Oku still rebelling against the system

Posted by Hans on March 29 2010 at 09:44
Category : Artists

Back in the 1970s, when Black Power was the rage in Jamaica, it was cool to clench fists and wear an Afro. Many former radicals have mellowed, but not poet Oku Onuora who, at 58, retains the snarl of his firebrand youth.

Regarded by some as the father of dub poetry, Onuora is scheduled to appear on the Seh Sup'm poetry show today at the Village Café in St Andrew. Chatting with The Sunday Gleaner recently, he said he remains a committed revolutionary.

"Nuthin' has changed, 'cause wi still seeing the same 'sufferation' and oppression," he said.

It has been some time since Onuora has performed, having taken a break from touring and recording. He does not believe his message has been lost to a generation caught up with dancehall feuds and iPods.

"Some of my original work, wi talking 'bout tings like 'Dread Times' and 'Pressure', still relevant to the times," he said. "People mus' listen to our work all 100 years from now."

Onuora speaks in a fiery, piercing tone, like the inspirational warrior addressing his troops before battle. It has been 10 years since he toured and, typical of serious messengers like Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, shies from commercial recording.

A Movement is the title of his latest collection of recordings which will be available through the Internet later this year. According to Onuora, his writing has never been solely for recording.

"I don't get up an' jus' crunch out albums, I'm not what yuh call a current writer. I have to feel it before I record anything," he explained.

Despite his inactivity, Onuora retains a strong fan base in Europe and the United States' west coast where his 1984 effort, Pressure Drop, is hailed as one of the great protest albums. He remains a prolific writer, but said he turned his back on music when negative elements took over.

"Mi neva like wha' a gwaan, all of a sudden everybody did tun bad man. Mi nuh inna dat, me's a revolutionary, mi come fi blow down oppression!" he exclaimed.

Mervyn Morris is a professor emeritus at the University of the West Indies and one of the Caribbean's distinguished poets. He first met Onuora in the mid-1970s while he (Onuora) was incarcerated at the St Catherine District Prison for armed robbery.

Morris played an influential role in getting ECHO, Onuora's first book of poems, published. He is not surprised at his achievements.

"Oku has a lot of talent but that's one thing, he's always been concerned about social conditions and equality. He's an activist with conviction," Morris said.

Oku Onuora went through a phase of 'badness' in his youth. Born Orlando Wong in east Kingston, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1970 for armed robbery but was released in 1977 after vigorous lobbying by academics and human rights activists.

It was while in prison that Onuora's passion for poetry and protest literature grew. He remembers reading Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver's classic autobiography, Soul On Ice, and the writings of Malcolm X.

He also followed the freedom movement in Africa, finding heroes in Mozambique's Samora Machel and South African Steve Biko.

With a new name (Oku Nagba Ozala Onuora is his complete name which is Nigerian for everlasting fire or light which burns oppression), Onuora hit the ground running after his release from prison, performing at high-profile events.

The following year, he cut Reflections in Red for Bob Marley's 56 Hope Road label, which some musicologists recognise as the first dub poetry song. Along with the pioneer Linton Kwesi Johnson in Britain, Mikey Smith and Mutabaruka, Onuora helped put the genre on the map.

Smith was killed in 1983, the alleged victim of mob violence, but Linton Kwesi Johnson and Mutabaruka have enjoyed enduring careers.

Onuora is uncommitted about his plans to promote A Movement, but hopes to perform regularly at intimate events like Seh Sup'm.

"Wi cyaan seh how much show wi going do, but wi coming to blaze!"

