Reggae Still Got Soul With Etana

I Rise starts off gently with just keyboards and Etana’s super-soulful voice reverently singing the Rastafarian lyrics sung by Bob Marley with The Wailers on ‘Selassie Is The Chapel’.

Bring on track two of I Rise and Etana’s calm, emotive reverence shifts to emotional outcry about how very long the people’s suffering at the hands of their leaders goes on. Kick in drums, bass, guitar and horns and if you’re the kind of person who reggae music moves, then the sounds of those instruments will surely penetrate you to the core; make you feel and move inside and out; in that way that good reggae music does.

Etana - I Rise (2014)

Etana – I Rise (2014)

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‘How Long’ – Etana – I Rise

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On every I Rise track thereafter ‘How Long’, you’ve got yourself some consistently well played, light and steady, feel-right reggae with distinctively-Etana-styled splashes of soul, r&b and gospel. You have Etana’s flawless voice singing socially-conscious, positive lyrics themed around Jamaican female pride, unconditional love, friendship, heartbreak, inequality and injustice, spirituality, religious emancipation, liberation, courage, loyalty and strength.

‘Ward 21 (Stenna’s Song)’ – Etana – I Rise

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Etana - I Rise (2014)

The album’s final specialty is a dubbed-out, slow jam track dedicated entirely to Etana expressing admiration, respect and thanks to “the greatest” of artists who collaborated with her in the creation of I Rise. I appreciate Etana for taking the time to acknowledge them. I respect her even more for the fact that in times when so many people choose digital over hard-copy music and won’t have the pleasure of poring over a vinyl or cd booklet and getting to know the names of the people involved in its creation, Etana makes I Rise listeners do so via audio transmission.

Get to know the names yourself here on ‘Jam Credits’:

‘Jam Credits’ – Etana – I Rise

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If those sample I Rise tracks make you feel good, the choice is there to buy the album on vinyl or cd. As well as the chance that gives you to pore over the album artwork and credits in print, you’ll be able to hear and appreciate more of the delightful sounds of Clive Hunt, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and other “great, great” artists who recorded I Rise with Etana than you can in dirty, compressed mp3-style.

Etana - I Rise (2014)

Check out songs from Etana’s last album Better Tomorrow here.

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A Better Today And Tomorrow With Etana

If the soulful voice of Jamaican diva Etana over the reggae skank in her music don’t make you feel good, or at least better, I don’t know what possibly will.

Etan

Soul Diva of Reggae

Etana is an Angie Stone, Jill Scott, India Arie or Leela James of reggae music. Like those divas of stature in the soul/r&b world, Etana’s vocal musicality and sublime sounding voice are delightful to listen to time and timelessly again. Also like those ladies, Etana’s lyrics are positive and conscious ones, full of emotion. Because finally like Angie, Jill, India and Aria, Etana is all Woman.

Her 2013 album Better Tomorrow was a refreshing dose of flawlessly played, good contemporary reggae music. It maintained the warm, living, gentle sounds and feelings of old-school roots reggae (helped by the fact it was mostly recorded at Kingston’s Tuff Gong Studios); but also bought the sound into the modern day with subtle flavours of other music genres in the mix.

Etana - Better Tomorrow (2013)

Better Tomorrow (2013)

“Reggae is Reggae”

“You can’t mix reggae with other things. Reggae is Reggae.”  

Those were the words of one Jamaican to me about Jamaican music.

Of course you can mix reggae with any other style of music (some more successfully than others no doubt 🙂 ). Music artists all over the world do so – with very cool musical results. Jamaican artists living outside of Jamaica do so too. Etana is one of them.

Better Tomorrow is reggae music for sure. But it’s reggae infused with subtle, flavorsome sounds of soul, r&b, gospel and funk.

For Etana and the other music artists in the world making fresh sounding ‘reggae fusion’ (as well as for ‘reggae reggae’ artists) the musical world is a much richer one.

Whether it’s ‘reggae that’s just reggae’ or not, listening to Etana’s music and hearing her soulful voice, makes me feel good.   It makes my today a better one. Simple isn’t it? Good ole Music Medicine.

Get a dose yourself with these sample Etana tracks from Better Tomorrow. Don’t be fooled by the compressed mp3 version. Imagine the goodness of the many other sounds you’ll hear in the music if you get it on vinyl or cd.

