you can have an orange tomorrow, you can have a mango on Sunday – and so on!”

The concept sounds great. But at a time when there has been much debate about the cultural appropriation of reggae/dancehall – with artists like Canadian rapper Drake and pop prince Justin Bieber being criticised for hijacking the genres – does Marley fear he may be slammed for the ‘cross pollination’ of styles on his album?

“Well, you’ll always have critics,” the 44-year-old says, before singing his father’s famous lyrics: “’They’ve got so much things to say’ – that’s what my father said. Critics will always have something to say.

“But I am me and these are my offerings. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t dig it then keep it moving. I don’t feel like I need to justify myself like that. I will say that reggae is definitely my roots. But away from the music, my morals and my upbringing are a part of me. And as a producer, I’m influenced by so many different things. All of that comes together and that is reflected in my music.”

Of the artists who have been criticised for jumping on the reggae bandwagon, Stephen says: “I can’t judge people like that. The music is for everyone and it is meant to influence or inspire people. People being influenced by reggae or trying to emulate the music is a great compliment.

“What I do think is that we, as a reggae fraternity, need to be more united. I think that is what is missing. But in terms of our music being emulated, I think that’s a great compliment.”

Laughing, the Jamaican star adds: “Remember, we come from a little dot on the map, you know what I mean? For the world to be inspired by our music and try and copy our music, that should show us how valuable our music is. That is what we should look at – the value of the music and our value as originators of this music.”

As the son of the late, great Bob Marley, there’s no question that Stephen, and indeed all his siblings, are rooted in reggae. But of course, it wasn’t just his famous father who provided the source of his musical inspiration.

Ask the producer, multi-instrumentalist and Grammy Award-winner which artist’s music uplifts and inspires him, and he says without hesitation: “My mother’s music. She’s been like a mother and a father since my father’s physical presence was no longer there and her music is inspiring.”

While his mother, Rita, is celebrated as a member of her late husband Bob’s backing band, The I-Threes, she has also released an abundance of solo material, including the singles Harambe and One Draw.

“She’s such a strong being; a strong black woman,” Stephen continues of the Marley matriarch. “The way that she was able to hold the fort, in what people call ‘a man’s world’, has been a real inspiration. I look up to her and I admire her outlook on life.”

But of course, Stephen also looked up to his father – not just musically, but in terms of his sense of style.

Just a few months back, Jamaican author Marlon James wrote an article for GQ magazine, in which he hailed Marley as an “underrated style God.” Does Stephen remember his father, who died in 1981, as a fashionable man?

“Yeah man – he had his wardrobe,” Stephen laughs. “My father and a lot of that generation were influenced by American music. So they were in their suits and making poses like The Temptations and acts like that! So yeah, he was in tune with what he liked.

“But to me… me did see him like a cowboy – in him jeans and him boots! He was like a rebel cowboy. As a child, that’s how I saw him – like a black cowboy.”

Now, as a father himself – “I have quite a few children,” Stephen laughs, without revealing the number of offspring he has – the Mind Control hitmaker has seen the Marley musical legacy continue via his son, Jo Mersa Marley.

An artist in his own right, 25-year-old Jo has released songs including Rock and Swing and Sunshine. He also features on his father’s new album, on the track Revelation Party.

“I have many sons, but Joseph in particular was always with me,” Stephen recalls. “From when he was like two years old, his mother was in Jamaica and he would be on tour with me. So he was exposed to the music first-hand.

“But at the same time, I didn’t point him in this direction. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even encourage him [to get into music], nor did I give him an opinion, because I didn’t want him to feel like he had to do music. But once I saw him really getting into it and making those steps, that’s when I said, ‘Alright yout’, it look like ah dis you really come fi do!’”

With Jo becoming a father earlier this year, it seemed fitting to congratulate Stephen on his grandfather status.

