Tag Archives: Heartical

A decade of reggae greats from Irie Ites

album-various-artists-irie-ites-a-decade-of-reggae-musicFrench label and production house Irie Ites celebrate a ten year anniversary this year and part of the celebrations is a glorious compilation titled 2003/2013 A Decade of Reggae Music.

It collects 14 tracks on a broad variety of riddims and remixes, including Chezidek’s militant Bun Di Ganja on a relentless version of the Strange Things riddim, Ras Mac Bean and Morgan Heritage’s uplifting Lion is King, rock stone voiced dancehall deejay Bounty Killer’s Push Over on a version of the rock steady classic Stop That Train and Lutan Fyah’s catchy Take a Lick.

Irie Ites has together with labels and producers such as Heartical and Special Delivery put France on the reggae map. These three labels have put out some of the most consistent albums and riddims for the past ten years. And this compilation is together with Heartical Story Vol. 1 & 2 and Special Delivery’s The First Decade (2001 – 2011) a strong statement of the burgeoning and innovative French reggae scene.


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Another fine reggae compilation from France

Last week Reggaemani wrote about French label Special Delivery’s tenth anniversary compilation, and now it’s time for another brilliant various artists album from the land of berets and baguettes.

Heartical Story – Vol. 2 is the follow-up to last year’s first edition and is based on material from French sound system and label Heartical, an operation established in 1999.

This second version collects 20 tracks recorded and released over the years 2003 to 2012. It’s a musical journey via eight riddims played by Basque Dub Foundation (BDF), with 18 high profile vocalists hailing from Jamaica and England.

The set opens with Steel Pulse’s Grammy Award-winning lead vocalist David Hinds over the Ministerio del Dub riddim followed by a conscious anthem by veteran Little Roy.

Other highlights include cuts on the haunting Slaving, Promised Land and Fade Away riddims respectively. All three are relicks of classic Jamaican riddims originally recorded in the 70’s.

Four bonus cuts are also thrown in – two heavyweight instrumentals, of which one is lead by a grim organ and the other lead by a sorrowful melodica, as well as a dub of I Know Myself riddim and an authentic special dubplate version by U Brown.

Heartical Story – Vol. 2 is now available on CD and digital download and it’s in the same vein as its predecessor – fine slices of roots reggae from the thriving and prosperous French reggae scene.


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The vibrating French reggae scene

France has established itself as one of the leading reggae countries. Producers such as Special Delivery, Irie Ites and Frenchie have put the country on the map and new producers and labels are popping up like mushrooms, both in France and in the French West Indies.

Reggae has been in Europe almost since the music’s inception in Jamaica some 50 years ago.

Britain was – and maybe still is – the leading European country for reggae music due to the large Jamaican population and that the island up until 1962 was a British colony. With many immigrants from the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, it was natural that the UK took reggae seriously.

But recently something has happened. According to me, the baton has been handed over to France. Or at least partly.

Serge Gainsbourg was a reggae pioneer
National idol Serge Gainsbourg is probably not widely known for his reggae productions. But he was a reggae pioneer and has meant a great deal to reggae in France, mainly for the general public.

In 1979 he dropped Aux armes et cætera, an album that partly meant a bigger breakthrough for reggae in the country. The album was recorded in Jamaica with musicians such as Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and The I Threes. But what got the most attention was the title track, a sarcastic reggae version of the French national anthem La Marseillaise.

Serge Gainsbourg is probably not widely known to the reggae audience though.

Started with sound systems
Frenchie – French producer from Maximum Sound and nowadays based in London – says that the reggae scene in France really exploded in the mid 90’s. According to him, reggae has been in France since the beginning of the 80’s.

“The journey of the French reggae scene is interesting as it started really with the sound system movement and the toasters/deejays in the mid 80’s more on a ragga tip. Now it has gone very rootsy with a lot of reggae groups doing very well,” explains Frenchie, and continues:

“The first French reggae records I remember were Pablo Master’s En a en i en o, Mikey Mossman’s La Cocaine and Pupa Leslie with Ausswiss.”

Back then only a few labels were putting out Jamaican music and Blue Moon Records used to license material from Greensleeves in the late 80’s.

Regulations changed the game
But something changed. And it was due to new governmental regulations according to Frenchie.

“In the mid 90’s the government introduced quotas in France which obliged radio and TV to play 70 per cent French speaking music. That revolutionized the reggae scene as it was the gateway for record companies to sign all the DJ’s and singers who were on the sound system circuit,” says Frenchie.

Since then much has happened. Particularly in terms of producers and labels. These are the words of Pierre Bost, co-founder of Special Delivery Music.