Etana - Better Tomorrow (2013)

Better Tomorrow (2013)

‘Queen’ – Etana – Better Tomorrow (2013)

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‘Whole New World’ – Etana – Better Tomorrow (2013)

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‘Better Tomorrow’ – Etana – Better Tomorrow (2013)

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You feel good now, right?  Or at least better than before you listened yes?

The good news to make our tomorrow better is that another dose of Etana’s music medicine is coming soon with the October 28th release of her new album I Rise.

Thankfully we can definitely buy this new release in hard-copy – and pre-order it from VP Records.

Etana - I Rise (2014)

I Rise (2014)

Etana has 2 other albums before Better Tomorrow. You can buy each cd separately or get the set of 3 for a great price through VP.

Etana - Better Tomorrow (2013)

Better Tomorrow (2013)

Etana - Free Expressions (2011)

Free Expressions (2011)

Etana - The Strong One (2008)

The Strong One (2008)

 

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Extra lucky peeps can have themselves the live Etana experience at New Zealand’s Raggamuffin festival this December.

Etana @ Raggamuffin Music Festival 2014

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Jah9 – Woman of ‘Good Music History’

There’s not enough female dub/reggae singers or songwriters in the spotlights of our musical history.

I only just realised that while listening to the debut album of Jamaica’s Jah9 – and in each and every track appreciating the jazzy, soulful and refreshingly feminine vocals of She Who Is Jah9: Janine Cunningham.

Jah9 - Janine Cunningham

There’s so much more to appreciate about the album New Name over and above the fact that Janine Cunningham has cemented a place for herself as a successful woman in the contemporary dub/reggae sphere – or as pioneer of  ‘Jazz on Dub’.

To begin there are the positive, socially and spiritually-conscious content of Jah9 lyrics  – and their poetic composition.  Old-school Jamaican roots reggae lovers (and any switched-on new ones) would approve and appreciate, certainly.

Also Janine Cunningham’s stellar vocal phrasing.

Ever so importantly, that those Jah9 vocals are combined with contemporary reggae and dub music that is refreshingly good quality in every way.

Finally there’s the fact that Janine Cunningham not only wrote the songs, but also co-arranged and produced alongside Rory Gilligan of dancehall sound system/label Stone Love.

Jah9 - New Name (2013)

Jah9 – New Name (2013)

Beyond all of that, Janine Cunningham deserves more respect because it seems that she does a decent job of living out in actions, the words she sings. Through her music and lyrics, as well as her human ways of being (check out youth NGO Manifesto Jamaica for example) I’d say Janine Jah9 Cunningham is contributing lots and lots of human and womanly and musical goodness to this world of ours.

That Jah9 goodness is of great benefit to me and the world – because as a human and a woman, it inspires me to try and contribute the same level of positivity to the world in which I live; and because it also means I have the lifelong pleasure of listening to Jah9 music.  You can too.

Check out these sample (dirty mp3) Jah9 tracks yourself and see if you agree that this female artist has earned her place in a spotlight of our ‘Good Music History’…

Jah9 - New Name (2013)

Jah9 – New Name (2013)

‘Intention’ – Jah9 – New Name

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‘Legitimate’ – Jah9 (feat. Protoje) – New Name

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Agreed?

You can buy yourself all the sounds written and recorded by Janine ‘Jah9’ Cunningham and Rory Gilligan on cd to have in your music collection forever after, through Dub Vendor – or better yet, get yourself to Jamaican shores (via Cuba 🙂 ) to find it.  I promise you that Caribbean trip will be filled with a whole lot of musical goodness.

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Jamaican Music and Dance – Culture Snapshots

Three weeks in 3 of Jamaica’s major musical hubs – Kingston, Montego Bay & Negril – checking outand soaking up as much Jamaican music and dance culture as possible.

Not much time to truly know anything much about any place.  No time to know anything about the rest of Jamaica (including Ochos Rios – another hub).But enough time to experience some things of Jamaican music & dance culture – which I’m happy to be told are wrong.  And lots of time to talk with Jamaicans themselves.

Snapshots…

Edgy, Non-Touristy Kingston 

City life, busy life. Urban sprawl amongst green mountains. Few tourists. Go about your business without any attention.

