Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Lucas DiPasquale performs with Popcaan in Jamaica

Remember Lucas DiPasquale "that white boy from Canada singing Popcaan songs" acoustically?



Well, he went to Jamaica earlier this summer on a promo trip but Popcaan was out of the country so they didn't get to meet. However, couple weekends ago, the dream came true at Dream Weekend. Popcaan brought him out to shell the Dream Live event.

So many artists still haven't got a reaction like this in their lives. Big up him. Look forward to hearing the official releases

Krishane ft. Melissa Steel & Beenie Man - "Drunk & Incapable" [audio]

As premiered last night by 1Xtra's don Mista Jam, "Drunk & Incapable" is the first official single by Krishane features Melissa Steel and dancehall legend, Beenie Man. Melissa's fresh off a top ten single of her own [click here to read more] and a dancehall legend in Beenie Man to seal it is a good look.

Little boy-girl singing duet and reggae-tinged vibes with the breakbeat. Hopefully this won't be judged on the summer season, but allowed to flourish in the post-summer settings.

FYI Krishane is the 20 year-old son of dancehall icon Barrington Levy. Born and raised in Jamaica, now living over here in UK. Harlesden a.k.a. Brixton if it was in northwest London to be precise. Recently signed to Atlantic so expect to see a proper roll out of this single in the not too distant future.



Check out the first song I posted last week, Typical. Lovers rock vibrations produced by KZ, nephew of Caron Wheeler (Soul II Soul)

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Krishane - "Typical" [Barrington Levy's son]

New name on the scene to watch out for: Krishane, recently signed to Atlantic records over here in the UK. He's the son of one of dancehall/reggae's greatest singers, Barrington Levy, and he has a set of pipes on him too.

Oh, and the song is produced by Caron Wheeler's (of Soul II Soul fame) nephew, KZ. Nice little reggae lovers bubbler.

So, Chronixx shelled London again! [review + two, two vids]

Now you may remember I reviewed Chronixx's debut London performance last year. Well, it's that time again. He performed to a sold out crowd in Electric Brixton (formerly The Fridge). Oh, big up everyone who turned up on the door. Unlucky. Now everyone who is someone should know the history of Brixton and Jamaicans. It may not be that way anymore due to fassyoles and their gentrification, but we still associate Brixton with Jamaicans. Whereas last year was in north London, this felt more like where Chronixx was supposed to be.

My expectations were a lot different time around. Last year, was more apprehension. Will he deliver? Will the crowd be into him as much as I am? Will it be some stiff, lame out crowd? All of that was dispelled in the first song. This time was more a "Will I be underwhelmed because the last was an other-worldly experience?" one. How does one top the best debut performance I've ever seen?

Well, good news guys. He bettered my expectation. I don't know if I'd say this was a better concert, nor do I think it's something that matters, really. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Walked in as Rootikal were running tunes. Healthy warmers set for the headline DJ and living legend, David Rodigan. I haven't seen Rodigan play at that sort of function before. Either festivals or clubs full of people who aren't hardened reggae fans which means he usually mixes it up more. His set was class. Full of anthems, top quality interaction, specials, 45s and the famous Rodigan jumping.

Shortly before 10pm, following a couple Bob Marley sing along's ("Is This Love?" and "Could You Be Loved"), he introduces the man we were all there to see. Band begins playing "Alpha & Omega" from the Dread & Terrible EP - a tune I've been rinsing recently so I'm fully vibsing already. Eye's shut, invisible natty shaking, the whole shabang. Chronixx appears )I see him through the sea of glaring screens recording the entrance), the place erupts, the show begins.

Second song is the song he began with last time, "Start A Fyah". Third song (I think) was "They Don't Know" followed "Ain't No Giving In" or vice-versa. A big sing-along ensues during "They Don't Know". All four songs are delivered without time for a breather so the intensity levels and vibes are high at this point just as any show is supposed to. Each song built the levels a bit higher than the one before.

Stripped back performances of "Rain Music" (the third song I heard by him) and "Somewhere" brought screams and sing along's from the ladies, before ending the chapter on "Smile Jamaica". Really clever part of the show. The stripped back songs brought energy levels down, showcased his vocals (while his vocals aren't pitch perfect, they're soaked in soul/emotion), "Smile Jamaica" turned the levels up a notch and is still a part of the lovers theme.




