Champion sound! When Huddersfield ruled the British reggae scene

Stephen Burke
Stephen Burke, founder of the Huddersfield sound system Earth Rocker, with his system. Photograph: Stephen Burke/One Love Books

It came late to my attention but as they say, better late than never. The full history of reggae is fascinating and somewhat unknown to many.  David Simpson (2014) reminded us that in 1970s and 80s, “big cities such as London and Birmingham [were forgettable and that]…this West Yorkshire town was the unlikely capital of UK sound system culture.” He further shared the following gems of information:

Reggae fans didn’t need to go to Jamaica to hear the best music in the 1970s and 1980s. They didn’t even have to live in big cities such as London or Birmingham. In Huddersfield, West Yorkshire – the hometown of Harold Wilson – it was once possible to see international stars performing live at the West Indian Club on Venn Street, or skank the night away to one of 30 or so sound systems from the town.

“Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff, Sugar Minott, Desmond Dekker … everybody played at Venn Street,” remembers Claston Brooks, aka Danman, who ended up getting a job at the West Indian Club so he could see the gigs for free. “The artists might do one other show in Birmingham or London, but more often than not they would come from Jamaica direct to Huddersfield. They’d stay at the George Hotel, which is still there, play their show and boom, back to Jamaica. Sound systems would come over from Kingston to play Venn Street. That’s how big it was.”

The influence of sound systems on British music, from trip-hop to dubstep, is well documented. However, Huddersfield’s role in this culture has been largely overlooked. Now, a new book is paying overdue tribute to the town’s achievements. Part of a heritage project put together by historian Mandeep Samra, Sound System Culture: Celebrating Huddersfield’s Sound Systems, compiled by Al Fingers, is filled with beautiful archive photography and includes a detailed written history of the scene.

“Artists would come to Huddersfield because people were friendlier and more broad-minded than in many areas of Britain in the 1970s,” explains Paul Huxtable, builder and operator of the Axis sound system, who wrote the main text of the book. “People would say to [reggae superstar] Dennis Brown: ‘We’re having a christening tomorrow. Why don’t you come along?’ I heard of people putting stars up at their houses. You didn’t get that in the cities. Every town with a large black community had a sound system scene, but Huddersfield’s was vastly out of proportion to the size of the place.”

Reggae sound systems are mobile discos on which selectors (DJs) play popular records on huge speakers, with vocal accompaniment known as “toasting” provided by deejays (MCs). They originated in Jamaica in the 1950s and were brought to Huddersfield in the 1960s, when the first wave of Caribbean immigrants arrived to work in the town’s textile mills.

The first sound systems in Huddersfield were simple affairs, playing rocksteady records at all-night “blues parties” held in people’s houses. Then a younger generation began using a similar template to play heavier dub and reggae tunes.

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 Heritage HiFi speaker boxes, custom-built by Paul Huxtable. Photograph: Elliot Baxter

 

As the first black boy to be born in the town’s Princess Royal hospital, Stephen “Papa Burky” Burke of the Earth Rocker sound system found himself at the vanguard of this changing culture. “I built my first boxes [speaker cabinets] out of cardboard when I was 16,” he says. “It sounded brilliant in my bedroom, but when I took it into a bigger hall the amplifier started smoking. I realised there was a bit more to it …”

The sound systems that evolved were complex feats of engineering. Because commercially available speakers were prohibitively expensive and could not provide the bass needed to fill a large venue, kids such as Burke learned joinery in order to build their own. Then came the electronics. Earth Rocker’s electrical work was carried out by local man Pete “Woody” Wood, who went on to work with Ultravox and a number of other 1980s bands.

However, other sound systems were less professional. Brooks is full of tales of system builders stealing wood from timber yards or loudspeakers from garage forecourts. He even claims to have forgone wearing underpants and socks to save the cash for electrical cables. “To get big you need to build,” he says. “Once you’re big enough, you don’t need to do dem things.”

The rush to keep ahead of rival sounds systems often meant driving in the dead of night to Nottingham, where the latest Jamaican reggae imports or pre-releases were exchanged at clandestine meetings held in car parks. Once they were safely back home, the sound system operators would scribble over the record labels with marker pens so their competitors would not be able to see what they were playing.

“It was all about having the freshest records and the biggest sound,” says Huxtable. “So they’d have echo chambers, syn-drums, wardrobe-sized cabinetswith 18in drivers. Everything was geared to getting the maximum power from the amplifiers. Reggae sound systems always run in the red, so things have to be highly engineered so you don’t burn things out.”

Although every system sounded different, a common link could be found in shape of the Matamp. Hans Alfred “Mat” Mathias was a Holocaust refugee who started an electronics shop on King Street. Eventually, he found himself hand-building amplifiers for the local sounds, who preferred valve systems to transistors because of the warmer bass they produce. Pictured in the book, wearing a crisp white shirt and tie, Mathias looks more lab technician than reggae man, but his company became internationally renowned.

