Tag Archives: Jamaica

Discover the contemporary Jamaican dancehall scene

Noisey – a music site curated by Vice – recently went to Jamaica to explore the culture and people behind the contemporary dancehall scene. The documentary is executive produced by the recently reincarnated Snoop Dogg aka Snoop Lion and hosted by Vice Media producer Codine Williams, and includes great footage of Jamaica today and interviews with dancehall newcomers and veterans, such as the incarcerated Vybz Kartel, his protégé Popcaan and Lady Saw.

In the first episode Codine Williams visits Gaza, the Kingston area made famous by Vybz Kartel, to meet his crew and get people’s perspective on the controversial dancehall icon.

The second episode focuses largely on Popcaan and also glimpses into Jamaican club culture and its provocative fashion.

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Edward Seaga is back where it all started

Jamaica’s former Prime Minister Edward Seaga has teamed up with reggae giant VP Records on the newly released four disc genre spanning compilation Reggae Golden Jubilee – Origins of Jamaican Music with sounds spanning almost 50 years.

Edward Seaga

Edward Seaga is former Jamaican Prime Minister with a background in the music business.

Edward Seaga is 82 years old and has played a significant role in Jamaican politics ever since the island’s independence in 1962. He served as Prime Minister between 1980 and 1989 and was also leader of the conservative JLP for more than 30 years.

But he has also been instrumental in shaping Jamaica’s music industry and founded West Indies Records Limited (WIRL), a label that released early recordings from artists such as Byron Lee & The Dragonaires and Higgs & Wilson, a duo that scored a hit song with Manny Oh for him in 1959.

Now Edward Seaga is back in the music business where it all started and I talked to him about his career and also asked him to set some classic reggae tunes in context when it was first released. Check the full story over at United Reggae.

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Too many gone too soon

I started writing about reggae music about three years ago. Over these years a number of producers and artists have unfortunately passed away. Some died of natural causes, while other became victims of the seemingly endless violence in Jamaica.

The latest victim is the youthful voice of Matthew McAnuff, son of Winston and brother of Kush of Uprising Roots Band fame. He was murdered in Jamaica on Wednesday August 22 only 27 years old.

The list of murdered people in the music business in Jamaica is long. Too long.

Last year Joel Chin, A&R at VP Records, was murdered and the year before Oneil Edwards from Voicemail was gunned down outside his home.

You also have Pan Head, Peter Tosh, Dirtsman, General Echo, Hugh Mundell, King Tubby and Prince Far I. All were tragically murdered.

The violence in Jamaica has been infamous for decades. However, reports from earlier this year state that the murder rate is declining, and March 2012 had the lowest murder rate in more than nine years, according to U.S. research firm InSight Crime.

Statistics show that the murder rate also decreased in 2010 compared to 2009. In 2010 1,428 murders were reported compared to 1,682 in 2009, a decrease by 15 percent, according to Jamaica Observer.

Even though it’s going in the right direction, and has done so for some years now, the murder rate in Jamaica is still among the highest in the Caribbean.

Let’s hope that this positive trend continues, because far too many – both people in the music industry and others – are gone all too soon.

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Reggaemani celebrates Jamaica’s 50th anniversary

On August 6th 1962 the island nation of Jamaica attained full independence from Britain, and as a celebration of the 50th year of independence Reggaemani has put together a list of 50 favorite reggae albums, one for each decade.

This wide-ranging list doesn’t aim to provide a full picture of the country’s musical evolution, since it’s my personal favorites, which means the list leans towards the rootsier side of reggae.

I fell in love with reggae about 15 years ago, actually through punk rock and bands such as NOFX and Rancid. These bands incorporated ska in their music, and I loved the energy and intensity in both ska and punk.

I did some research, found The Skatalites and haven’t looked back since. I was immediately hooked and have travelled from ska and rocksteady via roots reggae and early dancehall to ragga and modern one drop. I guess you can say the ingenious sounds of Jamaica have made a lasting impression on me.

My 50 years of reggae music capture almost every sub-genre over the past five decades and the list includes game-changing albums, pivotal artists, crucial producers and massive anthems. It’s a journey through an innovative genre that has influenced popular culture, a genre that has made an undeniable mark on the global music map with its seminal sounds.

The 50 albums I have selected celebrate the momentous achievements in the past and I hope for an equally glorious future.

The list will be presented through five different articles, one for each decade. On Monday June 11 it’s 1962-1972, on Tuesday 1973-1982, on Wednesday 1983-1992, on Thursday 1993-2002 and on Friday 2003-2012.

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Man Free explores the Jamaican mentality

There are few countries in the world, known throughout all hemispheres, with only three million residents.

Jamaica is one such country. The global knowledge of this tiny island is mainly due to extraordinary achievements in sports and music, with dominant figures being Bob Marley and Usain Bolt. But Jamaica is also known for drugs, political corruption and crime.

