RGR TIMES WITH HOWARD CAMPBELL

Ten years of Mightyful13 Records  

 

Having worked in the music business in marketing, management and production, it seemed only natural for Fitzroy Francis to start his own record label. 

In 2011, he did just that with Mightyful13 Records which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. 

"I started the label because singer Zanadu influenced me to record a song ("Trade Winds") he said God gave him to sing and to express my creativity as a producer, promote positivity, and to control the independent process that recording requires musically, and ultimately to establish a new brand," Francis recalled. 

He took Zanadu's advice and ended up producing "Trade Winds", one of Mightyful13 Records' initial releases. Francis has done other songs with Zanadu as well as several roots-reggae acts like Andrew Bees and Jesse Jendau. 

In recent years, he has diversified the label's catalog by producing songs by Freddy Green from Nigeria, and Garrette & Axel, a pop duo from Jamaica and The Philippines. 

Francis is from Waterhouse, the Kingston, Jamaica community that has produced world-famous acts like The Wailing Souls, Black Uhuru, Don Carlos and Junior Reid. He has worked with each in either a marketing or management capacity. 

He has also toured with Shabba Ranks. 

Francis considers starting Mightyful13 Records, and overseeing its development, as one of his greatest professional achievements. 

"The company's successes have been transcending the boundaries and barriers by producing artists worldwide and attaining several number one songs in Jamaica, England, and the United States," he said.

Written Howard Campbell

An Empress sings for peace  

 

Eight years ago when Empress Miriam Simone visited Jamaica, the Caribbean country was going through another cycle of homicides. There was racial unrest in the United States, and terrorist strikes in Europe. 

There has not been any significant change. Which makes "We Don't Wanna Cry", one of the songs she recorded in 2013, just as relevant. 

It is produced by Robert "Bobby Digital" Dixon, one of the giants of contemporary dancehall music, who died in May last year. "We Don't Wanna Cry" features Capleton. 

"The idea to do a collaboration with Capleton came from One  Blood Karl who does my promotion in Jamaica about 10 years now. I got introduced to One Blood by Bobby Digital who wanted me to work with him to do my marketing and promotion for the projects we were  working on," Empress Miriam Simone, who is from Suriname, explained. 

On her second trip to Jamaica in 2019, Bobby Digital remixed the song which is done for the Holland-based singer's Dredda Records and distributed by Zodjak Worldwide. 

Her message on "We Don't Wanna Cry" is timely, given the current racial and social unrest in the world. 

"It is a call out to all the nations of Mother Earth to stop the violence. Too many brothers are killing each other and mothers are crying because of the loss of a father; mothers, children or families. It must stop, Jah lives!" she declared. 

Empress Miriam Simone began recording 12 years ago in her homeland. In 2012, her EP "Follow my Dreams" was released. 

Last February, she launched her debut album "Amsterdam Revival" in Kingston. Both projects featured songs produced by Bobby Digital.

Written By Howard Campbell

Celebrating Bob virtual style  

 

This year's Bob Marley birthday celebration will be a virtual event, a spokesperson for the Tuff Gong Group of Companies has disclosed. 

Lecia-Gaye Taylor, the organization's operations manager, said the Coronavirus has forced a change in plans. 

"We are doing a combination of things. We are doing highlights or best-of past years and some live sessions from Tuff Gong and at the museum," she revealed. 

Marley, who died in May, 1981 from cancer, would have turned 76 on February 6. The annual event on that date at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica usually attracts a large crowd, and features performances by his children, grandchildren and top reggae/dancehall acts. 

Taylor did not disclose the artists for this year's event which takes place during Reggae Month activities in Jamaica. 

The museum, one of Kingston's top tourist attractions, was once the reggae king's home. It reopened in November after closing in March due to the Coronavirus.

Written By Howard Campbell

Looking back with Miss Pat  

 

Packing over 60 years of one's life in 212 pages is not an easy task, but that's exactly what Pat Chin did for her first book, "Miss Pat --- My Reggae Music Journey", which will be released on March 20. 

Distributed by VP Books, it is available online through pre-order. 

"It was a tedious four years but after I finished it I felt relieved and very joyful about what I did," said Chin, a sprightly 83 year-old. 

What the co-founder of VP Records did was recall her life in the music business which started in 1958 when she and her husband Vincent started Randy's, a record label and recording studio in downtown Kingston. 

That company produced a number of classic songs over 20 years including "Independent Jamaica" and "Don't Stay Out Late" by Lord Creator and "Java" by Augustus Pablo. 

