The Apollo Theater, in partnership with World Music Institute, will present the 7th edition of the annual Africa Now! festival on Saturday, April 13 at 8:00 p.m.
This year’s lineup includes African dancehall artists Patoranking (Nigeria), Seyi Shay (Nigeria), Buffalo Souljah (Zimbabwe), and Afrobeat sensation Kaleta & Super Yamba Band (Benin/Nigeria) as part of AFRICA NOW! hosted by Young Prince and music by DJ mOma.
Gaby Sappington, Executive Director of World Music Institute, says: “In our seventh year of partnering with Apollo Theater in presenting the most exciting and relevant voices of today’s African music scene, this year’s Africa Now! celebrates the energy and rhythms of Dancehall artists. We are excited about the hand-picked line-up and look forward to seeing these outstanding artists share their talent on the Apollo’s legendary stage.”
“African Dancehall music has become increasingly more mainstream since the 1980s. Most recently, artists such as Drake and Wizkid have infused Dancehall into their music, introducing the beautiful blends of Caribbean and African beats to a global audience. Part of the Apollo’s mission is to recognize and spotlight movements that have shaped the contemporary musical landscape. Now, in its seventh year, Africa Now! continues to highlight the sounds from the continent and the artists who are pushing Africa’s music scene forward,” said Apollo Theater Executive Producer, Kamilah Forbes.
One of the few Jamaican singers to truly bridge the gap between the roots and dancehall reggae styles is the man known as Everton “Blender.” When reggae fans hear the opening notes of “Lift Up Your Head,” “Ghetto People Song,” “Blend Dem,” etc., they instantly recognize these songs as the cultural anthems of our time. The large number of hits Everton has accrued is most impressive for an artist who has been in the business for such a seemingly short period of time. But like many of Jamaica’s biggest musical stars, the road to fame wasn’t a short or easy one.
Everton Dennis Williams, better known as Everton Blender was born on November 21, 1954 in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, but grew up in Kingston 13 on Maxfield Avenue. Everton worked as a painter, construction worker, and decorator, but he realized that the strong chemicals he was working with were not good for his voice or his health in general. With divine help and direction, he decided to leave his job to pursue a singing career. In 1980, he met Phyllis Thompson (who would later become his wife), and moved back to Clarendon. In 1985, Everton and Phyllis’ first child, Isha, was born.
Although Everton had recorded a handful of singles for various producers, he had yet to score with a hit on the island. But that was all about to change in 1991 he voiced the autobiographical “Create a Sound.” The song described Everton’s experiences in the music business and with the Rasta faith. It was released the following year on the Star Trail label, and it was Everton Blender’s first hit. Everton continued to record for Star Trail, who had a distribution deal with Heartbeat Records. 1994’s Lift Up Your Head (HB 169) was Everton’s full length debut, and featured “Create a Sound,” along with the hits, “Family Man,” “Bring di Kutchie,” “My Father’s Home,” “Gwaan Natty,” and the title track, which would go on to become one of the biggest anthems of the 1990’s.
Everton continued to record for Star Trail and other labels, scoring hits including “Blend Dem,” “World Corruption,” “Bob Marley,” “Piece of the Blender,” “The Man,” and “Coming Harder,” all collected on the 1996 album, Piece of the Blender: The Singles (HB 209). At this time, Everton decided to take charge of his career and start his own label, which he named Blend Dem Productions. He began to finance most of his own recordings, a move which proved to heighten tension between himself and many who wished to control the music production and promotion on the island. But he persevered, knowing that being in control of his career was the right decision, and his relationship with Heartbeat became even stronger.
In 1999, Heartbeat released Everton Blender’s first album of Blend Dem productions, Rootsman Credential (HB 227). Alongside boom shots like “Ghetto People Song,” “Why Do We Have to War,” and “False Words” were Everton’s own productions including “Slick Me Slick,” “These Hands,” and many more strong statements of Everton’s faith and will to succeed. Since the release of Rootsman Credential, Everton has toured the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean-establishing himself as one of the top touring forces from Jamaica. Live at the White River Reggae Bash (HB 242) captures Everton performing his most popular material with the Blend Dem band.
As the millennium came to a close, Heartbeat released an album of new Blend Dem productions that includes top acts riding Everton Blender produced rhythms. Dance Hall Liberation (HB 246) features Anthony B, Tony Rebel, Louie Culture, Richie Spice, Everton Blender, daughter Isha, and others. Everton was also executive producer on Richie Spice’s debut album, Universal (HB 103), and played a role in Spanner Banner’s Real Love (HB 249).
Blender’s album released in 2001, Visionary (HB 254), consisted of his trademark conscious commitment over sizzling roots and dancehall self-productions. With guest appearances by Beenie Man, Anthony B, Tony Rebel, and Marcia Griffiths along with Everton’s own strong performance, the album garnered favorable reviews throughout the music press. 2001 and 2002 also marked excellent touring year for Blender, where he headlined several major reggae events.
King Man (HB 258) offers a strikingly different approach for the beloved dancehall artist. Uniquely recorded with all live instruments including full horn section, the album harkens back to the 1970s, considered the golden era of Reggae, one where tradition lives. Still sounding fresh and new, this roots record, a first for “Blender,” offered his reactions to what was going on in the world. From the soulful “Little Green Apples,” a remake of OC Smith’s 1968 pop and R & B hit, to the reflective “Tabernacle Tree” to Syl Johnson’s powerful and moving “Is It Because I’m Black” each have a story to tell. Featuring a wide variety of producers, players and studios, in both Los Angeles and Kingston, Jamaica, the album featured musicians of all ages ranging from players in their twenties influenced by “Blender” himself to top dogs like horn player, Dean Fraser, keyboardist Robbie Lyn, members of Shaggy’s band and even Joseph “Culture” Hill who rarely guests on other artists’ records.
Reggae icon Delroy Junior Reid, best-known for his international hit “One Blood”, which sold over 2 million copies.
The former member of reggae supergroup Black Uhuru (1985-88), Junior Reid is known today not only as an artist, but as a producer and talent agent, who has notably produced artists such as Dennis Brown, Ninjamean, Gregory Isaac, Jah Mason, and many more.
Still avidly performing and recording, Junior Reid continues to collaborate with artists ranging from Poor Righteous Teachers & Busta Rhymes to Guru, Wu Tang and the Game.
Boom-Shack-A-Lack (Greensleeves, 1985)
Original Foreign Mind (1985) One Blood (Big Life/Mercury, 1990)
Long Road (Cohiba, 1991)
Big Timer (VP Records, 1993)
Visa (Greensleeves, 1994)
Junior Reid & The Bloods (RAS Records, 1995)
Showers Of Blessings (1995)
Listen To The Voices (RAS Records, 1996)
RAS Portraits (RAS Records, 1997)
True World Order (1997)
Big Timer (2000)
Emmanuel Calling (JR Productions, 2000)
Rasta Government (Penitentiary, 2003)
Double Top (2005)
Live in Berkeley (2B1, 2007) Junior Reid, the Living Legend (ABB, 2015)
American singer-songwriter Dahlia Dumont is the artist behind The Blue Dahlia. The New York-based group brings together musicians from various countries who play a cross-cultural sound with vocals in French and English.
The mix includes, pop, Americana, dancehall reggae, French accordion melodies, blues, ska, jazz, soca, klezmer, and Mexican influences.
La Tradition Américaine is a musically diverse and lively album recorded on two continents.
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.