Tag Archives: Tippy

Jahdan Blakkamoore outperforms himself

For those that have followed Jahdan Blakkamoore since his days in Noble Society and were disappointed with his electronica infused debut album Buzzrock Warrior can relax. His second album – Babylon Nightmare – is a completely different story compared to the debut set.

The dubstep and electronica influences from European music have been switched towards Africa, Jamaica and old school hip-hop for this diverse set rooted in reggae, hip-hop and soul.

Babylon Nightware is produced by gifted producers Andrew “Moon” Bain of Lustre Kings, Laurent “Tippy” Alfred and Nick Fantastic. This U.S-based trio was the masterminds behind Toussaint’s solo debut Black Gold earlier this year. And that set is reminiscent of Babylon Nightmare.

However, Black Gold had more soul influences whereas Babylon Nightmare leans more towards hip-hop with live instrumentation. Listen for example to Against All Odds featuring his bands mates in Noble Society. This tune is basically hip-hop. And it’s very well executed.

Jahdan is immensely talented and has no problem riding riddims like Junior Kelly or Konshens. And he can sing like Pressure. This, together with the very varied riddims, makes Babylon Nightmare a very joyful listening from beginning to end. It’s never a dull moment.

The majority of the tunes are new. But some old time favorites show up. For example Flying High and Proverbs, titled after their riddims respectively. It’s also a real treat to listen to the wicked reworking of Golden City on the Rainbow riddim.

I was one of those that thought Buzzrock Warrior was a decent set. But with his second album, Jahdan has managed to outperform himself. If I haven’t already awarded album of the year, this one would have made it into the top ten.

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NiyoRah is loaded with important messages

Virgin Island based singer and chanter NiyoRah dropped his third album Feel Your Presence in June and went on a U.S. tour with Toussaint in August. Reggaemani has had the opportunity to hear his thoughts on reggae music and what it was like to record in Jamaica.

In June I published a review of Feel Your Presence and stated that NiyoRah is a hidden gem. And I still believe that’s correct. His music may be widely present in the U.S, but here in Europe I wouldn’t say that he is too well-known.

And that’s a shame. Because Feel Your Presence is a great album that will hopefully appeal even to those that aren’t into the VI-reggae scene.

NiyoRah started his career in the group Star Lion Family – a collective of seven VI-reggae artists including the well-known Pressure Busspipe – and is nowadays a solo artist.

Special mission
He has previously worked with Laurent “Tippy” Alfred, a producer and label owner that has done some great VI-reggae, a genre NiyoRah describes as earthy, celestial and bright. It’s also a type of music that he thinks is uplifting.

– I feel courageous and triumphant when I listen to our artists from the Virgin Islands. It’s almost like the Creator has downloaded important messages within us to present to the people of the world and beyond, writes NiyoRah in an e-mail to Reggaemani, and continues:

– Our writing approach is the one thing that’s unique because we take time to write intelligent and spiritual songs. We try hard not to rush or hustle the music.

Confident in VI-reggae
NiyoRah seems very confident in VI-reggae and believes that the genre differentiates from other reggae music due to its frequency and richness of the sound.

– It’s a sound that resonates because our producers go deep within to find something that doesn’t sound like anything constructed before, while keeping the primary foundation of powerful drum and bass.

Read before you sign
NiyoRah is grateful for the opportunity to share what’s in his heart and soul as well as to represent a good and honest lifestyle. But he also has a business approach.

– I cherish independence and being an example for other artists to follow in terms of entrepreneurship. Artists should investigate labels before they sign contracts because some don’t take the time, or don’t have the skills, to push artists properly.

Feel Your Presence was recorded in Jamaica and put out on his own label Denkenesh, so NiyoRah has supposedly had some problems with labels in the past.

“Music is truly a means of survival”
According to NiyoRah, working in Jamaica was not that different from St. Croix. But one thing seemed to make an impression.

– In Jamaica, music is truly a means of survival. There are many artists that hover around the recording facilities looking for a “bly” from producers. In St. Croix, the environment is more personal. I can deal with either environment. Both environments are blessed.

Promotion matters
Feel Your Presence is mainly one drop roots reggae, a genre not heard in Jamaica much anymore. Some people – myself for one – feel that there’s a decline in music coming from Jamaica. It’s not reggae anymore. NiyoRah doesn’t agree and writes that it’s just a matter of promotion.

– I don’t think there is a decline in reggae. I’ve heard many wonderful albums from artists the world hasn’t heard as of yet. There seems to be a decline because of where the most vital media/promotion outlets put their focus. They are responsible for choosing and pushing the music, he writes, and concludes:

– Dancehall is not reggae. Roots music with a soulful vibe is reggae. My view of reggae will always be one hundred percent positive!