Howard Campbell
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Mighty Diamonds Receive Ragga Muffins Festival Award Of Recognition, Long Beach, CA, Feb. 21

Posted by Hans on March 03 2010 at 18:14
Category : Artists

In honor more than 40 years together as a vocal trio, the Mighty Diamonds received the Ragga Muffins Festival Award of Recognition on Feb. 21. Following their performance at the sold out 29th annual Ragga Muffins reggae festival at Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, CA, Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson, Donald “Tabby” Shaw and Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson were presented with trophies on behalf on the festival and Moss Jacobs Presents. “The blessings are there, and we are here to share them; that’s the most important thing,” said Shaw, who has been the Mighty Diamonds’ lead vocalist since he was a teenager. The Mighty Diamonds were backed by Jamaica’s Yellow Wall Dub Squad and California’s Celebrity Hornz. Backstage after the show, the Diamonds mingled and posed for photos with the likes of Tarrus Riley, Edi Fitzroy, the Wailing Souls and actor Leon. The Diamonds last performed at the Ragga Muffins Festival in 1994. In November, 2009, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke recognized the Mighty Diamonds with a Congressional Proclamation for their 40 years of hits and contributions to the music industry, when TSO Productions and the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music held their 5th annual Reggae Culture Salute at Nazareth High School Performance Center, Brooklyn, NY. Check out the youtube link of the presentation here. Also in November of 2009, the Diamonds released a remake of one of their first hits, “Country Living” (originally done by the Stylistics) produced by the England based Simba on his Small Storm label and distributed by the High Times label. The recording features Shaw’s nephew, Wilburn “Squidly” Cole (drums) and Winston “Bo Pee” Bowen (guitar). In 2006, following their performance at Reggae Sunsplash in Ocho Rios, the Diamonds received a prestigious national award from former prime minister Portia Simpson Miller for their artistic contribution to Jamaican culture.

Known for hits such as "Pass the Kutchie," "Right Time," "Master Plan" “Tamarind Farm,” “Reggae Street” and “Sweet Lady,” the Mighty Diamonds formed in Trench Town Jamaica in 1969.

The Mighty Diamonds’ breakthrough album “Right Time,” elevated the group to rock star status in 1975. Produced by Joseph Hoo Kim, "Right Time" brought together the Jamaican musical elite such as Sly and Robby (drum and bass) and Ancel Collins (keyboards) generated hits such as "Africa," "Have Mercy" "Natural Natty," "Them Never Love Poor Marcus" and the reggae party album, "Pass the Kutchie," which has been sampled by everyone from Lauryn Hill to Michael Franti to Wyclef Jean.

The Mighty Diamonds have also released their latest single, "Special Lady," a remake of Ray, Goodman and Brown’s 1980’s ballad, on their independent label, Street Corner Music.

For interviews, contact Shelah Moody, publicist, at (415) 577-4445 or email
For booking and management: Robby Oyugi, (303) 415-1352, (415) 308-5629 or email:

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The culture of reggae band Culture

Posted by Hans on February 15 2010 at 07:31
Category : Artists

A Black History Month look back at Culture, one of reggae’s most influential and ‘conscious’ groups. Culture set themselves apart by insisting on reporting on Jamaican social conditions, above all else.
The sound of reggae derives from the nyabanghi rhythms of West Africa which form its basic structure. The electrified, rocked up reggae which reached North America ears was a long way from the primal rhythms of the Jamaican hills. So to was the lyric content and in the fullness of time, reggae arrived at the inevitable schism between the commercial and the authentic.

Ranked against the ranking blingers led by Marley and Tosh, a true believin’ triumvirate of Winston (Burning Spear) Rodney, Bunny Wailer and Joseph Hill.
Break it down further and Hill and Culture fitted somewhere between the Bunny Wailer’s country rootsman and the “Mystic Revelator” Burning Spear. More accessible than Bunny, less overbearing than Spear, Hill pitched the most fiery of messages clothed in the most groovalicious melodies and sweet, seductive arrangements.
Culture was very much a band of Kingston’s volatile streets. Born in 1976 into a vibrant, politically charged Jamaican reggae scene., Culture made a name meshing solid harmonies with sharp social commentary and grooves galore. The vocal lineup of Hill, Kenneth Dayes and Hill's cousin Albert Walker performed mostly material penned by Hill and indicative of his keen sense of the connection between Jamaica’s history and its social and pollitical climate at the time. Hill was hip that the message went down best hooked to a catchy beat, a sensibility not lost on the nascent UK punk scene. The Culture band at one time or another included genre luminaries like Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespear, Ashton Barrett and Skinny Lindo.