“Mat was a German Jewish man making amplifiers for West Indians in Yorkshire,” says Ian Smith, whose band the Inner Mind recorded in a tiny studio that Mathias operated near his shop. “You couldn’t make it up. He sold chocolate, cigarettes and amplifiers.”

A white man, whose reggae band were happily accepted in Caribbean clubs, Smith typifies the era’s cheery openness. Although racism did exist in Huddersfield, anyone – black, white or Asian – was welcome in clubs such as Venn Street and Arawak. The reggae clubs even accepted punk bands: Burke remembers curiously venturing in to see Adam and the Ants at Venn Street.

Earth Rocker
 Members of the Earth Rocker sound system, with their speakers. Photograph: Stephen Burke/One Love Books

 

As the scene expanded, shops including Steve’s Records and Music City sprung up. Local band Jab Jab provided backing for Dave & Ansell Collins on Top of the Pops in 1971, when the Jamaican duo reached No 1 with the classic Double Barrel. When another Huddersfield group, the Groovers, recorded a cover version of Bob Marley’s Bend Down Low during a trip to London, the man himself paid them a visit in the studio.

But, for many young black men, sound system culture provided something deeper than entertainment or the chance of financial success. It offered empowerment, education and a voice.

“With a sound system and a microphone, you can become a history teacher,” says Armagideon‘s Donovan Brown aka D.Bo General. “You can tell people things that aren’t on the television. It’s about identifying yourself and waking people up to what they can achieve.”

Today, there is little left of this vibrant scene. Venn Street was demolished in 1992 to make way for a car park, and more sound systems faded away with the closure of other key venues.

However, Huxtable has recently shipped a custom-built valve system from his Huddersfield workshop to Jamaica. Meanwhile, some of the scene’s originators are stringing up their speakers once again.

“When Gregory Isaacs played in Venn Street supported by a sound system, so many girls fainted that they had to call ambulances,” says Brooks, who now performs as an MC for the Leeds-based Iration Steppas. “When that club closed, it was like part of Huddersfield had died. If I had a piece of land, I’d build it up again.”

Read more here https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/jul/31/champion-sound-huddersfield-ruled-british-reggae-scene?utm_content=buffer6389c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer from the article by writer David Simpson on 31st July 2014 in the Guardian.

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Global Reggae Conference – Call

GLOBAL REGGAE CONFERENCE

“DANCEHALL, MUSIC AND THE CITY”

FEBRUARY 9 – 11, 2017

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 Call for Papers

The Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Reggae Studies Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus announce the fifth bi-ennial Global Reggae Conference  under the theme “Dancehall, Music and the City”. This conference is being staged at a time when we celebrate Bob Marley’s birth and the very foundation, the space – dancehall – through which the world has consumed seven distinct musical genres in mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, nyabinghi, dub and dancehall. This conference also comes at a time when Kingston celebrates its designation as a creative city for music by UNESCO in December 2015. 

The conference intends to open discussions about contemporary considerations for Jamaican music spaces, genres, cross-fertilization, production and economy using Kingston as a backdrop for discussing the foundational space of the dancehall as a main theme.  

The conference will also honour the work of Professor Carolyn Cooper, CD, founder of the Global Reggae Conference, Bob Marley Lecture Series and the Reggae Studies Unit. Her contributions to the field of cultural studies have paved the way for researchers and practitioners, often bridging the gap in research and practice for Jamaican popular music genres, reggae, and especially dancehall. 

Slated for Reggae Month 2017, the conference will provide a platform for timely updates on discussions, research and development in reggae and dancehall locally, regionally and internationally. GRC2017 offers academics, researchers, artistes, musicians, scholars, cultural practitioners, entrepreneurs and music lovers from around the world a warm and welcoming environment to share their research, experiences, perspectives and passion for Jamaican music. 

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Conference themes include but are not limited to the following:

·         Researching the Dancehall: Lessons from Carolyn Cooper

·         Kingston: Creative Music City

·         Dancehall as Space and Place

·         Dancehall: From Then Till Now

·         Sound Systems, Sonic Innovations and Performance

·         Popular Jamaican Music and Economic Development

·         Creativity and Economy: Appropriation or Cross-Fertilization?

·         Dancehall, Social Media and Jamaica’s Influence

·         Dancehall, Sound Regulation and Entertainment Zoning

·         Dancehall Culture, Violence and Governance

·         Dancehall Music, Rites, Rituals and Celebratory Practices

·         Movement and Dance in Dancehall

·         Dancehall: The People’s Church?

