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ForwardEver covers music and life in San Francisco with a heavy dose of reggae. Edited by DJ Tomas, there's links to freelance writing work past and present, plus news and views on culture and politics.

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  • 02/08/10--19:24: Storm and Chat
  • Dancehall style mistress Natalie Storm is already off to a storming new year.

    The versatile DJ, singer and model is the real deal. She's got potent lyrics, a sultry singing voice and gyal caaan style in a she heels!

    Of particular note are a couple of her new videos, which are must-sees. "Look Pon Mi" is produced by UK garage guru Sticky, and the beat is a funky-bashment hybrid called the Jumeirah riddim. Mad ting! Tastemakers like SF producer Kush Arora are hammering that one in the clubs.

    Equally hot is the hardcore dancehall bubbler "God Bless Me," featuring ninja choreography and exuberant costumes. Storm and her personal stylist are on their game right now.

    Had the privilege to interview Ms. Storm a few days ago. She had just been recording with Ward 21, the forward-thinking Kingston dancehall crew. It'll be interesting to see what they come up with this year given that both W21 and Storm are open to emerging club styles including electro, dubstep and garage.

    Finally, Storm shows her ability to rock a ballad on her latest single, "Permanent Hiding," (download) a single that swiftly rising on the reggae charts.

    Speaking of new riddims, I'm really feeling Linton "TJ" White's new D.N.A. riddim, which has an old school Dave Kelly feel to it. Here's Spragga pon it!

      SPRAGGA BENZ - STYLE - D.N.A RIDDIM - TJ RECORDS-21STmp3  by  dancehallstraight

    UK vintage reggae specialist label Pressure Sounds release a special deluxe version of the Harder Shade of Black rhythm. Produced by Leonard "Santic" Chin, the album features Gregory Isaacs, Horace Andy and Augustus Pablo among others. The famous riddim, first made popular by Studio One is an instrumental variation of Lennon and McCartney's "Norwegian Wood." It's been versioned countless times, but Santic's lick drops hard.

    In  other news:
    • Reformed 80s ska pioneers The Specials will play select US tour dates starting at LA's Club Nokia on April 15 and Coachella Music Festival in Palm Springs (Indio) on April 16.
    • Soaring vocalist and DigiCell Rising Star finalist Romain Virgo's debut album drops on VP in May.
    • The new single by Monsoon "Keep On Loving You" sees the roots vocalist continue to rise in the ranks with confident conscious music.
    • UK reggae/dancehall sing-jay Gappy Ranks, who has previously recorded with producers Jazwad, Peckings, Stingray and others, has signed to Greensleeves.

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  • 02/11/10--15:17: Freefall Radio Broadcast
    KUSF 90.3 – Tuesday Feb 9, 2010  
    Audio: Download (60mb) 
    (audio rebroadcast covers first 19 songs)


    DJ Cam – Seven (Inflamable)
    Massive Attack – Paradise Circus featuring Hope Sandoval (Virgin)
    Goapele – Milk and Honey – Aybee Remix (Deepblak digital promo)
    Mux Mool – Drum Babylon (Ghostly International)
    Lou Rhodes – The Ocean (Motion Audio)
    DJ Devastate – Don’t Sop (BBE)
    DJ Center – Tout Passe featuring Samia Farrah (Push The Center)
    Marie M – Night (PadBleM)
    Bonobo – Kiara (Ninja Tune)

    Skeletons – Positive Force (Tru Thoughts)

    The Souljazz Orchestra – Negus Negast (Strut)

    Sidestepper – Deja (Palm)

    Thomas Fehlmann – Into The Wind (Kompakt)

    Ustad Rashid Khan – Allah Hi Rahem (Sony)

    Sade – Skin (Epic)

    Slacker – Come Back Home (Godlike & Electric)

    Rachel Goswell – Coastline – Ulrich Schnauss Remix (digital promo)

    Luca Cazzoni – Deepside (Slant)

    Joy Orbison – Hyph Mingo – Andraes Saag Remix (digital promo)

    Mosca – Square One (Night Slugs)

    Scuba – Tracers (Hotflush)

    Dub Gabriel & U-Roy – Liv N Luv – Timeblind Remix (Destroy All Concepts)

    Subatomic Soundsystem with Lee “Scratch” Perry and Jahdan – Respect My S**t (Subatomic)

    Mark deClive-Love presents Rahel – Hope (Mashit)

    Mel & Tim – Keep The Faith (Stax)

    Brad Mehldau – River Man (Warner)

    Georgie Anne Muldrow –  Simple Advice (Ubiquity)

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  • 02/11/10--15:28: Ghostly Freebie
  • Ann Arbor, MI electronic music label Ghostly International has been pushing creative and artful ambient, techno, electro and downtempo electronic sounds for the past decade-plus. Their roster includes Matthew Dear, Lusine, Twine, Dabyre, Michna and School of Seven Bells, to name just a few. Now they're offering a free download comp, Ghostly Essentials: Rarities One, featuring rare and unreleased tracks.

    Grab it here.

    Here's what the label had to say about this release:
    Recently, we dug through our vaults and compiled Ghostly Essentials: Rarities One, a nine-song compilation featuring rare and unreleased songs, for your listening pleasure.

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  • 02/17/10--12:16: Headlines and More

  • Reggae dancehall performer Capleton, known as the Fire Man, has canceled his entire US tour after an outcry by gay rights organizations over his homophobic lyric content. As reported by the Long Beach Press Telegram, Capleton's high profile show scheduled for February 21 at the Ragga Muffin Festival in Long Beach  was canceled by promoter Moss Jacobs after pressure from various organizations.

    Sicilian-born Jamaican-based reggae singer and producer Alborosie continues his West Coast tour this week and his new album Escape From Babylon To the Kingdom of Zion is released. 
    Upcoming shows include:
    February 18 Berkeley Shattuck Down Low
    February 19 Petaluma Mystic Theatre
    February 20 Santa Cruz Catalyst
    February 21 Long Beach The Ragga Muffin Music Festival

    ForwardEver will be speaking to Alborosie today before his SF show, for an interview to be published this spring by San Francisco's Big Up Magazine.