Bunny Wailer and Burning Spear retired to country compounds to live an Ital lifestyle and leave Babylon to its sins and distractions. To Hill this was preaching to the converted. He was of the opinion his place was to speak truth in the belly of the beast. Culture stood up and addressed oppressed and oppressor alike and only Hill’s ready wit and straight-up rep kept him from harm’s way.
At once teacher and fellow sufferer Hill’s songs today would read like urgent blogs from a battleground eyewitness. Dubbed the "Keeper of Zion Gate, he became one of Rastafari's most respected voices, if not always the favourite of the island’s police force. Hill stance was part teacher, part fellow sufferer as he commented on Jamaican history and current political issues. In his lyrics, Hill often explored how the legacy of slavery continued to have an influence on Jamaican citizens.
Onstage Hill’s performances were a savvy mix of truth telling and booty shaking, MC and professor, the man with ‘conscious’ reggae’s most golden tones. During the seventies the group had a string of hit singles for producers Joe Gibbs and Sonia Pottinger including 'Two Sevens Clash' which hit in Jamaica, the UK and the U.S.. It was named by Rolling Stone magazine in 2002 as one of the '50 Coolest Records' - the only single artist reggae album to make the list. The group also hit internationally with 'Stop Fussing and Fighting', a song directly addressing the politically fuelled gang wars of the Seventies, with specific reference to the attempt to whack Bob Marley.

No matter who was in government, Joseph Hill was there to keep an eye out and speak truth to the powers. Hill and Culture played only a handful of Canadian tours during one of which he told a Toronto reporter: “ I have much respect for Canada because it shows nuff respect for others. It shows acceptance for different ways and is not a beat down culture that pushes everybody into the mainstream”.
Hill died suddenly from renal failure during a European tour in 2006. He’d lived long enough to garner a number of his country’s highest honours including an induction into the Jamaican Reggae Walk of Fame and a 2005 Independence Award presented by the Prime Minister of Jamaica. In 2006 the group continued to draw good reviews, especially for their performance at 'Bob Marley 61st Birthday Celebration' in Ghana.
At his funeral in September 2006, Hill was eulogized by, amongst others, then Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who lauded him for his contributions to Jamaican Culture and ambassadorship to the world.
Even the passing of Joseph Hill in 2006 hasn’t stopped the spread of Culture. The current evolution of Culture is fronted by Kenyatta Hill, Joseph’s eldest son and is enjoying renewed success due to recent re-release of many of the group’s classic albums.

by Lenny Stoute

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Righteous finger on reggae pulse

Posted by Hans on January 20 2010 at 11:06
Category : Artists

When Steel Pulse started out in the rough and tough Birmingham district of Handsworth in the mid-70s they got support from an unlikely source.

While the roots reggae band were shunned by live venues and radio stations because of their staunch lyrics about the plight of black youth, racism and police brutality, the punk crowd liked what they heard.

"At that time in Birmingham it was hard to get on the radio if you were a black artist, unless you were on Motown," remembers co-founder and front man David Hinds. "It was like climbing a mountain with one leg. But we generated our fan base around small clubs and managed to amalgamate ourselves with the punk rock acts that were happening at the time."

One of Steel Pulse's early singles was Ku Klux Kan, off their 1978 debut album Handsworth Revolution. Musically it's a cruisy and lilting reggae tune, but lyrically it is combative and resolute with lines like: "I come face to face, with my foe, disguised in violence from head to toe".

He remembers there were one or two black DJs who got the band's early tracks on the radio.

"But when they heard Ku Klux Klan even they were stricken with what the lyrics were saying.

If they played it, it would cost them their livelihoods. So it was almost a no no from the get go."

However, they scored support slots with bands like the Stranglers and the Clash and while some British reggae bands fought against the punk rock association - "They didn't want to have anything to do with that racket" - Steel Pulse jumped on the bandwagon.

"And to be honest, if the punk rock movement had not happened in England there would be no Steel Pulse - or any [British] reggae. Because it was on the backs of the punk rockers that reggae got its foot in the door."