·         Dancehall, Sexuality and the City

 Abstract Submission and Presentation Guidelines

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words for individual presentations. For pre-organised panels, include one abstract for each presenter. Each abstract should include the following information: name of author/authors; email address/es; name of associated institution; and keywords of presentation.

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We welcome innovative uses of technology and creative session formats as well as traditional paper presentations.

DEADLINE FOR ALL SUBMISSIONS IS NOVEMBER 15, 2016.

NOTIFICATION OF ACCEPTANCE WILL BE MADE BY NOVEMBER 30, 2016.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION OF FULL PAPERS IS JANUARY 1, 2017.

All participants will have to register by January 1, 2017 in order to have their papers included in the final programme.

Contact the Global Reggae Conference 2017 Secretariat with queries at:

Institute of Caribbean Studies 

Email: globalreggaeconference@gmail.com 

Tel: 1 (876) 977 – 1951 |  970 – 6228

Reggae Pioneer Miss Pat Chin of VP Records Celebrates 35 Years in the U.S.

As the annual State of the Music Symposium (SOMS) draws near I feel compelled to republish this highly informative article on VP Records principal, Miss Pat Chin. It is one of the best articles I have seen and thought readers who missed its publication in Billboard would appreciate it. VP records will be represented at the SOMSII by Randy Chin and Richard Lue who will be talking about music sales and, music and film respectively. Now in its 2nd year, the SOMSII will see topics such as artiste management, music education and artiste welfare being tackled by stalwarts in the business. Stay tuned for more on the Symposium. For now read about Miss Pat Chin….

When Patricia Chin, cofounder of Queens, N.Y.-based reggae indie VP Records, ponders the changes in the music industry since she started out six decades ago, she exudes a spirited resiliency that is inextricably linked to VP’s survival for nearly 60 years in a competitive marketplace.

“We are still selling music, but we are just doing it in different ways now,” says Chin, 77, affectionately called Miss Pat, as she surveys VP’s cavernous 10,000 square foot warehouse in Jamaica, Queens, once stocked floor to ceiling with vinyl and CDs, now housing a fraction of that inventory. “I am fascinated to have seen music sold as 78s, 45s, then 8-track tapes and cassettes, CDs and now digital — we don’t have to manufacture anything to have our music reach around the world.”

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A petite, effervescent woman of Chinese and Indian ancestry, Miss Pat along with her late husbandVincent “Randy” Chin, set the foundation for their US based company in Kingston, Jamaica in the late 1950s. Fleeing the island’s escalating political violence of the l970s, Vincent and Pat migrated to New York, establishing their U.S. reggae distributorship in Queens in 1979, designated by the initials of their first names, VP Records.

“Vincent’s brother had opened Chin Randy’s Records in Brooklyn so he went to Queens which was fortuitous because the borough was then home to several music distributors and he was in that overall mix,” notes Aaron Talbert, VP Records’ vp of sales and marketing. Eventually VP took over the space belonging to Raymar’s Memory Lane Distribution and retained their longstanding employee, Rhoda Bernstein, who helped the Chins learn the rigors of the US music industry, as they sold to reggae shops in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Thirty-five years later, the VP Records empire, run by Vincent and Pat’s sonsChristopher (CEO) and Randy (president) Chin, encompasses the flagship record label (established in 1993, named Billboard’s Best Independent Record Label in 2002, 2003) subsidiary imprints Dub Rockers and 17 North Parade; a digital distribution arm VPAL (VP and Associated Labels, available to independent artists), the Riddim Driven merchandise/clothing line, a touring/live events division, an online record store, and an online radio station (Randy’s Radio), which broadcasts from VP’s primary retail store also in Jamaica, Queens; a second retail store in Miami is run by the Chins’ daughter Angela and her husband Howard Chung. With their 2008 acquisition of former competitor Greensleeves Records and its publishing arm (which administered more than 12,000 songs), VP Records became the world’s largest reggae label/publisher and now has satellite offices in Johannesburg, Kingston, Rio de Janeiro, London, Tokyo and Toronto.

VP celebrates its 35th anniversary in the U.S. with a special edition of their annual two volume (singers and deejays, i.e. toasters) compilation series Strictly The Best, inaugurated in 1993. Both volumes (numbers 50 and 51, released on Nov. 25) include bonus discs featuring classic reggae and dancehall tracks from VP’s exhaustive catalogue. The most successful edition of Strictly The Best, Volume 31, released in 2003 has moved nearly 93,000 units according to SoundScan including tracks by dancehall stars Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder, both of whom were signed to Atlantic Records via joint distribution deals with VP as well as Hot 100 charting dancehall hits by Beenie Man “Dude” and T.O.K.‘s “Gal Yuh A Lead.”

