Reggae Veteran Bob Andy Attacked

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2010 (c) spinello 500x750v2It has been widely reported that Jamaican reggae artist/actor Bob Andy, aged 71, was robbed of $5000US and his phone last night in Mona Heights in St Andrew. Apparently, he was stabbed when he tried to resist though is thought to be in a stable condition.

Andy kick-started his career as one of the founding members of The Paragons, which was later joined by the late Sir John Holt, before going solo. He has since gone on to spawn many hits which have been enjoyed by patrons all over the world.

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Review: Sanchez at The Troxy in London, England

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This time, last week (23/11/14), one of the most anticipated concerts of the year took place at The Troxy in London. Brought to us, courtesy of promotional company LB Entertainments, the event was headlined by Lovers Rock crooner Sanchez, flanked by EtanaAysha Loren, Cassandra London and Chardel.

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Chardel strikes Gold

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“Everyone should know what it is like to feel like a winner…Reggae Star Factor gave that to me”

This talented woman describes “being filled with relief and joy” at the moment when her victory was announced. Chardel has been infiltrating the music scene for a number of years, taking the grassroots approach of gigging and performing at open mic sessions. She hoped that auditioning for Reggae Star Factor would be a move which would propel her to the next exciting phase of her journey…and was spot on!

Of course, Chardel is no stranger to success. She is the cousin of veteran deejay Cutty Ranks, was signed to Island Records as part of a girl-group ‘Sprinkler’ (1998) and penned songs for chart-topping artists such as Billie Piper. What’s more, she is a working mother with a fiercely determined spirit: “I have a real love for what I do! When you’re a mother, you become less of self and more for your kids but you can lose yourself in the process. I have to be an example and show them that it is possible to pursue your dreams.”

Having attained a Music Degree in 2003 which included modules such as Copyright law and Studio Engineering, Chardel has valuable insight into the professionalism which is key for any industry to run effectively. Unfortunately, this is extremely lacking within reggae!  She claims that the significance of Reggae Star Factor lies therein: “It is a movement. Reggae Star Factor stands for innovation and we need that. After all, the music is a global entity.”

Ahead of her impending tour, she will be supporting Lovers Rock Crooner Sanchez in concert at The Troxy (London, England) on Sunday 23rd November, alongside Etana and Aysha Loren.

London’s First Reggae Talent Search Platform

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Reggae Star Factor is a new talent search platform, with a unique aim of discovering some of the UK’s most promising reggae artists. Having kicked off in July 2014, the live series took place at The Tabernacle in London, where approximately 400 hopefuls flocked for auditions.

Each person took centre stage, in front of a panel of judges: Lovers Rock Queens Carroll Thompson, Sylvia Tella, renowned singer-songwriter Kareem Shabbaz, former Aswad musician Clifton “Bigga” Morrison and Journalist Andrew Clunis. By the time the finals hit, just 24 contestants remained with the intention of battling it out for the coveted crown. This was hosted by radio personality Bobo El Numero Uno and is the brainchild of music professional Diane Black with Jack Reuben, Caroline Williams and Ken Martin also collaborating on the project. .

There have been some recent changes in reggae music within the UK such as its continued marginalisation on legal radio and decline of album sales.

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Jack Reuben

Reuben said the following: “regardless of the changes, reggae music is alive and kicking. Talent is still out there and our aim is to expose it, in a way that programmes like the X Factor aren’t”. He continued: “we need to come together and build upon this industry so that, if nothing else, we can leave a legacy behind for the next generation”

Another concern of the Reggae Star Factor executives is the vast amount of artists who have to work full time jobs, in spite of their talent, as a result of a lack of infrastructure and governmental support. According to Reuben, this is akin to Restraint of Trade which is a legal doctrine that enforces restrictions on freedom to conduct business. He commented on the need to start an official body which represents the music.

It was only after the successful finale of this season’s Reggae Star Factor that many South London residents began to hear about it. However, by mid-season, the competition began to attract more audience members from across the Capital, setting a precedent for the next series.

The anticipated prize of an album production deal (Real Talk Productions UK), management (Launch Pad Arts) and a tour provided by MediaCom (Europe’s premier tour booking agency) was awarded to winner Chardel on Friday 7th November.

