Max Romeo's Last Hurrah
Posted by August 10 2009 at 17:23
Category : Artists
Forty-two years after his entry into the musical arena, reggae pioneer Max Romeo, is ready to hang up the gloves. In a recent interview with the Observer, the singer indicated that he is in the closing stage of a rich and colourful musical career.
With a significant 42 albums to his credit, Max Romeo will, in 2010 release his final album, appropriately titled, The Last Hurrah.
"I am not doing any album after this," Max Romeo whose average is an album per year, told the Observer. He emphasised, "Everything I have to say, I have said it already. So if I continue, I'll be only repeating myself."
On a somewhat consistent note, between Wet Dream (his debut album) and his latest Max Romeo: The Best Of, this veteran has given us so much messages like Let The Power Fall On I, Bring Back Maccabee Version, War Inna Babylon, will be included on The Last Hurrah which he promises will be out for Christmas, a few covers.
"It is my final fourteen. The message that Jah gave me I have already delivered it. I don't want to take it beyond that, because a just Jah works mi a do, yuh nuh," Max Romeo insisted as he about his upcoming 14 tracks album.
Suffice it to say though, this Jamaican musical powerhouse who hails from Alexandria, St Ann, was not only about message music. In fact, it would surprise many to know that among his 42 albums, one is titled, Max Romeo Banned and Censored, which as the title implies, is not fit for airplay.
"Quite a few tracks on it were banned. These are the songs when I was doing rude stuff in the 60s," Max Romeo admitted. "The people dem now-a-days mussi feel sey a only dem know body parts. Is I teach dem body parts, yuh understand," the veteran crooner said.
This was obviously in reference to his album Wet Dream which was an instant hit in Jamaica, but was banned in the UK from the BBC and Romeo himself was banned from performing at some venues. However, this restriction helped to push Wet Dream on the charts.
During the period to which he made reference, he released singles such Mini Skirt Version, Fish In The Pot, Belly Woman and Wine Her Goosie. "Everybody follow me. Back then, yuh have Lloydie and the Low-Bites, Prince Buster. everybody came after me. But I was the original man who named the body-parts," he chuckled.
He explained that he deliberately does not market the album Max Romeo Banned and Censored in Europe, because the European market is mostly geared to roots and culture music.
Romeo is also a household name in France as much as he is in Jamaica.
"Places like France not really much into the dancehall thing that really tek set into Jamaica. They are into roots and culture. You affi a sing bout Rasta or current affairs. The whole continent shares the same view, for I've been touring the whole continent (of Europe) for quite a few years now and the crowd gets bigger and younger," he noted.
Presently winding down his annual summer trek to Europe, which this time around takes him to Slovenia, Slovakia, Morocco, Serbia as well as what was his first major gig in London. In the later part of this year he will be heading to Brazil for some dates and then going back to Europe in December for some more gigs.
Continuing his contemplation of his exit from the spotlight, the singer, songwriter, producer of such albums as Reconstruction and Transition (a phase that is obviously becoming), also told the Observer, "February 2010, will begin the last of my heavy duty tours. After this I am not doing any more tours, I'll just go out for the big ones. So by February I suppose to be out on the road touring. It going to take me right through Europe again, like saying good bye to the road after 42 years."
So next year will see the final curtain call for the 62-year-old artiste whose song Let The Power Fall On I, became the People's National Party's (PNP) 1972 campaign anthem, followed by other unforgettable chart toppers like One Step Forward, No Joshua No, Sipple Out Deh, Three Blind Mice, I Chase The Devil among too many to be listed.
Indeed, an iconic reggae exponents, his song I Chase the Devil has been sampled by Prodigy for their 1992 UK Top Ten hit, Out of Space. Kanye West also used samples from it to produce Jay-Z's hit song Lucifer, which appeared on Jay-Z's 2003 release, The Black Album.
It doesn't end there, I Chase The Devil, is also featured on the reggae radio station K-JAH Radio West in a popular video game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, released in 2004.
So where does the legendary entertainer born Maxwell Livingston Smith go from here?
"I'll just produce mi kids, deal with me label and deal with Mother Nature," explained Max Romeo who set up home and business complex on his property in a little district called Palm in the town of Treadways, St Catherine.
