Let’s Do the Rocksteady

I have become a regular reader of Heather Augustyn’s work. This fascinating piece on rocksteady is worth a read so I republish it here for those with an interest in Jamaican music and performance practice…

A few months ago I shared the advertisements that Ronnie Nasralla had made showing how to dance the ska. These advertisements pictured himself with Jeannette Phillips along with dance steps, five of them to be exact, and they appeared on the back of Byron Lee & the Dragonaires’ albums, and in the Jamaica Gleaner and the Jamaica Star newspapers for five sequential weeks. These dance steps were also demonstrated at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and at various events in the United States during that year, by Ronnie & Jeannette, Sheila Khouri Lee, and other dancers who brought the ska to the world. You can see these advertisements and read about them here.

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So when I saw the back of this Byron Lee album, I realized that a similar approach was taken a few years later with the rocksteady, and it got me wondering about the dance steps for this genre that came in 1966 to 1968.

Ronnie Nasralla is this time photographed with a different female dancer, perhaps because Jeannette Phillips had gotten married, although I am not sure who the new dancer is, so if anyone knows, please comment below.

The dance steps are as follows:

 

 

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B

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D

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F

G

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dance steps are described on the back of the album, so put on your dancing shoes and get ready.

One step shuffle — completely relax then sway your body from right to left sliding on your feet, allowing your hands to sway from side to side (A) following your hip movement. The shoulder must be raised and tucked under the chin. This shuffle is done all around the dance floor with couples swaying in and out of each other.

Stamp one foot at the same time bending both knees (B). Come up wriggling the body very loosely, then extend the foot which you did not stamp to the side (C). Repeat using other foot going to other side. This is done facing your partner. A variation of the step is shown in (D) where the leg is placed forward then backward instead of to the side. The girl does the reverse by placing her leg backward when her partner places his leg forward. When the leg is placed forward you lean back, and when the leg is placed backward, you lean forward. Remember: loosely wriggle your body when coming up on each stamp.

A bouncing one step action like marching with the body bobbing at least two beats to every step (E). The whole body is loose with the hands very limp up about chest high. This is a continuous action with the partners “marching” and bobbing all over the dance floor.

A variation to this step is when the right leg is placed across the body (F). Then you press back by placing the left or back leg further behind at the same time, leaning forward from the waist (G). You continue by stepping to the right, then left, then ready to repeat. The same marching action is continued during this, only with the hands swinging alternately to maintain balance.

The “Rock Steady” dance is probably the most relaxed dance ever done — the whole body at all times must be loose & “oily” and partners never touch each other. They get on and leave the floor together but once on the floor, everyone dances with everyone, getting into the spirit of the Rock Steady beat which is sensuous, heavy and throbbing. The lyrics are so catchy that they are sung by everyone while dancing.

Alton Ellis recorded his hit “Rock Steady” for Duke Reid in 1967. The lyrics gave a few tips on how to dance the rock steady, whose steps were more smooth and fluid than the ska since the tempo and energy were more subdued as well.

Better get ready
Come do rock steady, ooh
You got to do this new dance
Hope you’re ready
You got to do it just like uncle Freddy
If you don’t know

Just shake your head, rock your bodyline
Shake your shoulders, ev’rything in time
Then see
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-ooh

You got to shake your shoulders

Better get ready
Just to do rock steady, yeah
You got to do this new dance
Just like Freddy
You got to do it just like uncle Freddy
If you don’t know it

Shake your head, rock your bodyline
Shake them shoulders, ev’ry thing in time
Then see
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-ooh

You got to shake your shoulders

Now you’re ready
Let’s do rock steady, yeah
You got to do this new dance
Now that you’re ready
You got to do it just like uncle Freddy
Now that you know it

Shake your head, rock your bodyline
Shake your shoulders, ev’rything is fine
Now see
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-ooh

Ev’ryone, oh dance

Hopeton Lewis’s “Rock Steady,” recorded in 1967 for Merritone, also offers a few instructions for the rock steady dance:

