Tag Archives: Reggae

Jamaican Reggae, Inscribed on Intangible Heritage of Humanity Representative List

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, meeting in Mauritius until 1 December, inscribed reggae on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The Representative List seeks to enhance visibility for the traditions and know-how of communities without recognizing standards of excellence or exclusivity.

Originating within the cultural space of marginalized groups, mainly in Western Kingston, the Reggae Music of Jamaica combines musical influences from earlier Jamaican forms as well as Caribbean, North American and Latin strains. Its basic functions as a vehicle of social commentary, as a cathartic experience, and means of praising God remain unchanged, and the music continues to provide a voice for all.

Students are taught how to play it from an early age, and festivals and concerts are central to ensuring its viability.

headline photo: Ky-Mani Marley in performance at the One Love Reggae concert celebrating legend and father Bob Marley – Photo by Steve James, © Semiyah Photography, 2016

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Artist Profiles: Majek Fashek

Majek Fashek

African reggae star Majek Fashek has been called a prophet and a poet, and is recognized as one of Nigeria’s greatest singers and musicians. His powerful world beat sound incorporates his core influences (Bob Marley, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Jimi Hendrix), seamlessly meshing roots, rock, reggae and Afrobeat into a unique signature sound called kpangolo. Majek describes it as “the sound of many cultures coming together.”

Majek Fashek has always sung from the soul about the political and social struggles he has faced in his long and winding road from Nigeria to the U.S. He first attracted international attention in 1987 when his song, “Send Down The Rain” seemed to coax a rainstorm that ended one of the worst droughts in Nigeria’ s history. Performing at an outdoor theater, he saw the thirsty crowd yearning for just a few drops of water. No one could imagine the possibility of a downpour, but as Majek sang the lyric “the sky looks misty and cloudy; it looks like the rain’s gonna fall today,” clouds gathered in the sky, thunder cracked and rain soaked the barren ground. Since that momentous occasion, Fashek has become one of Africa’s most revered contemporary musical performers, rivaling Afro-reggae compatriots Alpha Blondy and Lucky Dube in recognition and popularity around the world.

While he developed an early interest in Jamaican riddims, Fashek was equally drawn to the music of Indian cinema. Learning to play guitar while in secondary school, Fashek joined a band called Jah Stix and, after graduating from the New Era College’s Arts Program, he began playing in Lagos nightclubs, universities and even prisons. Fashek enjoyed a close relationship with the legendary late Nigerian musician and bandleader Fela Kuti, (he includes a Fela composition “Water No Get Enemy” on his new release Little Patience). “He’s like my big brother,” Majek has said and like Fela, he not only delivers hard-hitting rhythms, but also a forceful criticism of social and political issues.

Discography:

Prisoner Of Conscience (Tabansi/Mango, 1987)
I & I Experience ‎(CBS, 1989)
Spirit Of Love (Interscope Records, 1991)
So Long Too Long ‎(Sony Music, 1991)
Rainmaker ‎(Lightyear Entertainment, 1997)
Little Patience ‎(November Records/33rd Street, 2005)

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Artist Profiles: Moana Maniapoto

Moana Maniapoto – Photo by Angel Romero

Moana Maniapoto has consistently pushed the boundaries of Maori music with her unique mix of traditional Maori musical elements and contemporary western grooves. Her band Moana and the Tribe tour throughout the world and are one of the most successful indigenous bands to emerge from New Zealand.

Moana is supported by a collective of talented performers including two acoustic guitarists, female vocalists, a troop of male ‘warriors’ (including some of the best haka performers in New Zealand) and a team of film-makers. The Tribe’ includes Ihu Waka (Reweti Te Mete, Paora Sharpies and Scottie Morrison), as well as guitarist Cadzow Cossar and bass player Pete Hoera. Taonga puoro player Rangi Rangitukunoa is also a rapper and breakdancer. Vocalists Aminra Renti and Trina Maniapoto support Moana in song.

Moana & the Tribe fuse Maori instruments, chants and beats with pacific rhythms, then combine it up with soul, reggae and funk to produce a multi-genre cross-pollination of traditional and contemporary culture. Taonga puoro (traditional Maori instruments) had almost disappeared from Maori culture. Over forty have now been identified and some have been recorded for the very first time, courtesy of Moana and her musicians. These instruments, traditional chants and the haka (a war-like dance) are incorporated into Moana’s music, providing a spectacular accompaniment to modern beats. Tauparapara (traditional chanting) replaces rap.

