Tag Archives: Maximum Sound

Frenchie persuaded Captain Sinbad back into the studio

Captain Sinbad in Jamaica where his new album was recorded.

Captain Sinbad in Jamaica where his new album was recorded.

Captain Sinbad’s debut album The Seven Voyages of Captain Sinbad from 1982 is one of my favorite early deejay dancehall albums. And despite its greatness and eye-catching cover sleeve, Captain Sinbad is rather unknown in the reggae music business compared to some of his contemporaries.

He recorded another two albums and a number of singles in the 80’s and then went on to producing and being an important figure behind the scenes.

His new album Reggae Music Will Mad Unu! is his first after being away from the limelight for a very long time. To do another album, or to record again for that matter, Frenchie of Maximum Sound had to persuade him back into the studio. His initial new singles Jamaica 50, Worldwide Rebellion and Capital Offence went down really well among the record buyers.

I had the opportunity to have a chat with Captain Sinbad when he was in Jamaica “having fun in the sun” as he described it. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever interviewed and we talked about the new album, the early dancehall scene and his respect for Frenchie. Check the full story over at United Reggae.

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Captain Sinbad is back with a bang

sinbad promoAbout ten years ago I stumbled upon an LP with a wicked cover sleeve in a record shop. I knew the label, Greensleeves, and the producer, Henry “Junjo” Lawes, but I had never heard of the artist – Captain Sinbad.

Judging by the cover, the producer and the label I bought the album. And I was blown away. Completely. Apart from The Seven Voyages of Captain Sinbad I haven’t found any of this deejay’s scarce output. The man also retired from the limelight about 20 years ago. Fortunately enough Frenchie of Maximum Sound has persuaded him back into the public eye.

His first recording after these 20 years was the lethal Worldwide Rebellion on the Skateland Killer riddim released two years back. And last year he dropped the equally lethal Capital Offence and Jamaica 50.

These three eminent tracks are now followed by an album – Reggae Music Will Mad Unu! – for Frenchie’s Maximum Sound imprint. It collects eleven fresh and original tunes, of which five are vocal cuts, five are dub versions and one is a vocal and dub in one.

Just like Captain Sinbad’s debut album it has magnificent cover art and the music is, again, just as great. Frenchie has taken hip-hop, roots and early dancehall and made one hell of an album. It’s crisp and clear and sounds like Henry Lawes would have resurrected from the dead and started to produce again. It’s vintage, but never nostalgic. This is how contemporary reggae and dancehall should sound.

Reggae Music Will Mad Unu! is available on vinyl. The album will also soon be made available on digital platforms, but that edition has a different track listing and doesn’t include the dub versions, versions that are crucial to say the least.

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50 best reggae songs in 2012

So it’s that time of the year again. December means best-of-the-year-lists, and first out is the best songs put out in 2012.

This year I decided to make a huge list covering no less than 50 tracks, mainly for two reasons – it has been a great year for both reggae and dancehall and I also wanted to present a list showcasing several different styles – dancehall, dubstep, one drop and UK steppers are all included on the list.

Just as previous years the list features mostly artists from Jamaica, while the producers hail from Europe, the U.S. and Jamaica. What makes this year’s list a bit different though is the inclusion of lots of dancehall. This year has been fruitful for electronic, bouncy and playful dancehall.

When browsing the list you’ll probably notice that Tarrus Riley is still the artist running the show. On the production side Frenchie from Maximum Sound is perhaps the most reliable and consistent producer and all of his riddims from 2012 are included in the list.

Female singers are few and far between. It’s a pity, but it’s sadly how the reggae industry looks like. A one riddim album usually has about ten tracks, and of these one, or at most two, are by female artists. This has been the case for years, and nothing indicates a change in the near future.

The tracks are presented in no particular order and I’ve only selected tracks released as singles, from one riddim albums or from compilations, i.e. no one artist albums.

If you’re curious about the music you can check a playlist I’ve made on Spotify by clicking here. This list doesn’t however cover all tracks, and lethal gems such as General Levy’s Dub Murda on Irie Ites’ Stop That Sound riddim or Loyal FlamesKeep Focus. The latter is currently only available as 7” and the former is available on other digital platforms, for example iTunes.