Hinds reckons the two styles rubbed along together because both were all about anarchy. "Reggae, rasta, roots, repatriation, and riots against police brutality. So it was all about anarchy and the punks had their version of anarchy and they would go around buying expensive cardigans, and other clothing, and start shredding them. They did the same thing with their skin with pins and needles, and that came through in their music.

"And back then they said to themselves: 'Hang on, here's another style of music that's about anarchy, so lets join them'. And that's how reggae got on board."

Handsworth Revolution was released by Island Records, Bob Marley's label at the time, but in the 80s Steel Pulse took on a more commercial bent with albums like Caught You and State of Emergency. However, despite this more mainstream edge, the Steel Pulse message has always stayed the same: "To fight injustice, educate, and be positive."

Hinds says this mandate came out of living in Handsworth, a predominantly black and Asian community which he describes as a hostile and heavy place in the 70s.

"The blacks who came there from neighbouring districts were pretty much afraid. It wasn't exactly a gang thing going on, but so many incidents happened in Handsworth that it got a negative reputation.

"Both blacks and whites alike outside that district were pretty much afraid to wander in. But as far as I was concerned it was pretty harmless because I was born and raised there and my friends were from there."

Hinds and friends like guitarist Basil Gabbidon and bass player Ronnie "Stepper" McQueen, who he formed Steel Pulse with, were among the first generation of West Indian immigrants born in Britain by parents who had migrated from the Caribbean in the early 50s.

"Small West Indian communities started building up in all the major cities in Britain, especially London and Birmingham, and because of the high influx of immigrants there was high unemployment and there was always someone to blame for that. There were also the tensions with police, and on the other side there was racism kicking around with the rise of the National Front who were launching a political party at the time. So out of that political and social atmosphere Steel Pulse was born."

Because of the mix of cultures in Birmingham, Hinds and his band mates were exposed to many different styles of music, which is why everything from jazz, R&B, Latin, electronic and dance music has crept into their sound over the years.

This meant, back in the early 80s especially, Steel Pulse was distinct from the reggae coming out of Jamaica.

They first went there in 1981, just a few months after Bob Marley died, and Hinds remembers "my knees were shaking, and my teeth were chattering".

He need not have worried because even though they were very different they got respect because they sounded unique.

"And ever since Jamaica has embraced [us] and holds us in high regard because of our contribution to the music."

By Scott Kara

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Melodians keep rocksteady alive

Posted by Hans on January 08 2010 at 13:38
Category : Artists

As a general rule with rocksteady — the post-ska, pre-reggae form of Jamaican vocal music — if a group's name ends in “-ians,” it's worth a listen.

There are exceptions; some bands without the distinction aren't bad either, such as legendary rocksteady acts the Maytals, the Hepcats, the Gaylads and the Tennors. But the -ian ranks are strong: the Kingstonians, the Abyssianians, the Ethiopians.

The Melodians was a great trio at the forefront of rocksteady's birth in 1965. With the death of Brent Dowe from a heart attack in 2006, the Melodians continue as a sweet-voiced duo. Founding members Tony Brevett and Trevor McNaughton will perform Friday at the Meridian, a rare chance to hear an influential Jamaican institution.

Rocksteady is a fetching musical genre that falls under the reggae umbrella. It shares DNA with its predecessor, ska, though the tempos are sometimes slower. Brass and drums were de-emphasized, and bass moved up in the mix. (The prominence of syncopated bass playing was huge in the development of reggae and can be heard in the wildly inventive playing of Aston “Family Man” Barrett with the Wailers on Saturday at House of Blues.)

In rocksteady greater attention also was given to the vocals, which owed much to American doo wop and R&B, often with an emphasis on harmonies.

Jamaica's music industry sprang from a need to feed a culture primed to dance with DJs and outdoor sound systems that pumped out leg-shaking songs at ear-shaking volumes. Imported American music gradually gave way to an indigenous music initially inspired by it.