Moana & the Tribe sing about land and people and present their songs in Maori as well as in English. They speak of a connection to Papatuanuku (Mother Earth), of justice, the importance of language and traditions. They talk about the traditional “moko” (tattooing of face and body), about the Maoris’ struggle for land but also about spirituality, prophecies and traditional bonds and touch on a variety of political and social issues, that are universal. Moana’s albums and her live performances are expressions of rare beauty and a stunning combination of traditional and contemporary culture.

Moana and the Tribe leading a workshop at the Rainforest World Music Festival – Photo by Angel Romero

Moana’s lyrics reflect the Maori spiritual, cultural and political reality. She is a singer and songwriter, but also draws inspiration from her rich life as a documentary-maker, writer and political activist. Despite being inspired from her own culture, Moana’s songs strike a chord with every audience. Her message is universal: Mana Maori – Pride in being Maori, Mana Wahine – Respect for women, and Mana Tangata – Respect for all humanity.

She is a lawyer, musician, songwriter and has worked as a TV host. Moana was admitted to the Bar in 1984 and has worked to empower Maori and community groups with information about the legal system and processes.

In June 2003 Moana & the Tribe returned, to promote the European release of their DVD Live & Proud, which was launched in Berlin. The group completed a series of 36 concerts over seven weeks throughout Holland, Austria, Switzerland, Germany culminating with four performances at the Olympic Festival of Sacred Song and Dance – the Cultural Olympiad in Greece. Moana & the Tribe represented New Zealand performing in Patras, Kalamata, Athens and on the ancient site of Olympia. The group participated alongside representatives from 28 nations including Paco Pe?a (Spain) and the Shaolin Monks (China).

Moana & the Tribe sang also at the media launch of New Zealand feature film The Whale Rider in Cologne and promoted the movie at their concerts. Once again in 2003 the band staked their biggest claim in Germany and gained a whole new league of fans: “People that come to our [ concerts tell us that they relate to the feeling – even if they can’t understand English or Maori,? says Moana. ?Some come to four or five shows during our tour and we move across some big distances pretty quickly so that kinda blows us away.”

In February of 2004 she won the 2003 International Songwriting Competition (ISC) for her world music song “Moko.” The winning song “Moko,” is a compelling fusion of smooth world music and an urban sound with earthy, international beats.”

Discography:

Toru (Pirate Records, 2005)
Wha (Ode Records, 2008)
Acoustic (Rajon, 2010)
Rima (Black Pearl, 2014)

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Artist Profiles: Hollie Smith

Hollie Smith

Singer-songwriter Hollie Smith is a leading vocalist in the New Zealand music scene. She has collaborated with Trinity Roots, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Don McGlashan, One Million Dollars, Anika Moa and Boh Runga.

Hollie Smith has a deep, rich and soulful singing style. Hollie’s wide range of musical influences combine elements of soul, jazz, reggae, Celtic and R&B.

Discography:

Light From a Distant Shore (Etherean, 1999)
Long Player (Soundsmith, 2007)
Humour and the Misfortune of Others (Soundsmith, 2010)
Band of Brothers Vol. 1 (Soundsmith, 2011)
Peace of Mind (Civic, 2013)
Water or Gold (Soundsmith, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: The Meditations

The Meditations

Ansel Cridland, Danny Clarke and Winston Watson collectively known as The Meditations, recorded their first hit single “Woman is Like a Shadow” in 1974 at Channel One Recording Studio; followed by “Tricked”, “Babylon Trap Them”, “Woman Plabba” and “Running from Jamaica” which were included on their first album Message from the Meditations produced by Dobby Dobson.

Among other album were Wake Up, Guidance, No More Friend, For The Good of Man, The Return of The Meditations and Ghetto Knowledge. The group’s vocal and harmony style captured the hearts of reggae fans around the world and led to the collaboration of work with Lee “Scratch” Perry. Scratch, who produced for Bob Marley and the Wailers, asked them to do back up vocals for “Punky Reggae Party”, featuring Bob on lead vocals.

Bob Marley was so pleased with their harmony that he went in search for the group to do more back up vocals for him. He found Danny Clarke, one of the group’s member, and put him in a taxicab and said, “Me nuh wan you (don’t) come back ‘til you find the other two member”. The taxi driver drove Danny to all the studios in Kingston and could not find the other members, until they drove to “Idlers Rest”, a street where all musicians and singers mostly hang out.