"Is here soh I man set up my little empire yuh nuh," he goes on "Recording studio, distribution centre, CD manufacturing, farming at the same time, plant cassava, at the same time build the community a community centre where mi operate mi sound system from. Satta Vibes is the sound, and every Sunday night we have a thing called Energy Sunday where people come and enjoy themselves," Romeo disclosed.
While he will no longer take centerstage in the music business as an artiste, he will certainly continue to be involved. "So for my label Charmax Music this is the headquarters, with an array of artistes. People like Jallanzo, Nitro, Ruffi-Ann, Sophia Squire (Ratta Tat Tat) and my two young sons Ronaldo and Romario- one ten the other twelve - will be putting out some hits on the road," said Max Romeo who himself recently released quite a few combinations with Ruffi-Ann, Among them are Let the Power Fall On I, Bring Back Maccabee Version, War Inna Babylon and Wet Dream.
source : jamaicaobserver.com
Ken Boothe builds studio
Posted by August 10 2009 at 17:18
Category : Artists
After 43 years in the music business, veteran artiste Ken Boothe is building a recording studio.
"It is not really decided, it is a must. I should have [had] a studio probably years ago but I have been exploited financially. I think the time is right now," Boothe told THE STAR. "I should perform when I feel like. I should be well off but because of these parasitic people I am still working hard."
However, the studio, which is at his home, is not for commercial purposes. Hence, one can only work there if invited by Boothe. He will be doing a lot of the production work in the studio and he already has plans to work with Benjy Myaz, who he said is a very talented musician and likes his sound.
While this is the case, the studio is not fully complete. He said he is now setting up the space for the drums, as the other live instruments can be easily plugged in.
"I test it out with a dubplate for a sound and I love the sound," Boothe told THE STAR, while noting that he still plans to do work at other studios as all studios have a different sound.
In addition, Boothe is in the process of completing an R&B project with two producers from the United Kingdom and the United States. And, after recently doing shows in France, he has upcoming shows Canada.
"After singing [for] 43 years and still feeling fit, I am really thankful," Boothe said.
source : jamaica-star.com
VP records online
Posted by August 06 2009 at 19:57
Category : Live Shows
VP records online, give it a try:
Reggae's future worries pioneer
Posted by July 11 2009 at 20:22
Category : Others
Burning Spear is fired up about the direction of reggae.
The 61-year-old Jamaican, born Winston Rodney, is a pioneer of the genre. He was a contemporary of Bob Marley, recorded for the famed Studio One label and influenced the entire island with his political and spiritual music.
He is still writing and recording as he always has, but is disturbed about where reggae is heading. Young performers are changing its vibe from an organic music of the people to something more artificial, he says.
"The music has changed," Rodney says. "There's a different flavour, taste and type of arrangement. There's less musicians playing their instruments; it's a programming thing now. The kids are singing off key. The music needs direction."
The dreadlocked Rastafarian believes the government should be doing more to support and nurture the music so strongly associated with the country of 2.8 million people. Rodney would like to see the minister of culture and heritage establish a national recording studio to teach people the history of the music and allow them to record in the traditional way with live musicians.
"I think it needs protection, a voice to protect the music and musicians," Rodney says over the phone from his Long Island home, where he spends half the year. "We need more traditional reggae -- the youth of today are not looking in that direction and not going with that. We need a stronger voice. I think a lot of people in Jamaica don't know the strength of this music and what the music has done for people all over the world."
He's doing his part.
Since his first recordings in 1966 to his latest Grammy-winning release, last year's Jah is Real, Rodney has been spreading his personal and political message all over the world. He and his eight-piece band make their first visit to Winnipeg tonight when he performs a mainstage set at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
"I'm still going better than a Duracell battery," he says with a laugh.
Rodney got his start in 1966 when Marley, who was from the same home town of St. Ann's Bay, told the budding musician and his partner Rupert Willington to try their luck in Kingston at Studio One where many of the island's most notable reggae musicians, including Marley and the Wailers, got their start.
Rodney took the advice and the pair was signed to the label as Burning Spear. Over the next decade Burning Spear -- who expanded to a trio with the addition of Delroy Hinds -- recorded for Studio One before hooking up with producer Jack Ruby, who helped the group achieve their greatest success up to that point with the 1975 album, Marcus Garvey. The record made the group stars in their home country and established their political and spiritual credentials.
