The biggest dance craze across the world, Go Down Deh has spawned multiple choreographed videos all over YouTube. Another hit from Jamaica's hottest Reggae and Dancehall Stars.
Sean Paul is one of the biggest Jamaican Dancehall international sensations. Having scored hit records and collaborations with icons across musical genres, he has cemented himself as one of the greatest exports from Jamaica. Having a career spanning decades, Sean Paul continues to reinvent himself and give the world music that becomes household bangers.
Two of Jamaica's leading young stars sit down for a chat. Nuff tings said..........
Beres Hammond performed in a live virtual concert from Harmony House studos in Kingston, Jamaica. A virtuoso performane from the Reggae Icon you will watch over and over again. Beres performed hit after hit and had had some special guests who underscored the richness of Jamaican music. I watched it live and it was simply on fire!!!!!!
When former Miss Jamaica Davina Bennett landed the part as the love interest in a Maluma music video, she thought she’d be taping a regular four-minute music video. Instead, she was cast as the Colombian star’s muse in #7DJ (Siete Días en Jamaica – Seven Days in Jamaica), companion film to the seven-song EP of the same name that tracks Maluma’s trip to Jamaica, in search of a spiritual rebirth.
And Bennett’s role became something far more significant than mere screen time or high-profile exposure.
“There are other music videos, but few consider, ‘Let us merge cultures, let us merge Black and white,'" says the 2017 Miss Universe runner-up. "To see Latin, reggae, dancehall, Black and white come together and create something epic like this is a whole other level."
For Bennett, proudly representing Caribbean and Black culture is not new. In 2017, she made headlines when she took the stage at the Miss Universe pageant with an afro, her natural hair, becoming the first Black woman to be crowned among the top three to do so. In “7 Días,” she wears dreadlocks, emblematic of Jamaica, and is a constant player in a visual work that went to great lengths to stay true to the island’s roots and traditions.
“She’s not just beautiful, but a big ambassador of her own culture,” says Maluma.
Davina Bennett and Maluma
Bennett spoke to Billboard about the significance of Black presence in a Latin music video, especially coinciding with Black History Month. “I hope we become a domino for others to follow,” she says.
I’m making an effort to think of videos where you have a white Latin superstar with a beautiful Black woman as the model, and I can’t think of many…
I’ve never seen it. I think that’s why social media is eating it up. It’s an immense sense of pride. It’s also very overwhelming, because sometimes I think, "Is this real?" I’ve been in this position once before, representing Jamaica in Miss Universe, and being the first woman to rock my Afro -- and that was a big thing for my country, and for Afro and brown girls. To be in the same position, rocking another hair style and showing unity between two countries and two cultures… I don’t have words to express it.
You’re opening a big door. It’s amazing there haven’t been more instances, right?
It feels the same as when I did Miss Universe. This pageant is over 60 years [of history] and you’re telling me there has never been a Black woman with an Afro in the top three? And there are other music videos, and they have never considered: Let us merge cultures, let us merge Black and white. It’s mind blowing. But, someone has to do it first. Someone has to be the first domino on that table.
Every Song on Maluma's '#7DJ (7 Días En Jamaica)' Ranked: Critic's Picks
The album is called 7 Días In Jamaica, and it truly is an homage to Jamaica, showing so much of the island. Did it surprise you to see how prominently Jamaica is featured?
What makes it even better for me is there’s the combination of two cultures: Latin from Colombia and reggaetón and dancehall from Jamaica, and that makes it even greater. Maluma incorporates people like Ziggy Marley, Charly Black. For you to not just come to our country, but also use Jamaican creatives, a Jamaican girl, Jamaican artists -- it’s not cultural appropriation, but literally paying homage. It’s not, “I’m coming to your island, taking credit and leaving.” It’s about us. It goes in-depth in terms of our culture, how we portray ourselves. Even down to the drink we have in our hand, Red Stripe, is unique to the Caribbean.
Your hairdos are incredible. Tell me about them?
We decided to do locks [dreadlocks], which is a great representation. We are Rastafarian. Mellisa Dawkins, my hair stylist, would come up with these ideas on the spot. This woman just transformed each look into something amazing. It was such a great representation in my country. Locks are discriminated [against] in many places. And to show locks can be styled, they can be elegant, flirty -- it’s something I’m extremely proud of.
There was a highly publicized case of locks and discrimination in Jamaica recently, right?
Last year there was a discrimination case in Jamaica, because a little girl went to school with her locks and she was sent home. This is a big slap in the face. We are known for our locks. If you’re going to send a girl home for wearing locks, you might as well spit on us. So to be able to be on a [major] platform and use locks is a big deal, not just as a Jamaican woman but as a Caribbean woman. I hope this will tell people: “It’s not OK to discriminate against natural hair.” Because it is natural hair. And it’s a disgrace that today you would tell someone you can’t wear your hair like that.
Normally, how do you prefer to wear your hair?
Afro. It’s more relaxed. I’m someone who doesn’t comb her hair every day. So my Afro is my every day hairstyle.
Ky-Mani Marley, Davina Bennett, Julian Marley & Rohan Marley
Courtesy of Davina Bennett
You also shot in Colombia, in Medellín, but also in Barú, a beautiful beach close to Cartagena. How was that experience?
I’ve never experienced anything quite like that, where they appreciate Black beauty [to that degree]. It had nothing to do with being Miss Jamaica. In Barú, people would walk up to me and say, “We have the same skin. We’re family. We don’t even speak the same language, and just because of our skin there’s a connection.” I was in awe of the fact that these people were appreciative of who I am, my beauty and my color.
Did you talk to Maluma about these things?
I asked Maluma why he decided to do Jamaica. And he said, "Our cultures are so similar. There is a lot of diversity in Colombia. Our cultures intertwine." He just wanted to connect the two. And it’s amazing someone as big as Maluma can come to small Jamaica and find the uniqueness and the things that make us one. To be able to create an entire album paying homage to that is an iconic and very brave move. And it was executed in a way that both sides should be very proud of. I am, anyway. It’s a white guy from Colombia falling in love with a Jamaican woman with dreadlocks.
How did you meet Maluma?
I first met him in Jamaica. I was a little bit nervous. But I think it’s because I had to kiss him. It was in the script. I thought, "Oh Lord." I don’t want to make a fool of myself. But, yes he’s a very good kisser. And the kissing scene was quite a delight.
The Hon. Gordon "Butch" Stewart O.J. 1941-2021: Legendary Jamaican Entrepreneur Redefined 'All-Inclusive' and Changed the Way the World Went on Vacation
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, Jan. 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Legendary Jamaican entrepreneur Gordon "Butch" Stewart, one of the hospitality industry's most vibrant personalities and founder of Sandals Resorts International, the world's leading all-inclusive resort company, has died at the age of 79. An unstoppable force, who delighted in defying the odds by exceeding expectations, Stewart single-handedly built the world's most awarded vacation brand from one resort in Jamaica to over two dozen distinct resorts and villas throughout the Caribbean.
A son of Jamaica, Butch Stewart was born in Kingston on July 6, 1941 and grew up along the island country's North Coast, a tropical paradise that now boasts several of his Luxury Included® Sandals and Beaches Resorts and where his love of the sea, dominoes and free enterprise were sown. Certain from the start that he wanted to run his own company, at the tender age of 12, Stewart first stepped into the hospitality industry selling fresh-caught fish to local hotels. His success got him 'hooked' and his enthusiasm for entrepreneurship never waned.
After completing his secondary education abroad, Stewart returned home to Jamaica where he demonstrated his innate talent as master salesman at the renowned Dutch-owned Curaçao Trading Company, quickly rising to the position of sales manager but itching to start his own company. In 1968, Stewart took his chance. With no collateral but recognizing the comfort that would make air conditioning an essential service, Stewart convinced American manufacturer Fedders Corporation to allow him to represent their brand in Jamaica. With that, Stewart's foundational business - Appliance Traders Limited (ATL), was born and he was on his way.
At ATL, Stewart developed a simple business philosophy he articulated many times: "Find out what people want, give it to them and in doing so - exceed their expectations." This would become the standard for every Stewart enterprise and practiced by every employee of the many companies Stewart would go on to found, including and perhaps most importantly, Sandals Resorts International.
Stewart Founds Sandals Resorts
In 1981, with a gift for recognizing opportunity, Stewart found one in Bay Roc: a rundown hotel on a magnificent beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Seven months and $4 million in renovations later, Sandals Montego Bay would open as the flagship of what is today the most popular award-winning, all-inclusive resort chain in the world.
While Stewart never laid claim to inventing the all-inclusive concept, he is recognized worldwide for his tireless effort to elevate the experience, delivering to his guests an unsurpassed level of luxury, and to share his certainty that a Caribbean company could successfully compete with any organization in the world. He accomplished both.
