Less than a month after its lineup of top tier Jamaican acts was announced on his Facebook page, Damian Marley’s inaugural Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise has sold out all of the 2,300 available cabins aboard the Norwegian Pearl cruise liner, Damian told Billboard.biz in an exclusive interview.
So named for Damian’s 2006 Best Reggae Album Grammy Award-winning “Welcome to Jamrock” (Universal Motown/Tuff Gong), which peaked at no. 7 on the Top 200, and its blockbuster title track which reached no. 55 on the Hot 100, the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise will sail from Miami to Jamaica, October 20-25, 2014, docking for daytime excursions and beach parties in the island’s resort towns, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.
The enthusiastic, globe-spanning response to the cruise -- cabins were purchased by reggae fans from Asia, Australia, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas -- signifies reggae’s broad-based, continual appeal, despite the genre’s persistently modest sales. “Reggae doesn't traditionally move a lot of numbers but it is loved the world over and this cruise is a testament to that; we haven’t done any marketing except announcing the lineup in late September, and it sold out,” Damian told Billboard.biz on the phone from his Miami studio.
The lineup features Damian and his older brothers Stephen and Julian Marley; dancehall superstars Sean Paul and Shaggy, contemporary roots singers Tarrus Riley, Jah Cure, and Etana; sing-jay Busy Signal, Jamaican-American sibling band Morgan Heritage and the roster of acts from the Marley family’s Ghetto Youths International imprint: Wayne Marshall, Black-Am-I, Christopher Ellis (son of Jamaican rock steady legend, the late Alton Ellis) and Stephen’s son, Jo Mersa Marley. Also on board will be renowned UK selector Sir David Rodigan and three veteran reggae sound systems Jamaica’s Stone Love and Renaissance Disco and Japan’s Mighty Crown.
The proliferation of successful American and internationally based reggae acts over the past few years and their dominance on the Reggae Album chart prompted Damian to choose acts coming from the music’s birthplace for the inaugural Jamrock cruise, which will be an annual event. “Reggae’s root is Jamaica, and it seems that the world is losing a bit of that history so we were very strict in having most of the lineup for the first cruise be of Jamaican heritage,” Damian stated.
“We are very excited to have a reggae success story and another platform to present artists that we think so highly of,” added Damian’s manager Dan Dalton of Red Light Management. “There has never been a fully chartered cruise ship devoted to reggae so this will be like a festival with sound systems playing, a rock steady lounge or dub lounge, an 80s dancehall club, a multifaceted Jamaican musical experience.”
THERE is much potential for reggae and dancehall music on the international scene, but it is being stymied by a lack of order among players in the local industry, according to the operators of the Japanese sound system, Mighty Crown.
"There is nothing really substantial anymore. No form of unity is in the business. It is not like a team anymore," said Sammi T (real name Samuel Tse), chief selector with the Mighty Crown.
Masta Simon and Sammi T shared their view with Splash in an exclusive interview in Yokohama, Japan, yesterday.
"Everybody can just jump up, make a song, and before the song even mature dem release a next one. Before, it used to be one order, but right now you have 10 orders," Sammi T said in the Jamaican patois.
"We are losing the substance, the real core of the music. You have too many reggae people fighting reggae. We need to get up a format for the music, and I don't know who is going to do it. But we need to understand that the music is not about the artiste or the selectors or the producers alone; everybody has their part to play, everybody needs each other," he said.
In addition to Sami T, Mighty Crown's selectors include Rohan Henry (Ninja), Koji Ishii (Koji) and Simon Tse (Masta Simon).
Meanwhile, Masta Simon said he was appalled by the many commercials against payola that he witnessed while on vacation in Jamaica last month.
"It is like a 100 per cent 'link' ting. They [disc jockeys] are not playing because they are feeling the music anymore. The radio, the charts, are getting 'buy-out' by artistes. And you have so many good artistes, talented artistes, not just in Jamaica, but around the world, who don't get any shine because of it. This mentality has got to go away," he said.
Founded in 1991 by friends from the city of Yokohama, Mighty Crown built their impressive resume by playing in clubs and selling self-produced mixtapes throughout Japan.
In 1994, they started 'clashing' with other Japanese sound systems and became the country's undisputed sound clash champion in 1998.
The following year, on their debut appearance in World Clash, they defeated 'sounds' from Jamaica and the United States to become the first Japanese sound system to lift the World Clash Trophy.
They also operate a clothing line which introduces reggae and dancehall fashion to an increasingly accepting Japanese market. Many of the T-shirts are designed with Jamaican symbols and caricatures.
"They [Jamaicans] don't trust us or recognise the impact we are making with reggae and dancehall until they reach here. Once they come here, even the artiste dem, and once they see what we are doing, is dem time deh dem see how big what we are doing is. They don't feel it until they come here," said Sammi T.
"Reggae is more than music. It unites people, connects people all over the world. People don't even need to understand the lyrics to love the music. Some people say that we Japanese tief the music, but its not like that; we lift the music to a higher level, we are ambassadors," said Masta Simon.