In 1979, shortly after the Chins moved to Queens, New York they started VP Records which is the largest distributor of reggae in the world. 

Vincent Chin died in 2003 at age 65. 

'Miss Pat' is not limited to music. Chin also focuses on the diversity of her family who settled in Portland parish, eastern Jamaica during the early 20th Century from India and China. 

"I wanted to show the world something about Jamaica, that we are a diverse country --- Indian, Chinese, African, Jewish people, Syrians. It's where I was born, where I grew up and it's a very special place," she said. 

Proceeds from "Miss Pat --- My Reggae Music Journey" will go to the Vincent and Pat Chin Foundation, a charity that was established in 2020.

Written By Howard Campbell

Donovan Banzana starts a Quiet Riot  

 

After a year of waiting, singer Donovan Banzana finally saw the release of his album "Quiet Riot" in early December. A seasoned campaigner, he knows the tough work has just begun. 

"Quiet Riot" is produced by drummer Desi Jones of Chalice fame. 

"What we are looking at now is promotion. We have the product; we just need the machinery to take it where it needs to go," said Banzana. 

"Quiet Riot" is Banzana's fourth album. His previous efforts were done for Island Records, the first being "World Power" in 1989. 

His link with Island came through Lawrence Lindo, the producer famously known as Jack Ruby who directed Burning Spear on his seminal "Marcus Garvey" album for that company. 

Banzana began work on "Quiet Riot" shortly after returning from East Africa in 2017. He spent seven months in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, recording songs and doing shows. 

Last year, Donovan Banzana contributed "It's Magic" to the "Night Nurse Riddim" album produced by bassist Flabba Holt of the Roots Radics Band.

Written By Howard Campbell

Reparation is a must for Moses I  

 

"Reparation" is the lead song from an upcoming EP by roots singer Moses I. Recently released, it is co-produced by Livon Music and Ironstorm Productions. 

The single takes on an issue that evokes passionate debate among persons advocating renumeration for descendants of slavery. 

Moses I, a committed Rastafarian, fully supports that movement. 

"I an' I mus' get what I deserve," he says bluntly. 

"Reparation" is one of many songs Moses I recorded at his South Florida studio in the past 18 months. Others from those sessions will also make it to the EP which is expected to be released in the first quarter of this year. 

"Wi plan to get some singles out before di release," said Moses I, who hails from Papine in Jamaica's St. Andrew parish, which has been home to a strong Rastafarian community for many years. 

He has been recording since the early 1990s, but learned the rudiments of music prior to that from established producers like Augustus Pablo and Sangie Davis. 

Moses I came to prominence in 1998 with the song "Crazy Look", a collaboration with Capleton. 

That song earned him three tours of Europe with 'The Prophet'.

Written By Howard Campbell

Getting to know King Tubby again 

 

Elders in Jamaica’s reggae and dancehall circles talk about Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock with a reverence his royal moniker deserves. But, 32 years after his death, the current generation of fans are not as familiar with his legend. 

On March 27, his former protege Paul Scott seeks to re-introduce King Tubby to fans with the virtual event, “Sound System Club Presents --- Firehouse Crew and Friends Tribute to King Tubby 32 Years Since his Passing”.  

The event takes place in Waterhouse, the working-class neighborhood where King Tubby worked his magic. It will be streamed live from the studios of Lloyd “King Jammy” James, the mega-successful engineer/producer whom King Tubby mentored. 

“The event also will educate the younger generation across the world of his tremendous achievements and innovations which are still been used in the music industry today. His love and dedication to reggae music has made a significant impact and raised the profile of the music across the world,” said Scott, who was King Tubby’s business manager. “May he also serve as an example to the youths in Waterhouse that with hard work and dedication their dreams can become possible.” 

A former engineer at music producer Duke Reid, King Tubby was murdered at his Kingston, Jamaica home in February, 1989. He was 48 years-old. 

His vision made him a pioneer of dub. His innovative techniques enhanced songs of roots artists such as Augustus Pablo and Yabby You as well as producers Bunny Lee, Glen Brown and Michael “Mikey Dread” Campbell. 

King Tubby moved into music production late in life. He started with Horace Andy’s “Pure Ranking” in 1979 and also produced “Tempo”, a big hit for Anthony Redrose six years later. 

Redrose is one of the acts scheduled to perform on ‘Sound System Club Presents’. Others are The Firehouse Crew, who started their recording career at King Tubby’s studio; saxophonist Dean Fraser, singers Courtney Melody and Duane Stephenson, and James who will play selections from his sound system. 