“Yeah man, it’s a wonderful thing,” Stephen laughs. “Joseph has a little daughter now and the evolution of life is a wonderful thing. I’m grateful to be here to see my children’s children. That’s a blessing.”

Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life is available for pre-order on iTunes and will be released physically on July 22. For more information, visit


Governor's Inn Annual Reggae Fest

Several regional and internationally recognized reggae acts will perform in the gardens of The Governor’s Inn in Rochester on Saturday, Aug. 6, with more than 10 hours of music, accompanied by arts and craft vendor booths, open grills and scores of craft beers to sample.

Celebrating it’s fifth annual reggae event, The Governor’s Inn is staging six talented acts including Soulshot, a 12-piece headline band which has turned heads in Jamaica from Kingston to Montego Bay, as well as the bands Frevolt, DreadRocks, The Equalites, ‘Kappo’ Hanson, and Joe Sambo & The Goonz.

Bands will be staged from two stages, and in the adjoining gardens artisan vendors will showcase pottery, photography, fine arts and hand crafted treasures. Those interested in selling their own art are still encouraged to contact the Inn. From under the grove trees, grilled burgers, Jamaican Jerk Chicken and the Garage’s award winning BBQ will be served.

There is limited seating for those arriving early. Others are recommended to bring lawn chairs or lawn blankets. With 2016 being a five-year mark for the Reggae Festival at The Governor’s Inn, a special all-day advance ticket is available for only $16.

The headline band, Soulshot, is impressive not only in the States but also in reggae’s homeland, including the Black Mystery Concert in Kingston, Jamaica. They were invited to perform at a festival in Montego Bay and so impressed the management that they were called back to Jamaica to perform for the following year’s main lineup along with Lionel Ritchie, The O’Jays, Chicago, and Maxi Priest.

Led by David “Daveydread” Turano on bass, Soulshot recently produced their third album and has band members with impressive experience, including Ken Stewart with 20 years as keyboardist and manager of the world famous Skatalites and vocalist Dion Knibb, son of the late legendary drummer Lloyd Knibb, who toured the U.S. and recorded in Jamaica with the Fab 5. Trumpeter Mark Berney also comes from the Skatalites as well as Aretha Franklin’s band.

Thom O’Brien, singer/songwriter of the group, has penned more than 100 songs, some of which appear on the new Shot Heard Round the World album. The other members — all with their own stories — include: Tom Perrott on guitar; Frank Moniz on tenor sax; Rob Liguori, alto, tenor and flute player; Grayson Farmer on trumpet; Krys Jackson on drums; and Papa Zeke on percussion.

One of the other headline acts this year at the Inn, Freevolt, is a roots rock reggae act known for its high energy performance that is full of dynamic changes, tight grooves, positive vibrations, and passionate vocals. They were recognized as one of the top five best live acts in New England by the NE Music Awards last year. Freevolt is currently on a nationwide tour with its second album “Once You Say." Their website is

The Reggae Fest is part of The Summer Music Series at the Governor’s Inn — with more than 50 bands all summer. The Summer Music Series is made possible by Metrocast, United Insurance — Foss & Kane and Broadview Hospital, 1st City Auto, Poulin Auto, Bourke’s Flooring, Spence & Mathews Insurance, Burke’s Tree Service, Hervey’s Tire, The Gafney Home, Studley’s and The Rochester Opera House.

For more information or tickets, visit


Reggae Band SOJA Coming Home

Although the Grammy-nominated band SOJA specializes in reggae, a sound born in the Caribbean, the only island its members grew up anywhere near was the District of Columbia’s Roosevelt Island.

Hailing from Arlington, Va., the band began in high school as Soldiers of Jah Army with lead singer Jacob Hemphill, bassist Bob Jefferson (who goes by Bobby Lee) and drummer Ryan Berty, who are now mainstays on the international reggae and jam-band circuit. The friends still live in Northern Virginia.