Song title – artist (label – riddim)

Capital Offence – Captain Sinbad (Maximum Sound – Rudebwoy be Nice)

Selecta – Rayvon (Ranch Ent. – Kingston 13)

Final Move – Cornadoor & Kabaka Pyramid (Weedy G Soundforce)

Original Dancehall Days – Starkey Banton (Mafia & Fluxy – Bun n’ Cheese)

We Run It –Tarrus Riley (Charlie Pro)

Go Down – Machel Montano (Mixpak – Loudspeaker)

It’s a Party – Elephant Man & Tarrus Riley (Romeich – Stinking Link)

Shots – Voicemail (Akom – Full Swing)

No Barbershop – Conkarah (Lifeline – Rock Fort Rock)

Badmind a Kill Dem – Popcaan (UPT 007 – Juicy)

Trod in the Valley – Lorenzo (Irie Ites – Borderline RMX)

Chill Spot – Chris Martin (Chimney – Chill Spot)

Independent Ladies – Gaza Slim (TJ – Summer Wave)

Chant Rastafari – Tarrus Riley (Maximum Sound – Most Royal)

Blood Thirsty – Jah Mali (Necessary Mayhem – Possessed)

Fire Fire – Capleton (Dynasty – Kush Morning)

Perilous Times – Luciano (Maximum Sound – Dance Ruler)

Start A Fyah – Chronixx (Jungle Josh – Game Theory)

Cyaan Tek Di System – Burro Banton (Weedy G Soundforce – Roadster)

Make It Bun Dem – Skrillex & Damian Marley (Big Beat)

Kingston Town Remix – Busy Signal & Damian Marley (VP)

Addicted – Conkarah & Denyque (Lifeline)

Irie Collie – The Tamlins (Irie Ites – Jah Jah Man)

Nuh Rate Dem – Capleton (DJ Frass – Cross Fire)

Sorry Is A Sorry Word – Tarrus Riley (TJ – Live In Love)

OK – Sizzla & Neïman (Union World – Melodical Fyah)

Jump + Rock + Move – Wrongtom & Deemas J (Tru Thoughts)

Blaze & Rum – Etzia & Fambo (Jugglerz – Kickdown)

Let Jah Lead The Way – Iba Mahr (Notice Productions – Digital Love)

Badmind Dem A Pree – I Octane & Bounty Killer (Markus)

Wild Bubble – Voicemail (Cr203/ZJ Chrome – Wild Bubble)

We Nah Bow – Sizzla (Boom Shak – We Nah Bow)

Obeah Man – Turbulence & I Shenko (Riddim Wise – Downtown)

Kingston Be Wise – Protoje (Don Corleon)

Upgrade – Ce’Cile (21st Hapilos – Corner Shop)

Dub Murda – General Levy (Irie Ites – Stop That Sound)

Them See Me As A Threat – Lutan Fyah (Adde Instrumentals/RR345 Muzik – Sweet Sounds)

Again And Again – Stein (Cashflow – Sun Tan)

Mama – Christopher Martin (DZL – Perfect Key)

Party – Top Cat (Weedy G Soundforce – Jump Up!)

R.A.S.T.A.F.A.R.I. – Professa Natti (Scoops)

Sound System Culture – Digitaldubs & YT (Scotch Bonnet)

Words Of My Mouth – Earl Sixteen (The Bombist – Words Of My Mouth)

How Do You Like My Music – Terry Linen (TeTe)

Keep Focus – Loyal Flames (Vikings – Focus)

I’m A Survivor – Peetah Morgan (Special Delivery – Feel Good)

The Streets of London – Soothsayers (Red Earth)

Every Single Thought – Christopher Martin (Jugglerz – Street Soul)

Badda Dan Dem – Beenie Man (Radio Active)

Jamaica 50 – Captain Sinbad (Maximum Sound – Leggo Di Riddim)

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Raggasonic’s back with a bang

Legendary French deejay and singer duo Raggasonic is back after a ten year hiatus, where Big Red and Daddy Mory wanted to focus on their solo careers. Reputedly “everyone” has over the years asked them when they would link again, and apparently the pressure to record together became too hard.