Check out http://www.reggaestarfactor.co.uk for information

Sanchez UK Tour: Business As Usual

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On Sunday 19th October, Sanchez and Etana were scheduled to headline one of the biggest reggae concerts of this year, with support from Brit songbirds Aysha Loren and Cassandra London. However, extenuating circumstances meant that the event did not go ahead as planned. This news came as a disappointment to scores of patrons who were teeming with anticipation. However many are comforted by the fact that the London date at ‘The Troxy’ has been rescheduled for Sunday 23rd November. The Birmingham and Manchester venues are also expected to follow suit with alternative dates (21st and 22nd November respectively), which will be conveyed to the public accordingly.

Sanchez-112There has been a lot speculation about the reason behind this abrupt turn of events with many believing that Sanchez (right) had issues obtaining his visa in time. Vision Newspaper can confirm that this is untrue! Some may recall that he performed a string of dates in July and August in the UK, such as ‘The Frontier’ in Yorkshire and ‘O2 Academy’ in Oxford. These dates actually formed the first leg of his tour. LB Entertainments undertook the return for the second leg.He was expected to arrive on Thursday 16th October. However, an unfortunately tight connecting flight schedule from Canada saw Sanchez miss his flight back into the UK.This threw plans into a bit of a Frenzy!

In the meantime Etana arrived in the UK slightly ahead of him, on Wednesday 15th October, rearing to go and immediately delving into rigorous rehearsals.

Aysha Loren and Cassandra London were doing the same. This is an event which was promoted three months prior to the appointed date and, by all means, necessary preparations were made by all involved parties.

In light of the current situation, LB Entertainments had to make an executive decision – either proceed with the shows minus Sanchez or postpone it. They chose the latter which, on the basis of customer satisfaction, was probably the best decision; particularly given the fact that three of the UK’s most recent reggae/dancehall events have gone ahead without its original headliner, for one reason or another.

Robert Popat of LB Entertainment illuminated the situation by saying the following: “We thought that it would be a real shame to stage the concert without Sanchez. What’s more, we decided to look after the people that feed us and give them what they paid for”

In the spirit of true professionalism, the promotional team have made some successful efforts to inform their public of the aforementioned changes. All billed artists are very much looking forward to the new date, where stellar performances and positive vibrations are promised.

Although many have opted to retain their tickets, a refund is available. In the meantime, look out for future promo material coming from Sanchez and we’ll see you on the 23rd November

In the meantime, look out for future promo material coming from Sanchez and we’ll see you on the 23rd November!

Women In Dancehall

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When dancehall first emerged in the late 1970s, female dancehall artists were definitely less prevalent. However since then more ladies have joined the music roster, recording popular songs and going toe to toe with their male counterparts. The numbers seemed to reach its peak during the noughties (2000s) before dipping since the 2010s.

The ‘elephants in the room’ are the gender inequalities which stalk the music industry; this is not often discussed but it plays a huge part in the exclusion of the female artist within dancehall. Furthermore, these inequalities make the question of sustainability difficult for the women who do manage to break into the scene. Artists such as Toya, Tenuke, Timberlee, Miss Thing, Miss O, Bridgez, Posh, Pamputtae, Nefatari appear to have somewhat gone off the radar and it is not necessarily for a lack of talent.

Legacy

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Sister Nancy (right) is often hailed as the first female deejay and, in a recent interview with blogger Jacinta, she cites the difference between how women were treated in ‘her day’ and now: “In those times, men respected women because it was their job.  Now they’re saying that women are equal to men…but I don’t think so. That’s not the way that women are treated…ladies (nowadays) are doing their thing, but my time was a better time, it was more cultured. You didn’t have to do so much to make a name. Maybe because there weren’t so many females out there”

Dancehall has long been underpinned by the sound system culture and radio airplay. Just as Sister Nancy rose to prominence via these platforms, so they have always been, and continue to be, instrumental in the development of an artist’s career. As it stands, there are more male disc jockeys than females, and their support of the female artist leaves a lot to be desired. This appears to be quite a paradox – these men profess their everlasting love for ladies, yet do not play their songs! It seems that this ‘love’ is more like lust; the dancehall industry is a misogynistic place where women are objectified and the primary value of most women is to be seen. Consequently, many female artists have taken note of this and adjusted to this demand, becoming more sexualized than ever before, in order to be seen and then hopefully heard. Fingers crossed.

