Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Shabba Ranks with fans in Olympic Gardens, St Andrew – Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
Shabba Ranks with fans in Olympic Gardens, St Andrew – Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
Shabba Ranks with fans in Olympic Gardens, St Andrew – Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
Jamaicans descended in droves on the Norman Manley International Airport around midday for the arrival of dancehall emperor, Shabba Ranks.
Shabba, whose real name is Rexton Rawlston Fernando Gordon, lives in America and has not been in Jamaica for many years.
He strolled through the arrival hall to much fanfare.
And it was sheer excitement when Shabba emerged from the arrival hall and stepped outside.
Fans rushed to greet the deejay with vuvuzelas and flags in hand.
Shabba’s mother, 'Mama Christie', who had not seen her son in four years, was overcome with emotions as she embraced him.
Shabba said he was happy and excited to be back in Jamaica and that he is looking forward to his Reggae Sumfest performance on Friday night.
Shabba last appeared on the Sumfest stage in 1994.
The artiste later visited the community of Olympic Gardens, St. Andrew to meet with fans.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Supporters are out in the masses to greet Shabba Ranks at NMIA with signs and banners of the Dancehall Emperor, all looking forward to a great performance at this year's Reggae Sumfest!
Constance Christie 'Mama Christie' Shabba’s mom is greeted by Digicel representatives at the NMIA airport in Kingston as they await the arrival of Shabba Ranks for Reggae Sumfest 2012.
Shabba Ranks has not been home in 11 years
Shabba Ranks has not been home in 11 years
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Perhaps the greatest living Reggae Star, Jimmy Cliff was instrumental in introducing reggae to an international audience. Not only famous for his memorable music and energetic performances, the Jamaican-born legend is also renowned for his producing and acting skills (starring in the international hit movie The Harder They Come), and work on his own record label. Angus Taylor speaks to him about his incredible career and his upcoming one-off live appearance in Bournemouth.
You started in music as a teenager – did you always plan to be a singer?
I always wanted to work in the entertainment business. I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a singer or an actor. As a matter of fact I started out in school as an actor. But I always wanted to be close to the entertainment world.
So if you weren’t a singer would you have taken that path?
Yes. I think I am established in many parts of the world as an actor along with my music. But to tell you truth acting is my first love.
What do you think of the Harder They Come musical?
I have seen it. I was present at its first opening. I quite liked it. I was very surprised. The man playing my part did a great job.
Where you a guest of honour?
Yes, of course I was.
Why do you think audiences still respond to well to the story after all these years?
I think that movie captured the spirit of a point in time in our histroy and in life. That point in time and the character I played are still valid today and probably will be valid throughout all times. There are certain films that capture the essence of the time and that is one of those movies,
There was talk of a sequel.
(Laughs) It is still in the pipeline – yes – we are having hitches along the way – but I’m still confident that it will be done.
You come to the UK to play in Bournemouth on Wednesday 16th April – what can your fans expect?
Well a lot of the fans will be expecting the songs, the music they know, of Jimmy Cliff so of course I will have to do a lot of those songs. But at the same time – what does Jimmy Cliff have to offer that is new? So I will have an opportunity to do some of that.
So will you unveil some brand new songs?
Yes, I intend to because my last album which came out – maybe two years ago?
Yes Black Magic. (2004) I don’t think a lot of people have seen me perform any songs from it. Those songs are still valid for me to perform, and there is some new material that I am currently writing. (Laughs) Maybe I’ll just do those songs accapella!
You’re well known for your faster paced early reggae hits but your roots tunes are very underrated – such as Lets Turn The Table and Under Pressure…
That is true.
I think it is down to timing with certain songs timing and exposure. I think Lets Turn The Table, Under Pressure, a lot of songs like that didn’t get the exposure they needed. Part of it was my transition between record companies, for example.
So it was mainly logistics. Do you think not being a Rasta affected your career during the roots era?
I didn’t wear dreadlocks but the concept of the Rasta... I don’t see how I could be a Jamaican and not embrace a sense of what is the concept of Rasta. Most people would say “oh he doesn’t have dreadlocks so he is not Rasta.” But my universal outlook on life means I couldn’t align myself with any one particular movement or religion so as to limit myself to anywhere or anything like that.