Raggasonic 3 is their highly anticipated third album and it picks up just where Raggasonic 2 left off 15 years ago, and the new album is a natural follow-up and happily enough it offers more of the same good old Raggasonic.

It might have to do with world-renowned French producer Frenchie, who has been instrumental in shaping Raggasonic’s sound. He’s fortunately onboard again, but he’s not sole producer, and DJ Vadim, Animal Son, Central Massive and Young Veterans have also contributed with material to the album.

All riddims are brand new, except for Dans La Rue, backed by Frenchie’s Eek-A-Mouse-inspired Skateland Killer riddim, and offers a variety of styles and directions, including hip-hop, roots reggae, dancehall and electronica.

Raggasonic has never shied away from tough lyrical content, and on Raggasonic 3 the duo sings about the tough realities facing many people today, especially the younger generation. And they do it with passion and burning intensity.

This is an urban and contemporary effort, and even though it might not sell double gold, as the debut album did, but Raggasonic will hopefully appeal to a much wider audience today than 15 years ago. Don’t let the language be a barrier, and check out this solid album.

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Crucial as usual from Frenchie

In November 2010 Maximum Sound producer and owner Frenchie launched a new label called Calabash for roots and steppers, a different branch compared to his usual output.

Its first four first 10”s were lethal remixes of Jah Mason, Alborosie, Luciano and Yami Bolo conducted by Russ Disciples.

Another four 10”s were put out recently. This time it’s Russ Disciples together with Dougie Wardrop that have given Frenchie’s Dunza 2010, The Session and Matches Lane riddims the steppers treatment.

The riddims comes with dub versions and are of course heavy as lead with pulsating bass lines and nightmare-infused echoes and effects.

The 10”s are released as limited edition so be quick and grab your copy, because these are on fire.

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Reggaemani’s best tunes 2011

December is one of my favorite months. Not because of the cold Swedish winter. Nor the short days and long nights up here in northern Europe. I like the Christmas holidays though. But that’s not why December is a great month.

The reason is the making of lists. I love structuring the year and go through all the music I have received during the past twelve months. And it’s a tough job sorting it all out.

This year Reggaemani will publish three lists – the best tunes in 2011, the best albums in 2011 and overall highlights in 2011.

As you might already have figured out this list is focusing on my favorite tunes this year.

The main criteria for making the list is of course being a great song. But I’ve also only picked tunes that have been released as singles or being part of a riddim compilation. No album tunes so to speak.

I’ve also tried to make the list as diverse as possible. I hope there is a little something for everyone – lovers rock, dancehall, roots reggae and hip-hop infused one drop.

One thing that became apparent when I made this list is that the year mainly belonged to one artist – Tarrus Riley. He has made a number of excellent tunes in 2011 and I could easily have done a top ten with just his output without feeling embarrassed.

The list includes 21 tunes. An odd number you might say. The reason is because when I had made the list I was exposed to a huge tune released in December. I didn’t want to change my initial list and decided to just add another title.

Apart from the list I’ve also added some space for the tunes that are bubbling and hanging out just outside the main list. It’s nothing wrong with these little creatures, so check them out as well.

Most of the tunes are easily available on digital platforms or streaming services. If you use Spotify you can download a list with most of the tunes here.

Artist – Title (Riddim)

1. Captain Sinbad – World Wide Rebellion (Skateland Killer)
Producer Frenchie’s longtime friend chats old school style over this lethal Star Daily News or Gleaner inspired one drop. The Eek A Mouse sample is pure genius.

2. Burro Banton & Joe Lickshot – Sound Exterminator (Sound Exterminata)
The man with the rockstone voice in a sound boy murder style.

3. Queen Ifrica – Pot Still Haffi Bubble (Pursue)
An infectious repetitive chorus alongside anthemic flag waving verses.

4. Romain Virgo – I’m Rich in Love
Uptempo modern lovers rock produced by Donovan Germain.

5. Jah Mason – Mr. Government (Sensimillionaire)
Jah Mason flows effortlessly over this pounding riddim.

6. Protoje & Don Corleone – Our Time Now
Didn’t make it onto Protoje’s debut album due to legal issues, but it leaked and made into this list.