SOJA has sold more than 200,000 albums, played "The Tonight Show" and has YouTube music videos with more than 68 million views, but the eight-piece band is perhaps better known abroad, where it has headlined in 30 countries. (The band also includes percussionist Ken Brownell, guitarist Trevor Young, keyboardist Patrick O’Shea, Hellman Escorcia on sax and Rafael Rodriguez on trumpet.)

We spoke recently with Hemphill, 36, who had been back in Arlington for seven hours after a tour in Brazil.

Do you still have a bigger following abroad than you do at home? Yeah, it’s interesting. Because reggae in other countries is a real genre. Reggae in the United States is sort of like vacation music or kids’ music or like a gimmick, sort of. But in other countries, that stuff gets played on the radio, it’s on TV, it’s a real thing.

Do you think that will ever change in the United States? I don’t know. I’ve read a lot of books on Bob Marley, and something they all say is that he struggled with the U.S. market. Not that he was doing anything wrong.

There are certainly fans here. There’s no lacking in people listening to it. But a lot of music is like that. I remember when hip-hop started and then 15 years later, Jay-Z was up for a Grammy. And he said (if that part of the ceremony) is not televised, that he’s not going. And he didn’t go. And the next year it was televised. Country was like that, folk was like that. I think reggae in the States hasn’t really gotten to that spot yet.

What got you into reggae as a child? Weirdly, for me, it was more Paul Simon than it was Bob Marley. My dad played Paul Simon only. When I was a kid, I lived in Africa with my family, and I remember thinking that "Rhythm of the Saints" and "Graceland" was kind of made for us going to Africa. I have always loved folk music, and reggae is a kind of folk music. And then my cousins at a family reunion played me Bob Marley, UB40, Steel Pulse and Inner Circle. When I heard it, I thought, this is bigger than music. This guy, Bob Marley -- I can tell he believes he’s changing the world with all this stuff that he’s saying. And it was a big deal to me. When I came home, I told my best friend, Bobby Lee, who became the bass player in SOJA, that was it. We were on it. That was just it.

How old were you then? Thirteen. I was taking guitar lessons. And me and Bob were doing talent shows, but we were doing all hip-hop. ... We did "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" one year, and we had fake guns and fake money and masks. That was not popular with the teachers. It did not go over well.

Bobby Lee was willing to try reggae? In the beginning, it was him on bongos and me on guitar and vocals. Then we started a reggae band with people that we knew around high school. And then that band stopped, and me and Bobby and the drummer, Ryan Berty, went and started a new band called Soldiers of Jah Army. I think we were 16 or 17, and that’s still the band that it is 20 years later.

Were other kids at school into it? I remember there was a band at our high school called the Decepticons, and they called it the Fakin’ Jamaicans. Band practice for us was fun. That’s what we did on a Friday night or a Saturday night. That was our thing. We’d go to my dad’s garage or to Ryan Berty’s parents’ basement. ... We called it jam practice.

Were you doing covers or were you writing stuff? I think me and Bob were both writing stuff pretty early, at 16 or 17. We did covers, though. We did Bishop O’Connell (High School)’s SuperDance one year, and we auditioned with what we thought was a Peter Tosh song. But it turns out "Johnny B. Goode" was not written by Peter Tosh. Then I remember I stood onstage and I had a Bible in my hand and I was quoting why this Catholic school was wrong.

How’d that go over? They were not excited. I actually met SOJA’s manager at that show; he was in the audience and he was 16 or 17 at that time and he said, "Hey, I’m having a party at my house, come play." And then the party got busted by the cops, and once again I pulled out a Bible. We played a thing, back when it was illegal, called the 420 Smokeout in D.C. We played it one year, and yet again, I pulled the Bible out. It’s a good tool.

