This episode takes a look at the world of reggae backing bands and the legends they support.
Our guest is Stevie Culture, a musician from the west coast of Jamaica who’s has been playing and performing Reggae music for more than 2 decades.
The backing band culture seldom gets highlighted or explored though it’s a major part of Jamaican music culture. This is a tribute to the musicians in the background, working to support the major Reggae artists.
Reggae Backing Band Culture
Every big show is facilitated by these amazing people behind the scenes. They never get the recognition they deserve – until now that is.
Stevie Culture has been a member of major reggae backing bands, Sane Band, the Fifth Extension, Prophecy Band, and Ninja Force Band. He has been on stage with some of the greatest artists of all time including Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor, Yellow Man, Garnet Silk, and Capleton. He has traveled around the world touring and playing reggae music. We are grateful that he could share these stories on your platform.
We caught up with Diego Herrera, the Reggae/Caribbean Music Curator and Programmer for Pandora Media. He curates the popular New Reggae Now playlist.
Diego is entrenched within the culture and has been for a long time. As you may know, we’ve been working with Pandora to help push reggae music. Our podcast is featured on Pandora and we curate playlists on Pandora as well.
We had a very interesting, informative conversation. You will love it. We loved it! Diego works in the ecosystem touching the artists, labels, and the distribution channel. We pull back the curtain and shed some light on what happens on the back end at digital streaming services.
We all use these platforms to listen to content, but how do they really work? What are the inner workings? We learn about that plus get Diego’s refreshing perspective on new reggae now and the state of the culture. He comes from a very knowledgeable point of view. Of course, after the main segment, we present the Buzzworthy, Tastemaker, and SoundClash update segments.
Buju Banton denounces mask-wearing.
David Rodigan and Cedella Marley receive Jamaican Order of Distinction honors.
Barrington Levy in the studio with DJ Kahled.
Official music video for Koffee’s “Pressure” Remix featuring Buju Banton.
Downbeat pays epic tribute to fallen reggae icon Bunny “Striker” Lee on LP International’s Real Talk IG Live Show.
[Soundclash News] The No Jing Bang clash tournament Grand Final was Saturday, October 10th. Sponsored by the world’s #1 DJ software platform Serato, the final featured Tek 9 from Brooklyn versus Kanabis from Antigua.
[Podcast Interview] Sean Paul responds to criticisms for labeling dancehall clash culture as “slavery mentality.” – Watch Now via The Fix
[Sound Clash Audio] Eagle Force vs Love People vs Super Gold vs Inferno 10/20 (45 Shop Lock) JA ( Finals) – Listen
We discuss the reggae industry’s focus on vanity metrics such as social media likes and YouTube views versus actionable metrics such as engagement and sales.
Reggae/dancehall fans find ways to get new music for free (YouTube, mixtapes, sound system audio, email blasts, SoundCloud, etc). The reggae media primarily reports on vanity metrics. Fans form opinions based on the opinions of others if they have to. They also find reasons to justify why they did not buy the new album(s).
Conversely, fans of other genres are known for taking action by collecting (buying) albums, whether digital or hard copy. They collect the new albums of the artists they like and then form their own opinions about the music. We break down the reasons for this disparity.
Kahlil Wonda reviews Tarrus Riley’s new album, “Healing.”
Reactions to the passing of celebrated Reggae icon and trailblazer, Toots Hibbert.
We talk to Maxi Priest and Jonathan Emile who collaborated on Emile’s recently released “Babylon is Falling” Remix.
Reggae music has always been at the forefront of social and political issues. One example is Bob Marley’s participation in the Amandla Festival of 1979 in Boston. There, Marley performed in support of the anti-apartheid movement and the liberation of South Africa.
A few short months ago, the entire world was shaken when George Floyd lost his life. People protested, buildings and businesses burned – all while in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Race relations were already strained, but this event managed to trigger both a national and international outcry for change and justice.
“Babylon is Falling” is a song that has put a voice to the change. The song features 2 artists (Jonathan Emile and Maxi Priest) from different generations coming together to speak on what they’ve been through, and what’s to come.
We held reasoning on the following with Maxi Priest and Jonathan Emile:
How did the Remix to “Babylon is Falling” featuring Maxi Priest come about?
Different flavors of racism in the UK, Canada, and the Southern U.S.