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Bright future for VI-reggae

U.S. Virgin Islands has over the last ten years become a powerful force in reggae, especially in the United States. But in Europe the impact has been more moderate. Reggaemani has talked to producer and label owner Laurent “Tippy” Alfred to learn more about the scene in the VI.

U.S. Virgin Islands is an autonomous part of the United States, and can best be described as a tourist paradise. The three main islands of St Thomas, St John and St Croix are located in the western Caribbean, just east of Puerto Rico. The largest island – St Croix – has about 60.000 inhabitants and is the base for a type of reggae which is popularly known as Virgin Islands reggae (VI-reggae).

U.S Virgin Islands are located just like Jamaica in the Caribbean Sea. But they have more in common. For example, the Rastafari movement have been strong on the islands for many years.

Laurent "Tippy" Alfred in his studio in St Croix

− Elder rastamen from the VI will tell you that the Rastafarian movement has been in St Croix and St Thomas since 1930 – and 1940’s, not long after the inception in Jamaica. So reggae, which is rasta music at its core, has been here a long time, writes Laurent “Tippy” Alfred, producer and owner of the record label I Grade based in St Croix, in an email to Reggaemani.

Started in the 70’s
He says that the first reggae recording in the VI, which he knows of, is Ras Abijah from St Thomas, who released the album Ras Abijah vs. The Beast in 1979. But there are more pioneers than that.

− Zeus & the Kasha Heads, The Zioneers, Umoja, Inner Vision and of course Midnite. Midnite was formed around 1989, eight years before they released their first album Unpolished. This crucial first release marked the start of the contemporary VI-reggae scene, Tippy writes, and continues:

− From there numerous studios and production houses emerged like Glamorous Records, Sound VIzion and I Grade.

Midnite is the foundation
Tippy describes the feel as unique and far more diverse than most people think. For example, there is not only one VI sound.

− The Midnite sound is the foundation of the VI-reggae. So that’s the dominant sound and what most people associate with the VI. Heavy bass lines, slower tempos, live instrumentation, sparse arrangements, bubbling keyboards and stiff guitar skanks.

Something that brings together reggae from VI is that most use live instruments, which he considers to be classic roots reggae, but Jamaica seems to have left it behind.

While the VI has a classic reggae sound, it is not reactionary or boring. Tippy lists several producers who he thinks we describe VI-reggae the best.

− We have Dean Pond’s polished modern roots, Sound VIzion’s upful digital roots and Bambú Station, who produce deep roots.

Tippy has a hard time classifying his own sound. He mentions Midnite, but also hip hop, soul, jazz and British steppers as his influences.

− Overall, I think the lyrical content is what unifies the VI-reggae sound. It is the only reggae movement that I know of where 100 per cent of the artists, so far, sing conscious lyrics.

Magic island
For an island with only 60.000 residents St Croix has succeeded in shaking up lots of talented singers and producers. Tippy says that the islands have an abundance of talented artists and it seems that it every month emerges voices with international potential. When he shall explain why there is so much talent, the answer is somewhat puzzling and reminds one of the popular TV series Lost.

− St Croix is a unique and mystical place. We’ve produced many internationally known artists, thinkers, musicians, writers and athletes. I think that St Croix has some of the most creatively talented people on earth. Why is something of a mystery. My feeling is that there are centers of energy in the earth that create and shape minds in a way that modern science cannot grasp, writes Tippy and continues:

− St Croix must upon one of those energy centers. I think there are undocumented reasons why the VI has been so sought after by so many colonial powers on history. That is also why there are so many military installations and radio telescopes located nearby.

He also provides more robust explanations and writes that St Croix has always been a rebellious island and the population is independent of the mind, something he believes fosters musical creativity. To be part of the United States he believes also has an effect.

− We are a U.S. territory and have a large population from all over the Caribbean. Those who grow up here may be influenced by both the U.S. and the Caribbean. All this cross-cultural mixes makes for a very fertile environment for creative music and arts.

Moderate interest in Europe
Reggae from the VI has had a stronghold on the U.S. mainland for many years, but in Europe, interest has been moderate so far. Midnite and Pressure Buss Pipe are the most successful to date. Even singer Dezarie has received some attention. But not really much more, despite talented artists such as NiyoRah, Ras Attitude and Batch.

− VI-reggae is starting to get wider attention in Europe, but I think that it is difficult because artists from here have not received much support from Jamaica. Commercial success in Europe depends on the acceptance in Jamaica, says Tippy, who says that Midnite still managed to break that rule.

