RGR TIMES WITH HOWARD CAMPBELL

Milton Blake launches album in Jamaica  

Veteran roots singer Milton Blake will launch his “Temporary Obstacles” album in Kingston, Jamaica on August 7. The set contains 14 songs --- seven vocals accompanied by dub versions. 

Produced by Lloyd Dennis of Pickout Records from the United Kingdom, “Temporary Obstacles” was actually released in 2019. Blake, who is based in Cleveland, Ohio, is keen for Jamaicans to hear his second album. 

“That’s the foundation of roots-reggae and it’s lacking there now. Di dancehall man dem tek over; but you know, what I see as negative others see as positive,” he said. 

Blake, who grew up on Rastafari and roots music in the community of Central Village, Jamaica, has been recording since the early 1990’s. His first song, “Healing”, was produced by guitar maestro Dwight Pinkney of Zap Pow and Roots Radics Band fame. 

He moved to the United States Midwest just over 10 years ago. Blake’s first album, “People Need Jah”, was released in 2013. 

Blake and his River Nile band are fixtures on live shows in Cleveland. They have also performed in Cincinnati, Chicago, New York and Connecticut. 

“Nuclear Age”, “Trumpet Sound” and “Heir to The Throne” (with Mikey General) are some of the songs from “Temporary Obstacles”. Blake is also pushing the song “It’s Not Over Yet”, a collaboration with Luciano. 

  Written By Howard Campbell

 

Zekedon says Love me Now  

After rocking the dancehall with “Bumpa Truck”, Zekedon follows-up with another summer jam. Titled “Love me Now”, it features Sh3eni who also worked on his previous single. 

The deejay assures an un-trusting lover that he is faithful on his latest track which is produced by Junior Taxi, who also guided Zekedon on “Bumpa Truck”. 

Interestingly, the South Florida-based artist recorded “Love me Now” in 2014 when he was involved in a love triangle. 

“I was actually going through that actual thing I talk about in the song with the mother of my kid and another female I was dating,” he said. “In life, we as men feel like anything we dish out, women must accept it but she don’t really have to accept what you are dishing out, and we (as men) don’t have to settle either. It’s a give and take thing, that’s what I’m saying.” 

Because he was little-known at the time, Zekedon says “Love me Now” got little traction in the marketplace. Re-released in early July, his management has boosted promotion of the single with a steamy video. 

Inspired by Sisqo’s “Thong Song”, “Bumpa Truck came out in April. 

“I’m really satisfied with the performance of ‘Bumpa Truck’ and the strength and the support I’ve been getting from fans, people and the media,” he said.

Written By Howard Campbell

Hopeton Lindo, Fiona are In The Mood  

After scoring two number one songs last year, it seemed only natural that singers Hopeton Lindo and Fiona expand their winning partnership. They do just that with “In The Mood”, an EP that was released July 16 by Zojak Worldwide. 

It contains "In Your Eyes" which first topped the Foundation Radio Network Chart in December, 2019, and "Guilty", a number one song on the South Florida and New York Reggae Chart last year. 

“Guilty” is a cover of Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibbs’ hit from 1980. 

“We have a chemistry that comes naturally. Our voices blend beautifully, plus our professional approach and love for music brings out the best,” said Lindo.

Lindo produced four of the EP tracks including “Guilty” and “You Don’t Have To Be A Star”, a massive hit for husband and wife act Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo in 1976, one of the favorites on the EP.

The title song, "In The Mood" and also "In Your Eyes" are produced by Sly and Robbie and Rory Baker for Taxi/One Pop Records, with whom Lindo has also had a successful tandem especially in the last two years. 

Another soul classic that gets a smooth reggae remake on the EP is "Yes I'm Ready", originally done by Barbara Mason in 1964.

"Love Don't Fail Me" an amazing Duet Remix, written by Fiona is another smashing track on the project.

Written By Howard Campbell

Stacious wins Jamaica’s ‘Festival’  

Dancehall artist Stacious, known for saucy songs like “Come Into my Room” (with Mavado) and “Touch me Right”, won the Jamaica Festival Song Competition on July 22 with “Jamaica Spirit”. 

She became the fourth female to win the contest which has been held annually prior to Jamaica’s Independence celebrations since 1966. 

The event, which also attracted mainstream acts like Lutan Fyah, the Fabulous Five and I-Octane, was held virtually from the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston to meet Jamaica’s Covid-19 protocols. 

Twelve contestants vied for top prize of US$20,000. 

DB placed second with “Love Jamaica My Land”. He also won the Best Performer trophy for his “spirited performance. 

Tamo J, another dancehall artist, was third with “Talk”. 

Stacious follows Abby Dallas, Chetenge and Heather Grant as women who have won the Jamaica Festival Song Competition which was being held virtually for the second straight year. 

In 2020, Buju Banton won with “I am A Jamaican”. 

Like last year when Toots and The Maytals and Freddie McGregor also competed, organisers, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, offered attractive cash incentives to lure mainstream artists. 