The concept behind “Spaces In Between,” Jonathan’s debut reggae album.
Maxi Priest’s excitement for his forthcoming album, “United State of Mind.”
Why are some Caribbean people afraid to go back to the region?
Billboard’s disrespect towards dancehall culture with their Verzuz cover.
What is the responsibility of musicians in fighting oppression?
The problem with trying to control musicians’ creative output.
‘Babylon is Falling’ Remix – Jonathan Emile ft Maxi Priest
Two Artists from Different Generations Come Together to Sing About the State of the World Today:
Canadian-Jamaican artist Jonathan Emile and British-Jamaican artist Maxi Priest came together to create the Remix to “Babylon is Falling”, a track on Emile’s new album, “Spaces In Between.” The album is currently distributed by MindPeaceLove/Tuff Gong International. While the remix to the song was recorded back in January 2020, neither artist knew at the time that the song would become so relevant a few months later.
Emile is a bilingual (English & French), multi-talented singer-songwriter, producer, and Cancer survivor. His commanding voice resonates at the start of the song and draws the listener in immediately, asking if they know what their worth is, and then mentions the capitalistic society in which we live. He then explains that this can’t go on and eventually, something has to change (Babylon will fall).
“Growing up Black and Jamaican in Montreal, racism has been a fact of life. The institutional side was hidden but the interpersonal is still always present. As a Black person, you know you need to move cautiously to gain access, be accommodated, or have the opportunity to be treated with respect. This caution manifests in how you speak, how you read a room, and how you respond to racist banter or microaggressions.
Knowing that you’re seen as the other, alien, or ‘less than’ is at the forefront as you face people’s prejudice, always having to be an ambassador for your race. You become a master negotiator, code switcher, and an expert in de-escalation to preserve your body and reputation. This is a key concept in Spaces-In-Between. I am fortunate to have parents who provided me with tactics and strategies to avoid and cope with racism as a young Black Jamaican. The knowledge I received was built on their hard work and determination.”
Grammy-nominated Maxi Priest, best known for his Lover’s Rock and R&B/Reggae fusion tunes like “Close to You’ and “Wild World” comes in next, but he’s not singing about love this time. In fact, he’s Deejaying (rapping), which in itself is a rare sound for him. He rides the riddim with the smoothness that he’s best known for, but the content of the lyrics speak of the things he’s both experienced himself throughout the years growing up in England, and what he continues to see around him today. His message, like so many, is that he’s tired.
“Here we go again – We stand firm we nah ease up the pressure – Just like a volcano bubbling over – to take it to the heights you have fi step like a soldier”
Although both Emile and Priest come from different generations, they have many things in common, including being of Jamaican heritage, and growing up and living outside of Jamaica, which has impacted them.
Like so many people that live abroad, there are mixed feelings right now with what is happening with the racial, economic, and spiritual climate, and the uneasiness that it brings. “Babylon is Falling” is a song that resonates with everyone, no matter where you come from, or what age you are.
The Vault: Classic Music Reviews podcast host, Brian Cox gave us an education on the island of Grenada.
Brian shared his unique perspective as a first-generation American of Caribbean descent. He described the soundtrack of Grenada, and how music has changed there over time. We learned about the music and food you would encounter at a typical Grenadian party.
The Vault: Classic Music Reviews is a top-rated music commentary podcast. The co-hosts, hip-hop fans that grew up in the 90s, review classic hip-hop, R&B, and reggae albums 20 + years after their release. They break these albums down to see if they stood the test of time. Listeners get a perspective on classics from a fresh point of view. The Vault: Classic Music Reviews also includes guest interviews, round table discussions, and artist catalog debates.
We sat down for an interview with Tessellated, the Billboard chart-topping, Emmy-nominated Jamaican artist who blew up in 2017 with the hit single, Pine and Ginger.
During our Interview with Tessellated we uncovered:
What were his early musical influences?
From where does he draw his inspiration?
Who is he listening to right now?
What’s next on the horizon musically?
How did he get to #1 on the Billboard Jazz charts?
How did he earn the 2020 Emmy nomination?
How would he describe his lyrical and production styles?
The fusion of Afrobeat and Dancehall on new single, No Ansa feat. Crayon from Nigeria.