Chronixx then informs us that the performance is split into three chapters. I'd describe the first chapter as the uplifting segment, he says the second is about re-writing the distorted history we have been given, before launching into "Capture Land". Big forward in the second verse when he says "Now here comes the teefing [thieving] Queen from England."



Next up was a moment I wasn't I totally surprised by nor would I say I expected it. Protoje joined Chronixx on stage to perform probably the biggest reggae song in 2014, "Who Knows". Protoje's in Europe and said he'll appear at various things. Nobody wouldn't be interested in a sell-out show in Brixton, London. It was a great moment that produced the first wheel of the night. I think the two have only performed this twice before. See it below.



That took the night to another level. I'd say the levels had risen dramatically about four times so far. Right after that, he decided to raise the levels higher again. "Here Comes Trouble" went off tremendously well. Second wheel-up of the night.




 I know "Most I" and "Thanks and Praise" were in the mix somewhere too.

Introducing the final segment with a tribute to dancehall, he fired off "Spirulina", ska song "Rastaman Wheel Out" (sounded a lot better live then it does on record. Has a rougher sound) and getting lighters and phone torches in the air to "Like A Whistle" before ending on "Behind Curtain". The speech before "Behind Curtain" was real. Explained that dancehall and reggae are essentially one, but dancehall has been clouded by sensationalism and too many following the wrong aspect - insisting conscious lyrics has always had a place in dancehall. Third wheel-up came at this point.

Upon exit stage left, Rodigan said "History has been made" before asking if we want more. Obviously Rodi! "Eternal Fire" kicked off the encore, before "Warrior" which segued into "Nuff ah talk 'bout buss!" Yep, "Odd Ras" lifted the roof off again. The toasting, tribute to Super Cat via "Ghetto Red Hot" and other bits ended the show higher than the first. An encore is all that was missing first time. Glad it was included this time.

While I wouldn't say it was better than the first show (first shows have sentimental value), he proved it wasn't a fluke. He's grown in confidence, improved his command and vocal projection. I didn't mind it first time, but there weren't anywhere near as many dub-wise versions. And the set list was spot on. Numerous peaks and brought it down in the right places. Everyone left wowed again.

To gauge what I saw/what you missed, below is Chronixx performing to 5,000 in Central Park, New York a couple weeks ago. Big up the good dons over at LargeUp.com for organising. We had singer Maverick Sabre, producers/DJ's Chase & Status + radio presenter Vanessa Feltz (lol!), NY had Mick Jagger and his family celebrating Mick's birthday.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

reasoning with Maxi Priest about Saxon Sound time

This is just a small section of a forthcoming reasoning I had with UK reggae legend, Maxi Priest. We spoke on a range of things including his time, the impact and importance of the world-renowned Saxon Sound. They're foundation to what many have unknowingly carried on in various MC-based scenes in England. Check out what he had to say below.

Marvin Sparks: I've heard so much about Saxon Sound. To me, I don't feel like people understand how big and the impact Saxon Sound had, and still have especially when considering the popularisation of the fast-chat style. What was it like being part of it? Could you sense what you were doing was special or were you just going along with the vibe?

Maxi Priest: Everything at that time was special. There wasn't a road map of what to do. You have to also imagine the climate at that time. We were cutting through racism. Just walking the streets, you had to walk with a crowd of people. Skinheads, greasers, NF's… All of these different people that thought we weren't supposed to be here. They just thought we were black and not supposed to be in this country.

Thank God we were able to cut through all of that racism stuff and still keep a focus. Or it helped us to stay somewhat focused, almost like I want to dig through this hole. It was dark, grey and cold. Home was the Caribbean. As soon as you stepped out the front door our neighbours were not into our culture. If the ball went over one side of the garden it would get cut up. If it went to the other side - there were some black people living there - the ball would come back.

It was silly things like that, and I say silly things like that now because we've passed that time, but we have to remember those times because if we don't remember those times we won't know where it is where supposed to be going. I think that's one of the problems now; they don't remember those times.