In its heyday, the event drew the biggest names in Jamaican music. Toots and The Maytals won the inaugural staging; other notable winners include Desmond Dekker and The Aces, Tinga Stewart and Freddie McKay.

Written By Howard Campbell

 

Positive vibes for Miami Reggae Festival  

Positive vibes for Miami Reggae Festival Since its inception in 2010, organizers of the Miami Reggae Festival have made it clear their main objective is to help reduce hunger and poverty in South Florida. They continue to fly that humanitarian banner. 

On August 7-8, the event returns after a one-year break. The 2020 show was cancelled due to the Coronavirus. 

Promoted by Afrikin Foundation and Rockers Movement, this year’s show carries the banner, ‘Healing the Community Through the Vibrations of Sound System Culture’. 

In keeping with that positive theme, festival spokesperson and co-founder Alfonso Brooks said there will be no clashes. 

“There’s a lot of negativity out there, and we need to get back to what reggae music is about --- love, good vibes and good feelings.” 

A number of elite ‘sounds’ will be at the venue including Stone Love, Bass Odyssey, MetroMedia, King Addies International, and King Waggy Tee. Adonai Sound, Big Life Sound, Downbeat The Ruler, King Champion, Ontrack Disco, Overproof Movements, Poison Dart, Rocksteadyy, Soul Supreme, Super Storm and Warrior Sound International complete an impressive lineup. 

Mutabaruka, the fiery Jamaican poet who is also known in sound system circles, will host the event.  

Veteran artists Freddie McGregor, Brigadier Jerry and Michael Palmer are also expected to perform, Brooks disclosed. 

While it has a strong music component, the Miami Reggae Festival’s primary focus is to gather food for the impoverished in South Florida. Brooks, a native of St. Maarten who was raised in New York, estimates organizers have distributed over 8,000 tonnes of food since the show was first held. 

The Miami Reggae Festival was first held at the Bayfront Amphitheater in downtown Miami, with Bunny Wailer, Toots and The Maytals, Marcia Griffiths, Steel Pulse and Midnite the featured acts. 

In 2019, Midnite and Jah9 were headliners.

 

Written By Howard Campbell

 

Major Steppa thanks Jah  

While most of his countrymen are into traditional sounds and Afrobeats, singjay Major Steppa of Ghana considers himself a hardcore reggae artist. He gives praise on his latest song, “Thank You Jah”, which is co-produced by Team Humble Heights Connect out of Ghana and Red A Red Music Group, a Jamaican company based in New York. 

The song is released one year after “I’m in The Mood”, his collaboration with Jamaican singer Av&nte, for Ireland Records. 

Major Steppa is from Accra, the Ghanaian capital, which he says has a solid dancehall/reggae following. 

“Reggae is on the rise here, as well as sound system culture. My official DJ, DJ Gashie who is also my road-manager, usually puts on a reggae concert each Thursday before Covid-19 interrupted. There are other DJs and conscious artists like myself keeping reggae/dancehall alive here in Ghana,” he said. 

Major Steppa says his most successful song to date is “Taaba After Taaba”, a weed anthem that did well in his homeland. It features DJ Gashie. 

Though he admires fellow Ghanaian artists like Mark Anim Yirenkyi and Kojo Antwi, Major Steppa is also influenced by a number of Jamaican acts including Papa San, Stitchie, Capleton, Sizzla and Mr. Vegas. 

“Thank You Jah” is expected to be on “Diamond in The Dirt”, his album which is scheduled for release in November. 

  Written By Howard Campbell

Big Mountain gives a taste of ‘Freedom’  

Big Mountain will have a listening session for “Freedom”, their new album, on July 24 at Anchor Recording Studio in Kingston, Jamaica. The 12-song set was partially recorded there and is produced by Delroy “Fatta” Pottinger. 

No official release date is set for “Freedom”, which is the San Diego, California band’s first album since “Perfect Summer” in 2016. It contains a cover of The Eagles’ classic, “Hotel California”. 

In a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer, Big Mountain co-founder Quino McWhinney, said “Freedom” is a return to their reggae roots after experimenting with a guitar-driven, rock feel on “Perfect Summer”. 

Several of Jamaica’s top musicians played on the album including drummers Sly Dunbar and Kirk Bennett, guitarists Earl “Chinna” Smith and Lamont Savory, keyboardists Paul Crosdale, Steven “Lenky” Marsden and Franklyn “Bubbler” Waul, and bassist Donald Dennis. 

Big Mountain formed in San Diego during the late 1980’s. They came to international prominence in 1994 with a reggae version of “Baby I Love Your Way”, a pop hit for English singer Peter Frampton 19 years earlier. 

“Baby I Love Your Way” entered the Top 10 of the Billboard pop chart and remains Big Mountain’s biggest hit. 

To promote “Freedom”, Big Mountain are scheduled to do three shows in England, starting August 13 in Oxford. In September, they are expected to play dates in Mexico and Ghana. 