A traveling, commemorative 20′ x 40′ pop up exhibition depicting VP’s decade by decade achievements, VP commissioned artwork by Michael Thompsonalongside photos of artists representing the label’s impressive roster over the years including Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths, Maxi Priest, Shaggy andYellowman, will be displayed at the inaugural One Caribbean Festival (December 13, 14, headlined by Sean Paul), Broward Regional Park, Fort Lauderdale, Fl, and at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, in Trelawny, Jamaica, Jan. 28-31, 2015. “We are talking to sponsors now because our ultimate goal is to have this exhibition become part of a reggae museum in Kingston, which honor the artists, producers and studio operators that were there when everything started,” explains Miss Pat.

Everything started for Pat and Vincent Chin in the mid-1950s with Vincent’s job supplying the island’s jukeboxes with the latest 7″ records, predominantly American R&B hits. Chin decided that selling the jukeboxes’ redundant discs provided a viable business opportunity. In 1958 the Chins opened their first record store in downtown Kingston, Randy’s Record Mart and established the imprint Randy’s Records, so named for Vincent’s enthusiasm for the (influential) late night American radio program of that era, Randy’s Record Shop (hosted by Randy Wood, founder of Dot Records).

With their move to the centrally located 17 North Parade in 1961 and the construction of a four-track recording studio (Studio 17) above the record shop, Chin emerged as a ground-breaking producer in shaping Jamaica’s nascent musical identity. His early successes included Trinidad-born, Jamaica based calypsonian Lord Creator‘s “Independent Jamaica” (a celebration of the island’s independence from England in 1962) the first single released in the UK on Chris Blackwell‘s then fledgling Island Records.

Chin’s productions also gave early exposure to legendary Jamaican acts at the dawn of the island’s ska era including The Skatalites, The Maytals, Ken Boothe, the late Alton Ellis and the recently deceased John Holt. In the early 70s, the studio was upgraded and Chin’s eldest son Clive took control of the production sessions with the in-house band Randy’s All Stars. Clive is probably best known for his 1971 production of the late melodica master Augustus Pablo‘s influential single “Java.”

Miss Pat, meanwhile, handled the company’s business affairs working with producers who sought distribution and singers desirous of music business knowledge. “Back then I saw the need for a one-stop record store where people could buy everything. Producers Prince Buster, Duke Reid, Coxsone Dodd had their stores nearby on Orange St. (also known as Beat St.) but they just sold their own productions, there wasn’t a middle man (or woman) selling everybody’s records; I wasn’t biased or into politics, I bought from everyone.”

For her pioneering efforts as a female running a distributorship Miss Pat encountered some resistance, experiences she has used to empower a subsequent generation of women, including VP artists, within a male dominated business. “Miss Pat told me when she started out some men only wanted to speak to another man even though they knew she was an owner. But she said, as a caterpillar comes out of a cocoon, you can’t force people’s acceptance, it takes time; that’s why I promote everything she does in anyway that I can,” shared VP artist Etana whose soulful roots reggae album “I Rise” topped Billboard’s Reggae Album chart for the week of Nov. 8 the first female to reach the tally’s pinnacle position since Diana King‘s 1997 release “Think Like A Girl” (Columbia).

Miss Pat is now chronicling her unique challenges and triumphs in an as of yet untitled autobiography, which spans the evolution of popular Jamaican music from its initial dismissal in its birthplace to a flurry of major label interest in dancehall in the 90s and 00s and now a renewed wider interest in one drop reggae. Despite the changes, Miss Pat’s objectives “to see young artists develop their talents, learn to produce and sell their music” have remained the same.

Source: http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6327824/reggae-miss-pat-chin-vp-records-35-years-america

Rude Boys: From Marley and Cliff, Shanty Town to Savile Row

When will the Rude Boy be valued in Jamaica? When I came across the article entitled ‘Rude Boys’ written by  published in the Guardian, it brought me back to the days when I served as a board member at the Institute of Jamaica’s (IOJ) Museums Division. We had the mandate for securing and exhibiting the national collections. To my surprise, a large portion of the materials in the national collection had never been exhibited, including a substantial African Collection bequeathed to the nation by a diplomat posted in Jamaica after a sojourn in West Africa.

I had the privilege of seeing the entire national collection, and many artefacts representing indigenous Jamaican material culture were absent. As a member of the Board, I was constantly appalled for example at how there was never an exhibition on Rastafari, Jamaican fashion or that there was even a significant music collection showcasing the indigenous music birthed in Jamaica. Yes of course, we have a Jamaican Music Museum but its collection is at a crucial embryonic stage and with no permanent home. And yes, we have only recently opened an exhibition on Rastafari because I was a key player in engaging the Smithsonian Institution (Museum of Natural History) regarding the possibility of their exhibition ‘Discovering Rastafari!’ travelling to Jamaica, as well as the UWI’s Rastafari Studies Initiative, a key partner in its Jamaican staging. I could go on and on about the national collection, or about how there is no national consciousness about the need for a significant national collection showcasing our indigenous material culture. But that is not my aim.