When Danny saw Ansel and gave him the news that Bob Marley wanted the group to do back up vocals for him, Ansel thought it was a joke. Still, he and Winston joined Danny in the taxi, which took them to the studio where they added their vocals to “Rastaman Live Up” and “Blackman Redemption”.

The Meditations did back up vocals on songs for other artists like, Jimmy Cliff’s hit “Bongoman”, “Youths” Them A Cry”; Gregory Isaacs’ “Mr. Cop” and several songs with Junior Marvin and other reggae artists.

Discography

Message From The Meditations (Wild Flower, 1977)
Wake Up (Double-D, 1978)
Guidance (Tad’s/Guidance, 1979)
No More Friend (Greensleeves, 1983)
For The Good of Man (Greensleeves, 1988)
Return of The Meditations (Sonic Sounds/Heartbeat, 1993)
Ghetto Knowledge (Easy Star, 1999)
I Love Jah (Wackies, 2002)
Stand In Love (2Good , 2004)
Jah Always Find a Way (2015)

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Artist Profiles: The Melodians

The Melodians

Bridging the gap between Ska and Reggae, the soulful Rocksteady style dominated the Jamaican music scene for more than a decade. Formed in 1965 by Tony Brevett, Brent Dow and Trevor McNaughton, The Melodians was one of the premiere Rocksteady groups recording with legendary producers Clement “Coxsone Dodd, Arthur “Duke” Reid, and Leslie Kong with later releases on the Channel One and Studio One labels. Their hit “Rivers of Babylon” went on to become one of Jamaica’s most beloved songs.

The Melodians have continued to record quality reggae and rocksteady and tour internationally. On January 28, 2006, Brent Dow died of a heart attack at the age of 59. The Melodians are busy completing an album that they were in the process of recording at the time of his death and have been touring extensively in honor of Brent.

Discography:

Rivers of Babylon (Trojan Records, 1970)
Sweet Sensation (Trojan Records, 1976)
Sweet Sensation: The Original Reggae Hit Sound (Island Records, 1980)
Irie Feelings (Ras records, 1983)
Premeditation (Skynote, 1986)
The Return of the Melodians (TWT Music, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Third World

Third World

In 1973, a teenaged guitarist, cellist, and singer named Stephen ‘Cat’ Coore, then with the Inner Band left the safety of the ‘Circle’ to pursue his dream to write and perform original material incorporating reggae, rock and funk, and a desire to tour and take music to a wider audience. Thus Third World was conceived. Third World is committed to the excellence of reggae music by combining Jamaican Reggae and Folk Music with all strains of African Rhythms, American Pop, Rhythm and Blues, Rap and even Classical Music. Third World is one of the longest running and most diverse bands Jamaica has ever produced.

Their Kingston premier in 1974 where they played reggae and funk, earned the group great reviews and gigs, as they were the only group comprised of young talented, trained instrumentalists who could sing and would take chances on musical grounds others feared to tread. A few months later they were opening for the Jackson Five at the Jamaican National Stadium, where they stunned the 30,000 plus audience with their versatility and professionalism. Before long, they were playing in England where Island Records? Chris Blackwell saw them perform. Blackwell immediately offered them a record deal and a slot on a European tour, opening for one of his artists ? Bob Marley and the Wailers.

“Third World,” their debut album in 1976, featured the hypnotic “Satta Amasa Gana.” It was closely followed in 1977 by the legendary album, 96 In The Shade ? released to rave reviews in Europe and the U.K. including open salutes to Ras Tafari like “Jah Glory,” Bunny Wailer’s “Dreamland,” and of course, the classic title track, “1865 ( 96 In The Shade). This album also heralded the arrival of new drummer, Willie Stewart and of soulful new lead singer, William ?Bunny Rugs? Clark (another ex-Inner Circle member). This combination of “Rugs,” “Richie,” ?Cat,? ?Carrot,? ?Willie,? and ?Ibo? proved to be the formula for success as their next album Journey to Addis (1978), spawned the worldwide Top Ten hit ?Now That We Found Love? (a disco-Reggae remake of an O’Jays tune).

