The self-titled album Ziggy Marley (Tuff Gong Worldwide) by Ziggy Marley won the Best Reggae Album Grammy at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.
The other finalists were:
Sly & Robbie Presents… Reggae For Her (Tuff Gong International, Taxi Records) – Devin Di Dakta & J.L
Rose Petals (Wash House Music Group) – J Boog
Everlasting (Dub Rockers/VP Records) – Raging Fyah
Falling Into Place (87 Music/Hill Kid/Raise Up Music/Easy Star Records) – Rebelution
SOJA: Live In Virginia (ATO Records) – SOJA
Damian Marley is the son of reggae icon Bob Marley and Jamaica’s 1977 Miss World, Cindy Breakspeare. He is the offspring of a union between two distinctive and disparate worlds.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica on July 21, 1978, Damian Robert Nesta Marley (a.k.a. ‘Junior Gong’), Bob’s youngest son, began performing as a child as the vocalist for a group called The Shepherds. Comprised of other well-known reggae artists’ children, including Shiah Coore (son of Third World guitarist Cat Coore) and Yashema Beth McGregor, the daughter of Freddie McGregor and Judy Mowatt, The Shepherds performed at several shows in Jamaica including the Reggae Sunsplash music festival in 1992.
After The Shepherds’ demise, Damian turned his vocal talents to deejaying (the Jamaican equivalent of rapping). In 1993 Damian’s debut single Deejay Degree was released on Tuff Gong Records (the label founded by Bob Marley) and the following year he released Sexy Girls On My Mind for the Main Street label.
Damian’s next release, 1995’s School Controversy, was featured on the Epic/Sony Wonder compilation, Positively Reggae with all sales proceeds going to Jamaica’s Leaf of Life Foundation, an organization which assists children who are HIV positive.
Although he was still a teenager, Damian was selected as the Positively Reggae spokesperson, a role that introduced him to the international press and record buying public. That same yea, Damian performed at select dates on the Shabba Ranks World Unity tour and with his brother Julian performed at Jamaica’s Reggae Sunfest and Sunsplash festivals.
Damian was a high school student when he began recording Mr. Marley at the Marley Music 48 track-recording studio. Produced by Stephen Marley (head of the Marley Boyz production team), Mr. Marley delivered a fusion of contemporary reggae grooves and infectious dancehall rhythms alongside tough edged hip-hop beats, an ideal complement for Damian’s versatile deejay-rap style.
The album included several updates of Bob Marley classics as well as the single ‘Me Name Junior Gong’ which went to the number one in Hawaii and held that position for several weeks. ‘When we went to Hawaii in 1997,’ Damian recalls, ‘we had three songs on the charts there: ‘Me Name Junior Gong,’ ‘One Cup of Coffee’ and ‘Now You Know,’ a tune from Julian’s debut album.’
Damian and Julian’s burgeoning popularity earned them featured appearances on the 1997 traveling alternative rock festival Lollapalooza which provided invaluable exposure among a new sector of music fans.
Five years after the release of Mr. Marley, Damian had matured as a performer, songwriter, recording artist and Rastafarian, his unwavering convictions reflected throughout his new album, Halfway Tree.
Stephen Marley produced Halfway Tree for Marley Boyz productions. Stephen’s innovative approach to Halfway Tree incorporates spoken word introductions and dramatic vignettes as song interludes, creating a conceptual cohesiveness lacking from most Jamaican albums. Stephen also adapts traditional reggae elements (forceful drum and bass lines, committed social commentary) to 21st century hip hop’s synthesized beats and sometimes defiant stances while utilizing the talents of Jamaican singers, deejays and musicians alongside American rappers, each underscoring Damian’s impassioned delivery.
Damian called the album Halfway Tree because ‘my father is from the country and the ghetto and my mother is from uptown so I come like a half way tree, like a bridge because I can relate to both sides.’
The anthology Strictly the Best Vol. 55 (VP Records) includes this year’s most popular dancehall reggae songs played at clubs and on Caribbean radio. Artists featured include Vershon, Alkaline, Vybz Kartel, Mr. Vegas, Spice, Chi Ching Ching, Masicka and Dexta Daps.
Vol. 55 contains a bonus disc with famous duets from significant deejays paired with reggae singers. Songs include “Twice Mt Age” by Shabba Ranks ft. Krystal, “Bonafide Love” by Wayne Wonder ft. Buju Banton and “Hot Gal Today” by Mr. Vegas & Sean Paul.
Kingston, Jamaica will celebrate the 1st Annual One World Ska & Rocksteady Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday, November 26 and 27, 2016 at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, in Kingston (Jamaica). The Jamaican capital is the birthplace of Ska and Rocksteady music, two of the most popular musical genres played around the world today and predecessors of reggae.