Big Mountain's lineup also includes Quino’s younger brother, James McWhinney on vocals and percussion; Paul Kastick on drums, keyboardist Richard Campbell, guitarist Audley Chisholm, and bassist Mike Ortiz.

Written By Howard Campbell

Ginjah ready to promote his ‘Soul’  

It’s been three months since Ginjah released his sixth album, “Ginjah The Reggae Soul Man”. The singer is preparing to renew promotion for the 15-song set through live shows and social media. 

The reggae live concert scene has gradually re-opened after over one year of closure due to Covid-19. With enthusiastic response to the Federal government’s vaccine program, fans streamed out to shows on the July 4 weekend in South Florida, Atlanta, New York and New Jersey. 

That is good news for artists like Ginjah. 

“As you know, I’m always promoting ‘The Reggae Soul Man’ and there’s definitely some shows planned and in the making. More information will be announced and posted on my social media,” he said. 

“Ginjah The Reggae Soul Man” is produced by Natures Way Entertainment out of South Florida, and distributed by VP Records. Based in California, Ginjah acknowledged the transformation of promoting albums since the release of his first, “Never Lost my Way” which came out in 2010. 

“I’ve learned that marketing music has changed its dynamic due to the time and generation and that social media is now the marketing strategy compared to before (when) it was more footwork involved,” he said. 

“Survival”, Ginjah’s previous album, was released in 2020 as paranoia around the pandemic heightened. He was unable to properly promote that set. 

To date, two songs --- “Pressures of Life” and “Procrastinate” --- have been released from ‘The Reggae Soul Man’. 

Written By Howard Campbell

Jamaica on D’Vybrant’s mind  

Raised in the working-class community of Christian Pen in St. Catherine parish, Jamaica, D’Vybrant got regular doses of dancehall and roots-reggae culture. That upbringing has served him well. 

Based in the United Kingdom since 2008, the singjay has done most of his recording in that country. With his latest songs, D’Vybrant has launched his most comprehensive bid yet to break into the Jamaican market. 

Those singles are Good Out There and Searching For Love, produced by Highzins Muzik; and The Feeling, which is produced by Marvoni Records. 

“Having a hit single in Jamaica would be a massive achievement, which would also be beneficial to my future career and my community. As a reggae/dancehall artiste, I feel it is a necessity to keep up with my genre,” said D’Vybrant. 

Over the years, British or UK-based reggae acts have done well in Jamaica. They include Maxi Priest, Papa Levi, Aswad, Steel Pulse, Musical Youth and Bitty McLean. 

“The songs are good and I know once they get a chance, the fans will listen to them,” said D’Vybrant. 

Christian Pen is a close-knit area whose residents include Ashanti Roy, co-founder of roots group The Congos, and Donovan Joseph, another veteran singer who is D’Vybrant’s cousin. 

Fourteen years ago, he got involved in music but it was not until he migrated to the UK that he kicked off his career as Vybrant Yute. Since then, D’Vybrant has recorded several songs for various producers in the Midlands where he is based. 

Written By Howard Campbell

Gearing up for Jamaica Festival  

With less than two weeks before the grand final, organizers of the Festival Song Contest in Jamaica are satisfied with its progress. Twelve acts are competing for the main prize of $20,000. 

“It’s building momentum. The pandemic affected us in more ways than people expected but things are up and running,” said Lennie Salmon, the event’s producer. 

Because Covid-19 restrictions are still enforced in Jamaica, the traditional lead-up to the Festival Song Contest has been shelved. That included a road show with the contestants performing their songs. 

The final is scheduled for July 22 in Kingston, two weeks before Jamaica celebrates its independence. 

Like last year, organizers have come up with an attractive prize package to attract big-name artists. I-Octane, Lutan Fyah and Stacious have entered, as well as the Fab Five Band and previous winner Pessoa. 

Last year’s winner was “I Am A Jamaican” by Buju Banton. 

Salmon admits there is discontent in some quarters about the presence of high-profile acts. 

“They think it’s taking away from smaller artists, but when Festival just started it had the biggest artists like Toots and Desmond Dekker. What we’re doing is a continuation of swinging the pendulum to where the contest once was,” he explained. 

Toots And The Maytals won the inaugural contest with “Bam Bam” in 1966. Desmond Dekker And The Aces took the 1968 edition with “Music Like Dirt (Intensified ‘68”). 

The 2021 Festival Song Contest contestants and their songs are: 

  

01. Kimiela Candy Isaacs - Birthday Bash JA 
02. Peso - Celebration (Wet Sugar) 
03. Lutan Fyah - Jamaica (Jah Mek Ya) 
04. Althea Hewitt - Jamaica Nice 
05. Stacious - Jamaican Spirit 
06. Father Reece - Jamaicans Talawah 
07. I-Octane - Land We Love 
08. DB - Love Jamaica My Land 
09. Tamo J - Real Talk (Jamrock) 
10. Dez I Boyd - Rumba Box 
11. Reggae Maxx - Sweet Jamaica 
12. Fab 5 - Unwind

 

Written By Howard Campbell