You’ve seen reggae from the very start – do you like where it’s going?
Well it has two branches. It still has the roots branch… you know with a lot of the deejays and some singers too like Tarrus Riley and people like that, or Sizzla as a singjay as we say. So it still has the branch that sings about roots and culture and uplifting positive messages. And then there’s the other branch we call dancehall and that is really about… sex. I don’t condemn that part neither… I think there is a place for everything. I’m happy to see the two sides striving. But I would prefer and hope to see the roots and culture area getting more prominent but maybe were just going through that transition of time.
Are you a fan of Tarrus?
Yes. From a long time, even before he got popular.
Who/what do you listen to these days?
Well I am the type of artist that likes to stay current. So I listen to every form of music that is going on that is current. So let’s say I’m in Peru or Mexico or Brazil. I will walk into a store and pick up things. I don’t really download because it is not easy to easy to get stuff that is not popular. I often want to get things that are rare and not so popular. I especially like to pick up music that has the… folklore, the roots of that area of that country.
That country’s own version of reggae?
Not many acts play in England or the UK these days – or say it’s hard to play – do you find this?
Personally I don’t. I don’t play a lot in England. In the old days I would do a British tour where I go up north, come down, do all over the country. I’ve not done that for a long time. Maybe today it is not economically viable with the big band that I travel with from Jamaica, but to come to the UK to do a few shows – I don’t find it difficult. I have a few shows in the summer, including Glastonbury and other stuff.
Your touring with a nine piece band – will there be a full horn section?
Not a big horn section, we have just two horns – we have trumpet and tenor sax who will also double on alto.
In terms of what UK fans are used to that is a big horn section!
Yes. It’s a band that I’ve played with for quite a few years so I’ve bonded with them well and its good.
Do you see yourself as more than just a reggae singer?
Well first of all I see my self as an artist, a creative artist. And remember when I came on the scene there was nothing called reggae. So I had to help create that and I put in my energy which is my own… a very upbeat part of the thing! And create what is now known as reggae. But I’m a creative artists and I’ve put that into many different genres of music, but because my roots is reggae I will always be categorised as reggae. But if you listen to a song like Many Rivers To Cross can you classify that as reggae?
Do you have a message for your UK fans?
Well I think we are a point in time of humanity where we have to become aware of ourselves and what is going on on our planet. I mean it has become a cliché word of sorts – global warming. But about seven or eight years ago I made an album called Save Our Planet Earth just to show I was aware in those times. So I think there is something we can do about that and show our awareness. Then you have places like Darfur and Tibet that mean we have to become more aware of ourselves spiritually, some would say politically, globally. We are living in a global environment right now.
Thank you for talking to me.
Interview by: Angus Taylor
Tarrus Riley (Born Omar Riley, Bronx, New York) is the son of legendary singer Jimmy Riley. The success of his album Parables (produced by Dean Fraser) and its Jamaican number one hit single She’s Royal, have made him one of reggae music’s biggest stars. Angus Taylor caught up with Tarrus in NYC to discuss music, life and his incredible rise to fame.
You’ve been around for a lot longer than many people think. Tell us about your early career.
TR: I’ve been in the music business from about age fourteen. I used to record for Willie Lindo and later for Main Street, Daddy Brownie and that. All this was practice for what I’m doing now. I start in the business as a deejay, and I can still deejay, but these days I sing more, play a little keyboard and guitar, not to be Beethoven or George Benson, I help my self with the music and use my ears, and it’s all good. I just give thanks to be a part of this music.
What inspired you to take up music?
TR: Inspiration comes from everywhere. Even interviews inspire me! Relationships inspire me. It doesn’t start from one place. I read books, I read the bible, I read Marcus Garvey, his philosophy and opinions, I go outside have a peace pipe and I feel inspiration. Inspiration just flow like a river. I give thanks for life because with life come experiences and from experiences come songs.
It’s been an amazing year for you. Many people see the hopes and dreams of modern reggae in your person. Does that affect you in any way?
TR: It doesn’t affect me, it just inspires me. It gives me the confidence and courage to go and do it. I want to represent the music business, our music business, and spread reggae to the four corners of the earth. So if I can give it hope it’s a compliment, giving me more health and strength to do it right.