Was it all part of your Rastafarian belief system? Not any more. When we were kids, we were exploring every aspect of this thing we were completely in love with. So we would go to the Nyabinghi Rasta house in D.C. That’s just who we were. Then at some point we decided, look, man, if we were going to force every single person who listens to our music to sign up for some religion, it’s probably an unfair thing to do. At the same time, we were all going off individually on our own and getting older and becoming who actually were. Religion is a cool thing. But I was reading a Buddhist quote that said: When you come up to a river you need a boat that takes you across the river. The smart people leave the boat there for the next guy. And the dummies, they keep dragging their boat around with them. And that’s what religion means to me. It was really cool when I was a kid. But then I got more interested in the questions than this book that had all the answers. I think that’s when we shifted from Soldiers of Jah Army to SOJA.

Were you easily accepted into the reggae community locally? Oh, yeah, we got lucky. We were at a reggae show, I think we were, like, 14 or 15 years old, and at the Nyabinghi house, this guy, Ras Mugabe, came up and said, Come to this thing. It was the real deal, and there (were) famous guys who played on Bob Marley records who just happened to live in D.C. Yeah, that was our whole thing, the whole culture of it. The music, in the beginning for us, was almost secondary.

Were people surprised when you started that you were all white guys? For sure. And when we started, I had a Jamaican accent going. It wasn’t really that we were trying to do that, it’s just that all the music we listened to had a Jamaican accent. That’s how we learned to play music, and how we learned how to sing. I think still even now there’s a lot of people looking at us, and they’re like, "Look at these white guys playing reggae." And I don’t blame them. It is weird.

Speaking of the D.C. hardcore punk scene, you’ve tried to throw that stuff in your sound as well, along with go-go. We’re constantly doing a lot of go-go stuff, we’re doing a lot of distortion stuff. And our drummer, Bert, is a really skilled drummer who does a lot of D.C.-type of stuff. We’re a reggae band that also does some hardcore and some go-go. It’s what you would think a DMV band would be; it’s what I think it would be.

Does it surprise people when you tell people you’re from Arlington? Yeah, we tell people we’re from Virginia, and everybody thinks like: Tennessee. But that’s what we loved to do, get on the Metro, me and Bob and Bert would go to whatever reggae show was happening. When I was a kid, it seemed like this club, and that the luckiest people in the world were part of this club. And now here we are.

How are you marking your 20th anniversary next year? We’re recording a record that sounds like our first record that we really loved, "Born in Babylon." That was the first time SOJA really had this thing going on.

You’re continuing to do socially conscious material? The latest record, "Amid the Noise and Haste," was supposed to be uplifting for sure. And it had a kind of light (feel). We were trying to speak a language that everybody could understand, so we were writing about things that are very universal, but a lot of my stuff is on the cynical -- a "we’re getting scammed"-type of deal.

You must be playing to audiences that have a lot of different political stances. It’s true. That’s something that’s never really bothered me. The thing I thought was great about Bob Marley, more than any other musician, is that everyone who hears him thinks he’s talking to them. It can be like a black guy or white guy, or a man or a women, tall or short or whatever. People who listen to Bob, they think he’s talking to them. I’ve noticed that all of my heroes have had that. Bruce Lee had that, Bob Marley had that. Michael Jordan had that. Bernie Sanders, in my opinion, he has that. And Gandhi has that. And that’s kind of why I love Jesus: A human who can relate to everyone is the best human. Because no matter what opinion you have, we’re all sharing the same human experience, and the same human condition. We’re born, we live, we die, we maybe fall in love, there’s money involved, there’s hopes and dreams and things, for everybody from every political background.


Reggae and Soul Fusion? See Music Video

Aisha Sanni-Shittu is a talented Nigerian recording Soul fusion artist who has been a backup singer for Majek Fashek, Dr Sid, Modenine, Teeto Ceemos, Zato, Capital Femi, and even recently, Sir Victor Uwaifo.

Her new track, “Nobody” is a fusion of soul & reggae music and was produced by Coded Voodoo. The video was directed by TemilolaTash & Kaykas.