    San Francisco reggae institution Club Dread will present its 6th Annual Sound Clash event Saturday April 17 at the Rockit Room, 406 Clement Street at 6th Ave in the San Francisco's Richmond District. The event features four sound system teams competing for a trophy and $1000 cash prize based on audience reactions to their music sets. In addition to Northern California selectas Smoke One Sound (King of Kings/Berkeley, CA), One Wise (Humboldt, CA) and Ashanti Hi-Fi (Oakland, Trinidad), the clash will feature the first appearance of established Seattle, WA crew Zions Gate. The Club Dread Sound Clash will be hosted by sound clash veterans DJ JFX and Doogie. Doors 9:00 PM, Clash at 11:30.

    New Yorkers will again get to see great '80-90s dancehall legends perform at a legendary Jamaica, Queens venue when "World Clash" promoters Irish & Chin productions bring Shabba Ranks and a recently rehabilitated Tiger to the Amazura ballroom on March 27.

    Since his major label success in the mid 1990s, Shabba Ranks has recorded and performed infrequently but seems to be building momentum and "elder status" with a new dancehall generation. And of course, he still retains his deft skills at riding a riddim and that booming baritone voice.

    Tiger was the victim of an unfortunate motorcycle crash in 1994 that had many wondering if he would walk, much less perform again. But recent successful stage show performances in Jamaica may have lured the eccentric deejay back to the fold.  Also on the Amazura bill are distinctive yodeling singer Barrington Levy and high-energy King Jammy's dancehall veteran Admiral Bailey.

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  • 02/25/10--12:13: Fela Radio Interview
  • In anticipation of the Soundway Records release Nigeria Afrobeat Special: The New Explosive Sound in 1970s Nigeria (CD/Triple LP) out this March, the label has found a rare radio interview with Nigeria's most recognizable political music figure.

    Soundway's Duncan Ballantyne on the Fela interview:
    “Having recently picked up some old reel to reel tapes at a Help the Aged shop round the corner from my house I was pretty astonished to hear this recording of Fela being interviewed in London just prior to his major tour with Ginger Baker. Recognize the song in the background? It is a version of the lead track off Soundway's latest album. We’re particularly fond of the delivery from the presenter but not so keen on his lack of English decorum when it comes to his opinion on Fela’s vocals”.

    Nigeria Afrobeat Special is the fourth addition to the Nigeria Special series, a project initiated by Miles Cleret, owner of the Soundway Record label back in 2004. Cleret’s ambition to distinguish the blossoming music scenes of 1970s Nigeria has lent to an indispensable series of CD and LP compilations documenting the influence of western blues, rock and disco amongst artists and musicians versed in the local musical styles of highlife and juju.

    It was Fela Kuti and his musical and political ideals that formed the core of afrobeat’s message. Blending highlife, Yoruba music, funk and jazz, Fela dominated the musical tapestry of 1970s Nigeria and his influence in Nigeria and West Africa led to a craze where most of the bands of the day incorporated this new sound into their repertoires to satisfy the tastes of the audiences of the time. This compilation highlights some of those recordings that have, until now, not seen the light of day.

    Appropriately, Fela’s highly sought after version of ‘Who’re you’ lends this set its lead. Originally released on 7” in 1971, It would later be re-recorded at Abbey Road for his album Fela’s London Scene and here is re-issued for the first time ever.

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    ("Man A Soldier" -- Delly Ranx pictured left)

    Here's this week's KUSF Saturday Nite Rockers radio broadcast (minus the on-air breaks). A solid hour of music and new tunes.

    The audio covers the show's first hour (up to Gappy Ranks). Saturday Nite Rockers returns this week Saturday 11 p.m. P.S.T. for another three-hour broadcast with Brixton Hitman and Humble Lion. Go deh!

    Audio Download Link.

    Saturday Nite Rockers Playlist – Feb 20, 2010
    Host: DJ Tomas (Umoja Hi-Fi)
    Cocoa Tea – Buju (Roaring Lion)
    Michael Rose – Hypocrites Warning (Heartical) Tonight Riddim
    David "Steel Pulse" Hinds – Positivity (Heartical) Tonight Riddim 
    General Levy – Life Hard (Heartical) Tonight Riddim 
    (Heartical) Tonight Riddim version
    Alborosie – Global War (Greensleeves)
    Richie Spice – Trouble In The World (Master One) First Born Riddim
    Capleton – Recognized (Master One) First Born Riddim 
    Vybrant – Ears Hard
    Elephant Man – Distance (Kirkle Dove)
    Delly Ranks – Man A Soldier (Breadback Prod)  Washington DC Riddim
    Sizzla – Pre-Caution (Breadback Prod)  Washington DC Riddim
    (Breadback Prod)  Washington DC Riddim Version
    Don Carlos / Million Stylez – World Crisis (Inkalink)
    Natalie Storm – Permanent Hiding (Ward 21)
    Kristopher – Stop Your Lying (promo)
    Junior X – Gangster Life (Revolutionary Entertainment)
    Jah Cure – 2010 (Don Corleon) Feelings Riddim
    T.O.K. – Say A Prayer (Don Corleon) Feelings Riddim
    Professor – Be Careful (Don Corleon) Feelings Riddim
    Pressure – Coming Right Back (Don Corleon) Feelings Riddim
    Supercat – Boops (Techniques)
    Asassin – Nowadays Boopsie (Juke Boxx) Boops Riddim
    Lutan Fyah – You Looking Hot (Juke Boxx) Boops Riddim  
    Busy Signal – Government Gone Luuu (Juke Boxx) Boops Riddim  
    Gappy Ranks – Butterflies (Greensleeves)
    Makieda – Informa (Keep Left) The Official Riddim
    Syon – Lonely (Keep Left) The Official Riddim   
    Leftside featuring Lloyd Parks – Welcome To JA (Keep Left) The Official Riddim   
    Capleton – Haiti (promo)
    Stein & Jordon – Dat Dem Say (Chimney)
    Boom Steppa – Nah Stay Poor (promo)  
    Chris Brown / Sean Paul – Brown Skin Girl (promo)
    Turbulence – No Doubt (Dynasty) Inna Life Riddim
    Vybz Kartel – Realize (Dynasty) Inna Life Riddim
    Laden – High Grade (Dynasty) Inna Life Riddim
    Andrew & Wada Blood – Find A Way (UngaNice)
    Mr. Vegas – We Nah Beg Friend (Russian Prod) Bomb Rush Riddim
    Tarrus Riley – Talk Is Cheap  (Russian Prod) Bomb Rush Riddim
    Charlie Black, DingDong & Chi Ching – Cleanliness (promo)
    Chan Dizzy – Woman Mi Say (Russian Prod)
    Show continues with: Come Down Riddim juggling,  Cutty Ranks, Colonel Mite, Horace Martin, Admiral Tibet, Reggie Stepper, Wayne Palmer and more.