People get ready
This is rock steady
Keep those dancin’ shoes on
Keep those feet movin’
People are you ready?
This is rock steady

Shoulders jerkin’
Heads are movin’
Hear the beat now
Move your feet now
Then go steady
If you’re ready
People are you ready?
This is rock steady

Shoulders jerkin’
Hips are movin’
Hear the beat now
Move your feet now
If you’re ready
Go rock steady
People are you ready?
This is rock steady

People get ready
This is rock steady
Keep those dancin’ shoes on
Keep those feet movin’
People are you ready?
This is rock steady

Although it offers no actual dance steps, Dandy Livingston’s “(People Get Ready) Let’s Do Rocksteady,” recorded in 1967 for King Edwards’ Giant label told us, “When you’re feeling blue, you know just what to do, do rocksteady, uh-huh.” There’s the Uniques’ “People Rocksteady” where Slim Smith sings, “Out in the moonlight we will dance.” And there were plenty of other songs that referenced the genre but not too many that gave us the dance steps we needed to do the dance, possibly because the era of the twist and mashed potato and stroll were now passé.

Share your thoughts on the rocksteady dance below, especially any memories from the days when it originated.

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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

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.

Shaggy

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

Grammy Award? Snoop Lion Gets it, We don’t!

I know some of you are still confused. ‘Should I call him Snoop Dogg, Snoop Lion or just Snoop?’ – is just one of the questions circulating about the new lion. Rest assured, all the sites that matter identify him as Snoop Lion recognising his self-appointed transformation, and he is clear about the inspiration which led him to change animal companions from the lowly dog to the powerful king of the jungle. In an interview with Entertainment Report (aired every Friday on Television Jamaica) Snoop said he felt he had grown beyond the reference ‘Dogg’ and having been inspired by Marley it was time he embraced the mighty ‘lion’ and simultaneously Rastafari. The latest statements were published in the January 26 edition of the Sunday Observer leading up to the much anticipated Grammy Awards. It revealed that ‘many dispute his claims and see it as exploitation’. 

Beyond the controversy over a transformational visit to Jamaica, one of the lasting things marking Snoop Lion’s change of heart with man’s best friend, is his album Reincarnation which ostensibly marks the journey. Not only is there Reincarnation, but the ‘documentary film Reincarnated  is now available along with Snoop Lion’s Reincarnated Photo Book’. 

Reincarnation

The twelfth studio album for American recording artist Snoop Lion, Reincarnation was released on April 23, 2013 under Berhane Sound System, Mad DecentVice Records and RCA Records. The album marks a departure from the well known hip hop template that has been shaped by Snoop. No less than Miley Cirus, Drake, Chris Brown, Akon, Busta Rhymes, our very own Mavado, Mr Vegas and Popcaan are guests on the musical product. ‘The album was produced by Major LazerAriel Rechtshaid, 6Blocc, Dre Skull, Supa Dups and Diplo, who also served as executive producer’. 

So let’s back up a bit! Snoop’s journey to Jamaica has been made indelible through branding on at least three different products, two of which are visual. The journey with its products could be argued is a classic popular cultural tactical move, one fraught with appropriation as a motive, circulating around an American-flavoured globalisation of the ‘ultimate cool’ Jamaica at the in/visible centre. Snoop Lion’s website says a little more about the escapade, and the release of the Reincarnated Photo Book featuring the all-important transformational Jamaican journey:  

 ‘The story of Snoop’s musical and spiritual journey to Jamaica, reaching its culmination during the recording of his most recent album…[is] captured in VICE and Snoopadelic Films documentary Reincarnated. This book is an extension of this powerful moment in the life of a pop culture icon captured by LA photographer Willie T. [It] includes extended interviews with Bunny Wailer, Louis Farrakhan, Chris Blackwell, Daz Dillinger, Angela Hunte, and conversations between Snoop and VICE—never-before-seen photographs and untold stories from his personal archives…his early days singing in church to his discovery at sixteen by Dr. Dre and his phenomenal life onstage and on tour to his gang involvement, and Snoop’s handwritten notes and nicknames for the characters along the way. It also includes the limited edition vinyl only given to a select few musical insiders before the album’s release.’