He never got a chance to record with Marley before his friend died in 1981, something Rodney believes would have happened naturally had the legend lived.
"I know if Bob was around at this point we would have done something together," he says. "Bob and I were good buddies. We used to smoke and eat lunch by the studio. We'd talk and reason. Bob was a good man, a people person. There was a lot of inspiration coming off Bob."
Like Marley, Rodney considers himself an artist of the people, for the people.
"If the artist isn't seeing himself that way then you're doing something wrong," he says. "My outspoken beliefs have been embraced, but I don't consider myself an activist. Maybe people consider me as that, but it's not anything outrageous or bad I can't live with."
These days Rodney is continuing to spread his own inspiring words, which he records whenever the mood strikes. He is getting ready to release a 40th anniversary DVD with old footage and interviews.
By Rob Williams
source : Winnipeg Free Press
'Eggie' passes on
Posted by July 07 2009 at 20:32
Category : Artists
Saxophonist Egbert Evans, an Alpha Boys School graduate who worked with performers such as Freddie McGregor and Burning Spear, has died.
Evans, 56, died at the University Hospital of the West Indies on July 2. He was taken there shortly after collapsing in August Town, St Andrew.
Known as 'Eggie', Evans was a diabetic who had lost his right leg this year. In April, several of his colleagues in the music business staged a benefit concert for him at The Deck club in St Andrew.
The event raised funds to assist with Evans' medical bills.
Saxophonist Tony Greene, another Alpha graduate, knew Evans for 30 years. He described him as a "serious musician".
"Eggie was a good player who never got the chance to record regularly and that was unfortunate," Greene said.
Like many Jamaican musicians, Evans attended the Alpha school in Kingston which also produced noted hornmen like trombonist Don Drummond, and saxophonists Tommy McCook and Lester Sterling, who were all members of the famed Skatalites band.
Evans went on to play with the In Crowd and Boris Gardiner Happening bands during the 1970s. Later, he toured with McGregor, Burning Spear and, most recently, the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari.
An autopsy will be performed on Evans on July 21.
by Howard Campbell
source : jamaica-gleaner.com
Check here for some of his work.
Remembering the Crown Prince & The making of a reggae superstar
Posted by June 25 2009 at 18:47
Category : Artists
While puttering in the garden of his home on July 1, 1999, bass player Lloyd Parkes says he heard breaking news on radio that singer Dennis Brown had died that morning at the University Hospital of the West Indies.
"The machete inna mi han' drop. I couldn't believe it," said Parkes.
Doctors said Brown died from respiratory failure. The man revered by fans as the Crown Prince of Reggae was just 42 years old.
For Parkes, it was the end of a friendship that began in the early 1970s when he accompanied the teenaged Brown on a tour of England. It was the biggest loss for reggae since Bob Marley's death in 1981.
10th anniversary of death
July 1 marks the 10th year since Brown's death. Although several compilations of his work have since been released, there is no definitive Dennis Brown collection in the mould of Songs Of Freedom, the comprehensive Marley set released in 1992 by Island Records.
Two years ago, the New York independent record company Shanachie Records released Best of The Joe Gibbs Years which covers Brown's work with that producer. Shanachie's president, Randall Grass, believes Brown's prolific output has prevented his catalogue from being a major seller.
"I think part of the problem is that Dennis always had so many albums in the market. Outside of Jamaica and the Jamaican community, I think he is underappreciated," Grass told Tidbits Thursday.
Derrick Harriott, the first person to record Brown, corroborates Grass' observation. At his Kingston record store, he says fans cannot get enough of Dennis Brown.
"He sells just about the same as Bob, there's always demand for Dennis," Harriott said.
Brown was not yet a teenager when he cut Lips of Wine for Harriott. Featuring Rupert Bent on guitar and Jackie Jackson on bass, the song was a minor hit but Brown would have greater success with his next two producers: Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd and Winston 'Niney' Holness.
He was rarely off the charts during the 1970s with a mixture of lovers rock and message songs for Gibbs. Though many saw him as the heir to Marley's crown, it was not until the early 1980s that Brown was signed by a major label, A&M Records, for which he did two albums.