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  • 03/08/10--11:39: Fantastic Fantasma
  • Austin's Groupo Fantasma have another awesome eclectic beats album offering lined up for a May 11 release.

    Don't know this band? Get to know them. Tight live show, infectious songs and strong lyrics make them as potent as any indie act. Their grooves are reminiscent of LA's Ozomatli and Chicano funk-rock greats like WAR or Malo.

    Check out "El Consejo" from the new album.

    From the band's bio page:
    The progressive genius of Grupo Fantasma, now in the tenth year of its long and intriguing musical journey, comes to life on El Existential set for a May 11th, 2010 release on Nat Geo Music.  Known as the funkiest, finest, and hardest working Latin orchestra to come out of the United States in the last decade, the band has garnered critical acclaim worldwide for their adventurous albums, prudent songwriting and unprecedented live shows.  “Grupo Fantasma is as tight as one would expect from a band that routinely backs up Prince” exclaimed LA Weekly and the Washington Post affirmed that “the ten members represent a new generation of latin music.”  Their last effort, the Grammy nominated Sonidos Gold (2008), further trademarked the ensemble’s innovative sound and scored a cover feature in Pollstar Magazine, radio spots on NPR’s “Day to Day” and PRI’s “The World”, top ten status for several months on the CMJ radio charts and extensive press coverage throughout North America and Europe.  

    “We’ve been around through two so-called ‘cumbia revivals’ and a renewed DJ interest in the music of Fania Records” notes guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada.  “On El Existential we feel like we have moved past any retro or novelty tags to explore even more timeless musical and lyrical themes, and multiple members of the band stepped up to contribute to the writing process.  It’s clearly our strongest lyrical effort to date with concepts based around the album’s title in addition to tales of betrayal and deceit, surreal dreams, growing older and wiser, and of course women and relationships.” Without sounding too pretentious Quesada states: “There was a lot of pressure to deliver after the success, critical acclaim and Grammy nomination of our last album, but I feel as if we have overcome any expectations and made our best record yet.”

    El Existential Track Listing
    1. Realizando
    2. La Conozco
    3. Sacatelo Bailando
    4. El Consejo (Feel free to offer to your readers)
    5. Hijo
    6. Juan Tenorio (feat. Larry Harlow)
    7. Montañozo
    8. Calor
    9. Reconciliar
    10. 25
    11. Telaraña (feat. Curt Kirkwood from The Meat Puppets)
    12. Cumbianchera
    13. Araña Cuña

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  • 03/08/10--11:59: A Better "Rude Boy"
  •  We were wondering where the real Jamaican rude boy vocals were on Rhianna's "Rude Boy." Now Assassin a.k.a. Agent Sasco has jumped on the new Boardhouse Records reggae remix version. Nice!

    Here's more Sacso madness -- at Jamaica's Follow the Arrow stage show:

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  • 03/11/10--23:36: Delroy in 1992
  • The Rocksteady master singing gooooood!

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  • 03/15/10--11:27: Reissues and Comps
  • Jah Shaka - The Positive Message (Greensleeves) deep roots comp w/lots of rare cuts. Earl 16, Hugh Mundell, Norris Reid, Frd Locks, Mystic Eyes.

    Winston Riley – Quintessential Techniques 2CD (17 N Parade) from rocksteady through Stallag riddim. Johnny Osbourne, Pat Kelly, Sister Nancy, Red Dragon, Yami Bolo, Courtney Melody.

    Henry Juno Lawes: Volcano Eruption 2CD (17 N Parade) great Channel One rub-a-dub productions. Michael Prophet, Tony Tuff, Toyan, Early B, Yellowman, Cocoa Tea.

    Prince Jammy: From The Roots 2CD (17 N Parade) More deep roots cuts from the 1970s w/Jammys on the decks. Junior Delgado, Hugh Mundell, Barry Brown, U Black, Half Pint, Prince Alla, Black Uhuru.

    Prince Jammy – Strictly Dub (Pressure Sounds) Echo at its best. Mid-70s Jammy's dubswise. See more below

    Prince Jammy Presents Strictly Dub: Out April 12 on Pressure Sounds 

    Born 1947 in Kingston, Jamaica Lloyd ‘King Jammy’ James is rightly revered for his dance hall domination during the second half of the eighties as record producer and sound system controller. But prior to his coronation Prince Jammy, as King Tubby’s right hand man, was famed for his crucial dub mixes at Tubby’s studio and for his infrequent forays into record production. This essential Pressure Sounds release originated as an obscure dub album that briefly surfaced in New York in the early eighties on the ‘Jammys Records’ label. It has since come to be rightly regarded by students and scholars of the dub school not only as a minor masterpiece of Jammy’s mixing style but also as an early demonstration of his masterful production techniques.

    Produced, arranged, mixed and remixed by Prince Jammy, with the cream of Kingston’s session players, the set proved to be an early indication of the beginning of a new musical era created, paradoxically, by referring back to the classic rhythms of the sixties and seventies. The album is powered by the legendary drum and bass combination of Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare with the trumpet of Bobby Ellis and the alto saxophone of ‘Deadly’ Hedley Bennett coming to the fore on tracks such as ‘Old Country Dub’ and ‘271 Utica Dub’. Featuring updates of many classic rock steady and reggae rhythms including ‘Baba Boom’ and ‘Ali Baba’ from Treasure Isle, ‘Always Together’ from Studio One and the Baba Brooks ska classic ‘Shank I Sheck’ for King Edwards interspersed with a selection of original rhythms including one of Jammy’s early roots masterpieces: the apocalyptic ‘Jah Fire Will Be Burning’ from Hugh Mundell. The bonus CD only tracks, spare, lean recuts of two more Studio One classics: Jackie Mittoo’s ‘Hot Milk’ and Lester Sterling’s interpretation of Bert Kaempfert’s ‘Afrikaan Beat’, both date from a slightly later period.