Kingston

Kingston, Jamaica

Parties.  Some live shows. Clubs. Bars. Recording studios. Dance crews. Festivals (check out KOTE). More parties.

Fashionable, touristy Montego Bay

Gritty, busy, small downtown + the ‘Hip Strip’ – one side of the road lined with souvenir shops, the other with expensive resorts that own most of the main beach. Shop owners and taxi drivers on the Hip Strip will talk to you to get your business, but elsewhere nobody will pay you any attention.

Montego Bay - Jamaica

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Parties. Dance crews. Dancehall dance competitions & shows (including International Dancehall Queen in early August). Fashion shows. Reggae Sumfest in July.  Other festivals. Some live shows.  More Parties.

Chilled, touristy Negril

Miles of stunning Caribbean beach (free, as it should be) lined with an uncountable number of resorts, bars, restaurants, hustlers and hawkers competing to lure the many tourists.  More rootsy and chilled vibe than MoBay- but intensely hustled. Expect that everyone who talks to you wants something from you.

Negril

Negril, Jamaica

Parties. Regular live music gigs (some original).  Beach sound systems. Beach Bars & clubs. More  Parties.

That’s Beaver’s over-simplified, general snapshot of Kingston, Negril and MoBay  anyway.

Jamaicans Say

What do Jamaicans themselves in Kingston, Montego Bay & Negril say about Jamaican music and dance culture?

Dance

“I hear the music and I just have to dance. I can’t help it.”

Fusion Music

“Ya Mon. Jamaica have music mixing different styles. Some bands play reggae. Some bands play ska. Same play Dancehall. Some bands play mento. Some other bands play calypso.”

“You can’t mix reggae with other things.  Reggae is reggae.”

Live Music

Live shows are the best That’s where the energy is at.”

Parties

“There are parties going on every night in MoBay at this place and that place.  Take your pick.”

“Jamaican parties don’t start til about 12 am.  People keep partying til the morning. When do Jamaicans ever sleep? I can get 5 or 10 minutes sleep and I’m okay.”

Jamaica’s Holy Music Grail

“Lots of international music artists come to Jamaica searching for da musical essence.

“People outside Jamaica keep trying to steal our music culture.”

Regulating Music

“Kingston and MoBay have the same laws for shutting down events at 2 am.  Parties go later in MoBay because the laws are enforced in Kingston, not in MoBay.  There are tourists spending money in MoBay.”

Radio

“Any Jamaican radio stations that don’t play lots of commercials? Nah, only some that have short segments without ads. The independent radio stations are on the ground, in the streets.

Kingston v Negril

“The difference between Negril and Kingston for music is that Kingston has the best recording studios and is great for that, but not for live shows. Lots more live shows happen in Negril and there’s lots of tourists so there’s more chance to display your talents.”

Negril does have 1 recording studio

Negril’s recording studio

Talent

“Jamaica is a blessed island. We have so many music stars.

Happiness

“Jamaica has la crème de la crème of happy people.”

Loss of Inhibitions, and Discretion

“What happens in Jamaica, stays in Jamaica.”

They are the things Jamaicans told me about their music and dance culture (plus some things I already wrote about when I was in Kingston). Some are positive, some negative, like what’s going on everywhere in the world.

Beaver Says…

Fun Jamaican Parties

Parties, Parties & more Parties can be found happening at one location or another, on every night of the week.  Ask a Jamaican “What’s happening tonight?” and they’ll answer “Well, today is Wednesday [or whatever other day it is].  That means this Party is on there”.

Lots (all?) of Jamaican Parties seem to be sponsored by big corporate companies. Maybe in these days if the sponsorship wasn’t here then the parties wouldn’t happen?  Way back when in Jamaica, when sound systems started up, people just set up on the street and had the party. Jamaicans can’t do that now because of laws and regulations about ‘noise’.

Music and Dance are the core of the Parties.

The dance & movement happening at those Parties is pretty darned incredible.

People at the Parties are having fun.

Free parties, are the most fun – and a realer taste of Jamaica because they don’t cost money that Jamaicans don’t have but tourists do.

Dress right for the Parties, and anywhere else you go. Image and fashion are key in some Jamaican sub-cultures, Dancehall especially.