Some of the leading performers of these two genres will appear from 3:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. on the first day. A symposium on the originators of Jamaican music and two documentaries on the genres are scheduled for day 2.
Ska music was first played in 1963 by the Skatalites in the Kingston recording studios and night clubs. The genre is today played by thousands of bands in the U.S.A., Europe, Japan, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. It will be the first time a music festival of this kind will be held in the birthplace of this genre.
Artists scheduled to perform include The Skatalites (USA); Soweto Ska Band (Spain); Marcia Griffiths (Jamaica); B.B. Seaton and the Gaylads (UK); Sparrow Martin and Skasonic (Jamaica); Brooklyn Attractors (USA); Leroy Sibbles, former lead singer of the Heptones (Jamaica); Hugh Roy, the King of the Jamaican toasters; Derrick Morgan, the King of Ska music (Jamaica); and Stranjah Cole (Jamaica).
The festival will also feature some emerging ska and rocksteady bands: Yard Beat, Earth Cry, and the Alpha School Band, made up of students of the school that produced many of Jamaica’s great musicians, such as Dizzy Reece, Harold “Little G” McNair, Joe Harriot, Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, and Rico Rodriguez.
Sound system selectors are Dexter Campbell “the Ska Professor”, and Roy Black of KLAS the Saturday Night Alternative, two leading musicologists. Other acts are expected to perform.
“The 1st Annual One World Ska & Rocksteady Music Festival is a tactical move of Sounds & Pressure Foundation to position Kingston as a cultural tourism destination, and we have been working on it now going three years,” said festival director Julian “Jingles” Reynolds. “Jamaica is the only country apart from the United States that has given the world multiple musical genres, in Jamaica’s case, four popular genres, Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, and Dancehall, and we believe this is of great cultural value as they all have impacted world culture. We therefore, want to bring world attention to Kingston, where Jamaica’s popular music was born, and Ska, in particular has evolved into becoming far bigger and more accepted in several other countries, away from Jamaica.”
This year’s festival will be dedicated to Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Arthur “Duke” Reid, Cecil “Prince Buster” Campbell, Chris Blackwell, Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez, Marcia Griffiths, and the Alpha Boys School, who have all made major contributions to the development of Jamaican music.
I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time.
There is no proof that music can influence the actors of a political economy. There are a certain amount of musicalnoblesse that asks of us to respect musicians who attempt to guide minds towards social peace and progress, often while advocating for social unrest, but though dissenters sing along to political songs in droves, it’s important to ask one’s self if dissenters pay attention to the actual ‘message.’
Max Romeo and many of his fellow Reggae artists seem to not care about proof if their music can influence and go for it. In order to achieve the effect that religious songs often have on the faithful, but also to spread revolutionary gospel through mass media, Rastafari Romeo released the album War Ina Babylon in 1976.
Max Romeo is producing radio friendly songs here, though on the longer side of radio friendly so at five minutes; he must balance religious, revolution, and radio. He is producing his songs with The Upsetters, and he chooses to feature them richly, though not at a point where band members will improvise. The band focuses on aesthetics – on rhythm, on harmony, and melody, as he focuses on lyrical chant and some narrative like singing. We hear the coming together of expertise, not of ideology; sometimes melodies don’t convey chant. His chanting and exploring, along with a choir, political slogan on all 9 songs, and some scatting like ‘na na na na’ on “One Step Forward”, shapes these songs. We listeners listen to these slogans, over and again, as if the main attraction of these songs, dragged through the song contemplating a slogan like ‘war ina babylon’ on “War Ina Babylon.”
The songs are tight and don’t allow for much interpretation of the melodies, harmonies, or rhythms. Instead, the repetition of these slogans as chants drags along the songs’ melodies brilliantly, and do the same to the rhythms. Re-listening to these songs, one will realize that there are layers of beauty that one pushes aside as what accompanies the song’s lyrics. The instrumental beauty we hear almost signifies beautiful fight and it’s the case because of his repetition of the chants.
This album’s are essentially great at crafting and conveying slogans to the pathos of their time. They take the side and sing to labor and not to capital, articulating misery to those living complexity miserably. We are attending a beautiful rally here, a both perfect and religious rally as no political rallies really are.
Though there is no proof about music can led to concrete social change, it’s almost impossible to negate music’s importance. Even the theorist Friedrich Engels, during the later part of his life, in his late letters on historical materialism, did write about a a “reciprocal interaction” between the infrastructure of a society, its economy, and the superstructure, which includes music. Romeo belongs to a those who believe that ‘spring’ in a beloved society can come about with a new consciousness. He attempts to educate with slogan, through the reasonable length allowed by his time, to his time of human beings living in a very complex society.