RGR TIMES WITH HOWARD CAMPBELL

Ras Kronik gives thanks  

Although he did not make the cut for the Best Reggae Album Grammy, singer Ras Kronik is pleased with the quality of, and response to “Wild N Free”, his album which was re-released last summer. 

“Wild N Free” was part of a provisional list of 150 albums and EPs sent to judges at the Recording Academy for consideration. It contains “World Prayer” which Ras Kronik did with his brother Chillum. 

“The most satisfying aspect of the album is the finished product. I like the work that was put into it by the musicians and producers; from all the creators,” he said. 

First released three years ago, “Wild N Free” was pulled from digital formats shortly after because the Clarendon-born Ras Kronik was not pleased with its production. 

 The 15-song set was resurrected by his Love Bird Music label and WOMAD/Sony Orchid which released it in August. In addition to “World Prayer”, its new songs include “Spiritual Warfare”, “Stick Around” and “Lockdown”. 

 Ras Kronik, who has been part of the Las Vegas reggae scene for over 15 years, was also pleased to collaborate with his brother. 

“’World Prayer’ really dropped in a timely manner because it’s what the world needs now. It’s about time our people can look within and bring things to the surface,” he said. 

“Live N Livin” (Sean Paul), “Ten” (Spice), “Royal” (Jesse Royal), “Beauty in The Silence” (SOJA), “Positive Vibration” (Gramps Morgan) and “Pamoja” by Etana are the nominees for Best Reggae Album at the 64th Grammy Awards, scheduled for January 31 in Los Angeles. 

  Written By Howard Campbell

  

 

Getting to know Liorah LEV  

People danced up a storm to Earth Wind And Fire’s “September” in late 1978. Maurice White’s soulful vocals and the band’s blaring horns saw the song making the pop and R&B charts. 

For her version, musician Liorah LEV went for a more subtle sound. It is one of six songs on her self-produced EP, “I Am LEV”, released on November 19. 

“My cover is different compared to the rest of the tracks. It has an acoustic jazz vibe that showcases my alto sax skills and introduces me to audiences who might not otherwise embrace pop but have a mutual love of the music from the ‘70s. I believe, if I'm going to do a cover, I'm going to own it and make it mine and I think I have done that successfully,” she said. 

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, LEV was born to Jamaican parents in Miami. She showcases her eclectic tastes on “I Am LEV” which includes touches of EDM, reggae and jazz. 

Prior to the EP’s release, three singles were released: “Taking Over”, which is her first song; “Let Go” and the reggae-inspired “Nerve”, which features Frank Burt of Buju Banton's band on bass.  

Although the EP marks her recording debut, LEV credits her years at the prestigious Berklee as perfect preparation for the recording sessions which started this year. 

“A lot of the music I create starts off as melodies in my head. When I sing along to the hits on the radio or Spotify, I test out improvisations and create my own melodic responses to the tracks. That alone can inspire a fresh idea for an entirely different song,” she said. “That skill enhances my production skills. When I record or perform, I lose myself in the music, step into that space virtually, to create something more beautiful than musicianship allows. For me, the hardest part is writing the lyrics.” 

  Written By Howard Campbell

  

  

Double take from Trap Shotta Rally  

Deejay/rapper Trap Shotta Rally shows both sides of his skills on two albums released by his TSR Records in November. They are a salute to the dancehall and hip hop genres he was weaned on in The Bronx, New York. 

“Shotta Life” is hardcore hip hop and contains 12 songs, while “Dancehall Trap The Album” has 14 songs, done to the latest Jamaican beats. 

The Atlanta-based Trap Shotta Rally is executive producer for both projects, which were released within days of each other. 

‘Dancehall Trap’ is led by the song, “The Life of The Party” while “Shotta Life” has hard-hitting jams including “Main Essentials” and “Rofiel”. 

Trap Shotta Rally, who migrated from Jamaica to The Bronx at age 11, expresses himself differently when recording hip hop and dancehall songs. 

“With hip hop you can play around with a lot of topics. With dancehall, I find that you stick to one thing,” he explained. 

Born Rohan Wilson, Trap Shotta Rally is originally from Linstead, a rural market town in St. Catherine parish, Jamaica. Moving to The Bronx, he discovered hip hop at the height of its popularity through Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G. and Gangsta Rap on the West Coast. 

Hanging around his uncles’ Stereo 5 sound system, which played throughout The Bronx, helped build his appreciation for Jamaican culture and dancehall music.

Written By Howard Campbell

Etana on a Grammy high     

 

 With her “Pamoja” album one of six nominees for Best Reggae Album at the 2022 Grammy Awards, Etana is naturally overjoyed. The singer is even more elated, that she is the first woman nominated twice in this category. 