Where many singers with famous parents sound very similar to them - Andrew Tosh, Kenyatta Hill, Junior Toots - you have your own completely different voice. Was this something you set out to do?
TR: I started in the dancehall and admire Shabba Ranks and Stitchie, so I never really wanted to be like my father. At the time singing was an old man thing so I couldn’t really relate to it. I was more (SINGS) “YOUNG GAL BUSINESS CONTROL JAMAICA!”, Shabba Ranks Trailer Load and things like that. That was what I could relate to. It was only when I find out about melody and things like that that I could relate to singing. So it’s not like I set out to be like my father, the only similarity would be that he was in the music business like me. I just wanted to be myself. But I’m a lot like my father. He is a singer. I am a singer. But I big up my mother every time because she is a great inspiration to me and push the music very far and I really love her.
Speaking of inspirational ladies - tell us about about She’s Royal – was it inspired by a real person?
TR: Yeah man it’s a reality song, I wrote just to let woman feel nice. Because we must talk about slavery, we can’t really go round it, a lot of conditioning from slavery still resonates today and the women still lack self esteem. They need some music to make them feel good so I think let me sing a song to big up the girls and say she’s a queen and she’s Royal. As a rasta you have to look to yourself as kings and princes, and because a prince must have a princess and a king have a queen, so this is a song that makes the woman feel nice. Because if a woman feels nice, the youth feel nice. If you come home to your woman and she’s miserable the youth feel miserable. The woman is the backbone of the house so I make her feel nice.
How often is your writing based on your own experiences?
TR: Sometimes they are your experiences, and some are my experiences and some are family experiences. Life is the greatest thing and with life we get to see things and go through things and it’s all good.
Did you expect She’s Royal to take off in the way it did?
TR: I expected it to take off but not that fast. I big up the fans, because you are calling from far away, over land and seas, from Europe to listen to Tarrus Riley and that make my heart smile. So I big up the people for making that song a success. We just make songs for the people so the music belongs to the people. They buy CDs, they buy records, the come to stage shows. So the music business really belongs to the people, so when they really love and believe in a song – nothing can stop it.
On Microchip you warn of the dangers of technology but the song doesn’t sound like it was created with just a guitar and drum. Explain the philosophy behind it.
TR: I originally wrote it on my piano. We’re not bashing the computer. Computers make life easy. We need it. We work with telephones and computer and laptop. But the deeper we get into computers the more we should learn about creation, about the birds and the bees, about the rivers and streams same way. The more we get modern is the more we should get ancient. Have a balance of all things because moderation is the key – and balance is life. We don’t come to divide people with religion and politics - I am into unity. Just because we are different doesn’t mean we can’t get along. You have garlic, thyme, pepper, all of them different but they make the pot taste nice.
According to Dean Fraser, Parables was made possible by the close friendship of those involved, going above and beyond the call of duty. How was the experience for you?
TR: Yes! Dean Fraser is my big brother and also part of my business. He is coming to talk to you now!(DEAN FRASER COMES ON THE LINE)
DF: Greetings man! It was that situation exactly. It was the musicians that really put in that effort, to make this project and we should never at any given time forget the musicians – Robbie Lyn, Robbie Shakespeare, Michael Fletcher, Sean Dawson, and of course new faces, Donald Dennis, George Dusty Miller, and the great Kirk Bennett, Mitchum Chin, myself, Dwight Richards, the harmony singers – the Daffodils. A collective effort that has turned out something that will last a very long time.
There have been reports of the reggae industry being in trouble. As one of it’s big success stories, where do you see it going?
TR: I think the music is in good hands. Because a lot of fresh talent is coming out. We have I Wayne, Busy Signal, Duane Stephens, a lot of great youths coming out. Reggae music is high right now. Once we only have certain artists, but now we have nuff nuff so I feel good.
You come to the UK in March – do you have a message for your UK fans?
DF: Right now we are asking the UK fans to come out and help keep the reggae music, because the UK is having a little down situation with the music. We are here, we are producing music and we hope the fans can help us lift the music so we can bring more concerts to England. We beg rude boy to tone it down, we don’t want anyone to be looking over their shoulders, we want a collective effort so everybody is able to hear and enjoy good reggae music, music for love, music for joy, so they can hear the music on a level.