"I had heard of the concept, yet at the time, the services and rooms were very basic. Contrary to that, I envisioned we could bring forward a luxury resort to offer customers so much more. So, we perfected it. Only the most comfortable king size four poster beds, fine manicured gardens, cozy hammocks and the kind of warm, refined service the Caribbean has become known for. Just as important was to be located on the absolute best beach, because that's what everyone dreams of."
Where other so-called "all-inclusives" offered meals and rooms at a set rate, Sandals Resorts' prices covered gourmet dining options, premium brand drinks, gratuities, airport transfers, taxes and all land and watersport activities. The competitors' meals were buffet-style, so Stewart created on-property specialty restaurants with high culinary standards and white-glove service. Sandals Resorts also was the first Caribbean hotel company to offer whirlpools and satellite television service, the first with swim-up pool bars and the first to guarantee that every room is fitted with a king-size bed and a hair dryer. More recent innovations have included a signature spa concept – Red Lane® Spa, signature luxury suites designed for privacy and ultimate pampering, complimentary WiFi, and signature partnerships with iconic organizations such as Microsoft Xbox® Play Lounge, Sesame Workshop, PADI, Mondavi® Wines, Greg Norman Signature Golf courses and the London-based Guild of Professional English Butlers. And in 2017, Stewart introduced the Caribbean's first over-the-water accommodations, which were quickly expanded to include Over-the-Water bars and Over-the-Water wedding chapels.
By steadfastly adhering to the "we can do it better" principle of pleasing his guests, Stewart fostered a company free to imagine and free to consistently raise the bar. This ethos earned him the title of "King of All-Inclusives," changing the face of the all-inclusive format and establishing Sandals Resorts as the most successful brand in the category – boasting year-round occupancy levels of more than 85 percent, an unequaled returning guest factor of 40 percent and demand that has led to unprecedented expansion including the creation of additional concepts such as Beaches Resorts, now the industry standard for excellence in family beach vacations.
Butch Stewart loved Sandals. At the time of his passing, he was hard at work on plans for the recently announced expansions to the Dutch island of Curaçao and St. Vincent.
Stewart As Statesman
Stewart's leadership helped resurrect Jamaica's travel industry and earned him the respect of his peers and the admiration of his countrymen. He was elected President of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica in 1989 and was inducted into its "Hall of Fame" in 1995. He served as a Director of the Jamaica Tourist Board for a decade and as President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association in the mid-80s, ably balancing government and private sector priorities, reconciling the concerns of large and small Jamaican hotels, and raising public understanding of the tourism industry. In 1994, Stewart led a group of investors to take leadership of Air Jamaica, the Caribbean's largest regionally based carrier. It was a daunting task - planes were dirty, service was indifferent and on-time schedules were rarely met, causing market share to plummet along with revenues.
When Stewart stepped in, he insisted on a passenger-friendly approach: on-time service, reduced waiting lines, increased training for all personnel, and signature free champagne on flights to accompany an emphasis on better food. He also opened new routes in the Caribbean, brought on new Airbus jets and established a Montego Bay hub for flights coming from and returning to the United States. Just as with ATL and Sandals Resorts, Stewart's formula proved successful and in late 2004, Stewart gave the airline back to the government with an increase in revenue of over US$250 million.
It was not the first time Stewart would come to the aid of his country. In 1992, he galvanized the admiration of Jamaicans with the "Butch Stewart Initiative," pumping US$1 million a week into the official foreign exchange market at below prevailing rates to help halt the slide of the Jamaican dollar. Dr Henry Lowe, at the time president and CEO of Blue Cross, wrote to Stewart saying: "I write to offer sincere congratulations to you for the tremendous initiative which has done so much, not only for the strengthening of our currency, but more so, for the new feeling of hope and positive outlook which is now being experienced by all of us as Jamaicans."
Less well-known may be the extent of Stewart's considerable philanthropy, where for more than 40 years he has helped improve and shape the lives of Caribbean people. His work, formalized with the creation in 2009 of The Sandals Foundation, offers support ranging from the building of schools and paying of teachers to bringing healthcare to the doorsteps of those who cannot afford it. This in addition to his tireless support of a wide range of environmental initiatives. Beyond the work of the Foundation, Stewart has given millions to charitable causes such as celebrating the bravery of veterans and first responders and helping those in the wake of devastating hurricanes.
In 2012, Stewart founded the Sandals Corporate University, aimed at providing professional development for employees through reputable education and training programs. With access to more than 230 courses and external partnerships with 13 top-ranking local and international universities, every staff member can apply, broaden their knowledge, and advance their career.
Stewart's successes in business and in life have earned him more than 50 well-deserved local, regional, and international accolades and awards including Jamaica's highest national distinctions: The Order of Jamaica (O.J.), and Commander of the Order of Distinction (C.D.). In 2017, Stewart was honored with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS), hosted by the Burba Hotel Network, marking his significant contribution to the hospitality industry. "The success of Sandals has helped to power the growth of the tourism industry and economies not only in Jamaica but throughout the Caribbean," said BHN president Jim Burba. "The word 'icon' certainly applies to Butch Stewart."
It delighted Stewart whenever he was dining anywhere in the world and an excited staff member would share with him, "Thank you. I got my start at Sandals."
Butch Stewart, The Man
With his easy pace, infectious warmth and trademark striped shirt, Stewart exuded an approachability that belied the complexity of his character. While he was an acute businessperson, who at the time of his death was responsible for a Jamaican-based empire that includes two dozen diverse companies collectively representing Jamaica's largest private sector group, the country's biggest foreign exchange earner and its largest non-government employer, he was an extremely private man whose deepest devotion was to his family.
His greatest test came in 1989 when his beloved 24-year-old son Jonathan was killed in a car accident in Miami. Stewart recalled the incident in a 2008 interview, "For two months after he died, I was absolutely useless, and after that I was sort of running on remote control. Things were a blur. It's every parent's nightmare. After a year or so, I started to see things in vivid detail. You have to get busy, be close with your family. It did a lot in terms of me getting closer. There's a lot more satisfaction."
Stewart was able to return to his relentless pace, and the consensus among those who knew him best is that he did it by leading by example. "If you are going to lead, you have to participate," Stewart was fond of saying. He believed that if everyone in the organization recognized that the man in charge was working as hard as they were, they'd have an infinite amount of respect and motivation. "It's about instilling a spirit of teamwork, defining a purpose and then rolling up your sleeves to get the job done better than anybody else," Stewart said.
The company Butch Stewart built remains wholly owned by the Stewart family, who, in honor of Mr. Stewart's long-term succession plans, has named Adam Stewart Chairman of Sandals Resorts International, extending his formidable leadership of the brands he has shepherded since he was appointed CEO in 2007.
Speaking on behalf of his family, Adam Stewart said, "our father was a singular personality; an unstoppable force who delighted in defying the odds by exceeding expectations and whose passion for his family was matched only by the people and possibility of the Caribbean, for whom he was a fierce champion. Nothing, except maybe a great fishing day, could come before family to my dad. And while the world understood him to be a phenomenal businessman – which he was, his first and most important devotion was always to us. We will miss him terribly forever."
Gordon "Butch" Stewart is survived by his wife, Cheryl, children Brian, Bobby, Adam, Jaime, Sabrina, Gordon, and Kelly; grandchildren Aston, Sloane, Camden, Penelope-Sky, Isla, Finley, Max, Ben, Zak, Sophie, Annie and Emma; and great grandchildren Jackson, Riley, Emmy and Willow.
A private funeral service will be held. Those wishing to share memories, condolences or personal stories may do so at AllThatsGood@sandals.com
SOURCE Sandals Resorts International
Jamaica’s first reggae radio station, IRIE FM, debuted on the island’s airwaves in August 1990. In Jamaican Rastafarian parlance, “irie” means good, cool, nice, and the station utilized a simple jingle to announce its content: “Reggae in the morning, reggae in the evening, reggae at nighttime on IRIE FM.” Thirty years on, IRIE still plays the original jingle. But it’s no longer quite true.
Some of the biggest stars featured on IRIE FM are playing a hybrid style that would’ve been unrecognizable as reggae when the station began. To many fans, it’s unrecognizable now. The new sound of Jamaica owes as much to trap, EDM, Afrobeat, and contemporary R&B as it does to dancehall or the original roots of reggae. It’s a style that doesn’t have a name yet, at least not one that’s stuck (although it’s sometimes referred to as trap dancehall) and you can hear it all over Jamaica.
“Reggae and dancehall continue to influence and contribute to the birth of various genres, as we’ve seen with hip hop, reggaeton and tropical house; now we are experiencing the birth of trap dancehall. Listeners to IRIE hear reggae and dancehall but also their offspring in a bid to further propel the art forms,” comments Kshema Francis of IRIE FM.
