Thursday, January 28, 2021

JaRIA to toast 'fallen soldier

ON February 3, Jamaica Reggae Industry Association's (JaRIA) annual weekly concert — Reggae Wednesdays — will open with a tribute to the more than 30 members of the entertainment fraternity who died in 2020. The event will be streamed live at IG/FB @jariaentertainment and on the Reggae Month official platforms — PBCJ YouTube | Jam Vision YouTube | JCDC Facebook.
The show will be a celebration of their musical contributions from a stellar line-up of performers led by saxophonist Dean Fraser and the All-Star Band, featuring performances from acts including Sarina Constantine, Droop Lion, Roots Percussionist, Tony Curtis, Pam Hall, Dubwise, Cassanova, and L'Acadco. “Our final Reggae Wednesdays concert in 2020 saw us end the month on a high with a headlining performance from the legendary Toots Hibbert. Here we are, a year later, paying tribute to him and a host of other stalwarts and worthy contributors to the culture and industry of reggae. In a lot of respects, we approach the month with a heavy heart as we continue to ponder on the ones we have lost, their contributions, and magical moments shared. It is an honour to have the opportunity to help to bring about some sense of peace, hope and love for the reggae family at yaad [home] and abroad,” said Abishai Hoilett, Reggae Month Committee chair of the JaRIA Board. Hibbert, frontman of Toots and The Maytals, died in the University Hospital of the West Indies on September 11, 2020 of complications from COVID-19. He was 77. Formed in the 1960s, his band Toots and the Maytals helped popularise reggae music. The group's 1968 single Do The Reggay was the first song to use the word “reggae” naming the genre and introducing it to a global audience. The group's popular songs include Monkey Man, Sweet And Dandy, Bam Bam, and Pomps And Pride. In addition to Hibbert, other personalities who passed away in 2020 include guitarist Lyford “Hux” Brown, singer/songwriter Keith “Bob Andy” Anderson, producer Edward O'Sullivan “Bunny Striker” Lee, Gamal Jawara “Tosh I” McIntosh, Drew Keys, dancer Fredrick “Tippa” Moncrief, selector Courtney “Likkle Wicked” Boyd, Henry “Mr Chicken” Dwyer, dancer Labba Labba, deejay Anthony “Purple Man” Jones, singer Hartley “Pad” Anthony Wallace, producer Bobby Digital, engineer Barry O'Hare, guitarist Dalton Browne, singer Dobby Dobson, singer Richie “Mac” McDonald, Webby Jay, German “Father German” Vera, songstress Millie Small, Sam Clayton, Andy Capp, Count Shelly, broadcaster Gil Bailey, American singer Johnny Nash, and Warren Smith.

Gem of a memory BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

A year ago, almost to the date, recording artiste Gem Myers was a guest at the JaRIA Honour Awards, organised by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association. Sitting in the box, she could not resist the urge to rise to her feet once the tribute to honoree Bunny Wailer began. Filled with joy and pride, she danced to his classics such as Ballroom Floor, Cool Runnings, Boderation and Rock N' Groove as they were performed. On that night, she shared with the Jamaica Observer how hearing his music and seeing him being honoured had brought back a flood of memories from her days providing backing vocals for the reggae icon for stage and in studio.
Fast-forward to yesterday, and Myers was awash with mixed emotions as news of Bunny Wailer's death began to spread. She was saddened by his passing, but could not help but reflect on how fortunate she was to have worked with the legendary artiste. “I can't even recall how I first got to work with Jah B. I was very young, and as vocalists we were always in the studio working with other artistes. There was a little clique of us headed by Pam Hall, and so we would get work… so, Pam played an integral role in most of what I did and who I worked with back in those days. We did some great work with Bunny Wailer and I found him to be absolutely giving when it came to the work. Always approachable, always willing to share, always willing to teach. In the years after, whenever we saw each other on the road or events, he always acknowledged me and had very kind words and recollections of our years working together. I will always remember those days, they will stay with me for a lifetime,” she shared. On Boxing Day 1982, the National Stadium in St Andrew was filled with thousands of reggae fans for the concert Youth Consciousness. Bunny Wailer and Dennis Brown were among the top-billed acts, and Myers was among the backing vocalists. For her, that experience is one which forever sticks out in her mind. “Like I said, I was young and just being in the stadium and seeing all these people rocking to the music. It was my biggest show at that time and I couldn't believe I was on-stage with Bunny Wailer. It was such a great experience and it helped me with my confidence, just to perform for such a massive audience,” she said. Bunny Wailer's talents as vocalist, performer, arranger and songwriter are never overlooked by Myers, who noted that he always had a hand in crafting the harmony on his recordings, and his skills in pulling a performance together were worthy of emulation. “The man have some wicked tune… if yuh t'ink a lie check out his album Black Heart Man. His work with The Wailers is something we all know and must celebrate. Bunny Wailer is legacy-rich. He can rest knowing that he put in the work and generations to come will know him and his music. I can't point to a single tune that is my favourite… there are so many, Fire Burning, Ballroom Floor, Black Heart Man… too many,” noted Myers. “Jah B's passing is causing me to reflect on the number of legendary artistes that I have worked with as a backing vocalist. My first major job was with Peter Tosh on his Mama Africa album. I sang on about four of the tracks. So the only icon I haven't worked with is Bob [Marley]. I have since worked with Toots, Ras Karbi, Jimmy Cliff, Judy Mowatt, and the list goes on. I am truly grateful to have worked with these artistes including Bunny Wailer, as I know they have contributed to my career,” she added.