    Although the track titles, such as ‘Brooklyn Dub’ and ‘Bronx Fashion Dub’, reflect the fact that that the album was first released in New York the original cover artwork (showcased again on this Pressure Sounds release) shows Prince Jammy at the controls of the mixing desk in King Tubby’s Dromilly Avenue studio in the heart of Kingston’s Waterhouse ghetto… the spiritual home of dub music.

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    Here's a new track for anyone interested in Mungo's Hi-Fi, Lee Scratch Perry, Twilight Circus or UK steppers dub. Combining those influences with the classic toasting vocals of Jamaica's General Smiley, McPullish has created a nice slice of modern roots with dubstep leanings.

    From the artist bio: 
    General Smiley "Natty Natty" (Charlie's Records)

    General Smiley earned his place in the history of dancehall as half of deejay duo Michigan and Smiley, with hit songs in the '70s and '80s including "Nice Up the Dance," "Rub-a-Dub Style," "Diseases," "One Love Jamdown," "Sugar Daddy" and many more. In 2008
    General Smiley linked up with McPullish at Dub Compound Studio in Austin, Texas. "Natty Natty" is the first song he recorded working with McPullish and now the first to be released on Charlie's Records 7" and download.

    General Smiley paints a picture of his faith in Rastafari in a poetic first verse and describes his personal journey as a rub-a-dub DJ in the next, taking the listener on a lyrical trip starting in Kingston, Jamaica, deejaying "ragga from the age of ten," on to New York, and finally reaching Austin, Texas only to find the "same problems" no matter the location. The B side finds McPullish tweaking saxophone, feedback loops and some heavy phase-shifting to create a thick and atmospheric dub version. General Smiley and McPullish are currently working on a showcase-style album together.

          GENERAL SMILEY Natty Natty  by  McPullish

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  • 03/19/10--14:30: VP Spring/Summer Line Up
  • VP Records spring/summer release line-up is packed with nuff interesting titles.

    Starting out with Junior Kelly's (pictured) Red Pond in April, the rest of the summer sees great new titles from DJs, singers and hit riddim makers.

    Here's the full story from a recent press release:

    Greensleeves Rhythm Album # 90: Set Mi Free drops April 6. Produced by; Stephen ‘Di Genius’ McGregor and features  Mavado’s hit song “House Cleaning” plus Vybz Kartel’s “Love Dem.” 

    VP Records presents the fourth album from veteran singer/songwriter Junior Kelly. His new album titled Red Pond will be available April 6th. It is an autobiographical tour through the various phases of his life.  The album is a  collaboration between Junior Kelly and the famed Firehouse Crew, with Kelly writing vocals and the group providing the bubbling riddim tracks.

    Listen to "Nothing Wrong with the World" from Red Pond.

     Riddim Driven Classic is the new riddim from producer Kemar ‘Flava’McGregor, it drops April 20. The vibe is a cool and breezy one drop flavor. Featuring tunes  by Beres Hammond, Maxi Priest, Wayne Wonder and Etana, Duane Stephenson. 

    Other forthcoming releases:
    Busy Signal D.O.B
    Capleton I-Ternal Fire
    Beres Hammond Just A Man
    Romain Virgo Romain Virgo
    Reggae Gold 2010
    Elephant Man Dance & Sweep
    Chino From Morning
    Duane Stephenson Black Gold
    Luciano United States of Africa
    New Albums from
    Gyptian and Etana 

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    Diatribalist on Dudus
    Washington Post The Root on Dudus
    Vivian Blake: Shower Posse Leader Dead of Heart Attack
    "It's not an easy road
    Many see the glamor and the glitter
    So dem think it's a bed of rose
    Who feels it knows
    Lord help me sustain these blows..."

    –Not An Easy Road, Buju Banton, 1995  

    By now most people within the reggae community and even some folks with only a minor interest in Jamaican music have heard about artist Mark "Buju Banton" Myrie's high profile December 2009 arrest in Tampa, Fl on conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilos of cocaine.

    The arrest perplexed many of his longtime fans as Buju had not previously been linked publicly to hard drugs or serious crime. On the contrary, his albums, including the Grammy-nominated Rasta Got Soul, contained many conscious and universal themes that stressed  forgiveness ("A Little Bit of Sorry") and helping others ("Lend A Hand."). 

    The timing of the arrest also elicited suspicion as Banton had just completed a contentious US national tour for the aforementioned album in which multiple shows were canceled or picketed by gay activists. Activists maintained that Buju had not firmly disavowed his 1992 single "Boom Bye Bye," which advocated murdering "batty bwoys" (Jamaican patois for gay men). However, since the singles' original release Buju lyrics -- at least on his recent internationally released albums -- had been evolving toward positive subjects. Still as of his 2009 tour, the singer had not made an unequivocal public statement supporting gay and lesbian human rights as demanded by advocates. Reggae performers have historically avoided such statements fearing damage to their public standing with core Jamaican audiences. And in response to continued disparaging lyrics by Jamaican artists, several European nations have now barred artists from performing.

    Space doesn't allow for retelling Buju's entire biography or redemptive efforts. Needless to say, Banton's drug case caused some to wonder if his arrest was possibly the work of a vindictive gay US official wishing to punish the singer for his views by setting him up with a federal crime. This is not a plausible argument, however, as the Feds don't like losing a drug case and the time and money involved in conducting such a sting suggests that officials had been targeting Buju or his associates long before his '09 tour. Also, the case is being charged as a conspiracy, which suggests that the Feds intend to take down a network rather than an individual.

    US Federal authorities claim they have Buju on camera tasting the cocaine he is alleged to have purchased for distribution. But subsequent evidence from Buju's defense has cast doubt on the credibility of the US govt.'s main witness and informant that set up the deal. Additionally, an Associated Press story states that "After two more meetings at local restaurants between the informant and Banton’s associates, authorities arrested the associates and then took Banton into custody Thursday in Miami." The wording is telling here. It suggests that Buju was merely a middle man or acquaintance of the intended buyers. 

    The charges against Banton alleges a conspiracy, meaning he could have played any major or minor role in the deal -- from lending money or a car to the buyers all the way up to making the deal himself.  In the convoluted world of Jamaican ghetto life it is possible to imagine a scenario in which Buju was asked or coerced to do a "favor" for an "area Don," or Jamaican neighborhood leader. In such a case, Buju's refusal would have been considered an insult, putting his family or relatives at risk.