Music in Public Spaces

The best of the musical experiences in Kingstonand even more so in Montego Bay & Negril, is being able to hear music in public and private spaces everywhere you go – day and night.

Jamaican Parties - Negril & Montego Bay - Beaver on the Beats

Most music you hear played in Jamaica is reggae or dancehall. Or a fusion of reggae & dancehall. Some with a tiny touch of hip hop in some.

Most music you hear in Jamaica is pretty great quality. The exception is the very badly-chosen North American pop music, from all decades + much dancehall.

I heard no rock music. No jazz music. No blues music. No world music. No metal.music, no funk music, or any other genre of music – except for the blues, jazz and Latin music played at Redbones Blues Cafe in Kingston.

Jamaicans are fiercely proud and protective of Jamaican reggae and dancehall music.  So many Jamaicans I spoke with gave me the impression they weren’t interested in what’s happening musically in the rest of the world. Some were surprised to hear reggae music is created in other countries, including in their neighbouring Latin American countries.

Jamaican Parties - Negril - Montego Bay - Beaver on the Beats

I want musical diversity in my life, and the music I love most is a fusion of genres of some sorts.  I would miss that global music diversity living in Jamaica and hearing mostly just reggae, dancehall and terrible USA pop music around me.But whatever the type of music being played in Jamaica – it is all music, and it is being heard by people in public spaces everywhere – day and night.  It made my Jamaican days happy ones.

Hearing music makes life richer. Especially in public life .

I want more of it in my life, and everyone else’s.

Better yet if the music is great.

Music and dance are truly alive, well, and pumping in and through Jamaica.

There might’ve been less original, live shows as I’d hoped to find. I might’ve been disappointed that it was hard to find contemporary Jamaican music to buy in Jamaica. There might be more Dancehall than I can handle, and pop music that I’m not into.  But the music is there – being played, and being heard.  I love being around it. I love being in it. `

Jamaica – may you never ever “Hush”!

Jamaica Again

Definitely more Jamaican music and dance vibes on it’s Caribbean shores are coming in my lifetime. I just need a little rest for now :).

Until I get back I’ve got my take-away bag of contemporary Jamaican music to delve into soon.  Lots of musical surprises are awaiting me and that’s a pretty exciting thing yes?

My music bag got bigger at Montego Bay Airport on my way out of Jamaica.  I found what I think might be THE coolest airport shop of any kind in the world and definitely 1 of the 3 best music stores I found in Jamaica: Tad’s International.

Jamaican Music - Best Jamaican Music Stores - Beaver on the BeatsJamaican Music - Best Jamaican Record Stores - Beaver on the BeatsJamaican Music - Best Jamaican Music Stores - Beaver on the Beats

Reggae music in the airportmusic shop, as well as in all other Jamaican airport stores, is the last thing you hear as you leave Jamaica. It’s a beautiful thing 🙂 .

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Reggae Sumfest Wrap Up – Is It Really ‘The Greatest Reggae Show on Earth’?

Reggae Sumfest dubs itself as ‘the greatest reggae show on earth’. That’s a big claim.

Reggae Sumfest 2013 Poster - Beaver on the Beats

They could be right.

Some Jamaicans, and even some foreigners with a love for Jamaican music, say they think there are better reggae festivals in Jamaica than Reggae Sumfest. Roots reggae festival Rebel Salute in St Ann every January is given as an example. Reggae Sumfest 2013 was my first and only Jamaican festival so far, so I can’t say.

There are also other reggae festivals in the world besides Jamaica. I’ve been to some, but not all of them. Until I’ve done so I can’t say whether or not Reggae Sumfest is the greatest on Earth.

What I can say without doubt is that Reggae Sumfest 2013 was the greatest reggae show I have been to on Earth, so far.

The Music

Most importantly…

The quality of music, of musicianship, of artistry and of dance by almost every performer at Reggae Sumfest, one after the other over 3 long concert nights, was absolutely phenomenal.

All 3 concert nights were an amazing taste, and showcase of Jamaican music and dance.  Any music by Jamaican artists that I wasn’t into so much, was performed in such a professional and entertaining way as to make me appreciate and love it anyway.

The only shows I was bored by were those of international artists Flo Rida and Miguel.