As you asked with the Saxon thing, we were writing the road. We were writing our way out of a situation because it was confusing. We were told we didn't belong here but Jamaica or the West Indies were saying 'You're English'. I remember sitting down thinking 'Well, what am I meant to be then?' We were always searching for a sense of belonging and that's the thing about the music and the sound system.

Music would - especially reggae music - gave us a direction or understanding of where we came from as black people. We would gravitate to the music to have a lifeline of a self-belief and belonging to something. When we would play the music it would create a gathering for us as a community. Even though we would bring our white friends into it, that was our refuge. Sound system was our refuge. This how our community moved. We could translate information. It wasn't about radio or TV.

The sound system was our haven. That was our sanctuary. That was our place. That was our church. That was our meeting ground. How we were gonna come together as a force and make people know we are somebodies. That's the foundation of sound system for me. What we created on top of that was a platform, a stage where we can now reinvent the wheel. 

We could create our own stage now with artists and performers. We created this live performance around spinning the b-sides of tracks and creating live entertainment in a party or a club. Now we became a unique situation because not only we were offering the sound system, we were offering a live  performance from a deejay standpoint or a singing standpoint. We created something that was blowing up north, south, east, west of England and then through cassettes would go back to Jamaica. From Jamaica into the United States. 

People were playing it in their cars just like how you hear pirate radio stations today is how we were playing cassettes. If you went to the frontline of Brixton it would be about the cassette you've got and he's got. A good six/seven times it would be about Saxon because we brought a live performance around the thing. 

From there we brought another page elevating sound thing to studio. I met up with a man called Barry Boom - Paul Robinson. My mum would always ask him to do something for me because I'd been singing from sound system. He then took me to the studio, taught me to write and structure songs. We produced 'Mi God, Mi King' with Papa Levi then we got major record company interest. We signed Levi to Island. That song took him to Jamaica for Sunsplash, 10-15mins standing ovation, number one in the reggae chart in Jamaica. Wow. I guess we thought we landed.

Giving us strength to say that we were somebody. We went through rioting and these things just for people to say we were somebody. After we achieved that success, various record companies were asking about me because I had a song on the b-side of that. I then chose to sign with Virgin records and stayed there for 17/18 years.


Marvin Sparks: Smiley Culture and Tippa Irie had UK hits, Papa Levi got the number one in Jamaica,  in addition to your UK success, you reached number one in America with "Close To You." I know you have American influences alongside Jamaican, so that must've been a really big deal for you back then.

Maxi Priest: Massive. I mean, before that, the success we had in the pop charts over here. We were Top of the Pops. Almost feeling at home on Top of the Pops because of the times we went there. It might be a little bit strange but I've always looked forward. Even to this very day, I look forward. I don't really look backwards until somebody asks me a question. That's just my nature, that's just the way I am. 

I'm very optimistic and I wanna look forward and keep going. Where there is hope, where there is life, where there is strength. I've always had an outlook that I'm not doing this for myself. There's a whole lot of people that have been brought up the same way I have. When you look at the teachings of Marcus Garvey and people like that, we're not here for ourselves, we're here for the generation that comes after. 

That's the way that I've always looked at it so I don't sit down glamourising myself about whatever success I've had. I appreciate what I've done. I appreciate whatever success I've had and I always remember that success wasn't just by me alone. There is a lot of people who are involved in the Maxi success. This wasn't done by me. There's a lot of people who have helped along the way and the fans who have gone out there and purchased the songs. Without the purchasing of the songs, we'll always be handed leaders and icons.

I've always been aware of that, whether it's through my mother's pentecostal teachings to Rasta, from being in a place that never really from like home and thinking there's better to come. That's just been my outlook. I walk with things like 'It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice'.

Rest of the interview will be posted soon. Buy Maxi's latest (banging) album, Easy To Love from here.

Smiley Culture - "Police Officer" UK top 20 in 1984.


Tippa Irie "Hello Darling" UK top 40 in 1986


Maxi Priest "Close To You" US #1 in 1990


Saxon Sound in north London, 1989

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Tarrus Riley review in London on 3rd August

So after Brixton Splash, I travelled north to touch down at the Tarrus Riley 'Love Situation' tour. Upon walking in I was greeted by the crowd rocking to selections by Allan Brando and DJ Sir Corey aka Doops Squad. They were playing anthems-upon-anthems. Big sing along after sing along by a cross section of artists; from Freddie McGregor, Sanchez, Beres Hammond and Garnett Silk to Jah Cure, Richie Spice and Chronixx.