At the dawn of a new decade, Third World released not one but two new projects: their final album with Island, Arise In Harmony and also music on the Island soundtrack for the film, Prisoner in the Street. But with this dawning swiftly came the shattering closure to the most important chapter in the history of reggae music ? the passing of Bob Marley. This closure was marked by two events in particular. The release of Stevie Wonder’s tribute to Marley, “Master Blaster (Jammin’);” and the salute to Bob by Third World at Reggae Sunsplash that summer, during which Wonder joined Third World onstage to perform “Master Blaster.” The magic that filled the air that early summer morning was harnessed by Wonder who quickly wrote, produced and arranged Third World’s next international blockbuster, released in 1982, “Try Jah Love.” This song became the group’s anthem, solidifying them in the archives of musical history as the promoters of love and spirituality.

To commemorate more than 30 years together Third World launched their annual Third World and Friends concert on the lawns of Kings House in Kingston, Jamaica in 2004. The concert is held every year on December 27. Third World and friends features many of Jamaica’s greatest musicians such as Gregory Isaacs, Tony Rebel, Damian Marley, Richie Stevens, Beres Hammond, Cocoa Tea, Sly & Robbie and many more.

Third World has released over 20 albums as well as solo projects from lead singer Bunny Rugs and Guitarist Cat Coore.

Discography:

Third World (Island, 1976)
96° in the Shade (Island, 1977)
Journey to Addis (Island, 1978)
The Story’s Been Told (Island, 1979)
Arise in Harmony (Island, 1980)
Rock the World (CBS, 1981)
You’ve Got the Power (Columbia, 1982)
All the Way Strong (CBS, 1983)
Sense of Purpose (CBS, 1985)
Hold on to Love (Columbia, 1987)
Serious Business (Mercury, 1989)
Rock the World (Columbia, 1990)
Committed (Mercury, 1992)
Live It Up (Bud Music, 1995)
Generation Coming (Déclic Communication, 1999)
The Story’s Been Told (Island, 1999)
Ain’t Givin’ Up (Shanachie, 2003)
Riddim Haffa Rule (Music Avenue, 2004)
Black Gold Green (Nocturne, 2006)
Patriots (Third World Music Group, 2010)
Under the Magic Sun (Cleopatra, 2014)

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Artist Profiles: Ziggy Marley

Ziggy Marley

David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley was born October 17, 1968, in Kingston, Jamaica. He learned how to play guitar and drums from his father, Bob Marley, the legendary reggae singer. His mother Rita called and baptized him David. There are two versions of how he became to be known as Ziggy. One version claims that his father Bob Marley nicknamed him “Ziggy” in reference to a big spliff (a Jamaican word for a rolled cigarette with marihuana). Another version is that he was nicknamed Ziggy in reference to British singer David Bowie and his 1972 album, The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust .

In 1979, Ziggy and his siblings, Cedella, Stephen and Sharon, made their recording debut with their father, “Children Playing in the Streets”. The Melody Makers, as the group came to be known blended blues, R&B, hip-hop and roots reggae. They played occasionally for several years, including at their father’s funeral in 1981. Their debut LP was Play the Game Right, which was a very pop-oriented album, earned Ziggy some derision from critics. After their first two albums, Play the Game Right (1985) and Hey World! (1986), The Melody Makers earned their first Grammy (Best Reggae Recording) for Conscious Party (1988), an album produced by Talking Heads Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth which included the hit songs “Tomorrow People” and “Tumbling Down.”

Subsequent albums included the Grammy-winning One Bright Day (1989), Jahmekya (1991), Joy and Blues (1993), Free Like We Want 2 B (1995), their third Grammy winner Fallen Is Babylon (1997), The Spirit of Music (1999) and Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers Live, Vol. 1 (2000), which featured some of their biggest hits as well as a cover of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved.” While selling records by the millions and selling out countless concerts with the Melody Makers, including a recent European tour, Ziggy Marley has never lost sight of his foundation of faith, fellowship and family.

After two decades as the driving creative force behind The Melody Makers, Ziggy Marley stepped out on his own with his first solo album. Dragonfly was released on April 15th (2003) by Private Music.

Never content to rehash the success of his past, Ziggy used Dragonfly to explore new ground and create his own distinctive musical identity as a solo artist. “Working on my own gave me a chance to take my time and experiment a lot,” said Ziggy. “It took one year to finish this record ” it’s the longest I’ve ever worked on one album. It”s different when you’re on your own. At some point it”s scary, and then at another it’s a drive that makes you focus more.”