Three marquee names—Tarrus Riley, Protoje, and Dre Island—released outstanding albums this year that embody this evolutionary sound. All have incorporated influences and teachings from their Rastafari way of life, yet numerous tracks on their new albums bear little resemblance to the reggae of a generation ago. “I love the authentic reggae and dancehall sounds, but there are mixtures of other influences within those sounds,” Tarrus Riley, whose album Healing dropped on Aug. 28, told The Daily Beast in a recent Zoom interview.
Tarrus, 41, is an unlikely poster child for this new movement. He ascended to reggae stardom in 2006 with “She’s Royal,” a beautiful roots tribute to women and one of the decade’s most popular Jamaican singles. Tarrus’s breakthrough was part of the ‘00s mid-decade resurgence in roots reggae. Another roots movement appeared in Jamaica in the early 2010s, referred to as the Reggae Revival, which saw the emergence of several charismatic young talents including Chronixx, Jah9, Jesse Royal, and Kabaka Pyramid. Tarrus sees himself as the middle child in the reggae family.
“Buju [Banton] and Sizzla were before me in the 1990s and Chronixx is after me so, I understand the roots and I understand the youths,” he explains. “When I was young, me and my father (the late Jimmy Riley whose singing career began in Jamaica’s mid-’60s rocksteady era) never liked the same music. It’s a new decade now, new things are happening so while the people from before want to hold on to music that had its time, the youths want to give you something new.”
Tarrus’ impressive catalogue showcases his finely tuned expressive vocals, which are adaptable to a range of styles from soft rock (“Jah Will”) to traditional Rastafarian Nyabinghi drumming (“Lion Paw”) to energetic dancehall (“Good Girl Gone Bad”). Then there’s the EDM power ballad “Powerful,” a certified gold single produced by Major Lazer, featuring Tarrus and Ellie Goulding.
Jamaica went into its coronavirus lockdown in late March. Tarrus abruptly ended his touring, returned home, and began writing and recording the songs that would become Healing, produced by Tarrus with co-production by Shane Brown and legendary saxophonist Dean Fraser.
Several tracks offer what Tarrus calls “experimental sounds”: over spatial dub and trap effects, Tarrus and rising trap dancehall artist Teejay trade quickly rhymed bursts referencing current racial and political sparring on “Babylon Warfare.” “Connect Again” with dancehall star Konshens anticipates a post-quarantine world and offers trap with a subtle reggae reverb while the spiritually fortifying “My Fire” (featuring singer Dexta Daps) is quintessential trap-R&B. The album’s biggest hit “Lighter” blends trap, EDM and dancehall into a catchy pop nugget, featuring female dancehall powerhouse Shenseea and is produced by (Jamaica born) Rvssian, well-known for his dancehall hits and Latin trap and reggaeton international chart toppers. The “Lighter” video has received over 32 million YouTube views since its release on Sept. 6. A fearless creative, Tarrus says the only thing to expect from his music is empowering messages.
“Don’t watch the tempo,” he cautions, “because I like doing new things. People are concerned with names, labels, trap, rap, hip-hop, dancehall, I can’t bother with them things. I have always been doing different kinds of sounds and I will continue. Music is going through a change right now, people are blending and fusing, everybody wants to call it a name, but I just call it good music.”
Reggae, like its direct Jamaican forerunners, ska and rocksteady, is an amalgam sound. In the late 1950s the ska beat was developed in Kingston recording studios by singers and musicians influenced by American doo wop, early rock and roll, gospel, rhythm and blues as well as Jamaica’s mento and Trinidad’s calypso. Rocksteady followed in 1966 with a slower tempo that allowed vocalists to fully showcase their talents while the basslines grew steadier and more pronounced. In 1968, the drum and bass led a faster, more complex rhythm called reggae. Experimentation on reggae tracks by Jamaican engineers and producers led to the birth of dub shortly thereafter. Dancehall reggae, reggae’s digitized strain, was created in 1984.
Over the decades, reggae has undergone organic stylistic changes and intentional adaptations aimed at reaching wider audiences. Island Records founder Chris Blackwell strategized marketing The Wailers’ 1973 Catch A Fire as a rock album, overdubbing guitar riffs and keyboard flourishes on the trio’s Jamaican recordings. Seeking to connect with an African American audience Bob Marley incorporated disco influences on his 1980 single “Could You Be Loved.” Esteemed rhythm section and production duo Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare brought the aggressiveness of the rock influences they absorbed while touring as members of Peter Tosh’s band opening for Santana and The Rolling Stones.
“As we did a couple of tours with these rock bands, we were wondering, how can we get that power, that energy, behind the reggae groove?” Dunbar told The Daily Beast. “So Robbie and I changed the sound of what we were playing, it was reggae but with a different attitude. The first experiment was (vocal trio) Black Uhuru, one of their first songs was “Shine Eye Gal” and people were like what is this?”
Sly and Robbie’s modernizations earned widespread attention, yet some protested they were changing the music too much. In the 21st century their sonic advances continue to inspire another generation of artists and producers. Stephen and Damian Marley sampled Sly and Robbie’s production of singer Ini Kamoze’s “World-A-Music” for Damian’s 2005 Grammy winning blockbuster “Welcome to Jamrock,” a profoundly influential consolidation of hip-hop, dancehall and reggae elements. In 2012, Protoje, deeply inspired by Marley’s “Jamrock,” sampled Kamoze for his provocative hit “Kingston Be Wise,” written about the Jamaica Defense Force’s incursion into the city’s Tivoli Gardens community in search of wanted drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke, which resulted in an estimated 100 deaths.
Earlier this year Protoje sampled another Sly and Robbie rhythm for his production of singer Lila Ike’s single “Thy Will.” “Sly personally sent me the Baltimore riddim,” Protoje shared with The Daily Beast via Zoom, “and he told me, I love how you sample and lick over these riddims but now I want you to add something and move it forward.”
Protoje, 39, was born Oje Ken Ollivierre, the son of Jamaican lawyer (and former singer) Lorna Bennett and Mike Ollivierre, a former calypso king from St. Vincent. He was a core member of the Reggae Revival movement of the 2010s; since his initial impact on Jamaican music with the 2011 single “Rasta Love,” delivered in his mesmeric spoken/sung/patois-rapped vocals, Protoje has made tremendous strides in moving the island’s industry forward. He has signed three young female singers (Lila Iké, Sevana and most recently Jaz Elise) to his Kingston based label In.Digg.Nation Collective and made history as the first Jamaican artist to have his label contracted to an American major, RCA Records. In Search of Lost Time, released on August 28, is his premiere album through that deal. Throughout the album’s 10 tracks, Protoje’s broad based influences including classic dub, 80s dancehall, grunge guitars, trap, hip hop, and electronica are intricately woven into a multi-layered sonic.
The album opens with “Switch It Up,” blurring hip hop, R&B and a touch of roots, as Protoje and 20-year-old Jamaican sensation Koffee (who cites Protoje as a significant career influence) impressively change their flows, singing together then trading blistering verses. Incorporating a mash up of classic dancehall and hip-hop, Protoje reimagines the 1991 hit “Strange” by veteran Papa San into “Strange Happenings.” “Weed & Ting” is an unexpected take on a ganja song that also muses on life’s blessings and is set to a transcendent trap-one drop reggae fusion; the album’s other marijuana tune, “A Vibe,” featuring Wiz Khalifa, is straight up trap. Protoje wrote the motivational “Like Royalty” (featuring dancehall superstar Popcaan) after attending the 2019 Grammy Awards (he was nominated for Best Reggae Album for A Matter of Time); wreathed in hip hop, funk and soul, the song’s complex patois rhymes acknowledge the sacrifices made by a few close friends and especially his mother to advance his career.
Working alongside a stellar cast of Jamaican producers including Iotosh Poyser, Supa Dups, Ziah Roberts, Natural High, The Grei Show, Stephen McGregor and longstanding collaborator Winta James, Protoje incorporates live instrumentation, samples, dub reverbs and various effects into a sophisticated tableau that’s beyond genre classification yet retains many distinctive Jamaican elements: the heavy reggae bassline and signature Wailers’ percussion on “Deliverance;” a bassline sampled from renowned (British) dub producer/engineer Mad Professor on “Still I Wonder” and a sample of veteran singer Freddie McGregor’s “I’m A Revolutionist,” that’s flipped into the sultry neo-soul influenced love song, “In Bloom,” featuring Lila Iké.
“When Bob Marley dropped Exodus people probably said it wasn’t real reggae,” Protoje offered. (Recorded during Marley’s exile period in London, some critics balked 1977’s Exodus was unrelated to what was happening in Jamaica then, rather than applauding the album’s sonic innovations; Exodus was named Album of Century by Time Magazine in 1999.)