First up was UK reggae artist I've been tipping since 2012, Randy Valentine. Happy to see this guy picking up so much steam and support. But anyway, he delivered a short but sweet performance. Opening with Break The Chain's intro "Dear People", before raising the tempo with "Lock Me Up", couple other songs, before ending on my favourite from the EP, motivational "Carry On".



Alaine is a singer I rate but didn't expect much of live. I wasn't sure how her high vocals would carry live. Much to my surprise, her voice has a lot more depth than expected. Alaine is essentially a female balladeer, which can sometimes become a bit monotonous after a while, however, she added variety, whether mixing the arrangements of the song, holding powerful notes longer, three-part harmonies with backing singers sounding like a small choir or sitting by the piano (as she did with final song "No Ordinary Love"). Really good support set. Songs ranged from opener  "Rise In Love", to "Bye Bye Bye", "Without You", "Up" and "Deeper" before ending on the aforementioned "No Ordinary Love". All were well-received. Good debut London performance.

(Wish she did "Sacrifice" in full though instead of during "Deeper" because that's one of the first songs I really felt by her.)

Headliner didn't disappoint. When does Tarrus Riley ever disappoint? Let's think about this properly. He's the ultimate showman, band's tight and creative, and Dean Fraser is a sight in itself. Awesome saxophonist. Tarrus, dressed in all black three-piece-suit + darkers (before switching to his spectacles) delivered a ;engthy and varied set; ran through the tempos, styles and influences that range within reggae and dancehall showcasing the versatile catalogue. Rifled through the first (maybe) 15 songs in medley fashion. One verse, chorus, move on. It didn't feel as though we were being short-changed on our favourite songs.



Like Alaine, Tarrus brought through various elements such as a Buju Banton tribute including the "Untold Stories" collaboration with Dean Fraser on sax,  lead guitarist playing a solo before "Sorry is a Sorry Word", even a little sing-song of the Jamaican national anthem. Oh, and if the duet/classic covers clash with Alaine wasn't enough, an appearance from his father performing "Love and Devotion" almost flattened the building. What a roar of approval.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Reggae song tops US & UK pop chart. 1st time since 2001

So, this week is a historical week in the UK singles chart. A reggae song (Magic! - "Rude") moved up a spot to #1, dancehall song (Melissa Steel ft. Popcaan "Kisses for Breakfast") enters the chart at #10,  and an afrobeats song (Fuse ODG ft. Sean Paul - "Dangerous Love") with a dancehall feature co-produced by a Jamaican producer (Stephen "Di Genius" McGregor and, Ghanaian, Killbeatz) is #31. They go on like a reggae song can't be pop anymore.



I don't remember the last time there were so many Jamaicans and explicitly Jamaican-influenced songs in at one time so this calls for a post. A time to remember. Maybe it's the beginning of things to come, could just be a flashpoint, either way it's a moment to note.

That's not even counting pop boy band, Rixton, with their reggae/ska influenced "Me & My Broken Heart" at #12. I don't count the Will.i.am & Cody Wise song "It's My Birthday" (at #9) cos of the samples (Aidonia's 2013 club smash "Fi Di Jockey" and a Bounty Killer), but its just something worth taking note. Last year was the year of sampling dancehall for some reason. They were all over the shop, from Kanye West to Jay Z, Beyonce's (literally) show-stopping Superbowl performance to Justin Bieber's ex, Selena Gomez, sampling Buju Banton.

Going back to the original point anyway, a reggae number 1. PLEASE NOTE, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME A REGGAE SONG HAS TOPPED THE UK & US CHART SIMULTANEOUSLY  SINCE SHAGGY "IT WASN'T ME" in March 2001. AAAND, IT'S THE WEEK OF JAMAICA'S 52ND YEAR OF "INDEPENDENCE". AAAAAAAAND 50 YEARS SINCE JAMAICAN MUSIC'S (ska) FIRST CHART ENTRY IN THE WORLD (#2 in UK), MILLIE SMALLS "MY BOY LOLLIPOP". MOMENT!