With Jamaican influence on international music inescapable in the current era, a new wave of exciting artists is emerging from the Caribbean island. One artist leading the charge for this global assault on the music industry is Tessellated, a multi-talented 23-year-old artist/producer from Kingston who burst onto the scene in 2017 with his bona fide Caribbean hit collaboration – Pine & Ginger.
Citing influences from many genres, a unique blend of styles and sounds shapes the backdrop for Tessellated’s musical endeavor. Through this, he aims to push forward a fusion of Jamaica’s roots presented alongside other world genres. With this original style, Tessellated has now carved out a lane of his own already garnering support from music industry heavyweights such as Camila Cabello, Lily Allen, Diplo, Major Lazer, Jorja Smith, and more.
Continuing the trend of breaking boundaries, last year Tessellated picked up a huge sync deal for his track ‘I Learnt Some Jazz Today’, a fusion of jazz, dancehall & hip hop, with Apple for their film ‘Bounce’ created for the release of their new AirPods. After its release, the song saw massive support worldwide, racking up several million plays in a matter of months and going #1 on the Jazz Billboard Chart, a first for a Jamaican artiste.
Since then, Tessellated has signed with Sony/ATV Publishing and is currently gearing up to release his first solo project.
A look behind the scenes with Neil Robertson, a music industry exec. from the golden era of reggae and hip-hop.
Neil Robertson worked behind the scenes as an A&R for Island Records. He was also a label manager and marketer for Island Jamaica. Neil was in the boardrooms and studios working with Beenie Man and Luciano. Later, as an artist manager, he toured with some of the best in the business, made deals, negotiated, and influenced.
Born and raised in NYC, Neil currently curates the music program at Alley Cat Amateur Theatre at The Beekman Hotel. He also handles DJ programming at The Seaport District/Pier 17 for Howard Hughes Corp and Pier A Harbor House for HPH Hospitality.
Behind the Scenes Highlights
A&R for Island Records, Gee Street, and Richard Branson’s re-entry into the music business, V2.
Worked on RZA’s “Bobby Digital In Stereo GOLD,” “Wu-Tang Forever,” and Gravediggaz “The Pick, The Sickle & The Shovel.”
Worked on DJ Premier’s “Afu-Ra Body Of The Life Force.”
Helped usher in a new era of Reggae and re-establish Island as the premiere Reggae label in the world.
Popular reggae artists have pushed the sonic envelope recently. The reception by reggae lovers has varied.
There are different perspectives on why this is, and if its the right direction for the music. We analyze perspectives and presumed motives in the context of the current revolution and in general terms.
Listen to this episode to hear:
Reactions to Chronixx saying there is no match for Sizzla in a clash.
Our special guest is Walshy Fire from Major Lazer.
We enjoyed reasoning with someone that AGARD and I have known for decades. Before the podcasts, and before all the fame. If you’re not familiar with Walshy Fire I don’t know what rock you’ve been under. He has been everywhere in the world to deejay.
Walshy Fire talked about the state of the culture. We commented on dancehall, reggae, and business. We talked about soundclash and life in general. We didn’t get into a lot of his background. If you want to check into his background, he’s done many interviews in the past. If you’re looking for that go check out this spot.
During this conversation, we checked in and started shooting from the hip. The session was militant, and energetic, which is a good combination.
Walshy Fire Reasoning
How quarantine has changed life.
The soundtrack to the revolution.
Soundclash.com and the Quarantine Clash series.
Upcoming Major Lazer albums, artists, and mixtapes.
The “Customized Years” book.
The energy of nightlife versus day parties.
Influencers standing against destructive music.
The end of “niggering.”
Highlights for 2020 so far.
Buzzworthy, Tastemaker, and Soundclash Update
Buju Banton celebrated a birthday.
Donovan Jermaine and Buju received their gold record plaques for Til Shiloh.
Please join us next week for a reasoning session with Jillionaire from the Major Lazer crew. Tell a friend to tell a friend and shared a link to this show. Tweet a link to the show and tag @ReggaeLoverPod. We’ll be looking for you online using hashtag #ReggaeLoverPodcast.
This is our 200th official episode of Reggae Lover. We talked about “Upside Down 2020,” the long-anticipated album from Buju Banton.
There’s such a thing as an instant classic, and this Buju Banton new album is that. Listen to our in-depth analysis of every track.