“The French reggae scene is not really that big. There are several great producers, but less successful artists, in international terms. Local singers are not that recognized internationally and the producers are therefore mostly interested in Jamaican and other European artists,” he says.

Vibrating scene
The French scene differs from the rest of Europe. For example, many of the artists sing in French instead of English with a patois accent.

“France has probably the largest local scene in Europe and we were early with our own reggae artists such as Tonton David, Raggasonic and Pierpoljak,” says Sir Joe, founder of label and sound system Heartical.

Sir Joe points out that France, in addition to the UK, has been the best in European reggae since the late 70’s.

“The first sound system shows in France took place in 1979 with Lone Ranger on the mic. But it took another ten years before the sound system culture reached the rest of Europe. Since the 70’s we have also had regular yearly tours including artists like U Roy, Gladiators or Israel Vibration. There are many veterans who visit France,” says Sir Joe.

Sir Joe highlights the country’s demographics as a key reason behind the reggae interest.

“France has the largest African population in Europe and also a huge quantity of immigrants coming from the French West Indies and overseas territories. It is no surprise that reggae has been popular here for so long,” explains Sir Joe.

New found interest
In recent years the popularity of reggae has spread in France, notes both Pierre Bost and Frenchie.

“Since the mid-90’s, interest has spread from French Africans to the white audience. There is now a very mixed audience,” says Pierre Bost.

Frenchie says that that he started to see a lot of French labels producing Jamaican artists around the year 2000, and the whole European production thing outside of the UK really started from Germany with Pow Pow and Germaican records.

“I think a lot of people were doing specials for their sounds in France and from then started to produce records with the knowledge they learned from producing artists on dub plates,” explains Frenchie, and continues:

“Reggae has always been strong in France, especially roots music. Europe is one of the biggest markets for reggae and there is a void in the business today, as Jamaica is not producing the kind of reggae Europeans like so they have taken matters in there own hands and are producing what they love. And are doing well with it.”

Production crew Irie Ites also believes that the French people are mainly interested in roots, and that the scene has gained a lot from producers visiting Jamaica.

“Now that the French producers know the music business and the reggae scene most of them go to Jamaica regularly and learn a lot. Jamaica represents the roots, the essence of this music. It also gives a lot of inspiration when you are there,” says Jericho from Irie Ites.

Bashment gaining interest
The interest in different genres differs between audiences, according to Pierre Bost. One drop is the biggest, but dancehall and Jamaican bashment is on the rampage.

Frenchie has also noticed this segmentation, and says:

“There is a clear division in the market in France. The French West Indian population from Guadeloupe and Martinique really like dancehall and French people like roots music more.”

Pierre Bost fills in:

“The West Indian audience is mostly interested in hard dancehall. But there are not many French producers making this type of reggae today,”

“We mainly do one drop since it’s doesn’t feel like a fad. That music will stand the test of time.”


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Heartical celebrates an impressive journey

Heartical is originally a French sound that started in 1999, and has since played all over the globe. They have clashed against, and juggled with, some of the biggest sounds in Europe and Jamaica, including Killamanjaro from Jamaica, Massive B from the U.S. and Supersonic from Germany.

In 2001 the crew launched their label aimed at releasing old school roots music. To date over 50 titles have been released on vinyl and digital download.

As a ten year celebration Heartical is now set to put out its first official compilation featuring an impressive line of artists. Most of them reggae legends like Johnny Osbourne, Little Roy and the late Sugar Minott and Alton Ellis, who sings Peaceful Valley over the Ministerio del Dub riddim, which must have been one of his last recordings.

Heartical Story compiles 20 tunes – 17 vocals and three instrumentals – built on eight riddims from BDF (Basque Dub Foundation). Most riddims are relicks of classics such as Derrick Harriott’s pulsating Tonight, Glen Brown’s haunting Slaving and Studio One’s Far East or the rolling Real Rock.

The compilation is a minor chord celebration in a foundation style. This is roots music as it was meant to be. Just listen to Lone Ranger in Original Style. It’s the chatting Ranger with his ribbiting and oinking against the riddim led by an apocalyptic organ.

Now available as digital download and on CD on June 6th.

Heartical Story shows that none of these foundational artists have lost their flow. They sound just as fresh in the 2000’s as they did in the 70’s and 80’s.

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Heartical presents a series of veteran releases

Heartical – a French label and sound – has announced the release of four unreleased singles on the Far East riddim, originally recorded at Studio One in the 70’s. The most well-known version is perhaps Barrington Levy’s Don’t Fuss Nor Fight/Sweet Reggae Music produced by Henry “Junjo” Lawes.

The riddim is rebuilt by Basque Dub Foundation and features nice performances from veterans Mykal Rose, Ranking Joe, Jah Mikey, Carlton Livingston, Papa Kojak and Josey Wales’ younger brother Daddy Shark.