Shaggy Coming To Mount Airy Casino Resort

From a press release:

Emerging in the early ’90s, Shaggy was the biggest crossover success in dancehall reggae, known worldwide for his hit single “It Wasn’t Me” in 2000. With a commanding presence, a distinctive voice that is recognizable throughout the world and titles such as artist, businessman, philanthropist, and Grammy Award winner, Shaggy is and has been a musical force to be reckoned with.

He’ll be performing at Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono on Saturday, June 18 at 9 p.m.

Tickets, which are $30, plus fees, can be purchased via and all Ticketmaster outlets, or at the Mount Airy Casino Resort box office (312 Woodland Rd., Mount Pocono).

A son of the brambly streets of Kingston, Jamaica, Shaggy’s discipline -which he credits to his military background – has been the foundation of his success. In 1993, Shaggy exploded on the music scene with his debut album, “Pure Pleasure.” His remix of the ska classic “Oh Carolina” from that album was an instant hit in England and other countries.

He followed up with his sophomore album, “Boombastic,” in 1995. “Boombastic” went certified platinum, won a Grammy Award in 1996 for Best Reggae Album, and topped an impressive chart list that included the Top 40 Rhythmic charts, Hot 100, and Billboard 200, among others. Wanting to take a more hands-on approach with his career, Shaggy, along with his manager Robert Livingston and legendary producer Sting International, formed Big Yard Music Group in 1996. With its state-of-the-art equipment and highly trained staff, Big Yard set out to “create a central space filled with opportunities” and has been instrumental in the careers of artists such as Brian & Tony Gold, Kiprich, Rayvon, RikRok, and Voicemail.

Today, the label is responsible for the careers of Richie Loop, Christopher Martin, and D-Major. With the formation of Big Yard Music Group and the success of “Boombastic,” Shaggy forged ahead and recorded his third installment, “Midnite Lover,” in 1997. Fast forward to 2000, Shaggy released his fourth album, “Hotshot,” on MCA Records label. “Hotshot” went diamond worldwide and platinum six times in the United States. Notable singles from that album included “It Wasn’t Me,” which received a Grammy nomination, and “Angel.” Single “Luv Me, Luv Me” featuring Janet Jackson was released on the soundtrack for the movie “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” The album also won “Best-Selling Album” at the 2002 Juno Awards.

In 2002 and 2005, Shaggy released “Lucky Day” and “Clothes Drop,” respectively. “Lucky Day” went certified gold, while single “Strength of a Woman” made the Top 40 mainstream charts. “Clothes Drop” received a Grammy nomination for “Best Reggae Album.” Thereafter, Shaggy busied himself in the studio recording his next album, entitled “Intoxication.”

“Intoxication” was released in 2007 and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Reggae Albums chart, was nominated for Best Reggae Album at the 51st Grammy Awards in 2008, and was the No. 1 download on the U.K. iTunes Reggae chart. The first single, “Church Heathen,” from the album received rave reviews. The song peaked at No. 1 on various music charts and won “Best Music Video” at the International Reggae and World Music Awards in 2008. The second single, “Bonafide Girl,” also made its way to No. 1 on the music charts. That same year, Shaggy recorded and released single “Feel the Rush,” which was used as the original anthem for the UEFA Euro Cup. The single was featured on various charts throughout Europe and India.

Undaunted by the success of his business ventures and his music, Shaggy has always lived on the premise that “to whom much is giving, much is required.” With this belief, Shaggy took on the role of philanthropist. What began as donations of medical equipment and visits to the Bustamante Hospital for Children to distribute gifts during the holidays, paint rooms, donate beds, and the creation of a garden gave birth to the Shaggy Foundation. Developed in 2008, Shaggy recruited business associates, fellow recording artists, and sponsors to assist in hosting an annual charity event in which all proceeds are donated to the hospital to help defray the cost of medical equipment. To date, the Shaggy Foundation has been instrumental in raising over $85 million (JMD = $1 million USD) for the hospital.