Now, here comes word of another exhibition to be opened in London which has not been conceptualised by or for Jamaicans. ‘Return of the Rude Boy’ begins at London’s Somerset House in June. Has there ever been such an exhibition in Jamaica? Perhaps the idea has entered the mind of some persons but never came to light. Regardless of the situation, I am clear that there are two challenges posed here. First, many Jamaicans don’t see their indigenous culture as important enough for archiving, research or preservation. Secondly, where there is a consciousness about its importance, priority afterall (some would say) should be placed on more pressing issues such as various forms of crime and violence, grave economic challenges, moral decay, and so on. There is little consciousness of the link between culture and identity formation (personal / national), preservation of culture and education, or even, national culture and creative industries.  These are two critical challenges facing us as a nation as we seek to chart a path toward sustainable development through creative industries. The link between heritage, tourism and sustainable development through creative industries ought not to be missed.

I leave you with some of the article, and hope that the Institute of Jamaica considers seriously the possibility of having this exhibition travel to Jamaica.

“The rude boy has come a long way from his origins in Jamaican subculture, as shown in a new photography exhibition celebrating the movement’s distinctive style.”

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The tailor Sam Lambert shows off his rude boy style.

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It was towards the end of 1963 that the Wailers released their first single, Simmer Down, on the legendary Studio One label in Jamaica. The song was written and sung by an 18-year-old Bob Marley, the lyrics intended to placate his mother, Cedella, who was worried about the company her son was keeping in the Trench Town ghetto of the Jamaican capital, Kingston, where they lived. Simmer Down was aimed directly at the often sharply dressed young men locally known as “rude boys”, who were making headlines in the then newly independent island with their violent and antisocial behaviour. “Simmer down, oh control your temper/Simmer down, for the battle will be hotter,” sang Marley over a frenetic rhythm by the studio’s stellar house band, the Skatalites. Produced by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Simmer Down was not the first song to address the rude boy phenomenon. The previous year Stranger Cole had released Ruff and Tough, produced by Coxsone’s rival, Duke Reid, a song now recognised as the first rude boy anthem. Simmer Down, though, had an urgency that caught the edgy, increasingly unruly atmosphere of Kingston’s mean streets. It was also an early example of what, as the fast-paced, jazz-inflected thrust of ska gave way first to the slower “bluebeat” and then to the even slower, but deeper, bass-heavy rhythm of reggae, would come to be known as “sufferer’s music” – a song voiced by, and for, the oppressed, who ordinarily had no voice in Jamaican society.

“The figure of the rude boy with his swagger and casual disrespect for the law harks back to older archetypes like the semi-mythical Stagger Lee character in black American folk blues, the bad man who seems invincible,” commentsPaul Gilroy, academic and author of several books on the politics of race, including There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack. “That kind of figure also appeared in various guises in the imported Hollywood western and gangster movies that young Jamaicans lapped up. But the emergence of the rude boy at this particular moment also marked out the acquisition of a new self-confidence and sense of self-reinvention among the young and disaffected that was related somehow to Jamaican independence in 1962. The rude boy was a recognisable, if culturally complex take, on an archetypal bad-boy figure.”

Since then, the rude boy has recurred throughout the history of popular music both in Jamaica and Britain. His sartorial influence – sharp suits, pork-pie hats, shiny shoes – was felt in both the early mod and, more problematically, skinhead movements of the early and late 60s, as imported ska and bluebeat singles from Jamaica ignited the hipper dance floors of London and beyond. It was revisited, too, for the 2 Tonemovement that emerged out of the Midlands and London in the wake of punk in the late 70s, when bands such as the Specials and Madness reinvigorated Jamaican ska.

Now an exhibition of photography called The Return of the Rudeboy is about to open at Somerset House in London. Curated by fashionphotographer Dean Chalkley and stylist and creative director Harris Elliott, it aims to “depict a collective of sharply dressed individuals, who exemplify an important yet undocumented subculture …” With live events, DJs, merchandising and even a rude boy barber shop, as well as screenings of fims such as The Harder They Come – perhaps the ultimate depiction of the lawless rude boy lifestyle – the exhibition will, say the curators, “document the life, style and attitude among a growing group of people that embody the essence of the term”

What, though, is the essence of rude boy in 2014? For many young people, the term is now synonymous with the 2011 single of the same name by Rihanna, the reigning rude girl of sexually suggestive R&B. “Come here, rude boy, can you get it up/Come here rude boy, is you big enough?” she sings, rendering the term reductively literal and blatantly stereotypical.