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REINCARNATED (ft. Snoop Dogg): Official Documentary Trailer

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Snoopermarket is the place to head if you’re in a hurry to get the book! But let me get back to the transformational Jamaican journey and the fact that it earned the album produced around that journey, a Grammy nomination. Where did all this begin? How do Jamaicans feel about the way in which the album has been received and is being consumed? How do Jamaican’s feel about the way the album represents Snoop’s Jamaican experience? Here’s one thought which appeared on Facebook:

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Bear in mind that Rastafari, even as it has been the memory of the Jamaican people, the historical compass for analysing the atrocities and breaches associated with enslavement and colonialism, and the philosophical pillar associated with how as disenfranchised Blacks in the Diaspora we might address our relationship with the oppressive forces of Babylon while purporting self-reliance but with a heart of ‘one love’ toward all, is the same Movement that has been persecuted and at best snubbed by especially the middle and upper classes. As I like to say, Rastafari is the outcast until the troubled soul needs to find its soothing yet revolutionary reggae music as medium for spiritual comfort. So, the opinion of Jamaicans in relation to Snoop Lion is to be seen in context with the troubled relationship historically between Rastafari, the Jamaican populace, and the nation state. 

A Pilgrimage to Jamaica

Before recording the album, Snoop Lion went on what could be called a pilgrimage to Jamaica investigating and communing with Nyabinghi Rastafari brethren. (Sidebar: How many Jamaicans have taken time out to learn about the Movement, much less take a pilgrimage to any of its mansions? Hmmmm.) Among the inspirational figures who made the journey an imperative were reggae musicians such as Jimmy CliffBob MarleyPeter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Gregory Isaacs. Snoop has declared – “I feel like I’ve always been Rastafari, I just didn’t have my third eye open.” (snooplion.com). Statements such as these are not entirely unusual. They are made by ordinary persons, visitors to the island, reggae and Rastafari initiates far and wide. However, we don’t have any degree of frequency in hearing such pronouncements from celebs, and certainly not Hip Hop celebs. And, no other initiate has reaped three products in such quick succession, at least in my memory, from a change of heart with the Lion of Judah.

Snoop Lion in Jamaica meditating with Nyabinghi Rastas

The proof of the cultural appropriation pudding is no doubt in the eating, and while reviews have acknowledged the album is worth a listen, we know that the Jamaican trip reaped benefits at least of sales, if not the coveted Grammy Award in the Best Reggae Album category. According to Snoop’s site, Reincarnation debuted at number 16 on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 21,000 copies in the United States. In its second week the album sold 8,600 more copies. In its third week the album sold 4,700 more copies. In its fourth week the album sold 2,900 more copies. As of June 26, 2013 the album has sold 50,000 copies in the United States. The album has been in the top 20 of many music charts from Australia and Austria to France and Spain. It also topped the US Top Reggae Albums, featured at number 16 on the US Billboard 200 chart and number 4 on the UK R&B Albums chart. Reincarnated, has sold some 90,000 units and is the best selling reggae album for 2013.

Q&A: Snoop Lion & Diplo Discuss Their ‘Reincarnated’ Reggae Project

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/480692/qa-snoop-lion-diplo-discuss-their-reincarnated-reggae-project

With Jamaican artists, many of whom are returning to reggae musical aesthetics in their recordings, struggling to sell albums and songs, comments in the wake of Snoop’s Grammy nomination have circulated around the quality of the music being produced in Jamaica, the fact that dancehall is dead, and most of all that artistes outside Jamaica have a greater appreciation for Jamaican music than those at home.