“I always incorporate indigenous Jamaican elements, but music evolves, and our generation is responsible for what the sound is now. It’s the youths them me check for but me want the elders to respect my music. Freddie McGregor, Papa San, Sly, all them people say them a love what me a do so me nah listen to the others. I just keep making music how it sounds in my head.”
Dre Island’s debut album Now I Rise combines Rastafarian roots reggae’s denunciations of societal injustices underpinned by atmospheric genre-defying beats. Released in May, the Now I Rise Deluxe Edition dropped on July 24, with Dre writing, singing and producing most of the album’s 20 tracks. Born Andre Johnson, Dre, 32, is a classically trained pianist who worked as an engineer/producer before stepping in front of the mic. He made his initial impact with such singles as the jubilant “Rastafari Way” and the poignant commentary on the disparities between “Uptown/Downtown;” Dre’s fan base was further expanded through acoustic performance clips uploaded to the internet and posted on social media showcasing his keyboard expertise and raspy, emotive vocals. His biggest hit to date “We Pray,” featuring Popcaan, a widely embraced hymn of spiritual strength (its video has received over 32 million YouTube views) was released in 2017 and is included on Now I Rise.
Dre skillfully explores a range of styles including EDM (“More Love-Dub Fx Remix”) exuberant funk pop (“Four Seasons”) Afrobeats (“Calling”) and several trap-influenced tracks such as “Run to Me” featuring Alandon. Raised in the volatile Red Hills Road area of Kingston, it’s Dre’s gritty firsthand observations that provide the album’s most riveting moments. Over a hazy trap-inspired rhythm track, Dre’s melancholy, deeply affecting vocals on “My City” deliver a bittersweet love letter to Jamaica’s capital, “where politicians every day dem import a strap and dem no care about the issues weh the voters got.”
“Kingdom” was written in 2014 about the Tivoli Gardens incursion, its sparse martial beat underscores the lyrics’ galvanizing spiritual call to arms: “I was living in a community that was affected dearly by that, a lot of innocent youths died, so I approached the song as we Rasta coming forward with Jah message,” Dre recalled. Equally haunting and likewise rhythmically stark, “Still Remain” remarks on the continual gang war in Kingston’s Mountain View community: “shotta spray like how the fountain spew, your door police will squeeze round ten through, stand over three man and found them blue.”
“Many artists speak on these kinds of things but because of where I come from, it’s only a few that strike it and let me see that harsh reality where me say, this is what really happen, him not lying,” Dre offers. “That’s why today I can say ‘it was all a dream, I used to read Word Up! Magazine,’” quoting lyrics from Biggie Smalls. “I felt I lived that too, Biggie. Biggie’s long gone in the flesh, but his soul will forever live on because he never lied, he struck in that reality. That’s what Bob Marley did too, he never tried to pretty it up: ‘man to man is so unjust you don’t know who to trust,” Dre adds, quoting from “Who The Cap Fit.” “Bob never tell no lie, that is exactly how it goes today, too.”
Wyclef Jean recruited Dre for the remix to his song “Justice” a tribute to slain jogger Ahmaud Arbery, then offered Dre the remix for Now I Rise. “Bang Your Head” pairs Dre’s mother’s wise encouraging words with producer Winta James’ futuristic EDM meets hip-hop infused rhythm. The impressively sweeping musical scope of Now I Rise won’t outwardly be identified as roots reggae although Dre’s impassioned delivery and provocative statements extend the music’s revolutionary spirit with a sonic update for a new generation. “I don’t watch genre because reggae is not a beat for I,” says Dre, who like Tarrus and Protoje resists categorizations. “Reggae is the music that Rasta use to deliver the message of His Majesty (Ethiopian Emperor, Rastafarian Savior Haile Selassie I) and as a Rastaman, I message say burn (condemn) division, burn segregation, we are one people: I say no race, no color, so how am I going to say genre? As long as the message is speaking righteousness and love to the people, then the music is reggae for I.”
Shaggy drops some Major life knowledge! One of Jamaica's most successful artiste chronicles his journey.
See more interviews with Yendi on her Odyssey YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=yendi+phillips+odyssey
Climate change is eroding beaches all over the Caribbean – even though the region contributes a tiny fraction of the emissions heating the planet.
Sunbathing mothers keep an anxious eye out for children enjoying horseback rides, as groups of young men engage in energetic games of beach football and cricket. Further along, a boombox blasts as the smell of fresh fish wafts across the shoreline.
For years, this was the scene at the Hellshire Beach in Portmore, St Catherine, on a public holiday or weekend when Jamaicans and visitors alike would flock to one of the island’s most popular beaches. Today, however, parents no longer bring their children. The horses, along with most of the beachline, have long disappeared and the few visitors who come to Aunt Merl’s or Prendy’s on the Beach – two of the few remaining seafood restaurants left standing – are confined to the benches inside. The beachfront has been swallowed by the surging tides, a result of decades of climate change and mismanagement.
“The recreational areas are totally gone so the sea is now right at the steps of the business places,” says Gladstone White, director of the Half Moon Bay Fishermen’s Co-operative, which has been lobbying for funding for infrastructure work to stabilize sections of the beach.
While island nations like Jamaica contribute a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions that are heating the planet, they are poised to suffer the worst consequences of the climate crisis. Coasts play a critical role in the economies of many Caribbean nations, whose population centers are close to the shore and who rely heavily on their ports and on tourists attracted to their picturesque waters. But beaches throughout the Caribbean are eroding as a result of rising sea levels and dangerous storms resulting from climate change. And many island nations lack the funding to invest in the infrastructure and innovation necessary to combat the changes – a situation made worse by the Covid crisis.
While Jamaica has a mixed record on environmental protection, the country is part of a coalition of small island nations that has been instrumental in lobbying for global climate action, and recently became the first Caribbean nation to increase the ambitiousness of its plan under the Paris climate agreement to reduce its carbon emissions.
But the US is set to withdraw from the agreement on 4 November, imperiling the treaty’s goal of limiting global heating to “well below” 2C, along with prospects for global action sufficient to ward off increased risk to the people and lands of the Caribbean.
Hellshire Beach, where the marine ecosystem is rapidly eroding, offers insight into what’s at stake for many Caribbean communities. Intensified storm activity and increased water temperatures are helping destroy offshore coral reefs that otherwise buffer the shoreline from pounding waves. The problems are compounded by unregulated commercial development and waste treatment, along with the removal of sand dunes and other vegetation. A landmark report published in 2012 found that Hellshire had lost up to 120 meters of shoreline in four decades.
When the scope of Hellshire’s destruction became clear, the government seemed ready to act quickly and decisively. A master plan to rehabilitate the beach was created – but then dashed in 2016 when the People’s National party (PNP) was swept from power. Since then, budding initiatives meant to invest in the beach have been consistently shut down, often without explanation.
Jamaica’s economic difficulties will thwart any short-term action to save the beach. The coronavirus has served a major blow to tourism and remittances, the country’s top two sources of revenue. The post-crisis receipts from both are forecast to fall to just around half the US$5.4bn of value they represented before the pandemic, with remittances expected to decline by 17% and tourism by 68%.
Jamaica’s National Environment and Planning Agency says that while rehabilitation efforts have been derailed by the economic impact of Covid-19, they will be picked up next year. But despite Nepa’s reassurances, a tourism official told the Guardian that the Hellshire master plan has been shelved indefinitely.
White, director of the fishermen’s co-operative, says the decision to scrap the master plan will hit members “big time”.
“Thing are so bad that fishermen are finding it difficult to find places to dock their boats,” he said.
Prendy’s on the Beach was once arguably the biggest and most popular seafood restaurant on Hellshire. Now that the beach has disappeared, so too have many of its customers – a situation exacerbated by government-imposed Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings.
A seafood restaurant at Hellshire Beach. The sea is now perilously close to the businesses on the shore. Photograph: Christopher Serju
“I have to be creative,” says Donnete “Prendy” Prendergast, who has been operating her restaurant at Hellshire for more than 20 years. “So I do family packages for people who still come out even if they can’t get to swim. But honestly, not being able to swim takes away from the Hellshire experience, because they come here not just to eat but to have some recreation.”
Jamaica has long sent mixed signals on its commitment to environmental protection. Environmentalists recently protested against the government’s decision to allow bauxite mining in an area that supplies drinking water to the parishes of Trelawny, St Elizabeth and St Ann. The government also met with outcry over its decision to sell off fertile land to developers to build a new city, despite the fact that just a fraction of Jamaica’s land is available for farming.