7. Luciano – Identity (Fairground)
Luciano continues his conscious style lyrics and comments on skin bleaching and vanity.

 8. Fantan Mojah – Rasta Got Soul (Think Twice)
A James Brown styled Fantan Mojah sings and pays tribute to legendary reggae artists – “If me no call your name, please catch me inna di next song, cause the list a di name a to long.”

9. Carl Meeks – Jah is Alive (Speaker)
80’s singer Carl Meeks has a unique singing style that suits this bouncy riddim very well.

10. Tarrus Riley – Chaka Zulu Pickney (The Nyabinghi)
An always inspired Tarrus Riley sings about historical black leaders.

11. D Major – That’s What Love’s About (Heart and Soul)
The first one drop riddim from the Further Notice camp is all about smoothness and sweet harmonies.

12. Ward 21 – Take a Wif (Jah Army)
A relick of Black Uhuru’s General Penitentiary and just about every cut on this riddim is worth having, and this is particularly devastating.

13. Ky-Mani Marley – Brave Ones (Message)
Producer Don Corleone has a great feel for pop melodies, and this one is no exception.

14. Yami Bolo – Babylon System (Bellyfull)
Weeping and wailing waterhouse style from Yami Bolo. The hip-hop inspired relick of The Gladiator’s Bellyfull is a real gem, and the Albert Griffith’s vocal sample makes all the difference.

15. Chino & Denyque – Driving Me Insane
Chino & Denyque in a modern version of Shabba Ranks’ Mr. Loverman.

16. Jah Sun & Gentleman – Tear Drops (Alive)
Europe meets the U.S. in fine style.

17. Tarrus Riley – Lala Warriors (Gorilla)
Curtis Lynch has produced yet another hefty riddim with a contagious chorus.

18. I-Octane – Cyan Do Wi Nuttn
Raspy voiced I-Octane has had a successful 2011, and his best effort was this Russian-produced dancehall tune.

19. Assassin & Bounty Killer – Ghetto State of Mind (Ghetto State)
Both Assassin and Bounty Killer must have been bread on gravel and small stones. Their rockstone voices suit this hip-hop-tinged one drop scorcher very well.

20. Turbulence – Jah is Love (Royalty)
Xterminator made their return in 2011. And what a return. Turbulence sounds as good as he did in the early 2000’s.

21. Mavado – Final Destination (Summer Fling)
Can’t help myself on this one. It’s hard not to sing along in the beautiful chorus.

Just outside the list: Tarrus Riley – Rebel, Busy SignalWorldwide Love, Maxi Priest & Tippa IrieLike This, Ricardo Clarke – Only Got Love, Vybz Kartel – Summertime, Stylo GCall Me A Yardie and Sizzla – Murder Star.

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The mechanics of the new record industry

The music business is changing fast and as a label you need to be on your toes to reach the customers and make them pay for songs and albums. Reggaemani has dug deep into the mechanics of the reggae music industry and found some interesting things when interviewing Olivier Chastan, Frenchie and Adrian Sherwood.

The music business has had many rough years, and the reggae industry is no exception.

The list of small, independent labels that have folded contains well-known brands such as Blood and Fire and Makasound. Both were praised and loved by music aficionados and record collectors all over the world. But unfortunately, they didn’t make it.

Greensleeves saved
Legendary label Greensleeves was also on the verge of bankruptcy when reggae giant VP stepped in and acquired it in 2008.

Olivier Chastan is President of Greensleeves and Vice President of VP International

“Greensleeves was in really bad shape and was fast running out of cash,” says Olivier Chastan, President of Greensleeves and Vice President of VP International, and continues:

“It was our biggest competitor, and it made sense to acquire them. Greensleeves was a large music publisher and had hit songs by Shaggy and Sean Paul in their catalogue. They also had a better presence in Europe than we did.”

Olivier Chastan has been at VP since 2005 and knows reggae and the music industry.

“Now the label is doing well. We’ve fixed the financial side. The music publishing is very active with artists such as Etana and Busy Signal,” explains Olivier Chastan.

Fewer record stores and declining sales
Even though Greensleeves’ financial issues are straightened out, there are things in the music business to be concerned about – fewer record stores and declining sales are two key issues.