What does 2008 hold for Dean Fraser and Tarrus Riley?
DF: We thought Parables was done, but it’s just making its mark. So we definitely have to deal with it a little more. But we are still writing, putting together new tracks, so by the middle of 2008, we start recording some very serious songs, so we are able to give you a follow up.
Thank you for your time.
It’s been a very successful time for female singers lately – are the ladies taking over?
(LAUGHS) I wouldn’t say taking over because I would not want to take over personally! I think there’s more recognition and I’m happy to be one of those sisters that can say, “I stood the ground” to make these little sisters have the courage and help encourage them along. The first time it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t as easy for women to be recognised. But I think that for anyone to be recognised, male or female, you have to have that determination, that focus as to what you really want, and then most naturally you’ll get the attention that you really want.
Tell us about your new album Montego Bay.
It’s going to be done for VP records. It’s going to have 12 or 13 tracks. It’s got a whole lot of message, there’s also fun, there’s a little about love from a relationship point of view. And it’s just Queen Ifrica presenting herself once more in the form of this beautiful project.
How do you feel it compares to your previous album Fyah Muma? Does it represent a progression?
Yes I would say so. Fyah Muma is very much loved and appreciated, henceforth the reasons for Montego Bay. Because that’s where Fyah Muma, Queen Ifrica is from you know? So it’s Fyah Muma from Montego Bay, so it’s like a continuation.
What was life like growing up in that part of Jamaica?
Well I was not raised in the resort area [of Montego Bay]. I was raised in somewhat of an outskirts community called Belmont. And it was up in the hills, among birds, so it wasn’t really an attraction. But we were all involved in the communities of Montego Bay. We were always in town. So we know where the attractions are and we know where the locals hang out and stuff like that. So we were very much educated as to the runnings of Montego.
And who were your favourite singers and deejays when growing up?
My favourite singers and deejays would have been… Tony Rebel, Garnet Silk, Anthony B, Luciano. Those cultural acts that were coming up in the nineties. And Capleton, Sizzla. Those early songs that they came out with were very much appreciated by the Rastafarian community that I was a part of. So it was natural to gravitate to these type of artists that were coming with a conscious message.
And what first inspired you to make music yourself?
I was chosen to do music. I must say so. I was always forced into doing it. Forced in the sense of my friends. [They] Would always encourage me to take it seriously because they recognised that I have a voice that sound beautiful when I sing you know? So they were always encouraging me. But it was when I met Tony Rebel at a stage show in Montego Bay that was commemorating the death of Garnett Silk. I went on stage and sang one of Garnett Silk’s songs and I was introduced after to Tony Rebel by one individual who was at the company at the time. And it was his telling me how much I reminded him of Garnett Silk that really brought it home to me because Garnett Silk was like my overall favourite artist when I heard him you know? To hear him speak that way, to compare me with Garnett and the whole energy. And he invited me to Flames and that’s where I’ve been ever since. So I found my niche you know?
Are you primarily a singer or deejay?
I was always known to be singing. Deejay came about as an accident really. Not a bad accident! (LAUGHS) No one died! But I did a song when Rebel did Just Friends. We did a version of it, myself and Lady G. And so it was when he took me to England for the first time and I was supposed to perform the song without Lady G that I ended up having to deejay Lady G’s part of the song. The response of the crowd was… overwhelming! Because they were so shocked when they heard me deejay. And that’s where the whole deejay thing was born. But most of the songs I recorded in the early stages for Flames and for other producers were singing songs. But both of them came naturally and so they have now become an item! (LAUGHS)
You chose to work with a variety of different producers this time. How did you decide which tracks to include?
It became based upon the energy that you get from the tracks themselves. We wanted to make sure that all the tracks were good to listen to and the rhythms makes a difference too. Because when you are writing and there’s a connection with the lyrics and the rhythm it makes it better to understand the song and to understand the rhythm itself as it tells a different message. All so that brings it to one you know? So it depends on the energy you are getting at that moment from the rhythms so when you put all these songs together you hear the sequence in which they come together: whether it’s the topics or the way the rhythms are flowing. It’s a contrast and when you get the contrast correct then the finished product is what you have there.