    Another possible reason for Buju's arrest may have international implications. Since August 2009, US Federal authorities have been pressuring the Jamaican government to extradite suspected drugs trafficker Christopher "Dudus" Coke. Dudus, also known as "The President" is a strongman in the ruling Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) government's Tivoli Gardens constituency. JLP Prime Minister Bruce Golding has gone on record to state that he does not believe the US has provided sufficient evidence to support extradition. Some view Golding's efforts as nothing less than a corrupt effort to protect a politically important ally.

    Like many a Jamaican drug Don before him, Dudus has been immortalized in songs and shielded by friends in high places. Dudus is the adopted son of former Tivoli don Lloyd Coke, a.k.a. "Jim Brown," leader of the Shower Posse, a gang associated with cocaine and crack dealing in the US in the 1980s. Brown allegedly died while in custody in Jamaica and never served time in US prison but his associate Vivian Blake did. Blake was paroled and sent back to Jamaica in 2009. For more, watch the video below.

    Given the tense diplomatic row between the US and Jamaica it would not be a stretch to imagine the US turning up the heat by arresting or embarrassing one of Jamaica's major international reggae stars. However, its not clear if Buju was of any value to Golding's JLP or to Dudus. The US may have picked the wrong man to allegedly entrap. Recent news stories suggest some movement toward extradition on th part of the Golding government, amid considerable denials and shadowplay.

    So is Buju just a pawn to get Dudus? And is Dudus a chess piece in the wider US war against Mexican and Colombian cartels, some which use Jamaica as a transhipment point for coke headed to the US and Europe? It seems many threads are left hanging from the US government's garments, ones that won't soon be tied together. Meanwhile, Buju remains incarcerated.

    Banton has had a real mixed run of luck. He's nominated for Grammy the same year all of his major US shows are picketed. His tour ends on a high note in Miami at a major Caribbean festival, then he's arrested. Despite his best efforts and some great recordings, music has not been an easy road for Banton. Against the backdrop of an Obama administration that was supported by reggae artists such as Cocoa Tea ("Barack Obama") during the 2008 election campaign and who invited Ziggy Marley to perform at the White House, it seems Obama's drug  prosecutors still have much to learn about Jamaica and its artists.


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    The following is an extended version of a piece that originally ran in the SF Weekly on December 16, 2009. Please visit the band links for more information on their upcoming shows.

    It’s Saturday night at Koko Cocktails in the Tenderloin and 39 year-old Adam Tadesse is on the decks spinning a bouncy late-60s tune by Jamaican pioneer Prince Buster. It’s a reggae cover version of American soulman Eddie Floyd’s “Knock On Wood” and the small crowd in the cozy bar is nodding along. He follows up with singer Pat Kelly’s early-‘70s cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears” and dancers rush the decks to ask who did the song.

    Tadesse’s monthly “Fire Corner” night is one of a half-dozen regular San Francisco events exploring vintage Jamaican music. With several new bands stoking interest, the City is witnessing another ska, rocksteady and early reggae revival. But will it last?

    The latest revival has roots in previous decades both in the Bay and abroad. Jamaica’s jazz-influenced ska style first appeared around 1956. A decade later the rhythm slowed and was branded rocksteady. That soulful style lasted just two years and was usurped in 1969 by organ-heavy early reggae music, which was embraced by working class British skinhead youth.

    England experienced a ska revival from 1979 to ‘83 when punk collided with Jamaican sounds and birthed 2-Tone, while America’s so-called ‘Third Wave’ ska craze hit in the mid-80s and early-90s with acts like Berkeley’s Uptones, LA’s Untouchables and Hepcat. Myriad hybrid pop and punk ska bands such as Fishbone, Operation Ivy and No Doubt followed. Currently, groups like LA’s Aggrolites plus SF’s Titan Ups and The Impalers (pictured at top) are recharging the organ-y early reggae sound.

    Tadesse cut his teeth in LA ska-punk band Grandpa Knucklehead, began collecting rare Jamaican 45s and founded the Revival Sound System in 2004. He DJs at “Fire Corner,” monthly Make Out Room night “Festival 68,” and hosts KUSF’s early-reggae program “Wake The Town” Thursdays at 10 p.m.

    “Five years ago there was nothing but dancehall reggae [in San Francisco], explains Tedesse. “The rocksteady and early reggae community has grown a lot recently, although it has been a slow process.

    Like Tadesse, the main DJs are mostly in their mid-30s, fervent record collectors and spent time in mod, ska, skinhead or Vespa scooter crews. Music publicist and writer Mark “DJ Dukey” Gorney, who ran Dukey’s Disco at Nickie's BBQ from 1991-93, recalls looking on Yelp for rocksteady nights in SF a few years back. “That's how I met Adam; we teamed up with Shawn Atkinson for the ‘Upsetter’ [skinhead reggae nights] at Mad Dog pub in the late ‘90s.”

    Gorney and Tedesse also met club entrepreneur Kirk Harper and “Dr. Scott” Bulleit who was doing “Intensified” at the Casanova Lounge. Over the past two years vintage Jamaican club nights have flourished. Andrew Rush started monthly nights “Version Excursion” and “Festival 68” at the Make Out Room. Meanwhile, Gorney and friend Bryan Martin, who chronicles events on his San Francisco Vintage Reggae Society blog, spin at The Skylark’s weekly “Music Like Dirt” happy hour. Gorney adds, “As they say in Jamaica, ‘Old time something come back again.’”

    Another major event is Harper’s Concrete Jungle night, second Saturdays at The Knockout on Mission Street. “The Selecter DJ Kirk” Harper co-founded and managed Mr. Fives and 330 Ritch Street venues as well as the Secret Society Scooter Club. He and partner DJ Omar from Popscene waited for the right time to start Concrete Jungle. “It was a party we wanted to do five years ago, but the whole Third Wave ska era gave [the music] a bad name,” he laments. “Other than Hepcat, there were very few good bands.”