Tommy Cowan managed Marley and was Brown's last manager. He said while they are generally regarded as reggae's finest singers, there was one significant difference between them.
"Bob Marley was a serious businessman, I don't think Dennis was as serious when it came to investment," Cowan said. "Dennis was like a community person, he would earn money and in one hour he would give it away."
Not easy to manage
Cowan admits Brown was not the easiest act to manage.
"I'm not sure if he was afraid of flying but he made it most difficult to get him on an airplane," Cowan said.
While the hit songs dried up in the last 10 years of his life, rumours about Brown's personal life heightened. There was talk about his addiction to hard drugs, and when he started sporting earrings, many questioned his Rastafarian faith.
Strongly influenced by rocksteady balladeers Alton Ellis and John Holt, Brown inspired a new wave of reggae singers, including Barrington Levy, Junior Reid, Frankie Paul, Luciano and Richie Stephens.
In that department, Cowan says, Dennis Brown loses nothing to Marley.
"He is definitely one of Jamaica's finest singers, there can be no doubting that," Cowan said.
These are some of the musicians and producers who made significant contributions to Dennis Brown's career
First producer Brown recorded for. Harriott produced Lips of Wine, Silhouettes and a solid cover of country singer Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman.
'Sir Coxsone' began working with the 'boy wonder' in 1969 and recorded two albums with him. They included the hit songs No Man Is An Island, If I Follow My Heart and Make It Easy On Yourself.
Winston 'Niney' Holness:
Holness already had a big hit in the United Kingdom as an artiste with Blood and Fire when he met Brown in the early 1970s. Teaming with the Soul Syndicate Band, Brown and Holness cut a series of sides for the latter's Observer label that announced the singer as a bona fide star. These included Cassandra, Westbound Train, No More Shall I Roam and Africa.
Brown's most successful period was with Gibbs, starting in the mid-1970s and continuing to the early 1980s. Songs like Why Should I Leave, Money In My Pocket, Ghetto Girl, Ain't That Loving You, Love Has Found Its Way and Should I were done for 'Gibbo'. Two of Brown's best albums, Visions and Words of Wisdom, were produced by Gibbs.
Sly and Robbie:
The Taxi Gang were on top of their game when they teamed with the Crown Prince in the early 1980s. Hits like Sitting and Watching, Have You Ever, Hold On To What You've Got and the hard-hitting Revolution are among the most popular on the Dennis Brown hit parade.
The man behind some of Beres Hammond's biggest songs (One Step Ahead, What One Dance Can Do), Lindo first worked with Brown as a guitarist and arranger at Joe Gibbs during the 1970s. In the 1980s, he produced Inseparable, arguably Brown's best studio effort. The title track, Early In The Morning, Ababa Jan Hoi, For You and Since I've Been Loving You make this a classic set.
First worked with Brown in the late 1970s when they recorded Foundation. They teamed again during the 1990s when Clarke's Music Works label was on a high. Big All Around (with Gregory Isaacs) was one of Brown's best songs of the decade.
Home T's main man and one of dancehall/reggae's prolific songwriters during the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, Bennett produced some minor hits for Brown, including Poison (with Brian and Tony Gold) and Without Your Love.
Earl 'Chinna' Smith:
Guitarist with the Soul Syndicate Band, Smith played on most of Brown's hit songs for 'Niney' Holness. His rhythmic riffs can be heard on Westbound Train and Cassandra.
Bass player and founder of the We The People Band, Parkes was an established musician when he began recording with Brown in the mid-1970s. He played bass on the majority of Brown's hits for Joe Gibbs, including Should I, Money In My Pocket and Ghetto Girl.
Along with Parkes, in-demand drummer Dunbar was a member of Skin, Flesh and Bones, house band at the Tit For Tat nightclub in St Andrew. He and Parkes were also part of Joe Gibbs' band, The Professionals, that backed Brown on many of his hits.
The saxophonist was another member of The Professionals and had a long association with Brown. He played the memorable intro to Inseparable and worked on many of his hit songs for Joe Gibbs.
source : jamaica-gleaner
Music producer Warwick Lyn dies
Posted by May 18 2009 at 17:59
Category : Others
Warwick Lyn, the music producer who helped shape some of Toots and the Maytals' finest work, died May 10 in Miami, Florida, from a cancer-related illness. He was 64 years old.