The rhythms you use are a mix of one drop, Rasta drumming and dancehall styles. Do you feel happy with any style of track? Is there a favourite type of rhythm you like to work with?
There’s no particular favourite. I just did a combination with Bobby Sinclair from Europe. He’s a house musician. That’s beautiful because that’s a whole other genre of music right there. My thing is, the rhythm is what accommodates the message you’re trying to send. They both work together. So my focus is on the lyrics that go around these rhythms, not so much the rhythm. Because the rhythms is spirituality, likewise the words, so when you match it equally then you get something that’s overwhelming and beautiful. So the rhythms are what we need whatever rhythm it is, and then the lyrics we put around it is what makes the difference.
Now let’s talk about some of the songs on the album. You choose a very cultural track to be the first song on the album. Tribute To The Pitfour Nyabinghi Centre. Tell us about this decision.
Yes. Montego Bay is the title of the album, Montego Bay is where I grew up, and my Rastafarian roots is there. Nyabinghi Pitfour Centre is where all my knowledge of Rastafari grew you know? That’s the foundation. So I thought it would be fitting to do a tribute to that part of my life that is responsible for my consciousness.
In the song Montego Bay you talk about life in a place most non Jamaicans know as a beach paradise. What’s the most important thing people outside Jamaica should know about Montego Bay?
Montego Bay is the friendly city. It’s known that way because of the hospitality of the locals. The people who are in the craft markets. The people who are in the poorer communities. When you get to know these people then you understand that the separation is not necessary. Because it’s the tourists getting an opportunity getting an opportunity to mingle with the locals and understand their way of living. And also by spending with these people they are helping to increase growth in the communities. When you lock us away you are locking away opportunities from the people who really need it. And the people who can afford it, they just continue to get more while the ones that need it don’t get enough. So it’s just to say, give the tourists a chance to meet and greet with the locals and to support them also. And then you make your decision based on the reaction of everybody to that type of situation.
Lioness On The Rise is a very empowering tune. Lyrically and spiritually it reminds me of the Wailers’ Small Axe.
What was the inspiration behind that song?
It’s about women empowerment without being sexist. A lot of times we tend to empower woman by saying the day will come when woman will take over from men or woman will be equal to men. It’s more saying strength of self. It is a regular woman on an everyday quest of life. Acknowledging the fact that she can still contribute in another way to society. Not just by being an everyday mom but by giving back to her community in every little way she thinks possible that she can. Whatever it is, whether you a corporate, housewife, or outlaw. Whatever type of woman you find yourself to be there is strength in each and every individual and it’s about recognising that and moving towards it without saying that you are less or more than man per se, you know?
Another song where your principles come across is Keep It To Yourself, where you say you don’t want fish in your ital dish. Do you believe everyone should be vegetarian?
(BIG LAUGH) Because of the health implications and facts that come with it, it would be nice, you know? If you look around you see a lot of mercury and lead and all these things that are polluting the sea these days. But as I say, it is Haile Selassie that we worship so that religion is personal. At the end of the day, it’s what an individual wants to do for themselves… (PAUSES)
It’s up to the individual.
That’s right. And if you notice I tend to personalise a lot of my songs by using “me” and “I”. Because at the end of the day it begins with you the individual, what it is that YOU want. It’s not about dictating, it’s about sharing what I do with then hope that you understand. And if you don’t understand we could have a conversation.
In the song Calling Africa there is a recording of a call I’ve heard in Touareg/Kel Tamashek music. Can you tell me a bit about this sound?
When I was doing this song I had the rhythm first. And while I was listening to the rhythm I was hearing that kind of sound coming out of it so that’s how I wrote the song. When I was about to record the song I told [Tony] Rebel that I wanted to get the cry sound that I always hear people who have travelled to Africa associate with Africa. In Jamaica you have a sister called Andrea Williams who does a programme called Running African. And every morning when she comes on you will have that cry sound which is known as “the sound of the ancestors” to bring forth a message of strength and awareness. So I called Andrea Williams and told her that I wanted somebody who could do that cry sound as the intro of this particular song. She introduced me to a sister from Africa who came in from Ocho Rios and she came into the studio and actually did it. What you are hearing is not a sample, she did it live. And it was so beautiful to watch her go through that! It was such a wonderful thing to see her hold it in one breath! It was very nice because at the end of the day that’s what I really wanted.