Before I had listened to the album or knew anything of how it was faring on the music sales scene, I heard of various comments made by industry insiders, most notable of whom is Roger Steffens, reggae archivist, Bob Marley collector, author, and photographer. Steffens, who headed the Grammy Awards Reggae Committee for 27 years, went on record saying it would be a travesty if Snoop won. Here’s the full article published in the Jamaica Observer:

‘Travesty if Snoop wins’

ROGER Steffens, who headed the Grammy Awards Reggae Committee for 27 years, says it would be a travesty if American rapper Snoop Lion won the Best Reggae Album category at next month’s show.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Steffens described Snoop as a “pretentious wanna-be”. He is also not impressed with nominees for Best Reggae Album who were announced last Friday in Los Angeles.
“I think it would be a travesty if Snoop wins. He, like Matisyahu and many others before him, have used a Rasta-influenced format and warped it toward their own ends,” said Steffens.
Snoop (formerly Snoop Dogg) is nominated for Reincarnated. He says his conversion to Rastafari was inspired by a visit to Jamaica in 2012 when he experienced a spiritual awakening while meeting with a group of Rastafarian elders.
Sly and Robbie and the Jam Masters’ Reggae Connection, Sizzla’s The Messiah, One Love, One Life by Beres Hammond and Ziggy Marley in Concert are the other nominees for Best Reggae Album.
Steffens formed the Reggae Committee and served as its chairman until 2011. He has openly criticised the selection process, claiming that judges favour albums produced by the Marley family.
The Marleys have dominated the category since it was established in 1985. Brothers Ziggy, Damian and Stephen have won Grammys as solo acts, while Ziggy and Steve won multiple times as members of Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers.
Steffens, considered an authority on Bob Marley and the Wailers, believes this year’s nominees maintain the trend of mediocre selections.
“The nominations this year fit into the pocket of name recognition more than anything else, regardless of sales or actual quality,” he said.
Reincarnated, with sales of over 80,000 units, is the best selling reggae album for 2013. The year has been poor in terms of sales by Jamaican artistes, with American reggae bands performing better on the Billboard charts.
The Snoop set attracted mass coverage from mainstream media in the United States, due to his conversion from ‘gangsta rap’ icon to cultural artiste.
The lanky rapper (real name Calvin Broadus) is one of the godfathers of gangsta rap which emerged out of southern California’s impoverished communities in the early 1990s with hardcore rap acts such as NWA and Ice T.
The 56th annual Grammy Awards is scheduled for the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on January 26.

Fast forward to the January 26, 2014 announcement of the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album with nominees Beres Hammond (One Love, One Life – VP Records), Ziggy Marley (Ziggy Marley In Concert -Tuff Gong Worldwide), Sizzla (The Messiah – VP Records), Sly & Robbie And The Jam Masters (Reggae Connection – K’z Records), and yes, Snoop Lion’s Reincarnated (RCA Records/Berhane Sound System/Boss Lady Ent.). We now know that Ziggy Marley copped the award amidst comments that there is a special place in the Grammy corridors for the Marleys. Whatever the result, and whether it would have been a travesty if Snoop won, there are important lessons to be learned from the rapper turned reggae artist. It is on this matter that I wish to dig a bit deeper.

While reggae music sales have shifted marginally for Jamaican artists such as Chronixx, Protege, Iba Mahr and Kabaka Pyramid who form part of the core of what is being called the ‘Reggae Revival’ placing the revolutionary commentary of Rastafari back in the music, there is something above and beyond sales that is critical. With the entire sales platform having shifted with digital sales overtaking other forms, and the disparity in access to iTunes for example, being a crucial factor in terms of location, buyers and distribution, Jamaican artistes would be well advised to tackle two important issues around music quality and that of management / distribution deals. It is full time that local Jamaican acts get that what it takes to break into the international market is solid music, rooted in the spirit of Jamaica, staying open to international collaborations, musical cross-fertilisation and even cultural appropriation. Afterall, let’s not get it twisted. Industry insiders will tell you Jamaica only has the making of an industry, but it will take understanding the parts of the market monopolised by Hip Hop stars turned reggae artists such as Snoop Lion to move beyond the challenges of quality and parochialism. These are key ingredients for protecting and advancing Jamaica’s musical pedigree and ultimately, Brand Jamaica.