Lyn's older brother, Ferdinand Lyn, told The Gleaner his sibling had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in February. He also suffered from two tumours in his spinal region and had been wheelchair-bound.
Lyn is scheduled to be buried today at Louis Roman Catholic Church in Pinecrest, Florida.
The fifth of eight children born in Kingston to a Chinese-Jamaican family, Lyn first came to prominence in Manning Cup football, playing for St George's College and Jamaica College. In the 1960s, he got involved in the music business, working as a sound engineer and A&R (Artiste and Repertoire) man for producer Leslie Kong's Beverley's Records.
Kong was the first person to record Bob Marley (1962's Judge Not) and assembled a formidable team of artistes during the mid-1960s. They included Desmond Dekker and the Aces and Toots and the Maytals.
When Kong died from a heart attack in 1971, Lyn became Toots and the Maytals' manager and is credited as co-producer for two of the group's best albums, 1973's Funky Kingston and Reggae Got Soul, which was released three years later.
For most of the 1970s, Lyn worked with Tommy Cowan at Talent Corporation.
They managed and produced acts like The Melodians, Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, Zap Pow, Inner Circle and Junior Tucker.
"One thing people will always remember about Warwick, he was a calm person. You never saw him ruffled," said Cowan.
Lyn immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s where he operated a painting business. He and his wife, 1973 Miss Jamaica, Patsy Yuen, also ran the Miss Jamaica Miami beauty pageant.
source : jamaica-gleaner
Bunny Wailer Announces Extensive Catalog To Be Remastered, Rearranged And Digitally Released
Posted by May 09 2009 at 08:52
Category : Album Releases
Black Heart Man Remastered And Featuring Extended Dub Versions First Album To Be Released
(Kingston, Jamaica - May 7, 2009)
Solomonic Records, in partnership with Zojak World Wide, the leader in digital distribution, is pleased to announce the release of Bunny Wailer's extensive catalog. Featuring remastered and rearranged albums, the catalog will be featured on Itunes during the month of May. Blackheart Man will be released on Tuesday May 26th.
At 62, Bunny "Jah B" Wailer says he is motivated by the passage of time, "This is my responsibility, if I am going to preserve my history, this is something I have to do."
On Blackheart Man the Legendary Bunny Wailer radiates with timeless songs such as "Dreamland", "Rast a Man" and "Fighting Against Conviction". Bob Marley and Peter Tosh are featured on backing vocals along with The Wailers rhythm section. Additional musicians include Tommy McCook, Earl "Chinna" Smith and more.
@ THE NEW ARRANGEMENTS
"The new line up was made to make it exciting. We grow everyday and learn everyday so it's possible to make it a little better. I don't want to get stagnant or people to get bored listening to these tracks." - Bunny Wailer
@ THE REMASTERING PROCESS
"New technology allows bass to be more bassy, get rid of surface noise, I am cleaning up Bunny Wailer's catalog and packaging in a way that is more informative. If we don't do this it is not being fair to the next generation." - Bunny Wailer
@ BLACKHEART MAN (2009)
- Now including extended tracks featuring dub versions previously available only on Dubd'sco Volume 1
IN BUNNY WAILER'S WORDS...
"The album tells a brief history of who Blackheart Man is, what he stands for and the changes he brought about in society and the changes he brought about to the people"
"All of my experiences leading up to Blackheart Man is what is in Blackheart Man. My experiences of life itself."
"Blackheart Man is my most symbolic album from the Wailers of that time up until this time."
Includes tracks original album did not have
Liberation (2009) combines tracks from Bunny Wailer - Protest (1977)
@ WORLD PEACE
Never before been released
Includes two speeches by Haile Selassie I narrated by Bunny Wailer
Speech on world peace opens the album and speech on disarmament closes the album
Tracklisting features Bunny Wailer songs about World Peace.
source : niceup.com
Steel in The Game
Posted by May 01 2009 at 18:15
Category : Artists
Steel Pulse's David Hinds sounds off on the past and present of roots reggae.