I put it to Harris that, in their interpretation of the term, the rude boy also seems to have travelled a long way from his edgy ghetto roots, shedding his anti-establishment tendencies to become simply an arbiter of a certain kind of post-modern urban style in which the past is rifled and recontextualised, and, in the process, stripped of real meaning.

Return of the Rudeboy is at Somerset House, London 13 June-25 August

Read the entire post here.

JAMAICA’S STATE OF MUSIC – University of the West Indies to fill research gap

IMG_0257UWI, Mona, February 3                   Jamaica’s music industry consists of several properties ranging from the intangible and recognizable ‘sound’ to the more tangible products, services and intellectual property, among other key areas. The industry is able to generate a range of economic activities through live performances, manufacturing, education in music and production.

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Jamaica’s music has a competitive edge and if packaged in a meaningful way can offer several opportunities for a wide range of stakeholders. “This can only be achieved if the efforts on stage combine effectively with the boardroom to maximize earnings,” according to Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Senior Lecturer, University of the West Indies, Mona.

Those issues among others will be discussed at the State of Music Symposium, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, March 1 & 2 at the JAMPRO Business Auditorium starting at noon both days.

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The symposium has been designed to capture information and create a working document for consideration by members of the fraternity. The key discussions will look to focus on the markets, major players and partners who are significant in growing the music industry. The involvement of the University of the West Indies is to “fill the gap in research to ensure that the correct data gets out on the business of music in Jamaica,” noted Stanley Niaah.

Among the topics to be discussed are the state of music education, the rise and fall of studios, the changing business models, the state of music and film and other key areas.

The Symposium is a partnership to include private and public sector presenters and will involve post graduate students from the UWI to capture, collate and present information within a 90 day period. Along with the UWI, JAMPRO, Jamaica’s export and investment promotion agency have so far offered support.

Chronixx

‘Reggae for a Cause’ as Shaggy and Friends Put Children First!

Image   There are various ways in which reggae and its sister genre dancehall have played significant roles in advancing the human race. With originary scripts solidly vibrating around liberation, human rights and revolutionary impulses, reggae’s reach into charity and social movements of various kinds is known. Beyond Marley’s contribution to the articulation and achievement of liberation in Zimbabwe, and Peter Tosh’s war against Apartheid, if you can’t imagine what I mean then the event ‘Reggae For Climate Protection‘ which has been staged in New York, USA since 2011 is perhaps one of the best modern examples I’ve come across.

“Inspired by an appreciation for our environment, Reggae for Climate Protection was created by Leslie Pieters to bring together risk takers, melody makers, earth rakers and policy makers… Reggae for Climate Protection celebrates our environment, our society, and brings people together to understand the relevance of our carbon footprint and its impact on the world around us.”

The evidence suggests reggae has done more for human rights, various freedoms, social, environmental and spiritual consciousness outside Jamaican shores. But, who can objectively qualify / quantify the effect / affect on inspiration, spiritual fortitude and revolutionary impetus bequeathed to local creators, perpetuators and consumers?

Enter ‘Shaggy and Friends’

The January 4 event which is being reported as a tremendous success (side note: there are some who were disappointed) by one of its sponsors drew attention from scores with its star-studded musical cast headlined by The Voice champion Tessanne Chin who received a heroine’s welcome on her December 20 return home. Image

The Grammy-winning, Platinum-selling celeb Shaggy, established the Make A Difference Foundation which is invested in raising money for the Bustamante Children’s Hospital (the only one of its kind in the Caribbean), a focus of which is the new Cardiac Ward. The final figures on the level of support received are unavailable but organisers are hoping to top the successes of 2012 (US$370,000 or $32 million), 2011 ($27 million) and 2010 ($30 million). Concerns over the amount of complimentary tickets given away was a sore point which earned mention by many performers. It is estimated that some $15m in complimentary tickets was lost to the charity effort. All indications are the event was a huge success and the number of patrons present far exceeded what I remember seeing at the first event I attended in 2009. So with the slogan ‘1 ticket = 1 life’ in hand, children for generations to come will be beneficiaries of the worthy ‘reggae for a cause’ initiative.

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Shaggy and His Friends on Show

So what did the show bring and why were some present and viewing at home feeling short-changed? Beginning with national anthem, drumming and prayer at the dot of 8pm, we were spared no time in getting the ball a rolling as Shaggy took his hits to the stage. Then came Pinchers, Admiral Bailey, and Admiral Tibet who enticed us with foundation dancehall hits such as ‘Della Move’, ‘Bandelero’, ‘Serious Time’ and ‘Leave People Business Alone’.