You’ve also chosen to include your big hit Daddy, which is about incest. Are you pleased with the impact the song has had?
I am definitely pleased at the impact for many reasons. And most important is the fact that many people, especially young, helpless people whom would not normally have the courage to say to somebody that this is happening to them have now gotten that chance and acted upon it. And that is enough for me. I wrote the song specifically because I knew the reaction I would get. And therefore there is no incite of violence in it. There’s no implications of anyone in particular. I’m just saying it like it is, the way it happens, and when I was writing it, the mother or the father who knew they had done stuff like this, I wanted them to have a reality check. When they heard it I wanted them to have a shock of conscience, of something going through their bodies. I’ve heard stories of it actually taking place and I’ve seen it in action for myself personally in the form of an individual that is around us that we are aware of that does that kind of stuff. And in the society that we are in it’s hard to say because people are afraid that they might want to come and kill you or might try to harm you if they know that you talked. And so these are some of the reasons [why] this individual, when he heard it for the first time, he came back and when we saw him the following day his eyes were so swollen from crying. We could see that he was crying all night. And nobody said anything to him. He had just heard the song. Those are physical ways in which the song has done its work and it is still doing its work. And I am so happy that I took it upon myself to become that martyr to bring that to light for the many who did not think it would be happening any time soon.
And was it a specific case of abuse or many cases that inspired the song?
It was many cases and also specifical cases of people that we know close to us who have experienced [it]. We know people who have committed suicide. Growing up carrying around this thing and they couldn’t carry it any more. They’ve gone through school, university, graduated and just committed suicide you know? To me there has to be more that’s done to help these kind of people because it really does affect psychologically a lot of their brains and the way they do stuff. My thing is, looking into society it’s as though we blame young people for behaving the way they behave but we don’t really look at what is causing them to behave in these kind of ways. And so it’s unfair to point a finger at a child who might be going through abuse in her surroundings or his surroundings. So my thing is to look at the thing that is causing the problem as opposed to pointing at the problem, each time we get a chance.
You have also voiced old on old roots rhythms like Movie Star and Satta. How important is it to keep a link with the past?
It’s very important because it’s what determines how the present play out itself you know? As we are in the present now, we are creating a past and so we have to be conscious of how go about our everyday life and how we appreciate what was there before. You’ve [not?] got a lot of that anymore in the industry where young artists like myself really appreciate what their elders did and the love they put in too. Because the reason why these rhythms can’t go away is because of the love that was placed in them. You’ve got a lot people giving of themselves when these rhythms were being built and so it carries on to now. I am actually privileged to be one of those kind of artists who gets to lend my voice to those kind of rhythms that I know was done for the real love of the music. So it’s definitely a pleasure.
You’ve probably been asked about this many times but do you hear any similarity between your own music and that of your father?
Yes I think so. He is very strong in his vocals and he has done a little prerogative music in his taste too, in some of the lyrics he has done. I definitely see he can sing and he can deejay. He can a do kind of like a point thing with his voice also. So I guess I draw a lot from that.
Who out of family friends and mentors has been the biggest inspiration in your music career?
In my family I’d definitely say it has to be my mom. She’s passionate about music. When you hear her sing so beautifully it’s not funny. And it’s like when she sees me now she sees herself when she was coming up in music. And from time to time I invite her on stage to sing because she loves to do that. So she is the greatest inspiration where music is concerned.
What advice do you have for any of your fans who wants to follow your path into music?
Be very self-conscious. Be aware. Know why you want to come into it. The talent that you get is a gift from the almighty and what you do with it is your gift back to him. So make up your mind as to what you want. Do you want to have morals or do you want to have a lot of money? Because you can have morals and a lot of money, it depends on how you go about it. But if you have a lot of money and no morals then something is wrong there. So you have to think hard, figure out your surroundings. The people that have your interests, who are not about hustling, who are there to show you the ins and outs, the ups and downs, all the obstacles you have to face, making you realise immediately that it is not a bed of roses. It’s hard work. It’s dedication. It’s what you put in and get out. It’s not a quick fix. You have to be willing to go all the way.Interview by Angus Taylor