And environmentalists, archaeologists and residents have been united in their opposition to the construction of a floating pier for cruise ships in Port Royal, arguing that the fragile ecosystem is in danger. Despite this, the pier opened last year to much fanfare but generated little economic spinoff for locals.
For her part, Prendergast would be content with the government showing its commitment to addressing climate change by taking one small step towards resolving beach erosion at Hellshire.
“I think the authorities need to really give Hellshire some love because it is really a beautiful place and what we offer is really unique because you can’t go get our festivals anywhere else,” she says, referring to the cornmeal-based Jamaican fried dough sold on the beach.
But time is running out for the Hellshire Fishing Village beach and its natural and manmade allures. Soon, the forces of nature, along with local and global inaction, will make it, and many more pristine beaches in the region, no more than a distant memory – a faded photograph in an old scrapbook.
Prendy’s on the Beach was once arguably the biggest and most popular seafood restaurant on Hellshire, but many of its customers have disappeared. Photograph: Christopher Serju
Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz’s new book, Remain in Love, is a billet-doux to his bandmate and wife of more than 40 years, bassist Tina Weymouth, as well as documenting the couple’s musical journey together — first, as part of the most critically acclaimed New Wave band of the late 70s and early 80s, and later as co-founders of The Tom Tom Club, which topped the charts in 1981 with “Genius of Love.”
But there’s another ongoing love affair that Franz and Weymouth have been carrying on all these years, too, and that’s with the Caribbean — the Bahamas, in particular.
Talking Heads are sometimes described as a “world music” band, and Frantz’s introduction to Caribbean beats and rhythms began early: his parents had lived in Puerto Rico and traveled to the Virgin Islands and Trinidad, bringing home 78-rpm records of calypso and mambo songs that Frantz rediscovered as a young musician.https://3j0grh44ocny4a6kcn288izx-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/bahamas-talking-heads-jamaica-2-768x624.jpg 768w, https://3j0grh44ocny4a6kcn288izx-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/bahamas-talking-heads-jamaica-2.jpg 1200w" alt="" width="1024" height="832" /> Chris Frantz writing at Compass Point in Nassau.
When Jimmy Cliff helped introduce reggae to the United States with the 1972 film, The Harder They Come, it caught the attention of Frantz and Weymouth, who had recently met and fallen in love as students at the Rhode Island School of Design (where they also would meet Talking Heads singer David Byrne)
As a drummer, Frantz — who counts The Mighty Sparrow, Toots and the Maytalls, and “Funky Nassau” performer Ray Munnings among his favorite Caribbean musicians — incorporated the syncopated beats of Caribbean music into his playing for Talking Heads, particularly after the band traveled to Nassau in 1978 to record their second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food, which included the hit song, “Take Me to the River.” The Brian Eno produced album was the first to be cut at Compass Point Studios, established by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell.
Everyone from AC/DC to David Bowie and the Rolling Stones would end up making albums at the studio, which operated from 1977 to 2010, but, “I think we recorded more albums there than any other artists,” said Frantz. In addition to Talking Heads’ More Songs About Buildings and Food and 1980’s Remain in Light and 1983’s Speaking in Tongues, Frantz and Weymouth utilized the studio on the west end of New Providence Island to make the first three Tom Tom Club albums.https://3j0grh44ocny4a6kcn288izx-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/compass-point-bahamas-jamaica-talking-heads-768x432.jpg 768w, https://3j0grh44ocny4a6kcn288izx-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/compass-point-bahamas-jamaica-talking-heads.jpg 1200w" alt="" width="1024" height="576" />
The Tom Tom Club was loosely inspired by Peanuts Taylor’s Drumbeat Club, a nightclub in downtown Nassau. The band included members of the Compass Point All Stars, the de facto house band at the Nassau studio.
Being in the orbit of Blackwell led to some interesting experiences — “We used to live in the same building as Sean Connery, but Joe Cocker kept coming into the driveway and yelling, ‘Sean, give us a drink,’ so he moved,” Frantz recalled — but also some remarkable collaborations, including with pianist Tyrone Downie of the Wailers, percussionist “Sticky” Thompson, keyboardist Wally Badarou, and King Crimson singer Adrian Belew, among others.
Frantz and Weymouth loved the Bahamas so much that they became part-time residents of Nassau. “We bought an apartment (near Compass Point) that we still have, and the roof still leaks,” said Frantz. “That’s part of life down there. We still go down there, and hope to do so again in the not too distant future” — post COVID, that is.
For years, the couple and their family also took extended trips through the Out Islands on their 48-foot sloop, Katrinka, helmed by Tina’s father, a former U.S. Navy vice admiral.
Other favorite stops include Lyford Cay, Cat Island, and out to the Exumas for the annual Family Island Regatta. “We had 22 years of bliss surrounded by a few hours of sheer terror,” laughed Frantz — a sentiment that will be familiar to anyone who sails.
Frantz and Weymouth’s Caribbean travels aren’t limited to the Bahamas: the couple traveled to Barbados in 1991 to produce an album with the British band Happy Mondays, explored the mountains of Jamaica during a stay at Blackwell’s Goldeneye hotel, and decamped to the legendary Oloffson Hotel in Port au Prince, Haiti on an art-buying trip.
Visitors to Nassau will find little trace of Compass Point Studios or the world-famous musicians who once inhabited its halls, but the vibrant Compass Point Beach Resort (originally founded by Blackwell and sometimes used by visiting stars) still welcomes guests to Love Beach and its popular beach bar. Frantz also is a fan of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, located in downtown Nassau.
“We love the easygoing, you-can’t-rush-life attitude of most people in the Caribbean,” Frantz added. “The people of the Bahamas are so happy to see you. It’s all about hospitality and equality’’
From left: Drs Chantae Bardowell, Marla-Kay Richards, Thejasree Pulikanti, Shellian Blagrove and Shasha-Marie Williams.
Shasha-Marie Williams could have been a pregnant teen, because that was the norm in Flankers, St James, where she grew up; while Shellian Blagrove was expected to scorn her problem-plagued community of Mt Salem. Their friends – Thejasree Pulikanti wanted nothing else but to follow in her parents’ footsteps; Marla Kay Richards, a country girl, received far less lunch money than her classmates; and Chantae Bardowell felt like giving up many times.
Four of the five women attended Montego Bay High School, while the other walked the hills to Mt Alvernia High School, nicknamed ‘Alvernia’. All five were determined to become medical doctors, and nothing would stop them.
Now doctors at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, the young women have become inseparable on the front line as they join the fight against COVID-19, each having had close calls with the virus since it entered the Jamaican airspace in March.
But in spite of the overwhelming challenge that the global pandemic has caused since its emergence in China late last year, the young medical professionals are adamant that it won’t dominate their lives.
DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE
Drs Williams, Pulikanti, Richards and Bardowell have known each other for about 16 years, while eight years ago they met Blagrove while studying at The University of the West Indies, Mona.
They have been practising for an average of four years each, with Bardowell recently completing her studies in Cuba, and her first year as a medical intern.
“We are all general practitioners making steps to specialise in the near future,” Williams told The Sunday Gleaner.
The most compelling story of the five is Dr Blagrove’s, who grew up in Piggott Street in Mt Salem, St James – an area written off by many. In fact, she has been questioned countless times by soldiers deployed in the zones of special operations (ZOSO) community, asking why she lived there and if she wasn’t afraid.
“I would proudly say because this was where I was raised. My parents and the church made me know that it doesn’t matter where you are from, but where you are going. I still live there,” she shared.“My community members are proud of me. My hope is to inspire little boys and girls to dream, even when it seems impossible.”
For Dr Blagrove, medical school was the hardest thing she has ever done, and she admitted she couldn’t have made it without the support of her four friends. “We played together, laughed together, studied together, and pushed each other. And today I am so proud that we work together,” the young doctor beamed.
Dr Williams was inspired to join the medical profession from as early as 11 years old, when she noticed white spots on her skin. “As time went by, they got progressively worse and appeared in places that I could no longer hide. The stares, finger-pointing and all the questions were nothing compared to the fact that my condition had no cure,” she said.
She was diagnosed with vitiligo, which sparked her interest in dermatology.
The 28-year-old grew up in Flankers, where the standard at the time was for young females to get pregnant and males to be involved in gangs.
“It was at that point that I knew, and where I saw it was also my responsibility to lead and motivate persons in whatever way I can to be better versions of themselves and members of society,” Dr Williams revealed.
THREE GENERATIONS OF DOCTORS
Dr Pulikanti has a totally different story, growing up in a home where both parents were established medical practitioners.
“As long as I can remember, I have wanted to become a doctor to help others. I am from a family with three generations of medical professionals, I simply never saw myself as anything else. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of those who raised me and I have not once regretted my decision,” said the 26-year-old.
Pulikanti admitted that there were several times she felt like giving up, because medicine is difficult, but those moments were when support from her family and friends became vital to make it through.