Nominees for the 64th Grammys were announced November 23 in Los Angeles. The event takes place January 31 at the Staples Center, also in LA. 

“To be nominated is a great achievement. It truly is an honor to know other creators in music thought my album was worth their vote. These are other incredible people in music who recognized my works in such a prestigious way! It’s major and I’m grateful,” said Etana. 

Her first call was in 2019 for “Reggae Forever”. At the time, she was the first woman nominated for Best Reggae Album since Sister Carol’s Lyrically Potent in 1997.  

The other nominees for Best Reggae Album 2022 are “Live N Livin” (Sean Paul, “Ten” (Spice), “Royal” (Jesse Royal), “Positive Vibration” (Gramps Morgan) and “Beauty in The Silence” by SOJA. 

“Pamoja” is the follow-up to “Gemini” which Etana released in 2020. She had high expectations for that set but was unable to properly promote it because of Covid-19 restrictions. 

This year has been different. Though her itinerary was not as packed compared to pre-Covid-19, Etana still performed on shows throughout the United States. 

There are 11 collaborations on “Pamoja”; artists on the album include Damian “Junior Gong” Marley, Alborosie and Vybz Kartel. 

Toots And The Maytals won the 2021 Grammy for Best Reggae Album with “Got to be Tough”. 

Written By Howard Campbell

Troyton, Mavado ready for them  

Producer Troyton Rami and Mavado go hardcore on “Ready fi Dem”, the deejay’s latest song, which was released on November 26. 

Troyton, best known as co-producer of Sean Paul’s massive “Gimme The Light”, also directed the single’s graphic video which has a gangland theme. 

After almost 30 years in the game, the South Florida-based Troyton retains a zeal for music production. He credits that hunger with a willingness to change with the times. 

“I personally keep my ears in the streets to make sure I have knowledge on what people are listening to. This helps me think of ways to create songs that can achieve greatness, and keeps me fresh as a producer,” he said. 

Originally from Westmoreland parish in Jamaica, Troyton started his career in Kingston, the country’s capital, during the mid-1990s. His early productions include songs by the Scare Dem Crew, Sean Paul and Mr. Vegas. 

Moving to South Florida, he worked as a sound system selector at hot spots like Rockers Island alongside current pop heavyweight, DJ Khaled. In 2002, Troyton got a mega hit with “Gimme The Light” on the Buzz ‘riddim’. 

Recently, Mavado and Alkaline are some of the artists he has worked with. 

Troyton believes the South Florida dancehall/reggae scene has changed since he moved there over 20 years ago. 

“The music is listened to in a different vibes, the promoters have changed and so did the crowd. This generation have two types of dancehall; original dancehall and trap dancehall, but I think it’s all dancehall,” he said. “Our music has evolved and so did the people’s ears. But whether we like it or not we are still one people, with a mission to see our music bigger or big like hip hop, pop or country, because we deserve it. We paved the way for other music by them using the influence of reggae and dancehall.”

Written By Howard Campbell

Rad Dixon covers the classics 

  

Singer Rad Dixon salutes some of his favorite songs by putting a reggae spin to them, on DJ Treasure Music Presents Best Reggae Lovers Rock Covers, an EP produced by Tasjay Productions.  

The mini-set has four songs. They are the previously released Write Your Name, a Kenny Rogers original, and If I Follow my Heart, a Dennis Brown classic. 

The other songs on it are Suddenly, originally done by Billy Ocean and Everything I do I do it For You, a massive hit in the 1990s for Bryan Adams. 

Suddenly features the deft riffs of veteran Toronto-based session guitarist, Osbourne “Ifield” Joseph. 

‘Best Reggae Lovers Rock Covers’ is scheduled for release on January 1. 

Dixon, who lives in South Florida, is from Manchester parish in Jamaica. That’s where he grew up listening to sound systems and a deejay named Little Bimbo, who later found fame as singer Garnet Silk whom he cites as one of his biggest influences. 

Most of Dixon’s songs are produced by Tasjay Productions, including Keep The Children Safe and Baby Don’t Worry. 

He was one of the artists featured on the Outa Jamaica Riddim Album, released last year by Tasjay Productions.

  Written By Howard Campbell

  

 

Experience Monty in New York  

Jazz great Monty Alexander continues his live show comeback after an extended absence due to Covid-19, by headlining the Westchester Music Experience, at Tarrytown Music Hall in New York on Thanksgiving Friday. 