    But since their launch 18 months ago things have gone well, attracting up 200 people per event and their aim is to expand the audience. “2-Tone is the hook and the look that make [the party] cool and fun,” he says. “But in addition to classic rocksteady, reggae and 2-Tone, we mix in artists from that era who had a ska feel or influence, like Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello or Ian Dury.” Harper and Concrete Jungle co-present the Hepcat show a Slims on December 19, 2009.

    SF’s ska/rocksteady clubs might have great DJs and bands but the audiences are far from diverse. Although a few Jamaicans attend his gigs, Tadesse says for the most part the crowds are older and white. “It would be nice to see some more people of color come out,” he says. “I’ve noticed that once folks come check it out they absolutely love the sound and ask when we’ll be playing next.”

    Harper thinks younger bands could be the key to a vital scene. “If a band in their young-20s plays this sound their going to do great – they’ll be the Hepcat of this era.”

    As for local bands Gorney says, “The Titan-Ups, The Impalers and Coup de Ska are our current skabassadors.” The seven-piece Titan Ups formed a year ago and will open for Jamaican legends The Skatalites in January.

    Titan-Ups guitarist Mikel Davenport explains that their members come from diverse local bands like Overwhelming Colorfast, Oranger and Swirl Happy and play mostly classic Jamaican covers. “Bob [Reed] our front man has a nice big voice and sounds a like Toots [Hibbert],” says Davenport. “We play a few Maytals covers, Delroy Wilson, The Melodians and other greats from the era.”

    The Titan Ups along with other new bands plus all the DJs are optimistic about the rocksteady’s future in the Bay. Martin notes that the various DJs help promote each other’s nights. “We’re working to make sure that the revival sound will always be around,” he says, while Tadesse has been flooded with requests to play his nights

    “We have people from Jamaica, Japan, Europe and all over the US wanting to come spin at our nights. The Bay Area is now on the early reggae map and I couldn't be happier.”

    More info:

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  • 04/09/10--12:33: New Release Info
  • New albums for the second quarter. Approximate US release dates listed.

    Out Now:

    Motor City Drum Ens—Raw Cuts 1—Faces—GER—house, tech-jazz

    Byron Lee & Dragonaire—Man & His Music—17 N. Parade—JAM—ska, rocksteady, reggae

    Various—Nigeria Afrobeat Spec 1—Soundway—NIG—Afrobeat, afropop

    Various—Nigeria Afrobeat Spec 2—Soundway—NIG—Afrobeat, afropop

    Various—Kowesix: AudioCouture—Conte De—GER—downtempo, house

    Andrew Thomas—Between Buildings—Kompakt—GER—ambient, electronic

    Las Rubias Del Norte—Ziguala—Barbes—US—Latiin beats, global sounds

    The Spinters—Kick—DoubleNegative—US—garage punk

    The Bamboos—Four—Tru Thoughts—NZ—funk, soul, retro

    Deadbeat—Radio Rothko Mix—Agriculture—US—dub techno

    Lou Rhodes—One Good Thing—Motion Audio—UK—folk, symphnc acoustic pop

    Bonobo—Black Sands—Ninja Tune—UK—downtempo, electronic

    Brotha Lynch Hung—Lynch By Inch—Strange Music—US—hip-hop, rap

    Rasco—Global Threat—Pocketslinted—US—hip-hop, rap

    Quadron—Quadron—Plug Research—DEN—soul, electronic, downtemp

    Cobblestone Jazz—Modern Deep Left—!K7—CAN—techno, house, electronic

    Gaudi—No Prisoners—Six Degrees—UK—global beats, downtempo

    Various—Latin Dance Party—Putumayo—LAT—boogaloo, salsa, cumbia

    Conforce—Machine Conspiracy—Meanwhile—NETH—tech-house electronic

    Chucki Starr—Most Wanted—Greensleeves—UK—reggae, dancehall

    Vex'd—Cloud—Planet Mu—UK—grime, dubstep, electonic

    Alex B—Moments—Elm & Oak—US—electronic, glitch, beatz

    Madlib—Beatkonducta Africa—Stones Throw—US—hip-hop, jazzy beats

    Junior Kelly—Red Pond—VP—JAM—reggae, modern reggae

    Various—Jammy$: The Roots—17 N. Parade—JAM—reggae, roots classics

    OUT 4-01-10 – 4-15-10

    Various—Shapes 10:01—Tru Thoughts—UK—downtempo, jazzybeats

    Christian Prommer—Drumlesson Zwei—!K7—GER—electronic jazz, techno

    Clara Moto—Polyamour—Infine—GER—techno, vocal, electrnic

    Very Be Careful—Escape Room—Barbes—US—Colombia vallenato, funk

    F—Energy Distortion—7even—FRA—dubstep, minimal techno

    Eulorhymics—Green & Avers—All Natural—US—hip-hop

    OUT 4-15-10 – 4-30-10

    Nice Nice—Extra Wow—Warp—US—indie-electronic pop

    Anané—Anané's World—Nervous—US—R&B, Soul, world

    King Britt—Intricate Beauty—Nervous—US—soulful electrnic, house

    Ozomatli—Fire Away—Mercer Street—US—Latin funk, hiphop

    Nortec Collective—Clorofila—Nacional—MEX—Mexi-lectronic, techno

    Take—Only Mountain—Alpha Pup—US—glitch beats, hip-hop, elctr

    The Timewriter—Tiefenschon—Plastic City—GER—tech-house, eclectronic

    Poirier—Running High—Ninja Tune—CAN—techno soca, ragga, riddim

    Emily Jane White—Victorian America—Milan—US—folk, indie, orchestral sing

    Mulatu Astake—Timeless DVD—Mochilla—US/ETH—Ethiojazz

    Aurthur Verocai—Timeless DVD—Mochilla—US/BRA—Brazilian

    SuiteForMaDukes—Timeless DVD—Mochilla—US—orchestral hip-hop, jazz

    Dlabrie—Mr. Network—RonDaVou—US—hip-hop

    Romain Virgo—Romain Virgo—VP/Penthouse—JAM—reggae, modern reggae

    Kontext—Dissociate'—Immerse—RUS—dubstep, minimal techno

    Matzak—Brind Me The Moon—Boxer—FRA—tech-house, eclectronic

    Various—SteveBug: Best Kept —Dessous—GER—house, tech-jazz

    Starkey—Ear Drums and Holes—Planet Mu—UK—bass, electronic, glitch

    Ikonika—Contact Love Want —Hyperdub—UK—dubstep, electronic

    Marcel Dettmann—Dettman—Osgut—GER—minimal techno

    Various—Lagos Disco Inferno—Voodoo Funk—NIG—Afriobeat, disco, funk

    OUT 5-01-10 – 5-15-10

    Sharon Jones—I Learned the Hard Way—Daptone—US—soul, funk, retro

    Flying Lotus—Cosmogramma—Warp—US—electronic, glitch-hop

    Grupo Fantasma—El Existential—Nat Geo—US—Latin funk, soul

    DJ MFR—Rome DepartureRemix—Transport—US—deep house

    Dimlite—Prismic Top—NowAgain—SWI—Exp beats, glitch-hop

    Funki Porcini—On—Ninja Tune—UK—downtempo, jazzybeats

    Bluetech—Love Songs To Source—interchill—CAN—ambient, downtempo

    Eskamon—Fine Objects—Ancestor—US—glitch beats, electronic

    Dan Curtin—Lifeblood—Mobilee—US—techno, electronic

    Various—Next StopSoweto: Soul—Strut—AFR—African soul, funk classics

    Various—Tru Thoughts: Funk—Tru Thoughts—UK—funk, soul, retro

    Kartick and Gotam—Business Class Refuge—EarthSync—ISR—global beats, downtempo

    OUT 5-15-10 – 5-30-10

    Rhymefest—El Che—Be—US—hip-hop

    Ellen Alien—Dust—Bpitch—GER—indie-pop, electronic

    Janelle Monáe—The ArchAndroid—Atlantic—US—soul, pop, electronic

    Guillaume & Coutu—Breaking The Fourth —Circus Comp—FRA—techno, global, soul

    Dan Le Sac V Scroobi—Logic of Chance—Sunday Best—UK—political UK hip-hop

    Club 8—The People's Record—Labrador—SWE—indiepop, Afropop

    Glimpse—Runner—Crosstown—UK—tech-house, eclectronic

    J. Rogers—Access—Blipswitch—US—dubstep, minimal techno

    OUT 6-01-10 – 6-15-10

    Various—Footsteps in Africa:Rmx—KiahKeya  —AFR—N Africa, downtempo, elec

    Light Polution—Apparitions—Carpark—US—dreampop, indie

    Viernes—Sinister Devices—Kanine—US—Indie-rock, shoegaze

    OUT 6-15-10 – 6-30-10

    Diskjokke—En Fin Tid—Smalltown—NOR—disco-house, prog

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  • 04/15/10--20:03: Jarel Mixes Verocai
  • From my man Jonathan Kim, in support of B+ and Eric Coleman's Mochilla tour and DVD project Timeless:

    Mochilla and VTech recently shared the Te'Amir remix of Mulatu Astatke, and now we are proud to present Jneiro Jarel's remix for Arthur Verocai, all in support of the recent Timeless DVD release.  Jneiro Jarel's "Balada 45" (Like A Brazilian Girl Remix) takes samples from Arthur Verocai's live Timeless performance, creating an entire new feel for the song, creating a modern day ode to Brazilian girls.

    Official VTech Download Link:  
    Jneiro Jarel remix of Arthur Verocai's "Balada 45"

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  • 04/18/10--22:31: Charts Ting April
  • Reggae 
    Mini G Feat Mr Easy – Summertime (promo) 
    Jordaine – I Am (Smart Move)
    Assassin & I Wayne – Fire Song (Boardhouse) 
    Admiral Tibet – Reggae Music (GT Muzic) Belt Riddim 
    Pressure – Be What You Want To Be (Itation) Clearly Riddim
    Mary J Blige Feat Jah Cure – Each Tear-Black Chiney Rmx (Supa Dups/Black Chiney)
    Jah Cure – My Hands (Baby G) Dream Riddim 
    Chukki Starr – The Almighty One (Greensleeves)
    Maxi Priest Ft Gappy Ranks – Ruff Diamond (Wesly Play Records)
    The Hempolics – Serious (Regae Roast)

    Chan Dizzy – Go Hard And Dun (Russian)
    Chi Ching Ching & Colo Colo – Bengeleng (Cashflow)
    Stein & Jordon – Dat Dem A Say (Chimney Records)
    Bramma – Ghetto Man Dream (Di Genius) Bad People Riddim
    Serani Ft Ding Dong – Drive Out (promo)
    Bounty Killer – Tired (promo)
    G Whizz – Tomorrow (TJ Records)
    Elephant Man – Shot Will Bark (Massive B) 210 Computa Riddim 
    Bramma – Defend Mi Own (Di Genius)
    Mr Vegas & Brown Sugar – Addicted (Don Corleon) Gala Riddim

    Big Respects and shouts: The Unity Sound – Umoja Hi-Fi International (Daz, CoknI
    O'Dire, Jun, Culture D, Destroyer, Stevie G and B-Love), Chris Vargas, thanks to MC ZULU and G-Whizz for the drops, big respects to all the labels and reggae promotions ites, 21st Productions, Rude Gal, Soul of the Lion, Truckback, Reggae Russ, LaFamilie, Pressure Sounds UK,VP/Greensleeves, Nathaniel Watkins, Shanty Vibes, Boardhouse, Reggae Roast, Umerah, Redbud Records, DeeCee, Irish & Chin, Pierce Stacy, Robert Rankin, Spliff Skankin, Massive Sounds, XLR8R Magazine, Big Up Magazine, Lud Dub, Katya, and alla dem supporting DJ Tomas Umoja Hi-Fi, est 1993.

    Radio: Reggae Music Forward, Sundays 6 P.M. PST
    Gigs: Culture Corner, first Thursdays, Koko Cocktails 1060 Geary, 10 pm
    Twitter: @voltagemusic

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  • 04/19/10--12:30: Rankin Joe in SF
  • Friday April 30 at Paradise Lounge in San Francisco Ranking Joe with Cosmic Vibe Sound and I&I Vibration. 

    Born Joe Jackson in Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies. Ranking Joe cut his musical teeth toasting on a sound system known as "Smith The Weapon". Working his way up through the ranks he became resident DJ on the El Paso sound, performing as "Little Joe". 