Slackness

Underground artist Stylysh explained why she believes slackness is key in an interview with Irish and Chin: “When you do too much clean music dem don’t tek yu serious. So you have to show dem dat yu bad and that way you will get your ratings in the streets…”

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Queen of Dancehall Lady Saw (right) was arguably the first female artist to infiltrate the music scene with risqué performances and music. This was unusual for a female artist at the time but not for males, who were just as slack. However, time has told us that this is just one facet of the many moods of Marion Hall; she has not used her sexuality as a crutch having also addressed social, personal, gender, relationship issues.

This versatility has seen her stand the test of time. If one considers the few female dancehall artists who are at the forefront of the scene now, then it can be seen that all of them find a balance between slackness and other subject matters.

Hip Hop Similarities

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For the last ten years, a similar drought of female artists has been happening within Dancehall’s child – Hip Hop. And yes, the few successful female artists appear to have combined the role of video vixen with their craft. This includes the likes of Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj (above).

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US Rapper Trina (left with fellow artist Gucci Mane) is known for her lewd expressiveness and put this into perspective when she said: “It’s like – you a female; I’m a dude. I’m not learning nothing from you. I just want to see you. So whatever you’re talking about, I probably don’t really care. I wanna just look at you”.

This formula is not just confined to Dancehall or Hip Hop but also R&B and Rock. Very seldom does talent alone guarantee success when it comes to female artists – sex certainly sells.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with sexiness and embracing one’s sexuality, this state of being can be rather empty when isolated and exploited. And unfortunately that is the content of a lot of female artist’s music who have cropped up – and disappeared – in the last fourteen years. This highlights the sobering fact that times have indeed changed, particularly when one considers past icons such as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Lauryn Hill, who did not have to openly feed the male fantasy to be successful. In fact, they could be rather abrasive in their style of delivery. The same can be said for dancehall matriarchs such as Lady G, Sister Charmaine and Lady Ann (below).

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Where’s the limit?

What’s more, the industry’s insatiable appetite for sex can tip the scale at times. A well-known female dancehall artist, who will remain anonymous, said the following during a candid conversation with me: “at one point, when I was up and coming, it was like if mi nah f*** certain man like DJs and producers, mi nah go get the song voiced or played. And a so di ting set right now. So, for a woman who is not prepared to do that, it can make things difficult. But on the other hand, you get some women who are prepared to do that and do…which also makes the situation bad for the rest.”

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Danielle DI (right) has been in the industry for a while and has been recently getting more recognition, especially since blowing away the ‘Jamworld’ (Portmore) at last year’s Sting stage-show. During an interview with Nightly Fix News Talk 93FM she comments that when she was up and coming she struggled with “men who did not want to keep it just business”. In saying that, she points out those incidents have become scarcer since she’s become more established.

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Personal scandals are publicly unraveling the careers of some promising female artists. Unsurprisingly, these are all to do with men! For instance, despite the fact that she has a career in her own right, D’Angel will probably always face flack from the public for being subsequently involved in relationships with rivals Bounty Killer and Beenie Man. Moreover, she has been the topic of jokes in male artists’ songs. On the other hand, apart from a few diss tracks from Bounty, Beenie’s career was not negatively impacted by his union with her.

Ishawna-and-Foota-Hype-engagedDownsound Records’ artist Ishawna has been steadily rising in popularity over the years, but her public break up with popular disc jockey/selector Foota Hype has received greater attention. This has somewhat overshadowed her music.

Bursting onto the scene in 2007, Raine Seville began to gradually forge a promising career as the First lady of Daseca; she was also involved in a long term relationship with label mate Bugle. In 2013, she scored a hit song with Konshens ‘Sekkle Dung’, in and around this time she split up with Bugle and many ‘isms and schisms’ ensued! He was openly critical of her and Konshens’ steamy promo photos (below) and cast aspersions on her, as the mother of their three year old daughter.

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In true dancehall fashion, scores of patrons jumped on the wagon too, hurling critique at her via social media platforms! What’s more, Bugle penned and released ‘Nuh Compatible’ which was a mega success and widely thought to be a dig at his ex-partner. Raine’s musical output has declined.