Buju Banton New Album, Sales and Streams
We also talked about record sales and chart performance. The album got close to 3000 sales in its first week. That includes all physical copies, digital downloads as well as streams. What is a “stream?” What is the stream worth? A stream is a fraction of a sale. So you need a certain amount of streams, whether it be songs or the entire album, in order for it to equal one sale.
It was actually a strong debut compared to other releases from Jamaican artists. We look at the fact that Vybz Kartel released his album on the same day as Buju. His album, “Of Dons and Divas,” sold a little less than half that of “Upside Down 2020.” Koffee’s “Rapture,” EP which won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album had less than 600 first week sales.
We have had episodes about Billboard, sales, and what it means for Jamaican reggae artists. Music is actually the marketing tool for touring, merchandise sales, etc. In that case, Buju is in good hands with Roc Nation. I’m sure they’ll exploit this album very well.
The Buju Banton new album, “Upside Down 2020” debuted in the number two position on the Billboard reggae chart. Also, on the Itunes chart for reggae music, it debuted at number two. At the time, Bob Marley held the number one slot on both of those charts. Vybz Kartel’s “Of Dons and Divas” debuted at the number six position on both charts.
The Tastemaker Segment
Last week’s episode, we didn’t get to go into this segment at all. As a result, there were a few things that I wanted to make sure that we mentioned.
Firstly, the Dré Island album, a debut album that features Popcaan on the “We Pray” single. The name of the album is “Now I Rise.” I bumped it or a good little while when it first came out. He’s doing press for the album right now. Go look for “Now I Rise” from Dre Island. Very good music.
If you’re a fan of Chronixx or Damian Marley, you’ll definitely love Dre Island. He’s very talented in his own right. He has a song out with Tory Lanez. So he has crossover songs as well.
Secondly, there’s an awesome release from Grammy nominee, Etana. An album entitled “Gemini,” which debuted on June 19th, distributed by Kojak WorldWide. That album is official. Very good production. “Gemini” brings a strong balance of dancehall, reggae, and lovers’ rock. There is some roots reggae flavor as well.
Kabaka Pyramid has a feature on there. Nomadz has a feature on there along with an artist known as Yhasha. This may be her best album to date. It’s definitely one of my favorites. Every song has a good vibe. I would add the whole album to my quarantine playlist. Take my recommendation. This is good, solid music.
Thirdly, we have to talk about Koffee. Her new single entitled “Pressure” is an inspirational song for the times. She speaks to the ghetto youths, but she’s also talking to every man. Every one of us is under pressure, if not now, at some point. It’s that type of message that can help to pull you through that kind of a situation. So I love it. She’s singing. She’s deejaying. It’s message music. A music video for that is also out.
In addition, Koffee is on “Bigger Love,” John Legend’s new album, released June 19. The song that features coffee is “Don’t Walk Away.” This song a breakup love song duet between the two of them. The curious thing is, so far, Koffee’s material hasn’t been love songs. There’s Justin Bieber’s, “I don’t care” remix where she appears alongside Chronixx. That would be the first but is more pop dance.
“Don’t Walk Away” is more of an R&B style song. Definitely check that out. And of course, if you’re a John Legend fan, we talked about him earlier with this feature on the budget album. He’s got a big project out right now.
Finally, we’ve got a new song from Anthony B entitled “Black and Proud.” This is not a protest or a revolutionary song a la “Fire Pon Rome.” He’s not telling you who needs to get burnt up in the fire. It’s a revolutionary song along the lines of just making this simple statement. I’m black and I’m proud.
If you follow the news you know that saying “Black Lives Matter” is offensive to many people. So saying things like “black power” or “black and proud” is also going against the grain. These are the messages that we want to hear from our reggae artists, especially our cultural artists. And Anthony B is known for being that guy.
This one is on the new World Rebirth rhythm produced by Reggae Vibes Music. It’s a brand new song released on July 8th. Anthony B’s “Black and Proud.” Please check it out. It’s awesome. Good reggae music. Good for the heart, the soul, and the brain.
Sound System Update and Wrap up
We also gave a very concise recap of some recent sound system, soundclash live online events. In conclusion, we announced next week’s special guest will be Walshy Fire of Major Lazor.
Please share this show with a friend and tag @reggaeloverpodcast (IG) or @reggaeloverpod on Twitter.
We are back with a new season after taking an eventful summer break. Our first episode, Caribbean Black Lives Matter, features Nick, the host of the Jamaican State of Mind podcast.