“Undoubtedly, my greatest supporters have been my family, who helped me to become who I am today,” she stated.
Dr Richards grew up in Bickersteth, St James – a rural district she visits regularly. She had her struggles growing up in a family not the least affluent. Actually, most persons in her family did not even have a job.
“As a child in infant school, I questioned this and asked why? I was uncomfortable with it, knowing that we could not afford some things and I got way less money for lunch than other children in the class. At that point, I knew that I could not fall in the cycle and when I grew up I had to have a job, and not only a job, but a profession. Education would be my key to success,” she said.
The 27-year-old shared that her family was proud of her accomplishments, not only as doctor, but throughout her entire school years from infant to university. One of her most difficult moments was the beginning of fourth-year medical school and one week before one of her clerkship exams. Her mom died from breast cancer. At first, her coping skills were good but as the months progressed, Dr Richards got the strong urge to quit the programme. But the guiding spirit of her mother kept her going.
“One night, I had a vision of my mom giving me a strong warning not to do so, and that I must run the race with patience. It was that warning and her repeating it three times that motivated me to continue, and here I am today,” she proudly stated.
THE DRIVE TO GO ON
Dr Bardowell knew she wanted to be a doctor since primary school, and was even more convinced after she watched the movie John Q. She went on to study medicine in Cuba, at the Universidad de Ciencias Medicas de La Habana.
The 28-year-old, who spent her early years in Trelawny and Westmoreland, spoke about wanting to give up many times during medical school.
“I had several nights of tears, feeling hopeless and lost. Especially while being away from family and living on my own in a foreign country, with different culture, different people, different language. But despite those hard times, I had a drive, I had a goal, I had to achieve for myself, then for my family. I never wanted to let myself down. And that drive kept me going,” Dr Bardowell declared.
Toots Hibbert, an influential and veteran Jamaican ska and reggae singer and founder of the band the Maytals, has died. He was 77. The cause of death is as yet unclear, though he had been recently tested for Covid-19.
A statement from his family released on Sept. 11 reads: “It is with the heaviest of hearts to announce that Frederick Nathaniel ‘Toots’ Hibbert passed away peacefully tonight, surrounded by his family at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.
“The family and his management team would like to thank the medical teams and professionals for their care and diligence, and ask that you respect their privacy during their time of grief.”
The youngest of seven children, Hibbert’s parents were both Seventh-Day Adventist ministers and he grew up singing in church. He moved to the country’s capital of Kingston as a teenager and formed the first version of the Maytals in the early 1960s. Over the following 10 years the group recorded with a series of producers that reads like a reggae hall of fame: Coxsone Dodd, Prince Buster, Byron Lee, Leslie Kong — and reeled off Hibbert compositions like “Bam Bam,” “Sweet and Dandy” and “54-46 That’s My Number,” which was inspired by a mid-‘60s prison term he served for marijuana possession.
Hibbert was one of the early proponents of reggae in the late 1960s and scored a hit with the song “Do the Reggay.” In fact, he is often credited with giving reggae its name when he christened the 1968 song.
He was a contemporary and friend of Bob Marley’s, and for several years both were signed to Island Records. Speaking with the Jamaica Observer in 2018, Hibbert spoke of sharing bills with Marley’s band, the Wailers, in their early days. “Sometimes the Maytals would close, sometimes The Wailers would close the show. We had no problems, no professional jealousy, we were all very good friends,” he said. “Out of all of us though, me an’ Bob were very good friends. It was out of one of those conversations that I did the song ‘Marley.’ He was telling me that he was going to be a dreadlocks Rasta an’ I laughed an’ said, ‘I want to be a comb-locks’ Rasta like Selassie I,’ an’ he laughed, just like the words in the actual song,” he said.
The two both had hits with different songs called “Redemption Song,” featured on his first album for Island, “Funky Kingston.”
“When I did ‘Redemption Song’ in 1972, it went number one [in Jamaica],” Hibbert recalled. “Marley said he would do a ‘Redemption Song’ as well. He used a similar rhythm but different lyrics.” Marley’s version of the song appeared on the final album released during his lifetime, “Uprising.”
Also in 1972, Hibbert appeared in the groundbreaking film “The Harder They Come,” which starred Jimmy Cliff. His 1969 song “Pressure Drop” was featured on the film’s soundtrack and was covered by the Clash in 1978, introducing Hibbert to thousands of new listeners.
A seemingly permanent presence in reggae music, Hibbert continued to tour and record through the decades, appearing on Willie Nelson’s 2005 album “Countryman” and covering Radiohead’s “Let Down” for a collection of reggae Radiohead covers. He even joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers onstage for a performance of “Louie Louie” during a 2011 New Year’s Eve party in St. Barts thrown by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
In 2013 he was injured when a thrown bottle hit him in the head during a performance in Virginia. He missed several shows but ended up asking the judge to give the young man who threw the bottle a light sentence. “He is a young man, and I have heard what happens to young men in jail,” he wrote in a letter to the judge. “My own pain and suffering would be increased substantially knowing that this young man would face that prospect.” The man received a six-month sentence.
Hibbert was hospitalized just days after the release of his and the Maytals’ first album in more than a decade, “Got to Be Tough.” The album was co-produced by Zak Starkey, and features contributions from Starkey’s father, Ringo Starr, as well as Ziggy Marley, Sly Dunbar and Cyril Neville (read Variety‘s review).
“I’m very proud of what I’ve done and the love I’ve given,” Hibbert told Rolling Stone of the album. “But it’s getting harder and harder to give the love the people need, and they need it now more than ever. No time to waste.”
On Sept. 2, it was revealed that Hibbert was in stable but serious condition in a private medical facility in Jamaica. He was tested for Covid-19, although the results have not been announced.
Hibbert is survived by his wife of 39 years, Miss D, and his seven of eight children.
Orlando Patterson - New York Times
For a tiny island in the Caribbean, Jamaica has long enjoyed an outsize global reach — there are the songs of Bob Marley and the gold medals of Usain Bolt, as well as the millions of sun-seekers flocking to the island’s pristine beaches. It is quite an accomplishment for a nation “barely the size of Connecticut,” as Orlando Patterson notes in his fascinating study, “The Confounding Island: Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament.” But shadows hang over this sunny picture, not least distressingly high rates of poverty and homicide.
Patterson is a Jamaican who has long lived in the United States, working as a sociology professor at Harvard University, which allows him both an intimacy with the island and a degree of distance through which to analyze it. Although he provides extensive citations and robust discussions of theoretical frameworks, he also offers a personal story of affection and frustration, perhaps most evident in the questions that form all but one of the eight chapter titles. These include: “Why Has Jamaica Trailed Barbados on the Path to Sustained Growth?” and “Why is Democratic Jamaica So Violent?” Indeed, these two questions are so significant, he devotes the first half of the book to them.
Patterson starts by comparing Jamaica with its fellow former colony Barbados, which is 25 times smaller in area and, with under 300,000 inhabitants, possessing only one-tenth the population. Yet Barbados has more than twice the per capita G.D.P. of Jamaica and none of the political violence. To explain this, Patterson pursues lines of investigation that are not strictly economic. The themes of slavery and freedom run through his analysis; it is impossible to discuss contemporary Jamaica without their inclusion. Although Patterson’s time frame is postcolonial, to get to Jamaica’s economic present he navigates the pothole-strewn road of its troubled past.
Jamaica’s dramatic and complex history starts with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. In 1655 it fell under English control, and was subsequently transformed into a sugar powerhouse fueled by enslaved labor, until full abolition arrived in 1838. The island remained under British control until independence in 1962.
Such a trajectory is not uncommon in the Caribbean, but Patterson notes crucial distinctions in Jamaica’s development, particularly the British perception that it was dangerous and disease-laden compared with Barbados. As a result, there were fewer absentee plantation owners in Barbados and a more stable colonial population, which influenced the development of the island’s political institutions. The social history of these institutions is key to understanding how they functioned after independence, and why the implementation of what were often similar policies had divergent results
From there, Patterson turns to violence, while also issuing some useful reminders about the nature of democracy. Jamaica, as he writes, is “genuinely democratic,” with a very robust civil society, and yet is rarely described as such. This is, in part, because of the notion that democracies, by their nature, are not violent, an idea “inconsistent with the realities of democratic history and practice.” Still, Jamaica remains an outlier in terms of scale, consistently topping global homicide lists.