Acknowledgment: Pictures of Snoop Lion courtesy of his website snooplion.com.

Read more about Reincarnated here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reincarnated_(album)

‘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’.

Abba -The Way Old Friends Do

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

Part II – Songs of Kingston’s Redemption

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“Sons of this nation sing these songs of redemption”

I cried tears. Tears of empathy, pain, sorrow, love, consideration, and joy. It was the most intense thing I had seen on Jamaican music and prison life. The most riveting exposure of not just prison life but the successful rehabilitation programme using music in Jamaica’s penal system. Fernando Garcia’s Songs of Redemption was one of the films screened at Rototom Sunsplash’s 20th staging last summer. It revealed a ‘prison with swag’, specifically the Tower Street Correctional Centre which has been long known as General Penitentiary or ‘GP’ for short.

Reminiscent of recordings such as ‘General Penitentiary’ by Black Uhuru, and set in a space originally housing slaves who arrived at Kingston Harbour for sale to the highest bidder for plantation labour, Garcia exposes the intensity of prison life in what feels like real time, and yet in a sensitive manner. The film is dedicated to activist Carla Gullotta, and portrays the journey of  inmates with musical inclination. It moves through the experiences of singers such as Serano Walker, Pity Less and Horseman as they collectively write, record, rehearse in spaces such as the ‘Bloom of Light Band Room’, and stage productions for invited guests and prison staff. The phenomenal transfer of frustration from the perils of life and its lessons into love and music produced sweet songs from the proverbial caged bird in a range of styles from dub poetry, to deejaying and singjaying. Serano, for example, had written some 200 songs since his incarceration, and magical self affirmation came for example as Pity Less changed his name to ‘Pity More’.

The heart-broken, dejected, and in some cases, abandoned inmates unveiled their dreams and life paths as they recorded redemption songs in the music studio established as part of the rehabilitation programme initiated by, among others,  Officers Gillette Ramsay and Leroy Fairweather (now retired). Horseman for example, who attended Alpha School for Boys since age thirteen, dreamt of surpassing Don Drummond’s genius and contribution. It was also Horseman who recorded the ultimate dream embodied in the line – ‘haffi hol’ back a girl inna wi arms again’.

The farewell for one of the rehabilitation programme’s fathers – Superintendent Leroy Fairweather who was due to retire –  brought emotions from heart to the tear ducts.  You see, it was this same ‘fairer than the weather’ guardian with a heart who believed that if prisoners are occupied there’d be less time for them to get into trouble. He affirmed that ‘prison is not made for dogs, [one is] punished and sent there, its not a place you go to for punishment’. For the film’s main characters, it was as if they were losing a parent.

Some of the strongest affirmations came from Serano and Pity More. Serano explained that he began feeling like a person, finding peace, and happiness through music. He was particularly vocal after the performance organized with visitors such as I Wayne and Bongo Herman after which he said it felt as though music was helping him to create a soul.

The film is ultimately one which makes a strong statement about the philosophy behind punitive measures which have no redemptive imperative. It is all about redemption, and as Pity More said –  ‘from you redeem yourself there is no condemnation’.

If the film has any shortcoming it would be the glaring omission of reference to Jah Cure who also participated in the rehabilitation programme and reaped such success that by the time of his release from prison he was a celebrity with net worth around JA$1 billion. When I mentioned this to the film producer he revealed that Jah Cure’s experience was not altogether positive.

With support from the Human Rights Programme of  the European Union, the film has been getting rave reviews  but don’t just take my word for it. Listen out for it coming to a theatre near you. Personally, I am looking forward to using it as a teaching resource.

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