Tag Archives: Special Delivery Music

Strong line-up on Special Delivery’s anniversary compilation

About a year ago I wrote a piece on the vibrating French reggae scene. One of the interviewees was Pierre Bost, producer and co-founder of Special Delivery Music, a label that last year celebrated its tenth anniversary.

As a celebration Special Delivery now drops the 14 track compilation The 1st Decade 2001-2011.The compilation highlights some the most popular tracks recorded over the past ten years in Jamaica, the UK and France.

The compilation takes off in fine style with Morgan Heritage’s acoustic version of Have no Fear recorded in 2006 in Kingston and ends with upcoming super talent ChronixxBeat & A Mic and an exclusive track from Gappy Ranks recorded last year in London.  All three tracks were produced and mixed by Bost & Bim, a duo responsible for nine cuts on the album.

Michael Rose was the first international artist to be put out on the label, and his Never Take it for Granted, recorded in 2002, is naturally included. Backing vocals on this song is provided by Trinibagoan singer and deejay Queen Omega. She also shares microphone duties with the incarcerated Buju Banton on Perfection.

The impressive line-up on the album also includes Sizzla’s Good over Evil, voiced on joyous version of the Itals’ classic Ina Dis Ya Time, the haunting Dem Doom by Capleton and J Boog’s So Far Gone, a tune released in 2010 but still remains in the top 200 on the U.S. iTunes chart and has become one of his biggest songs.

Special Delivery – the 1st Decade 2001-2011 drops as digital download on September 21 and includes no dull moments and perfectly showcases why many Jamaican artists look to Europe for well-produced and melodic one drop and dancehall riddims.


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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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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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