Sometimes the influence of American music is easily discernible. The Melodians' I'll Get Along Without You owes a clear debt to a song with a similar title by country-music star Skeeter Davis.

Though the musical culture in Jamaica initially drew from the States, music listeners in the States never really reciprocated the interest in Jamaican music.

Record sales speak for themselves, so most folks in our country are content with their copy of the Bob Marley compilation Legend, still a prerequisite for admission into any university dormitory. For those wishing to dig a bit deeper, rocksteady offers an important discography and storied history of under-heralded groups such as the Melodians.

If the Melodians have a calling card, it's the single Rivers of Babylon, which was featured on the The Harder They Come soundtrack, likely the second-most-owned reggae CD in this country (though not yet a prereq for college-dorm admission). The song was turned into a Top 40 hit in 1978 by Boney M. and has been oft-covered since, including a bluegrassy version by Texas singer-songwriter Steve Earle in 1995.

Rivers wasn't a total deviation for the Melodians, though the band's early singles tended to focus on love. Rivers' biblical plea for deliverance from exile (while name-checking Ethiopian dictator/rastafarian prophet Haile Selassie) represents another side of the band.

Though rocksteady could function as viable party music, it also initiated a focus on social issues that would inform much of the reggae that followed. These acts — stars in Jamaica, even if less known in the States — aren't simply hidden in Marley's shadow; they often influenced the music he sold to the world.

Take the Ethiopians' Everything Crash. There's something Yeats-ian about its center no longer holding, and then come two memorable lines: “Every day the bucket a-go to the well/One day the bottom of the bucket drop out.” I've yet to determine whether there's some really old text with such a quote, but four years after the Ethiopians sang the line, Marley made it the straw/camel's back metaphor that concludes one of his calling cards, I Shot the Sheriff.

By 1969 reggae's skull had hardened, and rocksteady was gone. Marley became ballyhooed as the first third-world superstar, and the rich singles culture of rocksteady faded after a brief period in vogue.

Only some of these acts, including the Melodians, remain on the road, preserving an important and under-appreciated style of song.

By Andrew Dansby - copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle

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Max Romeo releases definitive collection

Posted by Hans on November 23 2009 at 07:36
Category : Artists

If he could have found people willing to give voice to the lyrics he penned, Max Romeo would have never stood behind a microphone.

"I did not have singing on my mind. I loved poetry. I wanted to be a writer," the man known for saucy songs such as Wet Dream, the wry War Inna Babylon and the joyous Let The Power Fall on I told The Sunday Gleaner.

However, "Nobody would sing my songs. They said they were stupid, so I recorded them myself," beginning with I Will Buy You a Rainbow in 1967.

Forty-two years and 42 albums
later (with a final one in the works at his Charmax Studio in Palm, Treadways, St Catherine), Max Romeo is releasing the bulk of his extensive catalogue
on 10 CDs of 16 songs each. The first five are already out and he is hoping that the next half of the collection will be released before Christmas.

"If you follow my career, I am a person who likes to be original. I have never heard or seen it done before, so I decided to do it," he said.

The collection spans his first recording, Buy You a Rainbow, to 2006's A Little Time For Jah.

He has an eye on his own mortality and has no doubt observed the chaos that has befallen the estates of other singers. "One of the main things is to get the Max Romeo songs in one stable, so in my passing my kids won't have to be all over the place. I am happy to be alive to gather them up for my children," he said.

It helps immensely that Romeo's brother, Lindbergh 'Black Lindy' Lambert, who lives in England, has painstakingly collected the songs from the get-go. "He can find all Max Romeo music," the singer/songwriter said.

The nature of the music business being that a performer will record with multiple producers over the span of his career or even consecutively, almost invariably there are disputes over rights when collections are being put together. Max Romeo has had none and does not anticipate any. "Most of the producers are dead," he said. Further, "I have no contracts with these guys. They never paid me. I am waiting on that (contestations) to happen so I can take them to court."