It is the latest gig for the Jamaican pianist who, like many artists, was sidelined by the raging pandemic. For his latest gig, Alexander is promising fans a treat by doing songs from his upcoming album on which he sings. 

“I always wanted to do more singing which I have done over the years but not in a collective way,” he said, adding that he will “give snippets” of things to come next year. 

At the Westchester Music Experience, Alexander will be accompanied by the Harlem-Kingston Experience, a jazz/reggae combo he formed over 10 years ago. It features musicians versed in music from the United States and Jamaica. 

Alexander, who started his storied career as a teenager in Kingston during the early 1960’s, is world-renown for his eclectic live performances and vast recorded catalog. 

Since the 1990’s, he has collaborated with Jamaican musicians such as jazz guitarist Ernest Ranglin and drum-and-bass duo, Sly and Robbie. Harlem-Kingston Express has special meaning to him. 

“When I do Harlem-Kingston Express, Jamaica comes out very strong,” he said. 

Written By Howard Campbell

  

 

Sean Paul leads reggae Grammy nominees  

Twenty years after his breakout song, “Gimmie The Light”, Sean Paul has been nominated for a Grammy Award. He is one of six contenders for Best Reggae Album with “Live N Livin”. 

The other nominees announced November 23 in Los Angeles are “Pamoja” by Etana, “Positive Vibration” by Gramps Morgan, “Royal” 
by Jesse Royal, “Beauty In The Silence” from SOJA and “Ten” by Spice. 

This is the sixth nomination for Sean Paul who won the category in 2004 with the multi-platinum-selling “Dutty Rock”. “Gimme The Light was lead single from that set. 

“It feels amazing to be nominated for the Grammy with this album. This album means a lot to me, it’s a return to hardcore dancehall for me and it’s a collaborative album. Everyone I’ve worked with on this album is somebody who I revere from an engineer, to a producer to the artist who did the artwork to the artistes who appeared. It’s a great statement of unity which I feel proud about,” Sean Paul told the Jamaica Observer newspaper. 

The 64th Grammy Awards takes place January 31 in Los Angeles at the Staples Center.

Written By Howard Campbell

Good times for Aixa Kendrick  

An American actress/model’s ode to Grace Jones’ iconic photos done over 40 years ago, has become a hit thanks to their publication in a European magazine. 

Aixa Kendrick revisited a famous photo shoot Jones did with French graphic designer Jean-Paul Goude in 1978. She re-created Jones posing in men's leisure suit and bra, and a full black leather suit with shawl. 

New York-born Kendrick did the sessions with American photographer Frank Good. They caught the attention of OSSMA Magazine Europe who published them for their summer edition. 

"The positive reception on social media because of the OSSMA Magazine Europe spread has led to more creative offers to collaborate as well as some really cool work opportunities on some exciting upcoming projects," said Kendrick. 

The leggy Kendrick was born in New York to an African-American father and Puerto Rican mother. She has appeared in films such as “The Company You Keep”, for which she won Best Actress at the 2020 Hip Hop Film Festival. 

A former model, she has long admired Jones who is originally from Spanish Town in Jamaica. Jones moved to New York with her family in the 1960s, then to France where she found fame as a model during the 1970’s, working with Goude with whom she has a son. 

In the 1980’s, Jones returned to her roots on songs like “My Jamaican Guy” and “Pull up to The Bumper”, which were produced by fellow Jamaicans Sly and Robbie. 

Written By Howard Campbell

Denzel Martin calls for peace on War  

Shortly after moving to the United States almost 30 years ago, Denzel Martin continued the recording career he had started in Jamaica. He soon found out that making a stable living was priority and he gave music “an extended pause.” 

He returned to the fold four years ago with “Love Song”. His latest effort is the ominous “War” which looks at the grim crime situation in Chicago where he has lived since the early 1990’s, and Jamaica. 

“Even when I was working as a (graphic) designer, I was writing songs. Music was never far from my mind,” said Martin. 

One of the follow-ups to “Love Song” was a cover of Lionel Richie’s “Hello”. But the frightening homicide rates in Chicago and Jamaica prompted him to write “War”. 

"It makes you develop fear," said Martin of crime in his adopted hometown, the most violent major city in the US. "You don't know what's going to happen when you walk out of your house." 

Martin keeps updated with current affairs in Jamaica by listening to radio broadcasts on the Internet. The Caribbean country has recorded over 1,000 homicides in 2021. 

Though he was born in Kingston, Martin spent most of his formative years in Portland. His first songs, including “Memory”, were produced in the late 1980’s by Nelson Miller, then the drummer with Burning Spear's band.

Written By Howard Campbell