Ziggy also felt it was time for a change of scene. He wrote the album’s songs in Jamaica but recorded them in Miami and Los Angeles. “As an artist I need to experience different things, to see the world and have different energies. It helps me grow as a person to be outside my element.”

Ziggy provided his voice for the Rasta jellyfish that appears in the 2004 animated film Shark Tale. He also collaborated with Sean Paul on a cover of his father’s song “Three Little Birds” for the soundtrack.

Ziggy also sang the theme song for the popular PBS children’s show “Arthur”. In addition to his work in 2004 he also decided to marry a VP at William Morris Agency, with whom he has a daughter.

In 2006 he released Love Is My Religion. In November 2007, Ziggy Marley announced the re-release of his Grammy-winning album Love Is My Religion, including three bonus tracks as well as an independent distribution deal. In a bold move, Marley eschewed the traditional record industry formula and big name labels, instead penning a distribution deal between Tuff Gong Worldwide and Ryko Distribution.

Love Is My Religion was originally released in the US exclusively at Target Stores and was re-released in 2007 with additional material including live recordings of Jammin, Dragonfly, and Look Who’s Dancin’. These live tracks were recorded at Los Angeles’ Avalon during the 2006 Love Is My Religion world tour.

In addition to his skills as a singer, songwriter and producer, Ziggy founded U.R.G.E. (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment), a non-profit organization that benefits a wide range of charitable children’s causes in Jamaica, Ethiopia and other developing nations. More recently, he has lent his support to the Youth AIDS campaign.

Discography:

Play The Game Right (EMI, 1985)
Dragonfly (Private Music, 2003)
Love Is My Religion (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2006)
Love Is My Religion: Live Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2008)
Family Time (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2009)
Wild And Free (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2011)
In Concert (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2013)
Fly Rasta (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2013)
Ziggy Marley (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2016)
Rebellion Rises (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Toots & The Maytals

Toots & The Maytals – Photo by Mike Worhington

Toots Hibbert was born in May Pen in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica. He was the youngest of seven children and began singing in the church choir at the age of seven. He left home in his teens to go to Kingston where he met Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias and formed the original Maytals in 1962. They were also sometimes recorded as the Vikings.

Toots Hibbert have helped to chart the course of Jamaican music with unrivaled delivery and dynamism, setting new standards of excellence, and becoming the most enduring of all Jamaica’s groups. The Maytals began their career at Studio One, the headquarters of Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, in Kingston Jamaica. The group’s debut release, Hallelujah, was an immediate hit throughout the island, and featured a mix of Jamaican rhythms and gospel vocal influence that would mark much of the Maytals music. Further successes followed, including I’ll Never Grow Old and Just Got To Be Me, each one building a reputation for the Maytals and their energetic straight-from-church style of singing and their ‘spiritual’ ska beat.

In 1966, the Maytals began to work with Byron Lee and the Drangonaires and won the first Jamaican Festival Song Competition with the song Bam Bam. The group returned with a vengeance in 1968, recording with famed producer Leslie Khong. Although these years of post-independence marked a more violent era of Jamaica’s history, Toots and the Maytals were far closer to soul and gospel influences than many of the ‘revolutionary’ young artists of the late 60’s. Nevertheless, the Maytals first single in two years, 54-56 (That’s My Number), combined the story of Toots’ arrest with a powerful downbeat to create downbeat to one of the greatest rock steady/reggae singles of all time.

In 1975, Toots and the Maytals signed a worldwide recording contract with Island Records. The following year the group hit the British singles charts with Reggae Got Soul, the title track to their new album. They also toured America, Europe and Britain. The album was a superb showcase for Toots’ soulful vocals embellished by fine musicianship form a cosmopolitan studio band the talent of Steve Winwood, Eddie Quansah, Dudu Pulwana, Rico Rodriquez and Tommy McCook.

On September 29, 1980, the group made history when they played at London’s Hammersmith Palais. Less than 24 hours later, a live album from that show was on sale in record stores throughout Britain. It was the fastest live album in recording history. After disbanding the Maytals in the early 1980s, Toots began recording with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. The combination produced Spiritual Healing ‘ a chart topper around the world, even reaching number one in South Africa.

Toots reformed the Maytals and picked up the touring pace again in the early 90s. The group released Recoup (1997), and the Grammy-nominated Ska Father (1998). Toots and the Maytals have been nominated three times for Grammy Awards ‘ the other nominations were for Toots in Memphis and Live. The Maytals also holds record for the largest number of number one his in Jamaica, with 31 to their credit.