Each CD in the collection is presented as a chapter, the songs being individual verses. Romeo says "The number one selling book in the history of the world is the Bible. It is written in chapters and verses. I am trying to pull the people who like the Bible." Fittingly, then, the first verse in the first chapter is Maccabee Version.

Banned and Censored

There are some songs that Romeo has deliberately culled from his career-defining collection - the raunchy songs he did before his growth into Rastafari in 1971. Wet Dream, which he says is "semi-rude", makes the cut. The others will be included on another album, Banned and Censored, "for those who like to hear Max Romeo sing about what they are making noise about today". He also plans a live performance CD.

So he has a lifetime of material to choose from at the Charmax showcase, slated for the Palm Community Centre, Palm, Treadways, on Saturday, December 5. Also performing will be his sons, the duo Rominal, Ruffian, Sophia Squire, Jallanzo, Nitro, Singing Cologne, Anjalee, Prince Allah, Dub Tonic Kru, Jimmy Riley, Warrior King, Lutan Fyah and Ras Murdack.

Romeo is satisfied with the response so far to his catalogue collection. "The people are very excited. They can't wait to get it," he said.

By Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

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Studio One court case a heavy load - Bob Andy

Posted by Hans on November 08 2009 at 16:54
Category : Artists

The law suit between singer/songwriter Keith 'Bob Andy' Anderson and the Clement Coxsone Dodd estate continues this month with the singer stating that it is "weighing him down".

The court will determine whether royalties are due from Bob Andy's Songbook, the classic Jamaican album which includes the blockbuster hit, I've Got to go Back Home.

"At issue is the publishing aspect of the songs and the fact that they say they are not obliged to pay me any artiste royalties," Andy told the Sunday Observer in an interview Thursday, just days after his 65th birthday. Andy is one of the rock steady era's most prolific hitmakers.

Both parties are said to be in negotiations but are at odds over the authenticity of a signature bearing Andy's name, apparently relinquishing his publishing rights. However, Andy denies having signed any such document. No one at Studio One was available for comment up to press time. Both parties should meet in the Supreme Court chambers on the November 24, Andy said.

"We are supposed to have a case management to discuss a possible settlement," he explained.

It will be the second Studio One suit heard this month; the other reportedly involves a member of Dodd's family.

Andy confessed: "The case is a very heavy load and if I didn't have the inner strength it would depress me."

Andy had two cases filed against Dodd's estate and second defendant JamRec which involve similar matters.

"It is almost as if the songs that people love so much have become an albatross around my neck. It is as if my life is being controlled from beyond the grave," he reasoned.

Andy had previously stated that he has never received adequate financial compensation for the 1970 album Songbook, which became one of the biggest sellers in the Studio One catalogue. He also penned chart-topping hits for other Studio One artistes including Delroy Wilson, Marcia Griffiths and Ken Boothe. Also, in 2002 Andy praised and criticised the late Dodd at the University of the West Indies lecture in commemoration of Dodd's 50th anniversary in the music business this year. He said the legendary producer kick-started the career of many young artistes, "but he could have done more for them".

Bob Andy was one of the founding members of The Paragons, along with Tyrone Evans and Howard Barrett. His bio on Wikipedia notes that his first solo hit record in 1966, I've Got to go Back Home, was followed by Desperate Lover, Feeling Soul, Unchained and Too Experienced, amongst others. He also composed I Don't Want to See You Cry for Ken Boothe, and Feel Like Jumping, Truly and Melody Life for Marcia Griffiths.

His late 1960s hits, including Going Home, Unchained, Feeling Soul, My Time, The Ghetto Stays in the Mind, and Feel the Feeling, and his 1992 hit, Fire Burning, have become reggae standards and have been covered numerous times.

In the early 1970s, he recorded with Marcia Griffiths as Bob and Marcia, under producer Harry J's tutelage. These included the UK hits Young, Gifted and Black and Pied Piper. In 1978, Andy took a five-year-long sabbatical from the music industry to concentrate on his career as an actor. Andy subsequently starred in the films Children of Babylon in 1980 and The Mighty Quinn (1989).