Laurent "Tippy" Alfred and singer Toussaint in St Croix

Midnite has never had a single in the Jamaican charts. They have never played in Jamaica, but is still respected and loved in Europe. Tippy also highlights the lack of resources as an additional reason.

− VI labels are small organizations without the resources to launch promotional campaigns that penetrate Europe.

“A lot to be hopeful about”
Tippy is critical of some Jamaican artists and believes that dancehall is currently undergoing significant musical changes right now.

− It is hard to even call most of the riddims reggae in any form. They are basically hip hop / pop arrangements with little originality. It’s nothing like the dancehall of the 80’s or 90’s that brought a whole new sound to the world.

He adds:

− There may be a lot to be disgusted by contemporary reggae, but also a lot to be hopeful about. Even though artists like Vybz Kartel and Mavado get most of the airplay, there are countless others who spread positivity.

Tippy is not worried about the future, either for roots reggae in general or VI-reggae in particular. He believes that the contemporary dancehall sound may come and go, but the roots will always remain.

− The key will be for conscious reggae artists and producers to adapt commercial and promotional formats so that we can continue to create music that will be heard.

SEVEN QUICK ONES TO TIPPY

Favourite artist?
Vaughn Benjamin (Midnite)

Favourite label?
Lustre Kings Productions

Favourite tune?
Handsworth Revolution by Steel Pulse

Favourite genre?
Roots

Favourite producer?
Karl Pitterson

Favourite riddim?
Hard Times

Favourite record sleeve?
A New Chapter of Dub by Aswad

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Ljus framtid för VI-reggae

Amerikanska Jungfruöarna har de senaste tio åren blivit en kraft att räkna med i reggaen, framför allt i USA.  Men i Europa har genomslaget låtit vänta på sig. Reggaemani har pratat med producenten och skivbolagsägaren Laurent ”Tippy” Alfred för att höra mer om scenen.

Amerikanska Jungfruöarna är en självständig del av USA, som bäst kan beskrivas som ett turistparadis. De tre huvudöarna St Thomas, St John och St Croix ligger i västra Västindien strax öster om Puerto Rico. Den största ön – St Croix – har omkring 60 000 invånare och är basen för en typ av reggae som populärt kallas Virgin Islands reggae (VI-reggae).

Ögruppen ligger precis som Jamaica i Karibiska havet. Men det finns fler gemensamma nämnare än så. Exempelvis har rastafarireligionen haft fäste på öarna sedan många år.

Laurent "Tippy" Alfred i sin studio på St Croix

Laurent "Tippy" Alfred i sin studio på St Croix

– Om du frågar äldre rastas härifrån så säger de att rastafari funnits på St Croix och St Thomas ända sedan 1930- och 1940-talen. Det är inte långt efter att religionen startade på Jamaica. Så reggae, som är kärnan i rastakulturen, har funnits här under lång tid, skriver Laurent ”Tippy” Alfred, producent och ägare till skivbolaget I Grade med bas på St Croix, i ett mejl till Reggaemani.
 
Startade redan på 70-talet
Han berättar att den första reggaeinspelningen som han känner till är Ras Abijah från St Thomas, som släppte plattan Ras Abijah vs. The Beast redan 1979. Men det finns fler pionjärer än så.
– Zeus and the Kasha Heads, The Zioneers, Umoja, Inner Vision och självklart Midnite är några som var tidiga med reggae. Midnite bildades kring 1989, åtta år innan de släppte sin första platta Unpolished. Den skivan inleder den nutida scenen här, skriver Tippy, och fortsätter:

– Sedan dess har det startats åtskilliga studior och produktionshus, exempelvis Glamorous Records, Sound VIzion och I Grade.

Midnite är grunden
Tippy beskriver känslan som unik och betydligt mer skiftande än vad många tror. Det finns exempelvis inte ett enhetligt VI-sound.

– Midnite är grunden för all reggae härifrån. Deras sound är helt klart dominerande och något de flesta associerar med VI-reggae. Tunga basgångar, lågt tempo, liveinstrument, minimalistiska arrangemang, bubblande keyboard och skarp gitarr.

Något som för samman reggae från VI är att de flesta använder liveinstrument, något som han anser vara grunden för klassisk reggae, men som Jamaica lämnat bakom sig.

Även om VI-reggae har ett klassiskt reggaesound är det inte bakåtsträvande eller mossigt. Tippy räknar upp flera producenter som han tycker beskriver VI-reggae bäst.