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Gaza Slim (aka Vanessa Bling, picture right) has just been vindicated of a perjury charge in connection with Vybz Kartel’s murder case; during this time, her musical output plummeted. Her popularity has not dwindled and she is planning a ‘comeback’. Here is an incredibly talented and promising young lady who is responsible for one of dancehall’s major feminist anthems ‘Independent Ladies’.

Another of Kartel’s protégées Gaza Kym (Kym Hamilton) sensationally left his musical ‘Portmore Empire’ clique, having alleged that Kartel was physically abusive towards her. The success of her subsequent output has declined, having done so.

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In and around this time, explicit pictures of Lisa Hype (right) began to surface, in which she is seen performing a sex act on a male, rumoured to be Kartel and even alluded to be so, by the man himself. There was never any exact confirmation about who exactly leaked these shots. This was a huge blow to her career, from which she is yet to properly bounce back.

At this particular time, Hype was also involved in an exchange of several diss tracks between fellow artists Stacious and Spice respectively. She admitted feeling “ganged up against”, to Jamaican Personality Winford Williams. On that note, let’s explore another timeless factor that never fails to drive a wedge between ladies in any situation – catfights!

Rivalry

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In a recent interview with Boomshots, Tifa (left) suggested that the relationship between female artists leaves a lot to be desired: “Things are going better than before for female artists but we’re not there yet. If we unify then things could be better but that’s going to be hard as everyone wants to be the ‘it’ person.”

Feuds certainly seemed to be at its height from 2012 – 2013; Spice and Macka Diamond were at loggerheads, Lady Saw and Tifa had a short-lived moment and even Spice and Lady Saw. At ‘Sting’ 2013, Macka Diamond and Lady Saw engaged in a scathing clash, which became very personal. Although media and fans bought into all of the aforementioned feuds and helped to sensationalise them, these incidents caused a divide amongst the already scarce female artists which was a shame.

Since then, the dust has settled amongst all parties and this is good news because they all just happen to currently be dancehall’s leading female artists. Cecile (below) and Tanya Stephens are two further examples of the few ladies who have long-cemented their place at the forefront of the scene.

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Learning Curve

In dancehall’s earlier days there certainly were less female artists on the whole; however the turnover rate was also low. This is a contrast to nowadays, where there have been more female artists surfacing here and there. However the turnover rate is higher meaning they do not remain relevant.

Sure, there is always the factor that some artists pursue a career in music solely for the promise of fame and fortune, which is not usually enough to ensure longevity. However the plight of women in dancehall has much more to do with the pressures that come with it a male dominated industry.

So, with this said, a lot of the more recent contributions from the ladies are more valuable in terms of context than content. In that the musky music has a tendency to inadvertently document the plight of an oppressed sex, literally being stripped of respect. Most tragically of all, the culprits behind this deprivation are not always the ones doing the stripping but sometimes the stripped, themselves, who subscribe to the industry by any means necessary.

See original post at: http://vision-newspaper.co.uk/women-in-dancehall/

Sir John Holt: Through the eyes of a 90s baby

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On Monday 20th October, the news came that nobody wanted to hear – Sir John Holt had passed away. It was confirmed by his manager Copeland Forbes that he had passed away in a London hospital at around 2.40am on Sunday 19th October.

Music has the power to break down barriers and forge an acquaintance of sorts; although I’d never personally met Sir John, I felt a connection to him through his many great songs. I think it is fair to say that most 90s babies, particularly those of Jamaican descent like myself, would recall hearing his music – at some point – whilst growing up. John Holt touched a lot of people.

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I heard his standards being played in my household, particularly via our beloved radio stations of choice – Vibes FM (93.7, back then 93.8) and Galaxy Radio (102.5…”a fi we station!” the jingle used to go). Holt’s solo songs such as ‘Time Is The Master’ and ‘Strange Things’ and Paragons standards such as ‘Only A Smile’, ‘Happy Go Lucky Girl’ and ‘Memories By The Score’ are just some of the hits which partially compiled the soundtrack to my infant-early adolescent years. We’re talking from about 6 years old, upwards. I couldn’t call his name at the time because I did not know it – however, I latched onto that voice. I can say that it sparked my curiousity and introduced itself warmly, like a new friend.