Sanchez calls on singers

Sanchez believes the time has come for a new generation of singers to carry reggae music's mantle. “Most of the great singers have passed away. It's only a handful of us left in the business right now. After we are gone who's going to be here to keep reggae music alive? There needs to be another generation of great singers on the rise and I don't see that happening right now,” said Sanchez. div class="separator" style="clear: both;">
The veteran reggae singer — known for songs such as Forever, Never Dis Di Man, Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone and Chronic — said he's worried about the current state of reggae music. “The music is not the same anymore; everyone is singing on two-chord rhythms. I don't hear anyone trying to make great songs anymore. I don't see anyone striving for excellence musically,” lamented Sanchez. He added, “From the earliest days of my career, I knew I wanted to be a great singer. Even before I sang my first hit, I knew that I was going to be one of the greats. The hunger for success and self-confidence drove me to work hard to achieve my goals,” he said. Sanchez is currently promoting a new single titled Called Me. It was produced by Freddie Kruger and released on Kruger Di Reggae Riddim compilation album. The set — which also features songs from several other artistes, including Mykal Rose, Wayne Wade and Hugh Brown — was released by Drop Di Bass Records on February 14. “This is a wonderful song. I am pleased with the response that it's generating. I want the fans to know that they can expect a lot of new songs from me this year. Over the past few years, my heavy touring schedule has not allowed me to put out a lot of new singles but this year is going to be different. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I'm not touring so I'm spending a lot more time in the studio now,” he said. Sanchez (real name Kevin Jackson) is among the survivors of the late-1980s dancehall movement. Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone, Brown Eye Girl and I Can't Wait are some of the many hits that have him as one of the genre's heavyweights.

The U-Roy Award for Best Male DJ/Rapper will honour the late Godfather of Dancehall, who helped to start the career of early toasters.

File The U-Roy Award for Best Male DJ/Rapper will honour the late Godfather of Dancehall, who helped to start the career of early toasters. 1 2 The International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA) will this year hand out the first-ever Toots Hibbert Award for the category Best Album/CD, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and the U-Roy Award for Best Male DJ/Rapper. According to IRAWMA President Ephraim Martin, this is one way to honour the memory of these icons. Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, the frontman of the groundbreaking reggae and ska group Toots and the Maytals, and credited with naming the genre reggae, passed away on September 11, 2020. Legendary pioneer of the dancehall, Ewart Beckford, better known as U-Roy, took the art of toasting and transformed it into an international phenomenon. The Godfather of Dancehall helped to start the career of early toasters. U-Roy transitioned February 17. “Once they are alive, they are here with us, but we want to remember them,” Martin said. IRAWMA, now in its 39th consecutive year, has long gone the route of paying homage – upon their passing – to music industry players who have made a tremendous impact. “We used to have a General Echo award, and then we stopped doing that. We had a Vere Johns award for a very long time as well,” the founder explained. Other reggae heroes who have awards named after them are Bob Marley, Emperor of Reggae and World Music – Bob Marley Award for Entertainer of the Year; Peter Tosh Award for Recording Artiste of the Year; Jacob Miller Award for Best Male Vocalist; and Gregory Isaacs Awards for Best Song. There is also the Marcus Garvey Humanitarian Awards, in honour of Jamaica’s first national hero and pan-Africanist. Award named for Mutabaruka Interestingly, dub poet and broadcaster, Mutabaruka, bucks the trend by being alive and having an award named after him. “Muta won the category for Best Poet/Spoken Word Entertainer so often, that he retired from it. After that, the award was named after him,” Martin explained. Acknowledging that this is the era of lockdown and new normal, which has seen in-person events and live concerts replaced by the virtual experience, IRAWMA has moved with the times and is this year asking industry persons to nominate the Virtual Entertainer of the Year and the Best Virtual Showcase. Nominations by artistes, producers, promoters, songwriters, record labels, entertainment media bloggers, managers, agents, engineers opened on February 1 and ends on March 10. Public voting runs from Monday, March 20, to April 20. ‘Reggae/World Music Rise’ is the theme for this year’s event, which honours musicians and industry professionals for their creativity and contributions during 2020. The virtual staging is scheduled for May 2, and Martin promises that it will be spectacular

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