Andy's 1988 album, Freely, recorded in London and Jamaica, was reissued in 1997. The same year, he released an all-new album, Hangin' Tough, produced by Willie Lindo.

Andy undertook his first concert tour of Africa in 2005. He performed at the Bob Marley 60th birthday concert in Addis Ababa to an audience of several hundred thousand, and also sang at the Ethiopian president's palace. During a visit to Shashemane in the weeks following, he gave benefit concerts for the 12 Tribes.

In 2006, he was conferred with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander for his contributions to the development of reggae music.

By Steven Jackson

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Max Romeo's Last Hurrah

Posted by Hans on August 10 2009 at 17:23
Category : Artists

Forty-two years after his entry into the musical arena, reggae pioneer Max Romeo, is ready to hang up the gloves. In a recent interview with the Observer, the singer indicated that he is in the closing stage of a rich and colourful musical career.

With a significant 42 albums to his credit, Max Romeo will, in 2010 release his final album, appropriately titled, The Last Hurrah.

"I am not doing any album after this," Max Romeo whose average is an album per year, told the Observer. He emphasised, "Everything I have to say, I have said it already. So if I continue, I'll be only repeating myself."

On a somewhat consistent note, between Wet Dream (his debut album) and his latest Max Romeo: The Best Of, this veteran has given us so much messages like Let The Power Fall On I, Bring Back Maccabee Version, War Inna Babylon, will be included on The Last Hurrah which he promises will be out for Christmas, a few covers.

"It is my final fourteen. The message that Jah gave me I have already delivered it. I don't want to take it beyond that, because a just Jah works mi a do, yuh nuh," Max Romeo insisted as he about his upcoming 14 tracks album.

Suffice it to say though, this Jamaican musical powerhouse who hails from Alexandria, St Ann, was not only about message music. In fact, it would surprise many to know that among his 42 albums, one is titled, Max Romeo Banned and Censored, which as the title implies, is not fit for airplay.

"Quite a few tracks on it were banned. These are the songs when I was doing rude stuff in the 60s," Max Romeo admitted. "The people dem now-a-days mussi feel sey a only dem know body parts. Is I teach dem body parts, yuh understand," the veteran crooner said.

This was obviously in reference to his album Wet Dream which was an instant hit in Jamaica, but was banned in the UK from the BBC and Romeo himself was banned from performing at some venues. However, this restriction helped to push Wet Dream on the charts.

During the period to which he made reference, he released singles such Mini Skirt Version, Fish In The Pot, Belly Woman and Wine Her Goosie. "Everybody follow me. Back then, yuh have Lloydie and the Low-Bites, Prince Buster. everybody came after me. But I was the original man who named the body-parts," he chuckled.

He explained that he deliberately does not market the album Max Romeo Banned and Censored in Europe, because the European market is mostly geared to roots and culture music.

Romeo is also a household name in France as much as he is in Jamaica.

"Places like France not really much into the dancehall thing that really tek set into Jamaica. They are into roots and culture. You affi a sing bout Rasta or current affairs. The whole continent shares the same view, for I've been touring the whole continent (of Europe) for quite a few years now and the crowd gets bigger and younger," he noted.

Presently winding down his annual summer trek to Europe, which this time around takes him to Slovenia, Slovakia, Morocco, Serbia as well as what was his first major gig in London. In the later part of this year he will be heading to Brazil for some dates and then going back to Europe in December for some more gigs.

Continuing his contemplation of his exit from the spotlight, the singer, songwriter, producer of such albums as Reconstruction and Transition (a phase that is obviously becoming), also told the Observer, "February 2010, will begin the last of my heavy duty tours. After this I am not doing any more tours, I'll just go out for the big ones. So by February I suppose to be out on the road touring. It going to take me right through Europe again, like saying good bye to the road after 42 years."

So next year will see the final curtain call for the 62-year-old artiste whose song Let The Power Fall On I, became the People's National Party's (PNP) 1972 campaign anthem, followed by other unforgettable chart toppers like One Step Forward, No Joshua No, Sipple Out Deh, Three Blind Mice, I Chase The Devil among too many to be listed.