But what drives the men and women behind the media light and headlines? And is there a particular Jamaican mentality? These are two questions U.S. director and writer Kinsey Beck is trying to answer in his documentary Man Free.

Meet a former taxi driver, a young female entrepreneur running her own bakery and two brothers making their living as artists as well as a man struggling with cocaine addiction wishing he had more power to fight it. Legendary Jamaican film maker and director Perry Henzell is also featured throughout setting a narrative to the story.

Man Free paints a picture of the ordinary Jamaican struggling to make his and hers day to day living. It’s picture full of ambitions and industriousness as well as hospitality and caring.

It’s an interesting glance into everyday life and its challenges and opportunities. But Man Free would have gained from having a harder angle, for instance by diving deeper into the life of one or two people.

The title is a Jamaican expression for somebody that does something you don’t particularly approve of, and the Jamaican just say “man free”. This expression sums it up pretty well – to get somewhere, you can’t always ask for permission, you have to take the chances you get, whether some people like it or not.

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VP Records’ representative killed in Jamaica

Joel Chin, A&R for reggae giant VP Records, was shot dead last night outside his home in Jamaica. He was 35 years old and the cause behind his killing is unknown.

Joel Chin literally grew up in the reggae business, since he was the grandson of the label’s founder Vincent Chin, son of famed reggae producer Clive Chin and nephew of VP Records’ owners Chris and Randy Chin.

He joined VP in the 90’s and was instrumental in launching and fostering the careers of international reggae stars such as Sean Paul, Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, Sizzla and Tarrus Riley.

Two years ago he relocated from New York to Jamaica to spend more time on music production, songwriting and developing rising talents. Joel wrote hit songs for many artists such as Elephant Man and Etana.

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The Dead Yard explores Jamaica and beyond

Jamaica is an island that holds many stories and mysteries. Some of them are told by guide books such as Lonely Planet. But if you want to reach beyond Montego Bay you should check out The Dead Yard – A Story of Modern Jamaica. A book that reveals many sides of this well documented island.

The Dead Yard is not a book about reggae. Nor is it an ordinary guide book. It is a scholarly written document about the past, present and future of a tropical paradise that has been subject for colonialism for many years. And the author Ian Thompson digs deep in the dark history of the former British Empire.

Ian Thompson must have spent many long hours in the library to research this book. He has also spent two years walking the streets, riding the buses and talking to a broad range of people of many different classes and colors.

He has interviewed artists, expats, religious leaders and ordinary Jamaicans as well as a host of others. This gives The Dead Yard its unique character with its mixture of an academic essay and journalistic documentary.

All the stories told in The Dead Yard show the beauty and tragedy of contemporary Jamaica. I have never been there, but when I do get there, I have a feeling I am thoroughly prepared for my journey.

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Luciano is troubled by the state of the world

Luciano is one of the most successful modern roots singers and has recorded several well-acclaimed albums since the 90’s. On his latest album – United States of Africa – he takes a political approach. Reggaemani has talked to him on the state of the world and his ideas for change.

One Way Ticket, Where There is Life, Sweep Over My Soul, Serious Times and now United States of Africa. The list of great albums from  Jamaican conscious singer Luciano is long,  probably due to his intense recording during many years and – of course – great voice and sense for melodies.

Luciano is in the UK with fellow singer Mikey General to do a concert in honour of the late and great Lincoln “Sugar” Minott. When in the UK he’ll also record some dub plates and new 45’s.

Personality shows on the new album
United States of Africa has received great reviews around the world and many seem to regard it one of his best albums yet.

− Even John Masouri said it had great vibes, laughs Luciano over the phone, and explains the success factors:

− I’ve been able to express myself more with these roots riddims and I think my personality comes out well. It’s a selection of original riddims that run right through my veins.

Luciano says he has matured a lot since the last album and that he has done United States of Africa for his people.

− You can’t always sing about going to Zion. Many young people see me as a messenger and I have to sing about what happens in the world, he explains.

Important message
Luciano is in a great mood and is keen to talk about the new album and the core message of it; a unification of Africa.
 
− I think there is hypocrisy in the world. You talk about one Europe and one world order. But it’s a shame and disgrace what happens in Mama Africa. Mama Africa is still suffering and no one is realizing it, he states and gives an example:
 
− For example, there’s no picture of me on the album. These are serious matters and I want a unification of our people.

“Corruption has gone out of hand”
Luciano is obviously interested in politics, so I asked him about his view of U.S. President Barack Obama.
 
− It was time for a change in the U.S. There have been too many plutocrats and bureaucrats and the whole world is affected by the U.S. For example, people turn a blind eye on the oil spilling. But it doesn’t only affect the U.S. It’s travelling along the waters and causes a big threat.
 
He’s now excited and talks considerably faster. It’s hard to follow all his reasoning. To get things even more interesting I decide to ask him about Jamaican politics.
 
− Brother Erik, I’m glad you asked. There’s a pressure in Jamaica right now. There’s financial strain. Every country that Jamaica owes money has come to collect it. This is therefore reflected in the streets, he says and continues:
 
− The corruption has got out of hand and I think it’s too late now. Sedentary is a word that describes the situation well.
 