Adrian Sherwood – founder of several labels, producer and musician – says that running a label is thankless.

Adrian Sherwood is a veteran in the music business

“I mean, you cannot win. You have to maintain visibility and do the best you can,” he believes, and gives an example of why it is so hard today:

“There are not many record shops around anymore, which does not make it easier. Few today actually sell physical records.”

For many years the revenues from record sales have been declining, even though statistics from Nielsen SoundScan show a 1 percent increase in overall album sales in the U.S. for the first half-year 2011.

This does not, however, mean that the rise in units sold will translate into revenue growth.

Recipe for success
For Olivier Chastan the recipe for success is simple, and contains three main ingredients – good control of your finances, embracing new promotional tools and having hit songs.

“You need to keep your costs down and find new platforms. There’s not a platform we don’t touch. Piracy is not a big deal. It’s been going on since 2000 and you have to accept it. We take down illegal links from blogs and such, but don’t spend our day on it,” explains Olivier Chastan, and continues:

“In the U.S. sales of CD and digital download is about 50-50. In Europe it’s much lower. The only difference with digital is that you have no returns. Otherwise, it’s the same job  – you still have to do your artwork and mastering. iTunes is just like any other store for me. The real change is in digital promotion, with the declining power of TV and radio. How do you reach your customers today? No one has understood how to do it perfectly yet.”

“Move with what is going on”
New promotional tools are something Frenchie, producer at Maximum Sound, also has started to look further into. This year the label has begun using Twitter and YouTube. But an even bigger change is putting out their catalogue on iTunes.

“We have to move with what is going on. The 7 inch and CD sales are in decline. The licensing of tracks to other labels as well. So we have to try something else, as the digital format is the one of the future. If we want to keep on putting out music we have to go in that direction and embrace new formats to release our music,” explains Frenchie, and continues:

“You have to take the rough with the smooth. It’s too early to tell, but business wise it is definitely not what it was. Only time will tell if we will still be doing this in ten years.”

That hit song
The third ingredient is often the base for labels, producers, writers and artists around the globe – that one hit song or hit album.

“We need a massive, massive hit,” says Olivier Chastan, and continues:

“The scene is stagnant and making music for a core Jamaican market that is smaller and smaller every day. Why try to imitate T-Pain or whatever else is the flavor of the moment?”

Frenchie fills in:

“The industry is going through changes as more and more people just do things themselves and are going directly to iTunes to release their music and are not depending on bigger record labels to market their stuff. It’s a new strategy for a lot of small producers and artists. Only time will tell if it is a sound one.”

A shake-up is needed
VP had a smash hit last year with Gyptian’s crossover tune Hold Yuh, which peaked at number 77 on Billboard’s Hot 100. But Olivier Chastan believes that more needs to be done.

“The reggae business needs a shake-up,” he stresses, and continues:

“It’s too much RnB and hip-hop. There is no sense of direction. There are still producers that are doing the Jamaican-Jamaican sound. But where is it supposed to go next?” he asks, and concludes:

“Interest in reggae music outside of Jamaica has declined. It’s low temperature.”

Follow your vision
Adrian Sherwood’s recipe for success, on the other hand, is to not be reliant on hit songs.

“Labels that are doing well do not rely on hit records. Just look at Rough Trade and Island. They had to sell to stay in business. You have to follow your vision and have courage,” says Adrian Sherwood.

But he is on the same track as Olivier Chastan on financials, and illustrates his point with an example.

Pressure Sounds is not doing lots of stuff, but they have low overheads. It is basically only Pete Holdsworth. You have to be a specialist. That is the way of surviving,” Adrian Sherwood believes, and adds:

“It is almost impossible. Today it has to be part of something bigger, like merchandise, clothing and stuff. You have to be insane to start a label today. Just look at the business model. No one would start a label today,” he concludes.

Careful of the money you spend
Keeping track of costs is essential to Frenchie as well.

“You have to be careful of the money you spend on a project as it is very easy not to make it back. And you also have to understand the different markets in reggae today, what sort of music sells on mp3 or CD format and what sells on vinyl. A lot of labels and production houses have gone into management and are doing more and more live sound system shows with artists as well. We are thinking of going in that direction too,” says Frenchie, and stresses:

“Be critical with yourself and what you do. Don’t take what you do or yourself too seriously.”