Patterson examines how the political clientelism that took root in independent Jamaica has led to deadly “garrison-based politics,” in which a poor neighborhood is bribed or coerced through the threat of violence into voting for a particular political party. This phenomenon, mixed with persistent poverty, has given rise to the urban gangs and drug-related brutality that continue to blight the island. Patterson also revisits his own part in the development of Jamaica, returning to his time as an adviser to Prime Minister Michael Manley, who was the democratic socialist leader of the People’s National Party, and to the failure of the poverty-reduction program they tried to implement in the 1970s
It is not all doom and gloom, however, especially when Patterson turns to Jamaica’s extraordinary cultural production. In examining the athletic prowess of the island’s runners, he swiftly dismantles any racist notion that Jamaicans are genetically more gifted as athletes, and instead returns to institutions. He lays Jamaica’s success in track and field at the swift feet of Michael Manley’s father, Norman, one of the nation’s founders, likening it to “the effect on track’s prestige in the United States had George Washington been a track star.” Manley was a talented athlete, and he promoted track and field as part of the formation of an independent national identity. Around this grew a nationwide infrastructure of running associations. Where institutions failed the economy, they proved to be champions in fostering athletics. In a similar vein, Patterson also looks at how the music industry has had enormous success beyond Bob Marley’s hits, in spite of the island’s limited resources.
Topics covered in other chapters range from women in the workplace to cricket, and such breadth makes this an eye-opening volume. It is also illuminating because Patterson carefully explores the complexity of the structural machinery behind Jamaica’s dazzling successes and dismal failures, rather than just chalking these up to simple causes. Although at times Patterson is critical of and disappointed by his fellow Jamaicans, his admiration for the nation’s independent spirit shines through.
Jamaica’s reggae megastar received a hero’s welcome when he came home after seven years in a US jail. ‘No guts, no glory – that’s my genesis,’ he says in a rare interview
At the end of 2018, the reggae star Buju Banton returned to Jamaica after almost seven years in a US prison, and Norman Manley international airport was mobbed. His flight was delayed, the chants of “We want Buju” ramped up, then after a brief prayer huddle in the customs area, he pushed into the arrivals hall to pandemonium. It took a phalanx of hi-vis-wearing airport workers to hustle him through to the waiting police motorcade, a task not helped by the workers’ attempts to get selfies with their charge.
It was a hero’s welcome because, despite being convicted in the US of intention to distribute cocaine, Banton is a Jamaican hero. For his first post-prison concert, at Kingston’s National Stadium, about 30,000 people were packed in with many more enjoying it from outside.
The love Banton gets from the Jamaican people is the sort of deep cultural bond that goes way beyond his considerable achievements. Dennis Brown had this relationship, as do Yellowman and Usain Bolt, because they represent and celebrate the Jamaica that doesn’t make it on to tourist-board literature – as Banton himself drily puts it, “without any redaction or Photoshopping”.
“I don’t know how many people turned out that night,” he says. “The numbers don’t really matter – it’s the celebration that matters, the gathering of the people. I love my people, they know that, just as I know my people love me – they know a grave injustice took place. There was a magnetic energy generated by the people in the National Stadium that night. If you had a meter you could have measured it!”
After two trials – the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the first – Banton was found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm and conspiracy to possess 11lb of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was sentenced to 10 years, reduced by two when the gun charge was dropped. The case rested on recordings made by a Drug Enforcement Administration informant who received $50,000 for his services; one video played to the court appeared to show Banton sampling the drug. He denied any involvement in any drug deal itself, maintaining it was all talk, and the prosecution accepted he had no financial involvement. But conspiracy is talk – it only needs somebody to be talking to somebody else about something illegal.
In the 18 months since his release, Banton has never talked about the conviction or his time in jail. When pushed, he calls it “an improvised hell” he got through by reading, meditating and reflecting on life – his own and in general. “Time and space is relative,” he says. “You have to shield your mind, and as a man of hope and a man of faith I can see the world is right there and I am right there, but can absent myself from the mundane existence.” He seems untouched by the experience, physically and mentally, the same amenable, generous and humorous person I have met on previous occasions.
He has long disavowed Boom Bye Bye, the murderously homophobic single he wrote and recorded as a 16-year-old and which was released without his knowledge when he hit big. To remind people, he issued a statement on his release from prison: “I recognise that the song has caused much pain … I am determined to put this song in the past and continue moving forward as an artist and as a man. I affirm once and for all that everyone has the right to live as they so choose.”
Banton shares a background of extreme hardship with so many Jamaicans – “standpipe poverty”, he calls it, as the houses in his part of Kingston had no running water – but his particular affinity with his homeland is due also to his Maroon ancestry. He can trace his roots back directly to the rebel coalition of runaway slaves and indigenous people who, in the 18th century, retreated to the mountainous interior and waged a 10-year campaign against the British. The Maroons’ guerrilla tactics were so successful that they were granted their own land and autonomy from colonial rule. Today the Maroons’ Accompong village remains apart from the government and plays a big part in the black Jamaican psyche: rebels who refused to bow down.
“My Maroon heritage is very important to I, because it kept I close to my roots and my origins,” Banton says. “I think about it every day. It kept me solid through the recent years, because I know how my people suffered long and they fought hard for freedom. It puts my struggles into perspective and shows why every black man have to fight.” In the grounds of his comfortable Kingston home, Banton has a circular Maroon hut. “The tabernacle! It’s built of thatch and wood and it’s a place of meditation and contemplation, a place appropriate to my roots and how I relate to the world.”
On a more prosaic level, Banton’s closeness to the Jamaican people comes from his sound system days in the late 80s, at a time when the island’s dancehalls were assuming fresh cultural currency as a generation of artists prioritised domestic over international audiences. From the age of 15, Banton apprenticed on the Rambo International sound system, which travelled all over the island.
Recording was an obvious next step. “I record my first song when I was 16 years old. [Dancehall star] Clement Irie had taken me up to the Blue Mountain studios in Kingston, I thought just so I could see what a recording studio look like. Straight away I became very nervous because I’m seeing all these people I only know from on record and they’re all wearing gold chains as big as a car rim – or bigger! Then they put me in the booth with headphones on, and told me when the red light comes on, that’s my cue. I started doing the number and I didn’t stop until the three minutes was up.” This became The Ruler. “I couldn’t really remember doing it, I just remember how they was all impressed because they’d never seen someone sing from top to bottom of a tune and not make a mistake.”
Within a couple of years, Banton was the island’s top recording artist; by 1992, he had beaten Bob Marley’s record for Jamaican No 1s, and Donovan Germain, the boss of Penthouse Records, gave Banton the run of the studio. There, together with the producers Dave and Tony Kelly, confidence met musical intelligence to create the Mr Mention album.
This was an experiment born out of “wanting to come to the dancehall with a complete body of work. We was young men fresh out of school and we had the studio at our disposal, our brains bubbling, bursting. We wanted to make music that would work in the dancehall. We had a genuine interest in going on a journey.”
Mr Mention became the bestselling album in Jamaican history. Its 1993 follow-up, Voice of Jamaica, made a broader statement still, shifting between love songs, dancehall bangers, hip-hop flavours (Busta Rhymes features) and social concerns. Then came ’Til Shiloh and Inna Heights, stunningly crafted albums of melodic Rasta reggae conceived during his conversion to Rastafari. “Those were tremendous bodies of work, messages I received when I was going through my awakening: Rastafari and reggae music are together.” The music aimed to “re-educate the masses” about the religion and culture: “We have shared our music with the world and we see many people wearing dreads, but they don’t understand the teachings.”
“You have to move forward – it’s liberation,” he says. “There is no future in the past. Let it serve as a guiding force, but that’s all. Music is in my blood. I can’t lock myself in a single room; evolution is what you’re supposed to do.”
At 46 and free from the hell of the last few years, Banton has earned his place as reggae’s elder statesman, and is a genuine inspiration for the broadminded generation of Jamaican artists coming through, the likes of Chronic Law, Jaz Elise and Leno Banton, son of star deejay Burro Banton, to whom Buju’s stage surname is a tribute. He is keeping reggae’s roots where the ground has always been most fertile: the regular Jamaican people. According to culture minister Babsy Grange, they “would have loved him just the same even if he’d come back in handcuffs”.
• Buju Banton’s new album, Upside Down 2020, is out now.
Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley will be the executive producer of Bounty Killer’s upcoming album.
The Warlord made the revelation during an interview with radio disc jockey Nikki Z recently. According to Bounty, the album comes 18 years after his 2002 album, Ghetto Dictionary, which was released by VP Records.
“Now its 2020 and I am working on an album also. So I am building up the fire and gassin up di place… I am not done; I am not dead. I am ready again. And, it has been like 18 years I put out an album 2002. The Ghetto dictionary; that’s my last album. That’s two generations actually, so it’s overdue- way past overdue, so I am working on an album with Ghetto Youths,” he said.
“Junior Gong is gonna be the executive producer. So it’s gonna be something to listen to. It’s gonna be the real dancehall. I’m gonna remind them what dancehall is. Some people don’t remember what dancehall is and what the real foundation is… so we gonna take them to the real hardcore,” he explained.