It's tour time for Steel Pulse. Plane tickets have been booked, backup singers hired and hotel reservations made. David Hinds is in Birmingham, England. In less than two weeks, he'll be in San Francisco, kicking off the latest leg of the tour. But after 35 years as frontman for the iconic roots-reggae set, he's got the process down to a science and is a sea of calm amid the last-minute preparations.
"I'm really looking forward to coming to Santa Cruz again," he says of his May 6 gig at the Catalyst. "I've been there a million times, and I always love coming back."
Hinds' excitement seems genuine; his cultured Birmingham British accent only slightly marred by occasional dips into the London cockney. The giddiness is refreshing, given the sour outlook many musicians possess after decades of records, gigs and interviews.
For Hinds, despite watching 12 members, including four founders, quit, wash out or move on, and despite bitter fallouts with three major record labels, touring is still a time when it's all about the music.
"It's always been a struggle," he says. "A lot of people still don't get what we're trying to do, you know. But on the road we can just concentrate on the music."
Steel Pulse, however, has never been only about the music. From the group's first record, Handsworth Revolution, in 1978 to its latest, African Holocaust, in 2004, a rebellious political spirit and a fundamental Rastafarian message have permeated the substance of both music and musicians. And though the group now sits comfortably as the most successful reggae act to come out of the U.K., it's been a long fight to get here.
"Reggae music came to the U.K. from people like us—children of immigrants who migrated after the war," says Hinds. "Back then, our music was never taken seriously. We were black Britons and we were used to getting the racial slurs in school. Venues didn't want to play us because we had a protest message."
Hinds describes the mid-'70s as one of the most trying times for his young band. A strange thing happened in the late '70s and '80s in London, however, and reggae music soon found itself championed by unlikely supporters.
"Punk rock came along around then. The punk rockers were interested in supporting anything that the system was opposing. And at that time, the system was definitely opposing reggae music," Hinds explains. "We were never really into punk but we started to realize the similarities between reggae and punk and started playing with a lot of the bands."
Fast-forward to the present and punk rock is all but dead. Reggae, with the passing of its prince Bob Marley in 1981, might have died also, but thanks to acts like Steel Pulse, Buju Banton, Junior Reid and the Wailing Souls, roots reggae can be now heard everywhere from head shops to supermarkets. Hinds says he's thankful for the longevity of his music and the increasing demand, but at times, he's still surprised by it.
"As far as the media was concerned, when Marley died the music was over. That wasn't so," says hinds, his voice quickening. "People tried all kinds of new subject matters and styles to keep up the popularity. They started drifting away from the spirituality. But we've always been about deeper things, you know."
It's these "deeper things" that Hinds says Elektra, MCA and Atlantic record companies could never understand. Those companies "turned their backs on us, so we turned our backs on them," according to Hinds, and today Steel Pulse is represented by the small, reggae-only, RAS label.
"Every time reggae bands were signed to a major label they were thrown into the black category or R&B. We never saw any of the money they promised," he says. "Now with the Internet and pirate radio stations, we get more exposure than we did with the major labels."
In Santa Cruz, Steel Pulse has had plenty of exposure. Hinds says the town is always a must-stop on any American tour, and with tickets expected to sell out, it's clear that local fans feel the same way.
"The people in Santa Cruz have been wonderful to us over the years," He says. "We feel deeply indebted to everyone there. Thanks for all the love."
Curtis Cartier, Metroactive
source : metroactive.com
New Roots in the Bronx for a Lion of Reggae
Posted by April 13 2009 at 09:27
Category : Labels
The elevated trains roar over the din of the streets and aging storefronts of Wakefield in the Bronx. Up a circular staircase in Moodie’s Records, past a wall of shrink-wrapped LPs and stacks of 45s, a neighborhood sound that began in the 1970s — Bronx reggae — is struggling to be reborn.
On a recent evening, Lloyd Barnes, 64, sat fixated at the mixing board as young and old collaborators moved around his studio, chatting over bottles of Red Stripe, a Jamaican beer, nodding to the reverberating beat and laying down tracks.
“If you have music in you, he’s going to bring it out,” said Lenny Chambers, 68, an auto mechanic who has begun recording with Mr. Barnes.