The 2002 release, World Is Turning, on Toots’ own D&F label, was the first album of all new material to be released in two decades, and features refreshing originals with a wide variety of styles and influences, including rock-steady, reggae root, funky R&B, rave disco, and gospel. The 2004 Grammy-winning album, True Love, revisited some of the band’s most classic works with collaboration with No Doubt, The Roots, Bootsy Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, Shaggy and Rahzel, and others.

On Light Your Light (2007), Toots and the Maytals returned to their roots, singing classics as well as new pieces. The overall feel of the album is very bluesy, with excellent electric and acoustic guitar work, combining roots reggae, blues, R&B, ska, Gospel and rock.

Indeed Toots and the Maytals artistry spans every phase of Jamaican music’s evolution, earning him the reputation as one of Jamaica’s most consistent and inspired performers, and one of the greatest reggae/R&B singers of all time.

Discography:

Never Grow Old (1964)
The Sensational Maytals (1965)
Sweet And Dandy (Beverley’s Records, 1969)
From The Roots (1970)
Monkey Man (1970)
Slatyam Stoot (Dynamic Sounds, 1972)
Funky Kingston (Dragon, 1973)
Roots Reggae (Dynamic Sounds, 1974)
In The Dark (Dragon, 1974)
Reggae Got Soul (Island Records, 1976)
Pass The Pipe (Tuff Gong, 1979)
Live (Mango, 1980)
Just Like That (Mango, 1980)
From The Roots ‎(Trojan Records, 1981)
Knock Out! (Mango, 1981)
Live At Reggae Sunsplash (Sunsplash Records, 1983)
An Hour Live (Genes Records, 1990)
Life Could Be A Dream (Studio One, 1992)
Recoup Artists (Only! Records, 1997)
Ska Father Artists (Only! Records, 1998)
Live In London ‎(Trojan Records, 1999)
Live At Red Rocks ‎(PRG Records, 2000)
World Is Turning (D&F Records, 2002)
True Love (V2 Records, 2004)
Interview ‎(V2 Records, 2004)
Hold On ‎(Brook, 2006)
Light Your Light (Fantasy, 2007)
Flip And Twist (D&F Music, 2010)
Unplugged On Strawberry Hill (Phree Music, 2012)
Live! ‎(Island Records, 2012)

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Artist Profiles: Morgan Heritage

Morgan Heritage

Morgan Heritage is made up of 5 out of the 29 children fathered by reggae star Denroy Morgan – who released a gold-certified single with ’81’s “I’ll Do Anything For You.” Denroy Morgan’s children: Mr. Mojo, Lukes, Peter, Grandpa, and Una were born in Brooklyn, New York, (he moved to New York in 1961) and raised with their ears tuned to a world of music. They learned to play R&B, rock, as well as reggae.

All the children were educated in Springfield, Massachusetts,” says Una, “Our grandmother moved first, then called our dad and told him to move there for the better education system and nicer environment. We came back to Brooklyn on weekends to practice in our father’s recording studio.” Yet within the United States, Morgan and his familyd created a tiny pocket of Jamaica. “We were always aware of American culture,” says lead singer Peter. “But Springfield is close to the countryside, like Jamaica. We even had chickens running around our yards in both places. Our parents spoke to us only in Jamaican [patois] at home, but our dad would urge us to speak more American. We didn’t want to. Home had a Jamaican, Rastafarian atmosphere.”

Morgan Heritage was a virtual unknown in Jamaica when an awed MCA A&R (Artist & Repertoire) executive signed the group in Montego Bay, hot off the Reggae Sunsplash ’92 stage. Miracles, the group’s debut album, was released in 1994.

At the time, majors were signing reggae because the deejay [reggae rapping] thing was getting pop play with Mad Cobra, Shabba Ranks, and Patra,” says Peter. “We were viewed as a Jackson Five story within reggae. When they first saw us, they knew our music was reggae, but after we were finally signed, they started dealing with us politically, telling us they want ‘this’ and `that’ type of song for pop radio. During the two years we were making the album, the music got more and more diluted from its original form. We had recorded almost 30 songs with Sly and Robby and other Jamaican producers before and after Sunsplash, but MCA only wanted one Sly and Robbie song.

Miracles is not authentic reggae. It’s an MCA record with Morgan Heritage only as the artists performing.”