Shaggy sought other avenues to raise funds. For example, he co-wrote a book and CD set entitled “Shaggy Parrot and the Reggae Band.” Sales from the book and CD set benefits the Bustamante Hospital in Jamaica and Tatiana McIntosh Scholarship Fund in Florida. The book was also donated to basic schools in Jamaica to be used as part of their curriculum. Additionally, the artist partnered with Pan Caribbean Financial planners for their 11th annual SIGMA Corporate Run. With a 5k course that attracted 9,500 runners, walkers, and wheelchair participants, the event raised $14 million (JMD)/$165,000 (USD) for the Bustamante Hospital.

Shaggy has been approached with various endorsement deals, giving him the opportunity to flex his boardroom muscles and adding “businessman” to his repertoire. In 2009, he recorded single “Fly High,” which was used in a television commercial for Ferrero Rocher’s Ice Cream Bar, Maxi King, and also appeared in the 30-second advertisement. “Fly High,” which is available on iTunes and in rotation on MTV, was used for Ferrero’s trailer campaign on VIVA, a television network in Germany co-owned by Viacom. Shaggy also acted as the international icon for Ultimate Ear products by Logitech. In summer 2008, Shaggy contributed a song, which was a remake of the 1974 classic “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas, for Pepsi Cola. He appeared in the television commercial alongside T-Pain and Tami Chynn.

An exemplary career that has spanned well over a decade, Shaggy has enjoyed crossover success. But getting to the top hasn’t been easy. “Everything changes when you are a reggae artist that falls under the American gaze. The recognition in Jamaica, while paramount, does not measure to the U.S.’s validation of an artist,” he says. This validation has catapulted Shaggy’s career – he is the only certified diamond-selling dancehall reggae artist. However, Shaggy has remained humble, taking his career in strides. He has defied the odds, succeeded on his own terms, and continues to break down barriers for those who follow in his footsteps.


Reggae Roadblocks

Last Wednesday's 3rd Annual UTech Jamaica/Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) was titled Mining Gold! How do we Monetise Jamaica's Music Success?

The title suggested that the wealth has already been proven to exist and the problem is cashing in on a large scale for the country. Both guest speakers, attorney at law Lloyd Stanbury and Downsound Records head Josef Bogdanovich, took that approach, speaking to the audience in the courtyard of the Technology Innovation Centre, UTech's Papine Campus.

Stanbury identified a number of Reggae Roadblocks (the title of his 2015 book) and how to clear them, while Bogdanovich questioned Jamaicans' level of commitment to the music which the country has produced.

Before Stanbury spoke DiMario McDowell involved the audience in an excellent, emotionally stirring rendition of Peter Tosh's Creation in honour of Joan Duncan, the late co-founder of Jamaica Money Market Brokers Ltd. (JMMB). Performing arts students at the university also paid tribute to Duncan in dance with an ebullient Donna Duncan-Scott saying how appropriate the topic was for her mother's personality.

Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga and Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange gave remarks before the guest speakers.

Using slides extensively, Stanbury immediately underscored the importance of teamwork. "We must develop more positive collaboration between each other and work together to build a Jamaican music industry," Stanbury said. At the outset he also foregrounded the significance of knowing what preceded the current situation, referencing Marcus Garvey's statement that A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots."

Accordingly, he set the historical context to Jamaican popular music output, which includes migration, colonisation, political tribalism and Rastafarianism, while noting that many non-Rastafarian Jamaicans have been successful in music.

Stanbury said returns to popular music worldwide have not been commensurate to Jamaicans living in the island, identifying a number of festivals outside the country focused heavily on Jamaican popular music such as Rototom Sunsplash in Spain and the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in the USA. He also named foreigners who have done well with reggae, such as Gentleman, Alborosie, Sojah, Magic! and Joss Stone.

