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PostPosted: October 26, 2007 15:40 
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Veteran Jamaican singer Max Romeo says the centre of reggae has shifted from Jamaica to France, and has made a distinction between reggae and dancehall which, he says, has no traction among the French.

"Europe is where reggae is happening, roots reggae, my type of music," Romeo told Splash in an interview this week. "France is the headquarters for reggae, real reggae music right now. France controls reggae, not Jamaica; Jamaica controls dancehall, not reggae, and a lot of people don't understand the difference."

When asked what level of prominence dancehall enjoys in France, he flatly replied, "None."

"That type of music don't happen there. I can tell you that," he added. "You'll find sounds play it a little here and there because people that follow reggae music to the ultimate will hear of the dancehall acts, but the pulling power, they don't have in them place."

Romeo in the early 1970s shifted his lyrical focus from sexually suggestive songs like Wet Dream, which was banned in 1968, to more mature Rastafari-influenced themes, such as Let The Power Fall On I, which the People's National Party adopted as their election anthem for the 1972 polls; Macabee Version; Chase The Devil; Three Blind Mice; and No Joshua No.

The 60-year-old, whose real name is Max Smith, was the first Jamaican artiste to introduce Britain to the concept of lewd reggae with Wet Dream which, despite a radio ban, reached number 10 on the UK charts.

His music, however, is not known among the younger generation in Jamaica, and during the interview, he bemoaned the current trend in the local music industry.

"Right now, with the situation in Jamaican music, it seems like the industry has disappeared, so I have to go outta road go look my own. So I basically deal with Europe right now," he told Splash.

"Jamaica is for Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Mavado, Vybz Kartel. These artistes control the Jamaican market. Jamaica is a college. I graduated. I'm in university now, so I'm in the University of Europe and the United States," he said.

"Right now, I'm in the business for 42 years. I have 41 albums. Jamaica only knows two, Let The Power Fall On I and War Inna Babylon. That's the only two albums Jamaica knows. The whole of Europe is my domain. France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain. I'm just back from Greece. I go to Europe about nine, 10 times for the year. In Europe, I headline my shows, I close most of the big festivals, even Montreux Jazz show I close three years ago. I'm very big in Europe. I carry a huge clout in Europe as a Jamaican reggae artiste. That's the way it is."

Romeo also said that he records a new album every year and claimed that sales of War Inna Babylon were still going well. He also said that I Chase The Devil was the most sampled reggae record in the history of reggae music.

"Nobody talks about that," he said. "It was done by Jay-Z on his last album; it's the theme song on the play station Grand Theft Auto, and Prodigy did a version of it."

He also claimed that a group in South Africa and another in Germany did versions of the song, adding, "It's done all over the world, it's the most sampled reggae record, but in Jamaica I don't get any credit for it because Jamaican people don't know. It's only the sound systems who came to me for specials realise the song. Jamaicans below the age of 25 don't know roots music."

However, Romeo, who also gained recognition with the release of Valley Of Jehoshaphat, Jordan River, Pray For Me, and King of Kings (in combination with Dennis Alcapone), believes there is hope for a resurgence of roots music locally.

"Lately, I'm hearing some fine roots music," he said. "Tarrus Riley is a fine young artiste who has come on the scene trying to accentuate some positive music, as well as a few other young artistes who have some nice tunes that will turn things around.

"But they will have to turn it around with some vocals that mean something, instead of bludgeoning the women and elevating violence and things like that. We need to turn it around, and I'm working hard on that. I'm not producing any gun thing. it's basically praising Rastafari and making the masses aware of social ills that are happening around them.

Trying to get the brain in tune to reality, because the bling and fantasy are leading us into the path of death and destruction."

Romeo, who last performed in Jamaica at Rebel Salute three years ago, has just completed building his studio in Palm, Treadways, St Catherine and has, for the past five years, been operating his own record label - Charmmax Records.

One of his first major projects is an album titled The Best Of Max Romeo And Friends on which he is inviting participation from other Jamaican music legends like John Holt, Ken Boothe and Horace Andy.

"The idea is like I would do War Inna Babylon, they and I would sing alternate verses in the song. I am just completing the rhythms and I've gotten commitments from a few artistes, including Eric Donaldson, so France is waiting on it," he quipped.

Romeo also said that on December 1 he'll be mounting a stage show featuring the artistes he is grooming, including a trio called My Kids, comprising his children, as well as acts Round Head, Ghost, Quench Aid and Ruffi-Ann. The show will be held at Satta HQ, the Palm Community Centre in Treadways named for his sound system Satta Vibes.

He is also scheduled to begin a tour of Brazil on November 7.

Basil Walters

source : jamaicaobserver.com



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PostPosted: October 26, 2007 19:02 

so if i wanna hear roots music i must go to France and not to JA ??



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PostPosted: October 26, 2007 19:15 
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Yes reggae is much appreciated in France and some people make a very good work to bring us talented artists (i'm thinking about Jérome Levasseur for instance, who is humble, not well known but who is crucial for concert in Paris and suburbs) but in my eyes, Max Romeo makes a mistake about dancehall music. That's just not the same kind of massives.

Roots reggae is listened mainly by kids coming from "uptown", middle class mainly and listening rock music as well as soul and jazz or french singers.

Dancehall is listened by kids from a lower social background, listening also to hip hop and r'n'b.

That's a generalisation i know but i think it's quite true, i've seen so many examples i guess the sample is big enough to draw some conclusions.

And secondly, maybe Romeo's gigs are sold out, but I went to lots of gigs were there were very few people, like in may '07 for AJ Franklin (ex-member of the Chosen Few), Winston Francis and Tappa Zukie ! We were hardly 150, maybe 100.

On the other hand, the few gigs of dancehall where i've been were more than full.


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PostPosted: October 26, 2007 20:23 

WOW no dancehall in France.Unbelievable...



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PostPosted: October 29, 2007 11:24 
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ton1, I'm 100% with you. No dancehall in France? what a joke! He forget (or don't know) all the French West Indies scene which is really important here...

Like in most Europe country bothe styles are well represented but don't mix up that much...

wareika



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PostPosted: October 29, 2007 12:24 

Saw Ziggy Marley, Alpha Blondy and Sizzla perform in the south of France last summer. Guess who got the loudest cheers from the crowd?



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PostPosted: October 29, 2007 13:42 
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I would say Sizzla. Not sure tho' as I don't go that much to live show and I can't say I really know this crowd... Anyway, I did some shows mixing roots artists and dancehall one (ie Garance Festival) and the dancehall artists always had big big responses...

wareika



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PostPosted: October 29, 2007 14:18 
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Sizzla for sure, dancehall artists always put the crowds on fire but it's often what i call a "pull-up championship" and it's really annoying, sometimes 5 pull-up for a single tune. That's totally artificial and it's just an egotrip of the artist (or so-called artist).

Anyway, I don't really like new roots and dancehall so I see them only when they play along with roots artists and it's enough for me :).


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PostPosted: October 29, 2007 15:01 

Sizzla really got the crowd going that evening. Not a big dancehall fan myself, got a bit bored with the pull-up routines and shouting Lighter every two minutes. Luckily Alpha came on after that to close the evening with some nice sounds.



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PostPosted: October 29, 2007 20:40 

i agree with max romeo. especially the part about jamaica.



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