Bounty, yesterday, shared a photo outside the Marley family’s legendary Tuff Gong studio in Kingston, with dancehall artiste Agent Sasco, formerly Assassin.The pair teased fans with an upcoming “deadly” Bounty Killer and Agent Sasco
Meanwhile, Bounty Killer said he was in no rush to complete the album, as that was not his style.
“In music, we have no time, no date. It’s when the music say its time. Because you don’t give yourself deadline in music; never do dat. Just make music come as inspiration. Das why I haven’t put out an album in 18 years. Cause I never look at no time like ‘yow a 10 years now enuh or 15 years, because everybody bukking me u and saying yow, is nearly 20 years,” he said.
Bounty Killer has released several studio albums since he burst onto the dancehall scene in the early 1990s. The last one, Ghetto Dictionary: The Mystery, which was released by VP Records in January 2002 featured 20 tracks including hits such as Sufferah featuring Wayne Marshall, Mystery, High Grade Forever, Pot of Gold featuring Richie Stephens, Arrow and the title track Ghetto Dictionary.
The superstar has long spoken of the high regard which he has for the Youngest Veteran whom he has described as exceptionally brilliant, while Marley himself always refers to the artiste as a ‘legend’.Damian Marley and Bounty Killer in 2017.
Last August, Damian made it known that he would love to produce tracks for Bounty Killer, whom he said he first met while in his early teens. He told the Jamaica Observer newspaper at the time that he loved the Killer’s music, and that the Seaview Gardens native always looked out for him from his teenage days.
Both men, along with Eek-a-mouse, had also collaborated on the hit track Khaki Suit, from Damian’s Grammy-winning Welcome to Jamrock album, back in 2005.
In the meantime, the One General told Nikki Z that he is not interested in new phenomena like streaming.
“I don’t know about dem tings. I don’t pay attention to streaming. I was here before di internet, and I don’t get too into di net. I was here before di microwave; I was here before color TV just came out. I was here before cable; I was here when TV signing off. So I am not into all that internet fad,” he said.
The head of the 148-strong Cuban medical team that arrived here two weeks ago to help with Jamaica's novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fight, wants Jamaicans to believe in the contingent that he says will do its best to give this nation's citizens the finest-possible medical care.
General practitioner Dr Eduardo Ropero said that he and his team members were oozing with confidence to get involved in the fight, alongside local health sector workers, to control and eventually tame the outbreak that has caused woe and destruction across the global landscape.
“We will not let the people of Jamaica down...Never,” Dr Ropero told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview Friday evening, at the end of the team's 14-day quarantine.
“We are here to support the Jamaican health system to fight the new pandemic; interchanging knowledge with colleagues of this country and improve the knowledge and health of the Jamaican people,” the veteran practitioner of 25 years stated.
The Cuban team of 46 doctors, 98 nurses and four technicians arrived in Jamaica on Saturday, March 21. Starting this weekend, they will be deployed across the four health regions (South East, North East, Western, and Southern) at hospitals and health centres. Dr Ropero will be based in the western region but does not know exactly where yet.
“Jamaica can depend on us 100 per cent. The Cuban medical personnel are filled with humanity and solidarity. We love our profession and we care for our patients,” Dr Ropero underscored.
Now that the period of quarantine has elapsed, Dr Ropero has joined other medical personnel, near and far, in appealing to remember that people that paying attention to health care tips is in their best interest.
He wants Jamaicans to know that the best approach in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis is for people to understand how importance it is to “wash their hands frequently, avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth if you are out of the house; keep social distance of almost one metre; use sanitary face mask or handmade mask” — a message that is now like an echo across the globe.
More can be done, he argued, while noting that some people refuse to self-isolate and don't understand that it is necessary for their wellness. Dr Ropero said that it is necessary to involve all media, in particular television, print, radio, and the Internet, in educating the population.
He, too, is not against the wearing of masks, as the debate rages over whether or not the items are necessary, as according to him, “the advice from the WHO [World Health Organization] is that just ill persons must use the mask, but it is very difficult to know when a person is sick — because the patient could be an asymptomatic person for 14 days”. Like other members of the brigade, he too has his fears of getting infected but remains confident that members of the team will be as careful as they can be.
“Yes, of course it is a real possibility, but if we follow correctly the safety indications, the risk of contracting the virus will be very low,” he maintained. Dr Ropero praised the Government of Jamaica, in particular the Ministry of Health and Wellness, for being “far-sighted” about coronarivus, citing the ministry's programme of informing the people from early about how to care for themselves, self-isolation, and effecting control on travellers. The first-time traveller to Jamaica, who has worked in Venezuela for seven years and Brazil for two, does not see a challenge for him and his team to fit into the Jamaican culture and enjoy what it has to offer, including the food. There are 77 members of the 138-team which has experience working abroad.
“Almost everything I heard about Jamaica is good — your culture is great; I love Bob Marley I heard from other Cuban doctors who worked here that you are very kind people, very friendly and hard workers; and of course all Cubans love Usain Bolt. He is unique.
“The food is spicy, and yes, it is a little problem... a little hot for our mouths, but we try to get in the habit of eating spicy food. In the hotels the cooks are the best. The food is always delicious.”
Jamaica's dark side though — violence and crime — is of concern to the Cuban medical leader and his team, and they will do everything necessary to protect themselves. “I don't like what I hear about the violence and crime in Jamaica. In Venezuela and Brazil we treated shooting patients and some injured by the knife, and it's a painful picture for any person, even a doctor. But we are here to work and that is our main focus,” said the medic who admitted to being a sportsman of sorts, having played “a little baseball and soccer”, though confessing that he was not good at either.
The team was part of a contingent of Cuban medical personnel who were selected last year by a group of Jamaican technocrats who visited the north Caribbean socialist state from June 12 to 16 to recruit almost 300 professionals.
The selections were done by a team that was headed by senior director, human resource management in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Gail Hudson, and also included head of surgery at Annotto Bay Hospital Dr Ray Fraser, who studied medicine in Cuba; regional technical director for the Western Regional Health Authority Dr Diane Stennett Campbell; Nurse Educator Sheila Daley Jones; Director, Human Resource and Industrial Relations Coleen Ricketts-Evans; Director, Human Resource and Industrial Relations Pauline Roberts; Director, Nursing Services (KPH) Joan Walker-Nicholson; Chief Nursing Officer Patricia Ingram-Martin; Director, Nursing Services (Cornwall Regional Hospital) Gillian Ledgister; Director, Nursing Services (St Ann's Bay Hospital) Marcia Lafayette; Regional Nursing Supervisor (SERHA) Marcia Thomas-Yetman; and Senior Medical Officer (St Catherine Health Department) Dr Francia Prosper-Chen.
This is the third and final batch of medical personnel to arrive from Cuba within the last nine months.
When you think of Carnival, soca music naturally springs to mind. And when you think of Jamaica, dancehall inevitably pops up.
But what do you get when you mix the two? Well, you'll find out on the road next month with Xaymaca International as the Carnival titans have flipped the script to make it a perfect soca and dancehall fusion!
Having started the blend last year with the introduction of their Queen of Dancehall costume, Xaymaca upped the stakes today and took it one step further by signing dancehall artistes Ding Dong Ravers and Teejay as their official ambassadors for their 2020 Carnival season.
And we don't know about you but we're VERY excited.
Loop got a special invitation to the official signing this evening, and we caught up with Ding Dong and Teejay to find out what they think of their new ambassadorial roles.
Ding Dong beamed: "I respect Xaymaca to the fullest because they believe in me and they're the first to believe in me in the soca world. Big up Romeich because he convinced me from the first year to do Carnival. It was a very important move in my life and it worked out to be the best.
"I've a big soca song this year and I hope to create history with it on the road with Xaymaca."
Revealing some of what he'll be bringing to the road on April 19, Teejay added: "I will come party and enjoy myself." And he promised plenty of "wildness" and "madness".
Kandi King, Xaymaca co-director, explained a little bit of the reason for the dancehall partnership. She told Loop: "We really just wanted to give our international masqueraders a taste of Jamaica. Of course you can't think of Jamaica without thinking of reggae and dancehall, and if you think about dancehall, you have to think about Ding Dong.
"So we just wanted to diversify and give them a small taste of what dancehall has to offer."
Andrew Bellamy, Xaymaca CEO, added: "We'll be bringing the perfect fusion of the Jamaican culture with soca. We have the best of the local dancehall scene, we have Ding Dong and Teejay and we'll be bringing some of the strongest 2020 soca artists and you combine that with the experience we provide from breakfast through to lunch and dinner.... It's going to be an unforgettable experience for our masqueraders."
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