Morgan Heritage was released from its contract late in 1994. The following year, Morgan and his family returned to Jamaica, settling in bucolic St. Thomas parish. For the children raised in Brooklyn, it was a true homecoming, and they began digging deeper to discover their musical/cultural roots by working with such famed local producers as Bobby “Digital” Dixon and Lloyd “King Jammy” James.

They have a history in reggae and breaking many dancehall and reggae artists,” says Peter. “It was like working with Sly and Robbie but on a more grassroots rather than an international level. That’s what really brought us into the Jamaican marketplace.”

Protect Us Jah, produced by Bobby Digital and released in 1997, by Brickwall/VP, includes hit singles “Set Yourself Free,” “Let’s Make Up,” “Live Up,” and the set’s title song, which was the first Morgan Heritage tune to make the reggae take notice of the group. One Calling, produced by Jammy and released by Greensleeves/VP, delivered smash hits “God Is God, “Trodding To Zion,” “Coming Home” and the title track.

It’s just the pulse of the people,” Peter observes. “You won’t get hip hop if you’re not from NY, LA, or places in America where you can feel the vibe. You feel the reggae vibe here on the island. You can produce reggae anywhere, but it’s not going to feel like Jamaica. Reggae is the heartbeat of these people, it comes from their pulse, so you have to mingle with the people and know what they’re about.”

After their two Jamaican-produced albums, Morgan Heritage branched out to work with other top recording studio giants – Philip “Fattis” Burrell, Donovan Germaine, Tony Rebel, and sax legend Dean Frazier. Reggae Bring Back Love, released during the heights of World Cup Reggae Boyz fever, increased the group’s visibility in the reggae scene. It was included in the Heritage’s ground-breaking fourth set, Don’t Haffi Dread, (VP Records, 1999), also produced by Bobby Digital, and featuring the title song, “Don’t Haffi Dread.” This hit song stressed the importance of the “content of one’s character” rather than such superficial concerns as hair style. It became an international hit. The lyrical theme that one doesn’t have to wear the customary dreadlocks to embrace Rastafarianism – sparked off a reggae controversy that continues to this day.

We don’t argue the point,” says Peter. “But sometimes, if we do spend the time reasoning, they have to say, `It’s true.”

After the move to Jamaica, Morgan Heritage also set out to fulfill a not so hidden agenda: resolving petty rifts that divide the local music community by creating imaginative collaborations with leading artists, including younger stars Luciano, Buju Banton, Capleton, and veteran singers like Toots Hibbert and Edi Fitzroy. The “Morgan Heritage and Friends” album serie impresses as much for its searing tracks as for bringing together artists usually not found on the same package. The group also began building its own productions.

We’ve developed our artistic, writing, production, and executive sides, by representing our own companies,” Peter noted at the time. “We’ve accomplished a lot in the past 5 years we’ve been in Jamaica, and we thank Jah.”

Says Una, “The advantage is that is everything stays within the family business – management, the writing, production. Even if there’s a disagreement, we’re right there with each other. We believe that the Creator has blessed us with this mission of music, and we believe our message is universal because everyone understands and feels love in one form or another.”

More Teachings is clearly one of the group’s crowning achievements, but Morgan Heritage has also been busy spreading the love, producing other artists, including Jah Cure, Bushman, Jahmali, and their father, for the family’s labels. 71 Records released More Teachings in tandem with VP Records, and Heritage Music Group [HMG] released the two Family & Friends sets. The family also produced the September 2000 Morgan Heritage album, Gunz in the Ghetto, another compilation featuring Heritage with other artists, including Bounty Killer on the title song. LMS, a trio of younger Heritage siblings, is already delivering reggae imaginations with high energy performances.

Discography:

Miracle (MCA, 1994)
Protect Us Jah (VP Records, 1997)
One Calling (VP Records, 1998)
Don’t Haffi Dread (VP Records, 1999)
Live! In Europe 2000 (VP Records, 2000)
I Calling (Greensleeves Records, 2000)
More Teachings (VP Records, 2001)
Three in One (VP Records, 2003)
Full Circle (VP Records, 2005)
Live: Another Rockaz Moment (VP Records, 2006)
Caribbean Party(Universal Distribution, 2007)
Mission in Progress (VP Records, 2008)
Here Come the Kings (VP Records, 2013)
Strictly Roots (CTBC Music Group, 2015)
Avrakedabra (Empire Distribution, 2017)

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