Festival Runnings

Other fundamental factors that help make a music festival a good experience were all there at Reggae Sumfest:

  • The Reggae Sumfest site (Catherine Hall) is an open field space with fresh air and a starry sky for listening and dancing to music under.  No tents to claw your way into and find a space to see, hear or move, feeling suffocated in the process. You can move around the site easily, find a spot and enjoy it comfortably. For me that open outdoor space with the natural elements around makes all the difference in creating a really pleasurable festival experience.
  • Main stage sound was very high quality.
  • Stage lighting and visuals were beautiful.
  • Main stage could easily be seen from everywhere on the festival site. Plus there were lots of screens to otherwise see.
  • Artist changeovers were fast and efficient.
  • Tickets were cheap for a festival of that quality and length ($135 for all 3 concert nights or-$210 for VIP).
  • Drinks at the bar were reasonably priced by Jamaican standards where tourists are involved – and really cheap compared to most other music festivals around the world.
Beres Hammond-International Night 1

Beres Hammond-International Night 1

I guess after the experiences of 21 annual Reggae Sumfests, organisers have the most important things figured out. What I assume to be a big festival budget from sponsorship support, is no doubt helpful to organisers in improving quality.

A Fun Festival Community

Something almost as important as the quality of music, but something for which Reggae Sumfest is not responsible, is the people that participate in the festival.

A community of people sharing a common experience is formed at every festival, for however long that festival runs.

The communities of people that were formed at Reggae Sumfest (tourists and Jamaicans), were soooooo much fun. The feeling at the festival was either friendly, earthy and fun (International Nights 1 and 2) – or slightly more intense but hot, sexy and fun (Dancehall Night).

I have to say it again – Jamaicans know how to have a really fun, awesome party.  No matter what else you can say about the party music or people or venue, every party I’ve been to in Jamaica these past weeks except for one, has been a fun one. People having a good time with music and dance at the core.

Reggae Sumfest was a very fun Jamaican party over 3 nights (+ the Beach Party & a White Party earlier in the week).  It was the most fun music festival environment of any type of music festival I’ve experienced before.

Reggae Sumfest - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

The Greatest Reggae Show On Earth

I loved every hour of the festival marathon that Reggae Sumfest 2013 was.

For quality of music and dance, and the fun factor, Reggae Sumfest 2013 is definitely the greatest reggae show that I have experienced on Earth, so far anyway. 

I will keep checking other festivals out, but I will also be back again to Montego Bay for more Reggae Sumfests.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve experienced or heard about any other reggae festivals in the world that might have a good claim to being ‘the greatest’ on Earth.

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Redbones Blues Cafe – Supporting Jamaican Music & Arts

Jamaica’s musical history and culture is rich yes. Like all (most?) places in the world though,  support for the arts becomes harder and harder to find.

In that environment, Kingston’s Redbones Blues Cafe is a cultural treasure to be savoured.

Kingston’s Cultural Institution

Redbones Blues Cafe is a cultural institution in Kingston. Its 15 year anniversary book is testament to that – full of positive commentaries from Jamaicans and foreigners about their experiences there.

Red Bones Blues Cafe - Kingston - Beaver on the BeatsFurther testament is Redbones’ regular and loyal clientele.  They keep going back to Redbones for a lot of good reasons- all of which put together, create a really special experience of being there.

Redbones Blues Cafe Specialties

Jamaican and World Music

Really importantly, Redbones Blues Cafe is one of a handful of Kingston venues supporting live Jamaican music.  

You can sit in a beautiful courtyard setting and hear original live music gigs there at least 2 nights a week – with DJ’s on other nights. The music you’ll hear will cover genres of all sorts from all over the world – including reggae yes :).

Living Roots live@ Redbones Blues Cafe

Living Roots live@ Redbones

Living Roots live@ Redbones Blues Cafe

Living Roots live@ Redbones

Supporting other Jamaican and foreign art forms

Redbones Blues Cafe regularly hosts visual arts exhibitions, film showings, theatre productions, vibes verse poetry nights and other arts events.

Friendly, Passionate People

The family that runs Redbones (since 1996) and their loyal staff, are welcoming, friendly and great company.

They are also passionate about the cultural space they want to create for people to enjoy. That passion and their creative vision shows in every aspect of the Redbones venue and the experience you’ll have there.