Around 1999, I got to actually find out this legend’s name. I was walking through a Brixton estate (South London) with my older sister, going to her friend’s house. It was a summer’s day, nice outside, the vibes was nice and reggae music was blaring through some speakers, with no apology. I don’t know what song came before but I know that Holt’s ‘Stick By Me’ came after and immediately grabbed my attention. As my sister and I kept trodding towards the destination, I saw an older guy bussing a wicked skank which made me stop and stare, amused. This 1972 track was the biggest-selling Jamaican record of that year and even up until now, it remains a classic. Anyway, the guy was  singing along, working those feet and eventually exclaimed “yooo…dah John Holt bad enuh!”. The name stuck and I resumed my walking, satisfied that I knew his name. I now felt fully acquainted.

In 2002, Atomic Kitten dominated the UK charts and music video channels with their video for ‘The Tide Is High’. I loved a bit of Pop, as much as the next 10 year old, and was totally into the song. What’s more, the song always struck a note of familiarity with me, like I’d heard the melody somewhere before. This made it all the more easier to like it.

It wasn’t until 2004 that a random conversation with my peer Stephanie Clarke, which took place in the school playground, would inform me that John Holt wrote the song. Looking back, it’s quite funny that we were having those relatively mature conversations:

Me: *Sings chorus from ‘The Tide is High’ which was still very much popular at the time*

Stephanie: Do you even know who sung that song?  *in a typical whiney, know-it-all school-girl voice*

Me: Atomic Kitten *offended that she’d ask such a stupid question*

Stephanie: No, have you heard of John Holt? He’s a reggae singer, my Mum plays him all the time. He sung it

Me: I’ve heard of him but it’s not a reggae song…(Poor ting, at that age I just assumed those who sung songs wrote them, themselves!)

Stephanie: Yeah but he wrote it and sung it first. Then they did it after, that’s what my Mum told me, so boy… 

Her last comment was dripping with distain and she was obviously horrified that her revelation was utter news to me. I remember feeling quite embarrassed at my lack of knowledge on this matter. I felt about this big —–> [.]…! #shame

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However, although I never forgot Stephanie’s assertion, I duly shrugged it off. Years later, I’d learn that Sir John did indeed write the track and record it with The Paragons in 1967. After this it became a #1 US/UK hit for Blondie, aswell as Atomic Kitten. By the time Canadian rapper Kardinal Offishall and Keri Hilson used the song in 2008, I was already well informed of just who made that possible.

So, not only was Sir John Holt’s music a treasure for legions of listeners all over the world, but it has had a profound and lasting impact on popular culture too. Many people my age were avid supporters of Disney Channel sitcom ‘Lizzie McGuire’ and some may recall that ‘The Tide Is High’ was featured in one of the episodes:


Fast forward to 2011, when I decided that I wanted to break into Reggae Journalism. I attended the ‘One Love Peace Festival’ at London’s Wembley Arena which was headlined by Shaggy, Sean Paul and Busta Rhymes (flyer below). I was there to review it for Playvybz Radio and it was the first festival which I’d attended! As excited as I was to see most of the acts perform, I was particularly looking forward to seeing John Holt’s set as I’d never seen him live before. And what a performance he gave! I was honestly impressed with how this man effortlessly blazed a fire, like a silver haired lion commanding his pride. He performed each song with such grace, stamina and precision – I remember thinking ‘how is it that this man sounds exactly like he does on his records?’

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Alongside LUST and Freddie McGregor, John Holt provided the vocals for the first valentines concert which I attended, which took place at Brixton Academy, not so long ago (below).

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I say ‘provided the vocals’ because the experience was much more than just a concert, he made the vicinity feel like more than a “ram-out”, sweaty venue, where you’re among strangers. His performance felt so much more intimate than that; the evening was tailored in sheer romance – who better to be the headliner? I remember rocking with my plus one, as he belted out cover tracks which he totally re-invented, such as ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ and ‘I Want A Love I Can Feel’.

So, you see, from the music heard around my house/neighbourhood to random playground chatter, watching all-important after school television programmes to festival and valentines day experiences, Sir John Holt has always had an important presence in my life. With a career spanning over four decades and 40 albums to his credit, he was one of the leading talents for our beloved reggae music.

As the world mourns his loss, we can only be thankful that we received his gift of song, draw comfort from them and be inspired by his unique legacy. Thank you, John Holt for all that you have given us. May you now take your rest; your work is complete.