Admiral Tibet Leave People Business Alone

Carlene Davis paid a timely tribute to ‘Winnie Mandela’ along with her well loved selections of ‘Going Down to Paradise’, and the timeless Abba original ‘The Way Old Friends Do’.

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Then it was time for the Mighty Diamonds who did not disappoint. Patrons were then treated to a session on the proverbial ‘bun’ with Christopher Martin who on the one hand asked God not to let his girlfriend catch him cheating, and Macka Diamond on the other, teaching the crowd how to cheat without being caught. Frankly speaking Macka who got the least love on that night was making a comeback from clash obscurity where she was sent after a dismal performance at Sting 2013. You can read my review of that event here.

Jump forward to Konshens who has been on my dancehall mind for some time. Oops.. I’m jumping the gun just a bit but what the hell… Did you see him? Catch the footage? Were you there?? Let me say up front that my night was made because of the three appearances by Konshens to which patrons were treated. He was dapper, mature, freshly titillating and tantalising in performances befitting the description – stellar showmanship. Yes indeed. 

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Let me get back to the line-up. Elephant Man’s energy is waning somewhat and his set seemed very much like the one he did in 2009. We were thrilled with dance hits including ‘Higher level’,  Revival infused ‘Bad Mind’, and ‘Signal di plane’. The sell off moment came with the phone call he accepted from Buju Banton while segueing into Gargamel’s lines ‘…strange this feeling I’m feeling…’ from the Til Shiloh recording.  The biggest forward came when he characteristically invited a child on stage to be taught the ‘signal di plane’ moves.

Comedic duo Ity and Fancy Cat came to do the ‘moonwalk’ and its cousin ‘one drop’, along with a hilarious telephone call from the PM congratulating Tessanne as she was being questioned about the controversial ‘frequent flyer’ status while ‘werking werking werking’. Naturally this caused an uproar of vigorous laughter that confirmed the duo’s well earned place at the apex of comedic innovations and industry in Jamaica. Joined by the shining star Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley we were treated to a report on his need to battle with a Sketel backstage whose concern was that Tessanne should have pursued the Duttyberry dubbed ‘Tessless’ one in the form of Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, ‘the sexiest man alive’. Let’s just leave that one alone.

Wayne Marshall who brought his son to bring down the house while performing his single ‘Stupid Money’ thrilled the audience.  Joined by Assassin on that recording, we were taken down impersonation lane when vocalising Junior Reid, Eddie Fitzroy, and Buju Banton’s interpretations on ‘Stupid Money’ made for a refreshing twist to the set. Marshall’s ‘Go Hard and Dun’ was the big hit though, performing again with Agent Sasco aka Assassin and joined by Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley whose welcome to Jamrock hit became the sound track of his set. Marley then exited the stage making way for Sasco to take it away with selections such as ‘Hand Inna Di Air’ and ‘Hand to Mouth’. I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed that set!

Kes out of Trinidad  took the levels to Soca with the R n B twist around 11am when some nine acts including Konshens, Sean Paul, I Octane, Tarrus Riley and the Voice herself Tessanne Chin along with guest Matthew Schuler were still left to take the stage.

Riddim up to Konshens’ set. When Konshens hit the stage with the soulful ode to making a life for his daughter – ‘as long as she’s happy…long as mi baby have suppn’ – the voice that has thrilled Jamaicans at home and abroad since he blossomed on the scene with ‘Winner’  had touched down in fine style. Many females were then enticed with the challenge of living up to Konshens’ desire for a ‘gyal weh bad bad bad’ because ‘wi nuh like gyal weh soft and weak inna heart…wi nuh love gyal weh easy fi frighten’.

Konshens – Winner

Konshens – Bad Gal [Official HD Video]

The mega hit ‘Gyal a Bubble’ put patrons in a real party mood as Konshens asked ‘how da party yah look suh?’. It was all uphill from there with selections such as ‘Drink ‘n Rave’, ‘Couple Up’, ‘No Hesitation’ and ‘They Say’. Did I say the showmanship on display was off the chain? Memba mi told you.

International recording artiste Neyo who currently shares the track ‘You Girl’ with Shaggy on his ‘Out of Many, One Music’ (2013) album brought excellence to the stage with dance, harmonies and hit songs including ‘Let Me Love You’ and ‘Ms Independent’ ushering in what has now become the famous ‘rompin shop riddim’. He was then joined by Shaggy as they both delivered their recording ‘You Girl’. Shaggy was also joined by Rayvon to deliver their hit single ‘Angel’. 

As MCs Ms. Kitty, Debbie Bissoon, Christopher Daley and David Annackie ushered the show to crescendo proportion we observed the love for patrons being displayed in many forms. Neyo threw his towel while Konshens threw his Jacket, Shaggy his cap and Matthew Schuler sparing no time in both showing love for Jamaica while asking the crowd to indulge him in a ‘selfie’ recording the audience cheering at his first international performance.