The younger generation is represented by Spanish vocal duo Rootsmala and Chronicle, a Jamaican vocalist that recorded for many Jamaican labels in the late 80’s before going on to record for U.S. label Massive B.

These releases will be available on October 3 on vinyl 7” and on October 15 as legal download.

If you’re curious on this version, feel free to download the megamix below (right click, save as).

Far East – Heartical


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Franska reggaeproducenter på framfart

Frankrike har sedan en tid tillbaka etablerat sig som ett av de främsta länderna för reggae. Producenter som SheRkhan, Irie Ites och Frenchie har satt landet på kartan med ett gigantiskt kryss. Reggaemani har pratat med två franska producenter för att höra mer om den franska reggaescenen.

Storbritannien var länge bäst på reggae i Europa. Med många invandrare från den karibiska övärlden var det naturligt att de tog reggaen på allvar. Men på senare tid har något hänt. I min värld har stafettpinnen lämnats över till Frankrike.

Nationalidolen Serge Gainsbourg är inte känd för sina reggaeproduktioner, men faktum är att han har betytt en hel del för reggaen i Frankrike. I alla fall för den breda allmänheten.

1979 släppte han plattan Aux armes et cætera som delvis innebar reggaens genombrott i landet. Albumet spelades in på Jamaica med musiker som Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare och The I Threes. Men det som fick mest uppmärksamhet var titellåten, en sarkastisk reggaeversion av den franska nationalsången Marseljäsen.

Scenen inte så stor
Sedan dess har mycket hänt. Framför allt på producentfronten. Det menar i alla fall Pierre Bost, en fransos med många musikaliska järn i elden. Han är bland annat en av grundarna till skivbolaget Special Delivery Music och dessutom A&R på VP Records. Jag får tag på honom när han sitter i bilen på väg hem från jobbet och han är märkbart road av att prata om fransk reggae.

− Den franska reggaescenen är egentligen inte så stor. Det finns många bra producenter, men färre framgångsrika artister. Lokala sångare är inte särskilt stora internationellt och producenterna är därför mest intresserade av jamaicanska och andra europeiska artister, säger han på skön franskklingande engelska.

Den franska scenen skiljer sig från övriga Europa. Bland annat eftersom många av artisterna gärna sjunger på franska istället för engelska med patois-brytning.

− Frankrike har förmodligen den största lokala scenen i Europa och vi var tidiga med egna reggaeartister, exempelvis Tonton David, Raggasonic och Pierpoljak, skriver Sir Joe, grundare till skivbolaget och soundsystemet Heartical, i ett mejl till Reggaemani.

Lång historia
Sir Joe påpekar också att Frankrike, utöver Storbritannien, varit bäst i Europa på reggae sedan slutet av 70-talet.

− Det första franska soundsystemet spelade redan 1979 tillsammans med Lone Ranger. Men det tog ytterligare tio år innan soundsystemkulturen nådde övriga Europa. Sedan 70-talet har vi dessutom haft turnéer med bland annat U Roy, Gladiators och Israel Vibration. Det är många veteraner som besöker Frankrike, menar han.

Sir Joe lyfter fram landets demografi som en viktig anledning bakom reggaeintresset.

− Frankrike har den största afrikanska befolkningen i Europa samt den största delen immigranter från Västindien. Det är ingen överraskning att reggae varit populärt här under så lång tid, skriver han.

Bredare intresse
Under senare år har intresset för reggae spridit sig i Frankrike. Det noterar Pierre Bost och framhåller att det tidigare var mest afrikaner som lyssnade på reggae.

− Sedan mitten av 90-talet har intresset spridit sig från franska afrikaner till den vita publiken. Det har blivit en väldigt mixad publik, berättar han.

Intresset för olika genrer skiljer sig dock åt bland publiken menar Pierre Bost. One drop är helt klart störst, men dancehall och jamaicansk bashment är på framfart.

− Den västindiska publiken är mest intresserad av hård dancehall. Men det finns inga franska producenter som gör den typen av reggae i dag, säger han och fortsätter:

− Vi jobbar helst med one drop eftersom det inte känns som en fluga. Den musiken kommer att stå emot tidens tand.

Nyfiken på att höra hur det låter? Spana in några av de här artisterna och producenterna:

Admiral T, Daddy MoryThe Dynamics, KankaLyricson, No More Babylon, Pierpoljak, Saël och Tiwony.

Bost & Bim, Grant Phabao, Frenchie, Greatest Friends, Heartical, High Fly MusicInk A LinkIrie Ites, Lion Roots SoundOwn Mission, Special Delivery MusicTune In Crew och Zion Gate.

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