Bajan band CoverDrive reached the peak of the UK charts with "Twilight" a dancehall take on pop in 2012, Sean Paul helped girl group The Saturday's achieve their only #1 (dancehall-infused electro record What About Us?) last year but this is the first reggae song to top the charts in years (probably Shaggy "Angel". Someone on Twitter told me I shouldn't call it reggae because its watered down. Told him/her(/troll) those same accusations were thrown at Bob and to do one (I didn't say the "do one" bit). Just because it's a love song, has a lead guitar and isn't made by Jamaicans/Rastafarians, doesn't mean the song isn't reggae.

I  wonder if he'd've said the same thing had this been a Jamaican band or artist…



Which takes me onto another point; I know we'll get the buzzword of the year - "appropriation" - attached to it. Those people definitely need to do one - promptly. Hear why; I highly doubt the artists making the music are cynical enough to think "I'm gonna do black music because I can be more successful than black people doing it." My doubt is even stronger where reggae is concerned. Reggae isn't classed as popular music, it's more on the fringes, so to suggest they're exploiting the music over it being something they like is quite silly to me.

If you know Canada's history and connection with Jamaican music and culture, it's easy to understand why Magic!, Snow, and Drake like/make Jamaican music and culture. Big up man like Kardinall Offishall, Exco Levi and all the others representing.

I mean, are we going to say UB40, The Specials, Madness et al appropriated Jamaican music? Especially when they did more for bygone eras of Jamaican music (namely ska and rocksteady) when many Jamaicans had moved on? And members of these groups continue to do works for Jamaican music through off-shoots projects and DJ sets where they demonstrate their extended knowledge? Once again, when a lot blacks had moved on? Don't get offended, its the truth. If the shoe fits, moggle! ("Model" en Ingles/wear them.)

It's misguided. The people who are more likely to appropriate and exploit the music are the opportunistic record labels who haven't signed or backed a reggae song by a Jamaican artist in years. The creatives are creating. The labels are leeching. But you know, history has shown white people doing reggae music has helped the leeches see there can be a market for reggae in their world. Hopefully



Next song is Melissa Steel's "Kisses for Breakfast". Vocally an r&b song, except it's a dancehall song with a soca bass pattern. Originally pushed to radio (but never officially released) in 2011, this song proves what I say about dancehall songs. Many within the Jamaican music and media industry say there's a lack of good songs and this is reflected by charts globally. That's inaccurate. Good songs alone aren't good enough to chart; money and team (management and label) behind take it to where it goes. They have to see it being viable. They see this by seeing if anybody else is doing it. (You can read more on that in a previous post here.)

Also, I swear this is the first lead black British singer to chart this year? Definitely female-wise. I always ask people why they feel we need an r&b scene, and by that, they mean one which sounds like the American one. R&B is just black people singing about love. Ok, well mane not just that; R&B style vocals are unique too, but essentially its about vocal delivery. Why not bring back lovers rock, ay?

In my opinion, Britain would be better if we took our own way of making sounds. Our dance floors are like no other. The most successful UK r&b-equivalent singers made something different to Americans, whether it was Soul II Soul and Maxi Priest fusing reggae with new jack swing, or Craig David mixing it with garage etc. Even looking at the British charts recently, Angel fused d&b drums, rock guitars and some pop stylings for "Wonderful" and, erm, that's the only example I have because more choose to make American sounds (Rough Copy, couple of Angel's other singles, M.O).

But anyway, give thanks to Jamaica, 'cos without them none of this would even be possible. Not bad for genres nobody likes anymore, ay?

Oh, and let's not forget Chronixx made an entry on the Billboard charts at #179 following his appearance on US TV show Jimmy Fallon. For a bit of perspective, it sold more than Rick Ross, Shakira and JLo's latest albums last week. While the chart position isn't a blockbuster, it's an independent project. Let's remember business is about black and red. Make more than you put in is a win. Oh, and Bob Marley's 30 year-old album, Legend, moved up to #44 in the UK album chart. Give Jamaican reggae and dancehall a try next year, maybe?