Food, Glorious Food

Redbones serves up really delicious Caribbean fusion meals –at reasonable prices in what is generally a pretty expensive country.

Character, Style and Ambience

Each different space at Redbones – indoor dining, outside dining, courtyard and bar – is oozing musical character, history and art. 

Beautiful ambient lighting everywhere- walls decorated with vinyl records, musical instruments, photos and art works – your pick of bar stools, couches or chairs – make every space a pleasure to hang out in, and hard to leave.

Blessed Be All

Blessed is Kingston and Jamaica that Redbones Blues Cafe exists.  There are not enough places like it left in the world.

Blessed am I that I found Redbones and was able to spend many delightful hours there in good company listening to great music.

If you get to Kingston, find Redbones, and you’ll keep finding it again and again.

If you make it there in June, check out the annual KOTE (Kingston on the Edge) Urban Arts Festival. It’s a 10 day event held at Redbones and other Kingston venues,  showcasing a wide range of Kingston artists of every sort.

Thanks be to Redbones Blues Cafe for helping to keep Jamaican music and arts alive for us all.

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“Reggae Has a Fight”

Jamaican Music @Techniques Records - Kingston - Beaver on the Beats“Reggae has a fight”.

“We’re losing our culture.”

These are the sorts of things people in Kingston have been saying to me all week – most of them venue and music store owners.

Gone are the days when Jamaicans bought music from music stores.

Now Jamaicans get music on-line for free or buy it from bootleggers on the streets.  Economic conditions for most Jamaicans mean that is the only option for getting music, but it is a choice for many others.  An important one, I think.

Gone are the days when Jamaicans bought lots of Jamaican music.

Now, the radio stations and record stores are inundated with music from North America.  “Jamaicans are less and less Afro-Centric” a venue owner said to me this week. If the Jamaican wedding reception I’m listening to outside my door right now is any indication, every song from the U.S.A., that person may be right.

Gone are the days when music stores sold lots of Jamaican music.

Now, as I discovered on my missions to different Kingston music stores this week, very little current Jamaican music can be found in those stores.  It is mostly foreigners like me who are looking for it. Most Jamaican music, even when made in Jamaica, is sent overseas to be pressed to CD, and not much of it comes back to Jamaican shores. “You need to go to London or New York to find Jamaican music” they tell me.

Prices in Jamaican$, U.S$ and Euros

Prices in Jamaican$, U.S$ and Euros

Gone are the days when Jamaican bands played regularly in Jamaica.  Gone are the days when those bands had lots of venues to play in.

Now, for many Jamaican bands to make most of their income for the whole year, they tour overseas for the Summer.

Now, there are few venues in Jamaica supporting regular live music gigs.

Gone are the days when sound systems could set up on the street and go.

Now, government regulations imposing shut down times, and requiring a sound system operator to get five or so permits, makes it hard for sound systems to be set up and to make a profit.

These are the things I’ve been told this week when searching for current/recent Jamaican music to buy and take home with me, and also for live gigs to go to. This is what that record store owner meant when he said “Reggae has a fight”.

You might say these same stories apply everywhere in the world.  That’s probably true, certainly in Australia as well as most countries I’ve visited (always looking for the same thing – local music and gigs).  I’m always just as disappointed about it.

Do these things affect Jamaica more than other countries where the stories are the same?  I don’t know.  I can’t help thinking about another thing said to me by the same Kingston music store owner who said “Reggae has a fight”:

 “Reggae is Jamaica’s biggest export. What will we do when that’s gone?”

I have my bag of Jamaican music to take home with me and enjoy.  It was a bigger mission finding it than I had hoped – and I wanted the bag to be bigger – but they ain’t bootlegs.

I found some live gigs in Kingston town, and a few supportive venues – but I wish there were more.

Maybe you’ve been to Jamaica?  Maybe you had a different experience to me? I’d love to hear good news stories that prove I don’t know what I’m talking about. 

For anyone in Kingston looking to buy current Jamaican music (on CD): Most items in my music bag are from the Music Mart in Half Way Tree (8 South Ave).   A couple are from Tuff Gong.  Strangely enough, every album in that bag and a couple more, I found on my way out of Kingston – at the airport music shop.  Stranger still is that they were cheaper than I paid in the city.