“The problem is not in the music”
The decline in sales of CDs is also something VP and other labels need to cope with.

“The decline of CDs is going to accelerate, but CD will always be there. Vinyl sales are way up, but from a very small starting point. It’s not going to do anything for the industry as a whole. I mean if it’s growing from two to four, it’s a 100 percent increase. It’s great for music fans and a great format, but people are not going to run out and by turntables again,” says Olivier Chastan, and continues:

“The problem is not in the music. It’s about managing decline. CDs are still about 40 percent of our total revenue. But we have to embrace digital. If somebody starts a new platform tomorrow – we’re there.”

And that seems like a well-thought strategy since sales of digital tracks and digital albums rose 11 and 19 percent respectively in the first six months of 2011 according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Key issues ahead
Olivier Chastan points out two key issues in the coming year.

“To keep promoting and to diversify,” he says.

Frenchie will focus on downloads and maybe launch a live road show or a sound system.

Adrian Sherwood earlier pointed to the fact that a label today needs to be a part of something bigger, and VP is going in that direction. The label now has a clothing line, booking agency, concert promotion and publishing.

Olivier Chastan explains the development.

“You need to be able to manage multiple activities and to think outside the box,” he says, and adds:

“The Jerk Festival that we just put together in New York is a good example. It was not a big stretch from our booking and promotional activites,” he explains, and concludes:

“You can’t stay static. Sales are not going to improve in the next two years. Die or move. Pick your choice.”

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Killer compilation from Maximum Sound

UK-based label Maximum Sound, lead by producer Frenchie, went digital last week. The first step was to offer the back catalogue on iTunes, and the other day saw the release of the iTunes exclusive compilation Maximum Sound 2011.

This set assembles 18 dancehall and one drop tunes from 2009 to 2011. And as usual with Maximum Sound there are no fillers here, only killers from the crème de la crème of Jamaican singers and deejays.

I mean, you hardly go wrong with Sizzla, Bounty Killer, Mr. Vegas, Tarrus Riley and Alborosie on well-produced and inspired riddims such as Praise Jahovia (a relick of the Billie Jean aka Get A Lick riddim), Ghetto State (which incorporates elements from Half Pint’s One Big Ghetto) or the most recent addition, Fairground.

Maximum Sound 2011 collects several tunes previously only available as 7” or 12”, but it also includes exclusive titles, such as Who You Love from Ce’Cile.

This compilation is without a doubt an essential purchase that will enhance any record collection.

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Maximum Sound steps into the digital age with a bang

UK-based label Maximum Sound, lead by producer Frenchie, steps into the digital age and releases an exclusive iTunes compilation titled Maximum Sound 2011.

The new compilation holds 17 killer tunes from artists such as Sizzla, Tarrus Riley and Busy Signal on a variety of different dancehall and one drop riddims, including Skateland Killer, Ghetto State and Praise Jahovia.

Several of the tunes haven’t been available on digital platforms until now, which makes it an essential purchase for non-vinyl buyers. Keep an eye out on August 21st,when it hits the streets.

Maximum Sound has also fortunately enough decided to release their new Fairground riddim as well as the back catalogue on iTunes. And this is a real treat. If you don’t own riddims such as I Know My Herbs, Jah Powers and Blackboard already you should definitely head over to iTunes.

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New riddim from Maximum Sound

The always reliable producer Frenchie has dropped another great riddim, this one is called Fairground, and is a nice piece of energetic modern roots reggae.

It’s voiced by I-Octane, Konshens, Luciano and Fantan Mojah, and is now available as 7” in all good record stores. In late July it will also be made available as digital download on iTunes.

Maximum Sound has had some great releases in 2011. In April the label dropped the acclaimed riddims Sound Exterminata, Ghetto State, with elements from Half Pint’s One Big Ghetto, and Skateland Killer, based on Eek-A-Mouse’s Star, Daily News and Gleaner.

If you’re curious on how Fairground riddim sounds you can visit Maximum Sound’s new YouTube channel here and listen to the megamix, which also includes cuts from Chris Martin, Cecile and Zinc Fence featuring Stylo G.

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