Indeed, an iconic reggae exponents, his song I Chase the Devil has been sampled by Prodigy for their 1992 UK Top Ten hit, Out of Space. Kanye West also used samples from it to produce Jay-Z's hit song Lucifer, which appeared on Jay-Z's 2003 release, The Black Album.

It doesn't end there, I Chase The Devil, is also featured on the reggae radio station K-JAH Radio West in a popular video game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, released in 2004.

So where does the legendary entertainer born Maxwell Livingston Smith go from here?

"I'll just produce mi kids, deal with me label and deal with Mother Nature," explained Max Romeo who set up home and business complex on his property in a little district called Palm in the town of Treadways, St Catherine.

"Is here soh I man set up my little empire yuh nuh," he goes on "Recording studio, distribution centre, CD manufacturing, farming at the same time, plant cassava, at the same time build the community a community centre where mi operate mi sound system from. Satta Vibes is the sound, and every Sunday night we have a thing called Energy Sunday where people come and enjoy themselves," Romeo disclosed.

While he will no longer take centerstage in the music business as an artiste, he will certainly continue to be involved. "So for my label Charmax Music this is the headquarters, with an array of artistes. People like Jallanzo, Nitro, Ruffi-Ann, Sophia Squire (Ratta Tat Tat) and my two young sons Ronaldo and Romario- one ten the other twelve - will be putting out some hits on the road," said Max Romeo who himself recently released quite a few combinations with Ruffi-Ann, Among them are Let the Power Fall On I, Bring Back Maccabee Version, War Inna Babylon and Wet Dream.

Basil Walters

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Ken Boothe builds studio

Posted by Hans on August 10 2009 at 17:18
Category : Artists

After 43 years in the music business, veteran artiste Ken Boothe is building a recording studio.

"It is not really decided, it is a must. I should have [had] a studio probably years ago but I have been exploited financially. I think the time is right now," Boothe told THE STAR. "I should perform when I feel like. I should be well off but because of these parasitic people I am still working hard."

However, the studio, which is at his home, is not for commercial purposes. Hence, one can only work there if invited by Boothe. He will be doing a lot of the production work in the studio and he already has plans to work with Benjy Myaz, who he said is a very talented musician and likes his sound.

While this is the case, the studio is not fully complete. He said he is now setting up the space for the drums, as the other live instruments can be easily plugged in.

"I test it out with a dubplate for a sound and I love the sound," Boothe told THE STAR, while noting that he still plans to do work at other studios as all studios have a different sound.

In addition, Boothe is in the process of completing an R&B project with two producers from the United Kingdom and the United States. And, after recently doing shows in France, he has upcoming shows Canada.

"After singing [for] 43 years and still feeling fit, I am really thankful," Boothe said.

Sadeke Brooks

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'Eggie' passes on

Posted by Hans on July 07 2009 at 20:32
Category : Artists

Saxophonist Egbert Evans, an Alpha Boys School graduate who worked with performers such as Freddie McGregor and Burning Spear, has died.

Evans, 56, died at the University Hospital of the West Indies on July 2. He was taken there shortly after collapsing in August Town, St Andrew.

Known as 'Eggie', Evans was a diabetic who had lost his right leg this year. In April, several of his colleagues in the music business staged a benefit concert for him at The Deck club in St Andrew.

The event raised funds to assist with Evans' medical bills.

Saxophonist Tony Greene, another Alpha graduate, knew Evans for 30 years. He described him as a "serious musician".

"Eggie was a good player who never got the chance to record regularly and that was unfortunate," Greene said.

Great musician

Like many Jamaican musicians, Evans attended the Alpha school in Kingston which also produced noted hornmen like trombonist Don Drummond, and saxophonists Tommy McCook and Lester Sterling, who were all members of the famed Skatalites band.

Evans went on to play with the In Crowd and Boris Gardiner Happening bands during the 1970s. Later, he toured with McGregor, Burning Spear and, most recently, the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari.

An autopsy will be performed on Evans on July 21.

by Howard Campbell
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