Time for ChinitaGoodaz! Afterall, this was her homecoming and stage to shine.  Walking right off the backs of so-called ‘dutty Rastas’ such as Marley who paved the Jamaican music path through persecution and indignation giving way to One Love, Tessanne Chin came to the stage after the Dutty Berry introduction around 12:22am. With formidable composite of a band, backup singers, and stage visuals befitting a star, Tessanne spared no time (amidst sound challenges) in telling Jamaica ‘The Reason Is You’, ‘Underneath it All’. Dipping into ska dubs and rock grooves, and through a wardrobe change, we ended up in Tessanne’s secret but highly supported ‘Hideaway’ after ‘Redemption Song’, ‘Many Rivers to Cross’, and medley of her songs including ‘When I’m with you’, and ‘Messenger.’ If no one has told Tess yet, it is now time to rerelease ‘Hideaway’ and send it into the musical stratosphere where it belongs.  

Introducing Matthew Schuler took the show to another level as he wowed the audience with charm and hits ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’, and ‘Hallelujah’ which brought a deeply spiritual, moving moment that elicited a hearty applause from the audience.  He also gave the audience a surprise with the performance of Wayne Wonder’s ‘No Letting Go’ on the Party Rhythm to boot.  Tessanne returned with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and new single ‘Tumbling Down’ whose second verse was infused with her own reggae rock musical sensibilities. She ended her set  with Whitney Houston’s ‘I have Nothing’ and the crowd was immensely pleased.

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A compendium of Jamaica’s excellence in music, the stage was then cleared for Chronixx and his Zinc Fence Band which opened its set with what is easily a popular anthem in ‘Smile Jamaica’, followed by hits such as ‘They Don’t Know’, ‘Here Comes Trouble’, ‘Warrior’, and ‘Odd Ras’. Tarrus Riley brought his ‘Lion Paw’ confidence to the stage with characteristic showmanship exhorting the fact of good winning over evil every time, even seeking Higher powers to walk with him in ‘Never Leave I Jah Jah’ all the way through hits such as ‘Hurry Up’ (one of my personal favourites), ‘One Drop’, and ‘She’s Royal’. Tarrus and Konshens teamed up for the hit ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ with the brilliant segue into Robin Thicke’s ‘good girl’ from the mega hit ‘Blurred Lines’ being just as good my third time around experiencing it.

photo 1 photo 2Grammy winning, platinum selling, Sean Paul’s return to the Jamaican stage at Shaggy and Friends was epic. The Badda Banz roared into action for the penultimate act of the night with hand clapping vibes for the first selection ‘Got to Love You’, making way for ‘Other Side of Love’, and with Junior Gong joining the indomitable Dutty P on stage for nothing short of a musical ‘Riot’.

Sean Paul at Shaggy and Friends

Konshens’ third appearance for the night came as he joined Sean Paul for the snazzy single ‘Want Dem All’.  ‘She Doesn’t Mind’,and ‘Temperature’ sealed the deal for a spectacular return to the hearts of Jamaicans, many standing in awe as they watched riddim, rhyme, moves, flow and energy.

Chronixx Neyo Shaggy

Sean Paul made way for I Octane who once again closed a major show. ‘Everybody clean and straight’ had to ‘Buss a Blank’, and show ‘respect to all who sell bag juice’ (‘Suffer Too Long’), as well as the ever mentioned ‘Mama’. The catchy and honest ‘Gyal a Gimme Bun’, preceded ‘We Love the Vibes’, and ‘Happy Time’ (it’s an Holiday), all contributing to an overall winning performance by I Octane as patrons made their way out of the venue. The die hards stayed though, making it clear that some attended to soak up all the energy, talent and stardom on display.

I-Octane – “Gyal A Gimme Bun” (Official Video)

Show quality, harmonies, short, seamless and entertaining band changes with solid acts – well perhaps except Macka Diamond – was what many present and watching live via Facebook , CVM Television and The Gleaner got from the Shaggy and Friends show. Of course, the irony is that Shaggy and Friends is one of the things that’s good about Jamaica, but it took place in a venue that brings stark reminder of some of  what’s frightfully challenging about Jamaica and it’s leadership which resides in the well decorated offices at Jamaica House. Quite frankly my only regret is that there were no police officers combing the grounds for those who insisted on smoking in public despite the newly introduced smoking ban. 

There is no doubt that complaints about the packed line-up fade in comparison to positive comments about Shaggy and Friends. It was a superior production, and a fine example for many Jamaican events to follow. Spare no time in consuming this short video review of a well produced ‘reggae for a cause’ production. 

Video Review – Shaggy and Friends 2014