– Vi har Dean Ponds polerade moderna roots, Sound VIzions glada digitala roots och Bambú Station, som gör djup roots.

 Tippy har svårt att beskriva sitt eget sound. Han nämner Midnite, men också hiphop, soul, jazz och brittisk steppers som sina influenser.

– Ska jag nämna en sak som verkligen förenar VI-reggae så är det de socialt medvetna texterna.

Magisk ö
För att vara en ö med endast 60 000 invånare har St Croix lyckats skaka fram mängder av duktiga sångare och producenter. Tippy säger att öarna har ett överflöd av talangfulla artister och att det varje månad dyker upp någon ny med internationell potential. När han ska förklara varför det finns så mycket talang blir svaret något gåtfullt och för tankarna till tv-serien Lost.

– St Croix är en unik och mystisk plats. Härifrån kommer många kända artister, tänkare, musiker, författare och idrottsmän. Jag tror att St Croix har några av de mest kreativa invånarna i hela världen. Varför är ett mysterium, men min känsla är att det finns energicentrum i jorden som skapar och formar våra sinnen på ett sätt som modern vetenskap inte kan greppa, skriver Tippy och fortsätter:

– St Croix måste vila ovanpå ett sådant energicentrum. Jag tror att det finns odokumenterade skäl till varför vi varit så efterfrågade av så många koloniala krafter i historien. Det är också därför det finns så mycket militära baser i området och så många radiomaster häromkring.

Han ger också mer handfasta förklaringar och skriver att St Croix alltid varit en rebellisk ö och att befolkningen är oberoende till sinnet, något han tror fostrar musikalisk kreativitet. Att vara en del av USA tror han också påverkat.

– Vi är ett amerikanskt territorium och har stor befolkning från hela Karibien. De som växer upp här får influenser från både USA och Karibien. Den kulturella korsbefruktningen skapar en väldigt fruktsam miljö för att skapa musik och konst.

Ljumt intresse i Europa
Reggae från VI har haft ett starkt fäste på det amerikanska fastlandet i många år, men i Europa har intresset varit ljumt så här långt. Midnite och Pressure Buss Pipe är de som hittills lyckats bäst. Även sångerskan Dezarie har fått viss uppmärksamhet. Men egentligen inte mycket mer, trots duktiga artister som NiyoRah, Ras Attitude och Batch.

– VI-reggae börjar få ett bredare gehör i Europa, men jag tror att det är svårt eftersom artisterna härifrån inte fått särskilt mycket stöd från Jamaica. Kommersiella framgångar i Europa beror ofta på hur accepterad man är på Jamaica, förklarar Tippy, som menar att Midnite ändå lyckats bryta den spiralen.

Laurent "Tippy" Alfred och sångaren Toussaint på St Croix

Laurent "Tippy" Alfred och sångaren Toussaint på St Croix

Midnite aldrig haft en singel på de jamaicanska topplistorna. De har heller aldrig spelat på Jamaica, men är ändå respekterade och älskade i Europa. Tippy lyfter också fram resursbristen som ytterligare en anledning.

– De flesta skivbolagen härifrån är små verksamheter utan resurser att lansera marknadsföringskampanjer för att slå i Europa.

”Mycket att vara hoppfull kring”
Tippy är kritisk till vissa jamaicanska artister och menar att dancehallen genomgår stora musikaliska förändringar just nu.

– Det är svårt att klassa merparten av rytmerna som reggae. De är i grunden hiphop/pop-arrangemang med lite originalitet. Det är inte alls som dancehallen på 80- och 90-talen som skapade ett helt nytt sound.

Han tillägger:

 – Det finns kanske mycket att äcklas av i nutida reggae, men också mycket att vara hoppfull kring. Även om Vybz Kartel och Mavado får mest radiotid, finns det otaliga andra som sprider positiva budskap.

Tippy är inte orolig för framtiden, vare sig för roots reggae i allmänhet eller VI-reggae. Han tror att det nutida dancehallsoundet är en fluga, men att roots alltid kommer att finnas kvar.

– Nyckeln för sångare och producenter inom rootsgenren är att anpassa sig till nya format för marknadsföring och försäljning. På så vis kan vi fortsätta skapa musik som kommer att höras.

SJU SNABBA TILL TIPPY

Favoritartist?
Vaughn Benjamin (Midnite)

Bästa skivbolag?
Lustre Kings Productions

Bästa låt?
Handsworth Revolution med Steel Pulse

Favoritgenre?
Roots

Favoritproducent?
Karl Pitterson

Bästa rytm?
Hard Times

Bästa skivomslag?
A New Chapter of Dub med Aswad

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