Turning to the components of an improved Jamaican situation, Stanbury identified the roles of the government and academic community, as well as the need to improve existing structures and institutions such as Reggae Month and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) and apply new technology. Internationally, barriers to travel are among the roadblocks which need to be removed, new markets have to be identified and developed and an adviser for the cultural and creative industries was recommended.

Insisting that the Economic Growth Council should include music as part of placing culture high on the national agenda for economic development. Stanbury said that developing Jamaica's music industry "is not beyond us as a nation ... We need to approach this from an industry development perspective."

After Bogdanovich's contribution, there was a discussion with panellists Mikey Bennett, music producer and music/cultural Director, FiWi Jamaica Project at UTech; Paul Barclay, chairman of the Jamaica Association of Composers and Publishers (JACAP); Michael 'Ibo' Cooper musician and senior lecturer, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and Robert Scott, vice-president, Export and Marketing at JAMPRO. The discussion was moderated by Dr Dennis Howard.


Reggae Prince Reflects On Family

Eight-time Grammy Award-winner Stephen Marley is most certainly his father's child. Marley, the second-eldest son of Bob and Rita Marley, is a Reggae producer, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He has been singing professionally since he was seven years old, as a member of The Melody Makers.

I spoke with Marley on Friday, and asked him if he gives much thought to carrying forth his father's legacy — as a musician and as a social activist.

“I am a sheep of that pasture. I am a seed of that fruit,” Marley told me, speaking in his thick Jamaican patois. “I don't go about thinking of it like that. I just be. Everything is covered, because I am a sheep from that pasture. I AM of this legacy. It's not a conscious decision; an apple will be an apple.”

For almost two decades, since his early twenties, Stephen has been the go-to producer for the Marley clan. Yet it's clear that there's something about producing that stirs within him the inspiration to create music of his own.

“I do get great pleasure in working with each and every one of my siblings,” Marley said. “The greatest joy is to be a part of a team, and our family is so tight as a team. When we sit and create, there's a difference between producing and being the artist; at the same time, it's one and the same. When we create music, it's such a beautiful thing, having new inspiration.”

I told him that I got the sense that “producing for them helps water that plant within you. It seems that it allows for that to bloom within you as an artist.”

“Yeah, yeah, write that down. I like that,” he laughed. “Yes! Very much so. And I literally live at the studio.”

When inspiration strikes, Marley said he just pulls out his phone.

“You have so many little gadgets right now,” he said. “When a song idea comes to me, I pull out my phone and go to the little recording thing, press record and catch the vibe. With technology, it's simple to catch a vibe, and then let it transcend into a finished product.”

Through Marley's music, it's easy to see the influence of several musical lineages — obviously reggae, but also hip-hop, jazz, blues and R&B.

“Hip-hop and reggae are cousins,” he told me, explaining its influence on his music. “Hip-hop comes from reggae, from our dancehall side of things, where we'd use turntables. That was the party.”

Beyond the dancehall connection, both musical styles are rooted in social activism, and in giving voice to a struggling people.

“It's a suffering music, a struggling people's music,” he said. “This music was a way to express themselves, and to kind of alleviate the struggle. In Jamaica, there are terrible struggles, but in the inner-cities here, some of them are worse. It's a similar culture — ghetto music.”

Marley's last album, 2011's Revelation Pt. 1 – The Root of Life, received critical acclaim and tackled political and social issues. The Revelation Pt. 2 – The Fruit of Life, due out July 22, assumes a different tone, Marley told me.

“The root is a little more bitter, and there is depth,” he said. “There's a little more thought-provoking in 'The Root.' 'The Fruit' has a different flavor. Our integrity and morality is always in our music, so you will get conscious lyrics and topics that uplift one as a person. But we don't get too with 'The Fruit.'”

It could have more of a commercial appeal, too, as the album features Busta Rhymes, Black Thought of The Roots, Waka Flocka, Pitbull, Wyclef Jean and Iggy Azalea, to name a few.