Written By Howard Campbell

 

  

 

The hits Keep it Moving for Novel-T  

 

The Coronavirus left many in the entertainment industry shell-shocked in 2020, but for singer Novel-T, it was a banner year. 

She had two number one hit songs in “Love Won’t Let us Wait” (with Peter G) and “Keep it Moving” which cemented her place as one of South Florida’s leading reggae artists. 

“Love Won’t Let us Wait” is produced by Hopeton Lindo while “Keep it Moving” is produced by Howard Perry, Novel-T’s husband. 

At time of writing, “Keep it Moving” ticked off its second week at number one on the South Florida Top 25 Chart. 

Though the hit songs earned her the best 12 months of her career, Novel-T points out that success was not limited to the charts. 

“Also a special year because I have been able to collaborate on projects with some heavy hitters in the industry. I have also formed many more alliances and connections across the music industry, resulting in so much more visibility, as far as my musical career,” she said. 

Novel-T is from the August Town region of St. Andrew parish in Jamaica. A longtime South Florida resident, she has been recording for over 20 years. She set the pace for 2020 with “Tough Like A Diamond”, a song on the Kemet rhythm that did well in South Florida and the tri-state area. 

She credits a disciplined method for her strong showing last year. 

“I don’t think I had a different approach. My approach has always been the same; which is to give my best performance in every song and to ensure that every recording is representative of the quality and standards I hold myself to,’ said Novel-T.

Written By Howard Campbell

 

Cleon Williams feels the passion  

 

As a budding singer in Kingston during the late 1980s, Cleon Williams shared studio space with Dennis Brown while recording for producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes. 

His latest song, "Passionate Desire", is a cover of "Funny Feeling", a big hit for the Crown Prince of Reggae in 1978. 

The single is produced by Gaffa Blue Records which is based in the United Kingdom. 

"Is a great song, but wi change it up a little bit with (musicians) Mafia and Fluxy an' so far people mad over it," said Williams. 

The dreadlocked artist has put in a lot of studio work over the years, recording songs for a number of producers including Lawes, famed head of the Volcano label and sound system. He also 'voiced' singles as a deejay for B.B. Seaton, Lloyd "King Jammy's" James and Jack Scorpio. 

"Passionate Desire" is one of many songs he recorded for producers in the UK, Canada and the United States in 2020. 

A self-proclaimed man of the streets, Williams grew up in Olympic Gardens, a tough community in Kingston. It also has a rich music lineage, producing artists like Admiral Bailey and music producer Bobby Digital. 

The singer believes the songs he did last year have enough quality to hit the charts. 

"All I want is for my songs to be released an' get presented properly," said Williams.

Written By Howard Campbell

The Notorious Kool G, DJ Matches search for Greatness 

 

The home of legends like Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy, Chicago's music is steeped in the blues. It does, however, have a solid reggae base thanks to people like The Notorious Kool G and DJ Matches. 

Co-hosts of "The Hottest Dancehall Reggae Mixshow in the Universe!", the Disc Jockeys make their debuts as music producers with the 21 Greatness Riddim Album, scheduled for release in late February. 

It features eight artists including Tarrus Riley, whose song "Be Great" is the first release on January 22. 

Queen Ifrica, Gott Yo, Luciano and Nature Ellis are also featured on the 21 Greatest Riddim compilation. The Notorious Kool G said he and DJ Matches --- who were born in the United States to Jamaican parents --- selected the artists for the project. 

"We deliberately picked these artists that we respect, plus a few surprise artists. We chose his (Tarrus Riley) song (to be released first) because of the message behind the music and we both felt that the world needs a strong, positive song to uplift and remind us of our history and where we should be," he explained. 

The Notorious Kool G built the 21 Greatness Riddim. He has been creating beats for several years but this is the first to be released. 

He and DJ Matches hope the songs will reach a broad audience, which is also the objective of "The Hottest Dancehall Reggae Mixshow in the Universe!". 

"Honestly, we would like it to reach every market. We’re making music for all audiences with hopes of getting international success and bring back longevity into our Jamaican music," he said. 

For the past four years, he and DJ Matches have co-hosted the six-hour show which airs Thursday, Friday and Saturday simultaneously on WZPP 96.1 FM and WZOP 92.7 FM in Florida.  

The Notorious Kool G was born in Washington DC where his parents attended Howard University. DJ Matches was born in Chicago.

Written By Howard Campbell