The clocks have gone forward and spring is in the air - here's Reshma B with the latest news, reviews and more from the world of reggae and dancehall...
Looks like you can't keep a good bop down. Gully Bop's meteoric rise from hard times to headlines continues: Having rekindled his dancehall career the artist formerly known as Countryman has become the hottest thing in Jamaica and now he's booked dates across Europe and the U.S including a performance on the Miami festival Best of the Best.
The World International Property Organisation has prepared a consultancy report for Jamaican officials seeking a way to better capitalize on reggae's global success. As the popularity of reggae bands from America and Europe rises - in many cases outpacing Jamaican artists' sales - members of Jamaica's music industry are debating whether to create an "authentic reggae" seal of approval.
"With few exceptions, these styles of music cannot be authentically replicated by non-Jamaicans," said professor Rob Bowman, a music professor who prepared the report. "We think there should be acknowledgement that reggae was created in Jamaica," said Michael 'Ibo' Cooper of Third World, chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association.
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Kabaka Pyramid speaks truth to power on a new track 'Well Done'. Produced by Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley the song lays the blame for Jamaica's problems on the government leaders, citing specific issues like the country's deals with the International Monetary Fund and Spanish real estate developers.
Hot riddims in rotation at the moment include ZJ Liquid's 'Fix Up' riddim, which is loaded with straight-up bad-boy tunes. Voicings on the riddim include Vybz Kartel with the title track, Mavado with 'Bad Anytime' and Alkaline with 'Dead Dem A Go Dead'. Check Out ZJ Liquid chat about the dancehall icons who inspired him:
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From the '7 Year Itch' to the '8 Year Affair', Protoje's albums have always reflected some kind yearning in life, which has now evolved into 'Ancient Future'. The artist's new album released earlier this was produced by Winta James and featuring guest appearances by Chronixx, Jesse Royal, Kabaka Pyramid and Sevana. As the title suggests, the sound strikes a balance between vintage Jamaican music and modern sound and sensibility, driven by the artist's witty, introspective lyrics.
On April 3rd some of the biggest names in Lovers Rock will come together In honour of the late great John Holt at London's Indig02. Artists including Janet Kay Carroll Thompson, Sandra Cross, Levi Roots, Peter Hunnigale and more will be backed by the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra to recreate the late great singer's greatest moments. For tickets check HERE.
TO WRAP UP
There's no doubt that many legendary hip-hop artists draw inspiration from reggae in some way or other. Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West are only the latest in a long line of MCs who've seasoned their sound with some Jamaican flavor. Some grew up with Caribbean culture, like Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls, who was born to Jamaican parents in Brooklyn who passed away 18 years ago last month - March 9th.
Biggie's admiration for reggae came through in all the patois slang and famous dancehall lyrics he sprinkled throughout his raps, from the remix of Super Cat's 'Dolly My Baby' to Jr. M.A.F.I.A.'s 'Get Money' remix. Sometimes the blend didn't go quite as smoothly: the posthumous 'Hold Ya Head' remix, a combination of Bob Marley's tragic 'Johnny Was' and one of Big's darker rhymes, didn't go down too well with the Marley family.
Lauryn Hill is another mainstream artist whose love of reggae comes through in everything she does—even though she grew up in New Jersey. After leaving the multiplatinum hip-hop group The Fugees (who recorded Bob Marley covers and collaborated with Bounty Killer) she recorded much of her five-time Grammy-winning album 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill' at Bob Marley's Tuff Gong studio in Jamaica.
Her duet with Bob on 'Turn Your Lights Down Low' was the highest charting single released off the 'Chant Down Babylon' remix album produced by Stephen Marley. And sharing five Kids with Bob's son Rohan Marley makes her practically family with the King of Reggae.
After an intense couple of years - including being jailed for tax offenses - Lauryn has been gigging extensively since her release from prison. Last month she took to the NYC's Highline Ballroom for two days of sold-out shows from her Small Axe tour, named after a famous song by The Wailers about a small axe chopping down a big tree, a metaphor for overcoming any obstacle regardless of size.
Inside the intimate venue the audience had dinner and drinks, watched a mini doc about the evils of colonialism in the Third World narrated by Lauryn Hill herself, and jammed to a live DJ set mixing reggae, African and soul tracks before Ms. Hill finally took to the stage. Perched on the end of a settee on a stage that was decorated like a cosy living room with rugs and a coffee table, she balanced an acoustic guitar on her lap.
The musicians sat comfortably around her in a relaxed and lounge-y vibe. Rather than churning through the hits, she introduced a lot of her new music which was received well by the audience who listened attentively, hanging on her every word. Through the night she threw in just enough of her classics, which saw the audience singing along and reminiscing.
The air was thick with emotion as couples seemed to huddle closer while friends faced each other during sing offs. Everyone drew their own personal meaning from songs that have touched an entire generation. Out of the blue she pulled out a cover of Sade's 'Love is Stronger than Pride', an intriguing selection.
Lauryn gave nothing away on why she chose that particular song, but when she sang "I can't hate you although I have tried" she did so with deep conviction and the audience joined in all the way. Seamlessly blending reggae soul and hip-hop, Ms. Lauryn Hill did what she does best: remind us all of the feeling that lies beneath our skin, of the tragedies we may face in life as well as the happiness that life has the potential to bring.
Check out Lauryn Hill performing live at her Small Axe NYC show:
Words by Reshma B