Marley will perform at Tricky Falls in El Paso at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and at Albuquerque's Sunshine Theater Wednesday.


International Reggae Festivals

INTERNATIONAL reggae festivals during summer are becoming a strong pull for local reggae acts. Europe is where it all happens for the majority of established Jamaican reggae artistes.
Rototom Sunsplash set for Benicassim, Spain, from August 13 to 20, has an enviable roster of Jamaican acts.
The line-up is headed by Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley. He is ably supported by Morgan Heritage, Tarrus Riley, Freddie McGregor, Marcia Griffiths, Kabaka Pyramid, Inner Circle, Jah 9, Agent Sasco, Junior Kelly, Beres Hammond, The Congos, Israel Vibration, Max Romeo, Wailing Souls, Runkus, and sound system Bass Odyssey.
Reggae Geel rolls out in the city of Geel in Belgium from August 5 and 6. This festival, which began in 1978, is continuing its mandate to present the best of Jamaican music on its stage. This year reggae crooner Beres Hammond is its major act. A mixtureof established and emerging acts complete the roster. Also set to appear at Reggae Geel are Dexta Daps, Jahmeil, Feluke, Kabaka Pyramid, Keznamdi, Pinchers, Ky-Mani Marley, Sevana, Lee Scratch Perry, Alaine, Tarrus Riley, Dean Fraser, and Yung Jr.
The French have been long-standing lovers of reggae and among their festivals is Reggae Sun Ska Festival, which is held in the Bordeaux region of France on August 5, 6 and 7.
Despite not boasting as big a line-up as its Spanish and Belgian counterparts, the festival offers some quality acts. Reggae band Inner Circle, Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley, Tarrus Riley, Dean Fraser and Alaine are the Jamaicans making the cut.
Across the ‘pond’ in North America, Jamaican acts are not as prominent on the festival circuit.
Another two festivals have recently announced their roster of acts with fewer Jamaican artistes holding the headlines.
In the United States, the inaugural staging of the Roots Reggae Culture Festival takes place in New Orleans over two days — June 18 and 19 and the organisers of that festival have named conscious reggae chanter I-Wayne, the reggae ambassadors Third World, the fireman Capleton, and Bonner brother Richie Spice among their acts.
The festival’s website quotes the organisers as saying they recognised a void in one of the premier convention and festival destinations in the US. The organisers, who describe themselves as “five very experienced fans of Reggae music and Caribbean culture”, further said they have come together to bring back the very much missed “Reggae Festival” to New Orleans and surrounding areas. They have also pledged to make this festival an annual event.
Meanwhile, just across the North American border, in Calgary Canada, Reggaefest is slated to run from August 18 to 20.
For this event, Jamaicans making the cut are Warrior King and Anthony B. Jamaican-Canadian deejay Razor B and US-based Glen Washington have also made it on to the line-up.
This event has drawn on reggae practitioners from all parts of the globe including Ghana, Colombia and Venezuela to complete the roster of acts. Canadian artistes such as Nana McLean, Dubwise and Kafinal are also booked for the festival which takes place at Shaw Millennium Park in that city.


Monterey Reggae Fest 2016

Escape for a weekend of Golden State music and culture at Monterey’s California Roots Festival at the Monterey Fairgrounds.
The three-day festival, which runs Friday, May 27, through Sunday, May 29, will be headlined by reggae artists including Rebelution, Slightly Stoopid, Tribal Seeds, Damian Marley and Stephen Marley.
Food and drink vendors, such as the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, will be spread throughout the festival. Last year, Sierra Nevada created a custom brew, called Hoppy Roots IPA, in honor of the event.
General admission is $85 per day and $190 for all three days. “Rally buses,” coordinated by the festival’s organizers, will provide transportation to the event from major cities, including Berkeley, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Oakland. Attendees must be 21 years or older.
For details:

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