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What You’ll Find @ Tuff Gong International Kingston

Tuff Gong International – Kingston, Jamaica.  Founded in 1965 by Mr Bob Marley himself.

Tuff Gong’s Kingston headquarters is a place Jamaican and international music artists can and do use as a complete one-stop shop for the recording and distribution of their music – CD’s and Vinyl. The Tuff Gong compound has a recording studio, mastering room, stamper room, pressing plant and rehearsal space.

Tuff Gong also has a record store.  I went there today to find current Jamaican music to buy.

After fruitless and disappointing searches at a few other record stores in Kingston this week, and knowing those same record stores go to Tuff Gong to buy, I thought my chances there would be good.

What I found at the Tuff Gong compound was this:

My mind boggling and my heart pumping fast at the thought of the incredible artistry that has graced the Tuff Gong compound, and how much music has been created there that I have loved my whole life.

Awesome, awesome, awesome antique and retro machines, furniture, instruments and other bits & bobs – my favourite part of the visit.

Lots of unique memorabilia.

Tuff Gong International - Kingston - Beaver on the Beats

Really friendly, helpful people and a whole lot of interesting characters – a visiting Jamaican bassist living in New York, involved with Tuff Gong from the start, with a lot to say about the disappointing lack of contemporary roots reggae to be found in Jamaica; and yes, even one of the Marley family.

A very sweet and knowledgeable guide named Ricky who innocently thought he needed  to explain to me it was James Brown in a photo.Tuff Gong International-Kingston-Beaver on the Beats

Character seeping from every wall, floor and roof space, and from each object within.

The coolest vintage recording studio ever.  No photos allowed inside – but trust me on this.

Tuff Gong International - Kingston - Beaver on the Beats

 What I found at the Tuff Gong Record Shop was this:

A whole lot of Bob Marley, Damian Marley, Julian Marley, Kymani Marley, Cedella Marley, Ziggy Marley, Stephen Marley and Rita Marley CDs. Of course, and great – I found and bought 2 Cds I didn’t have.

A whole lot of CDs by different North American music artists (Tuff Gong is the Caribbean distributor for 3 major labels there).

And, disappointingly…

JUST ONE CD from a current Jamaican artist.

The 8 Year Affair (2013)

The 8 Year Affair (2013)

 

Protoje

I had wanted to find so much more Jamaican music in the Tuff Gong Record Store.  That old school bass player I met there understood, and shared my disappointment.

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Reggaeton in Jamaica? ReggaeWHO?

A Reggaeton conversation in Kingston that made Beaver happy:

Beaver:  Any Reggaeton here in Jamaica?

Trevor Taxi Driver:  ReggaeWHO?

Beaver:  ReggaeTON.

Trevor Taxi Driver:  Who, or What, is THAT?

Beaver:   It doesn’t matter.  You never need, or want to know.

 No Reggaeton in Jamaica – Hallelujah!

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Beenie Man – The King of Dancehall?

The taxi driver home from the Beenie Man gig at Tracks & Records in Kingston last night, thinks Beenie Man is THE King of Dancehall.  Another Kingston taxi driver told me that the “Jamaican music industry” crowned Beenie Man as the King, and I have read that he crowned himself as such.

So then, is Beenie Man the King of Dancehall?

Beenie Man He is certainly talented, yes. Entertaining, yes. Successful in Jamaica and overseas, yes. Beenie Man has a long list of albums with high sales figures, yes. He is multi award winning, yes. Apparently the ladies love ‘dem sugah’ that is Beenie Man, yes.

For me, an artist’s popularity, album sales, entertainment value or awards doesn’t necessarily make him or her the best artist in a genre, or even a good one.  Nor in my eyes do they necessarily make Beenie Man the King of Dancehall.

He definitely put on a good show last night, and the band was great (although they did seem to me to look a bit bored at times during the show).  But I don’t really think that the music is my thing.

 

I am reserving judgment about Beenie Man being THE King of Dancehall or otherwise, at least until after Dancehall Night at Reggae Sumfest next week in Montego Bay – where he will perform, as will many other talented Jamaican dancehall artists on the bill.

Check out the video and see what you think.  Is Beenie Man the King of Dancehall? 

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