At the time of recording this, we were grappling with strong emotions. This, as a result of the series of events ensuing from the George Floyd lynching. Caribbean black lives matter.
We added a spin on the conversation as Caribbeans. Hear views on how American racism is viewed in the Caribbean and particularly Jamaica. It’s an interesting conversation.
We covered race, policing, protests, other solutions, and more. Most importantly, you’ll hear different perspectives on how reggae music is and should be interacting with the politics of today.
This is a time where we need Reggae music reform. Reggae needs another renaissance. We need to return to the culture once again. The music needs to reflect what’s actually going on in reality. There is too much music about flossing. We are living through curfews. The time is dread right now. People need more. And when you talk about revolution, that’s what reggae music is supposed to be doing. Reggae should be there to help fill that void and burn that fire.
At recent protests on the streets of American cities, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh’s music could be heard. Will any of our modern artists create music that will be a part of the soundtrack for the revolution? This is one of the underlying themes for this season of the podcast. #reggaereform
Because of the length of this conversation, we didn’t get into some of the other segments that we usually do, but they will be back throughout the season.
The Tastemaker segment will be back. Soundclash updates will return if and when we have SoundClash content or sound system subject matter. Today, we just wanted to take the time to highlight this important conversation, Caribbean Black Lives Matter.
WALSHY FIRE STATED THAT “JAMAICAN ARTISTS ARE ON THE VERGE OF CREATING A NEW GENRE” IN A RECENT INTERVIEW. THIS CLAIM WARRANTED FURTHER EXPLORATION SO WE WENT IN ON THE NEW MUSIC OF JAMAICA.
Before analyzing today’s music we reviewed the many genres that Jamaica has created. That amazing history includes Mento, Ska, Rock Steady, Reggae, Dub, and Dancehall. Reggae sub-genres Nyahbingi, lover’s rock, and rub-a-dub are also popular styles.
There was a peak in dancehall popularity in the early 2000s followed by a decline in quality reggae. At that time vinyl formats transitioned to the CD. Then CDs went out and digital downloads came in. As a result, DJs started using laptops to play music and consumers turned to personal electronics. This transitional period subsequently led to what we call the reggae revival.
The current global dancehall and reggae revival movements are creating genre-bending trends. Artists like Protoje, Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal, Damian Marley, Lila Ike, and Koffee are synonymous with such trends.
Based on our analysis there either is a new emerging genre, or the concept of genres is simply dead. Distinctions between genres have become blurred and young audiences around the world are embracing that change.
Last week Protoje announced that his Indiggnation Collective (including Lila Ike and Sevana) has inked a multi-album deal with RCA Records. We discuss this historic singing and the recent trend of major label A&R’s paying attention to Jamaican talent.
Alicia Keys – Underdog (Remix) ft. Chronixx and Protoje.
Lila Ike – I Spy
Stalk Ashley – Young
Walshy Fire’s Quarantine Clash 3 – Heavy Hammer (Italy) vs. Poison Dart (Florida).
Major Hype’s Clash Series – Jazzy T from Renaissance vs. Steelie Bashment.
This episode examines the dichotomy that is the incarcerated, gold-selling, chart-topping, and ever polarizing Vybz Kartel. His murder conviction was recently upheld by the Jamaican appeals court. Also, he won the Best Male Dancehall Artist category at the International Reggae and World Music Awards in Jamaica for the last two years in a row.
3:10 – Tory Lanez IG Live shut down.
5:04 – Reggae community responses to COVID19.
11:41 – Coronavirus and quarantine themed reggae/dancehall songs from Sizzla, Luciano, Ding Dong, Kabaka Pyramid, Christopher Martin, Ce’Cile, Christafari, Ed Robinson, DYCR, Silver Kat, Zagga, Mr. Vegas and more.
22:10 – Walshy Fire’s second Quarantine Clash featuring Bobby Konders (Massive B) versus Jazzy T (Renaissance).
26:40 – Major Hype (Massive B) versus Nore (Afrique).
32:45 – What matters more to Kartel fans, his songs or whether he committed the murder?
44:10 – Would more people attend a Vybz Kartel concert than Buju Banton’s Long Walk To Freedom concert in Jamaica?
54:04 – What would the dancehall industry be like if Vybz Kartel was never allowed to record music in prison?