To solve the problems he has a simple and illustrative idea.
 
− I think you have to straighten where it’s crooked.

Vote for the Almighty
Luciano is troubled by the corruption in the world and explains that there are at least three professions that need attention from politicians.
 
− Corruption is everywhere in the world and I believe that the governments need to pay more attention to sports, nurses and musicians – people who are not getting paid properly. Artists are due to get the respect they deserve, he explains in a serious tone and then adds:
 
− The government just turns a blind eye on musicians! It’s a joke!
 
Several of Luciano’s albums are religious so it’s no surprise who he votes for.
 
− I vote for the Almighty. A bureaucratic government doesn’t work; it has to be ruled by the Almighty.

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David Rodigan loses faith in Jamaican music

In recent years, Jamaica has moved from characteristic reggae rhythms and become more influenced by hip-hop, R&B and house. A direction British legendary selector and radio DJ David Rodigan is not fond of.

I meet David Rodigan an early autumn afternoon at a hotel in central Stockholm, just around the corner from the venue where he will be performing at Stockholm Reggaeklubb eight hours later.

He is well spoken, polite and thoughtful. Picture yourself a selector, and probably nothing about it says David Rodigan.

He turns 60 next year. Impeccably dressed in blue jeans, white and blue striped shirt, wind coat and sneakers.

He has a cold, and his doctor has told him to talk as little as possible. But that doesn’t stop him from giving his view on the music coming from Jamaica today, music that’s not what it used to be.

– The development of Jamaican reggae is due to satellite television, says David Rodigan crassly and states:

– Jamaicans has been influenced by American dance videos.

“We’re getting mugged”
It’s clear that he is not fond of current music from Jamaica and describes the hit songs Hold Yuh and Clarks as novelty tunes.

– I can’t see the point of it anymore. This type of music is odd, he says, and continues:

– They’ve forgotten what Jamaica is famous for; the structure and melodic output of reggae.

We get into a discussion about contemporary Jamaican singers and deejays. I mention Mavado and that most of his performance at Uppsala Reggae Festival a month ago was off key.

– We’re getting mugged, David bursts out:

– They can’t sing!

Can’t see the point
He seems to have lost his faith in the Jamaican music industry and says that they have to change their ways.

– The music made is not Jamaican, and it doesn’t export. It’s lacking credibility which is a problem. And we don’t want another version of Real Rock. I mean, I don’t know what we had done without Dean Fraser, Christopher Ellis, Julian Marley or Stephen Marley, he explains, and continues:

– I don’t see the point of what’s being made in Jamaica now.

However, the Jamaican music industry isn’t the only one in trouble, since no one seems to buy music anymore. This is a subject that gets David going as well.

– The music industry has collapsed. No new records are being pressed, Jamaica is all about mp3’s which are lacking information. He continues:

– It’s empty, not mixed properly or mastered. There’s no substance, just a waste of time downloading them. Before there was an end product. Now there’s no vinyl, no CD and no licensing possibilities.

David Rodigan’s favourites
Some might criticize him for living in the past. But despite his harsh words, there are many artists he rates highly these days.

– Konshens, Etana, Tarrus Riley and Romain Virgo, he says and starts humming a Konshens tune but can’t remember the title.

David explains he’s always hunting for new stuff and that you’ve to move forward. He’s a big fan of Busy Signal and gives some examples of what he’s listening to.

– The Big Stage rhythm is nice, especially My Heart Says No by Cameal Davis. I admire Alborosie, he’s immensely talented and has various skills, producer, singer, technician.  Gappy Ranks also has some nice stuff. And the new Gentleman album and the new from Cornadoor. Million Stylez is also talented and has a unique style.

Di Trees from Aidonia and Tarrus Riley on the Go Go Club rhythm. It’s not a reggae rhythm, it’s basically house, but it’s good, it’s interesting.

And that’s what it’s essentially all about. It doesn’t have to be core reggae or dancehall. As long as it’s well crafted, well written and well produced.

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“Dudus” Coke arrested

Jamaican druglord Christopher “Dudus” Coke has been captured in Jamaica and is now facing extradition to the United States, according to British Telegraph. Reports from Jamaica say that he was on his way to hand himself in when he was detained. Christopher Coke will now be extradited to the United States, where prosecutions are waiting for drug dealing and arms trafficking.

A long and deadly hunt is finally over. At least 73 people were killed during four days of fighting in May when police and soldiers stormed into the Tivoli Gardens in Kingston.

Christopher Coke is in many parts of Kingston seen as a hero and is, according to the Telegraph, hailed by many residents as a Robin Hood figure who offers security and small-time jobs on some of the world’s toughest streets.

Since the riots began in May some Jamaican artists has released pleas for peace, for example Anthony B with the tune Sweet Jamaica and Busy Signal’s Let Peace Reign.

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