The studio on 225th Street and White Plains Road is called Wackie’s, as was its predecessor, at 241st Street and White Plains Road. The Wackie’s label, with its Rastafarian image of a lion with a dreadlocked mane, was one of the earliest reggae labels in this country; it has developed an international following, and its recordings are sought and collected for their distinctive sound.
Mr. Barnes created the 225th Street studio by hand in the compact space, opening it in December. “I love it here,” he said, his gaze proudly moving from the checkered maroon and white ceiling to the purple and brown floral carpet on the walls to the coffee maker and microwave in the recording booth. “I even built the couch, stayed here last night, yeah mon,” he said in his soft Jamaican patois.
Its predecessor was at the northern end of the No. 2 line and included a record store. That studio, a red storefront with a yellow lion heralding Wackie’s latest releases, soon became a magnet for Jamaican musicians from all over the city after it opened in the 1970s.
“It was like the reggae Motown in the Bronx,” said Ras Menelik DaCosta, 54, a percussionist with a white dreadlocked beard who jammed at the space. “People get wives just from being there; some people became fathers. It took on a life of its own.”
Claudette Brown, who was half of a Wackie’s female duo called the Love Joys, said: “Those were good times, I miss those years. But this is it, this is where I belong.”
Mr. Barnes was raised in a crime-ridden neighborhood in Kingston, Jamaica, called Trenchtown, considered the cradle of reggae. As a teenager, he regularly attended ska shows and dub concerts where D.J.’s, known as sound system men, traveled from party to party, spinning records, which they punctuated with signature sound effects.
Later he befriended the producer Clement Dodd and hung around the legendary Studio One in Kingston, where Bob Marley and the Wailers, the Maytals and Burning Spear all had sessions. “I found a certain peace in the music,” he said. “It’s not always good times, but the music gives you that.”
In 1967, Mr. Barnes emigrated to New York, first to Brooklyn, where his mother lived. “It was a time to meet people of the same heritage, West Indians from all over,” he said, describing the large influx from the Caribbean to the city.
He attended a trade school, learning upholstering, but eventually settled in construction work. Spending his days tying steel for reinforced concrete, at night he would be a D.J., lugging turntables, crates of records and speakers on the subway with friends to gigs in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
“We didn’t have no car then, so we took the train,” he said.
With his earnings, he slowly began to accumulate amplifiers, effects units, and other studio equipment. Around 1972, he rented a leaky basement on White Plains Road, where he set up a disco and his first studio, imprinting it with his nickname. A few years later, Mr. Barnes moved to his second location, 241st Street. There, working with various artists, he perfected his raw analog sound, defined by deep drum, bass, minimal lyrics and interludes of reverb.
“It was a New York sound,” said Milton Henry, a singer and distributor for the label. “It had a whole different energy.”
But without the distribution capacity of a major label, Mr. Barnes could not afford to press more than 500 to 1,000 records at a time. “We tried to reach the world, but no one was interested,” he said.
Unable to pay for a house and a studio, he gave up the home and occasionally slept on the floor of the drum room in the studio. “You can’t make music in the house so we keep the studio,” he said, adding that the electricity sometimes failed there. “The light, sometime we lose it for a day or two, but we always get it back,” he said. “It was difficult, but we were doing what we wanted to do.”
Over the 13 years that the studio on 241st Street was open, Mr. Barnes recorded artists like Sugar Minott, the Meditations, and Wayne Jarrett. The songs he produced included “Instrument for Jah,” “West Bound D Train,” and “Wack Rap,” an early rap single, released in 1979.
After rising rents forced him to close the studio in 1989, he said, he moved to Englewood, N.J., where he mainly mastered recordings for Japanese record companies.
“It wasn’t till much later that Wackie hit his heyday” and found wider popularity, said Ira Heaps, owner of Jammyland, an East Village record store that specialized in reggae. Mr. Heaps added that “Dance Hall Style“ by Horace Andy, a record on the Wackie’s label, was his store’s most popular album.
Although Mr. Barnes has not released material in years, he still records and tours with reggae musicians. In 2001, Basic Channel, a German label, began to reissue his earlier recordings.
Having returned to the Bronx, Mr. Barnes said he planned to release his last few years of music soon. He reflected, “When I travel, my records pop up everywhere; sometime I wonder, how come 500 records can get this far around the world?”
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source : The New York Times