    As with so many of his Jamaican counterparts he began recording with Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. His first session resulted in "Gun Court", which saw him toasting over the Heptones' "Love Me Girl", but this did not make an impression on the charts. He subsequently studied electronics before pursuing his recording career. 

    Encouraged by his father, he enjoyed a major breakthrough when he returned to the studio to record the highly infectious "750". The hit resulted in many recordings for a number of producers, notably "Don't Give Up", "Psalm 54", "Natty Don't Make War", "Tradition", and a tribute to the bionic man, "Steve Austin". He also returned to the sound system circuit as resident DJ for U-Roy's King Sturgav, alongside Jah Screw, before it was destroyed in the violent election campaign of 1980. 

    Later in the same year, the Jamaican sound system Ray Symbolic Hi Fi toured the UK, giving British audiences their first taste of a real "yard" sound. As he had become the resident DJ with the system, Ranking Joe featured on the tour and a new wave of enthusiasm for his recordings followed. By 1982 he had become an international figure with the release of Weakheart Fadeaway and Saturday Night Jamdown Style. Tracks included the popular "Natty The Collie Smoker", "Nine Month Belly" and "Step It Down A Shepherds Bush". 

    In 1982/3 he enjoyed renewed success with Disco Skate and the reissued Armageddon. Rankin Joe currently resides in New York, and has recently released hit singles "How You Bad So", "Mexican Bean", and "Step It Out" with UK based Producers Mungo's Hi-Fi, and continues to successfully record and tour with UK & Jamaican based producers and artists.

    Rankin Joe at Paradise Lounge in SF Friday April 30 1501 Folsom @ 11th St. $10 10PM-3AM 21+

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  • 04/26/10--16:43: Lovers Come Forward
  • Last year Shockman and ForwardEver gave a presentation titled Class and Romance Inna Di Dance at the EMP Pop Conference in Seattle on the history of British lovers rock and Jamaican romantic reggae. The talk charted the simultaneous development of these related styles and how they and influenced one another. We concluded by highlighting a few of the artists who are lighting up contemporary lovers reggae music – and there are many.

    Thankfully, US-based VP Records has faithfully stood by romantic reggae, even in its leaner years, releasing music by Sanchez, Wayne Wonder and Tarrus Riley. As a result of VP's commitment, and the work of some talented new producers in the US, UK and Jamaica, we're hearing some of the best productions to come forward in the new century. 

    VP’s recent Strictly The Best Volume 40 collection has great lovers material from Beres Hammond, Bitty McLean, Courtney John, Red Roze and Sherieta, to name a few. Likewise the compilation Covers for Reggae Lovers features 16 reggae versions of classic and new romantic songs. Covers was A&R’d by VP’s Clive Davidson, who generously agreed to talk about this release and the thought process that went in to it. So all lovers’ rock people – tune in!

    ForwardEver: Did you commission songs especially for Covers for Reggae Lovers?

    Clive Davidson: No, the songs were not commissioned for the album. Basically, these cover songs had to meet certain production standards and fall within the contractual agreements.

    What were some of your first lovers’ rock or romantic reggae favorites from back in the day? What specific tunes?

    CD: Well going back from the 1950s through ‘80s I can remember artists such as Jackie Edwards, Millie Small, The Wailers, Heptones, Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis, Slim Smith, Third World, Sanchez and a host of others that had covered a lot of R ‘n’ B and pop songs. The Paragons covered “Talking Love,” originally sung by Engelbert Humperdinck. Ken Boothe sang David Gates’ “Everything I Own” and Boris Gardiner’s covered the Stylistics’ “You make me Feel Brand New.”

    I remember I ran to the store to grab Sanchez's "Love We Had Stays On My Mind" (included on Covers for Reggae Lovers)when it first dropped on 7". That's the power of reggae covers. Any other songs give you that feeling on this comp?

    CD: Well, Donny Hathaway was and still is one of my favorite artists and so when I heard Ian Andrews’ reggae cover version of his song “Someday We’ll All Be Free," I concluded that this would be on the compilation.

    I came up in the golden era of 1980s-90s British lovers’ rock, and I dig the British contributions to this comp – folks like Lee Francis, Tajh and Bobby Kray. How did you link with some of those artists or producers?

     CD: First let me say that music is universal and I personally, listen to or try to listen to all genres of music. If it sounds good to me I accept it, and it doesn’t matter where it was made or who the artists or the producer is. The British artists have contributed quite a lot especially with the reggae covers.

    There are many great new names on this comp -- Oliver Smoothe, Ian Andrews, Lee Vinchee. Is there a "new" lovers’ rock or romantic reggae scene brewing these days? Is this a trend for the future?

    CD: I don’t think so. Both the covers and lovers’ rock [styles] have always been there. But they haven’t been exposed, presented or promoted to the public, as they should. Whenever [the music] is promoted properly then the reaction seems to generate the same reaction.

    How soon do you think it will be before a reggae cover breaks out on American pop radio?

    CD: If the radio programming on the pop commercial stations starts to add this format I would not be surprised if it made the Billboard Pop or R ‘n’ B charts. Covers For Reggae Lovers has charted on the Billboard Reggae Chart since its release on February 9, 2010.

    In the ‘80s I recall hearing reggae covers of rock and pop bands like Fleetwood Mac ["Everywhere" -- even one of "Over My Head"]. You've included One Third's cover of Foreigner’s soft pop smash "I Wanna Know What Love Is" on the comp. What do you think about reggae music's strong tradition of covering Top 40 and rock groups?

    CD: That is a very good question. In Jamaica, as a small nation, the populace has been exposed to all genres of music. If the music is good, whether it’s rock, R ‘n’ B, pop or jazz, a reggae cover version would be recorded with great success in sales.

    Tarrus Riley has really raised the bar for reggae covers with his version of John Legend’s "Stay With You." What are your thoughts on Tarrus as an artist? 

    CD: Tarrus Riley is a talented artist and has great potential to extend his name worldwide and beyond reggae, but this will not happen without a great production team plus commercial radio exposure both in North America and the UK. I only wish him success now and in the future.

     Any other comments on compiling Covers For Reggae Lovers or your upcoming works in reggae music? What does the future hold for you?

    CD: The compilation was good for what it was. I did the best I could and stayed within the budget because one has to make sure that the cost of the product will be recouped and at the same time deliver a very good album, which is very important to the buying public. Music is my life and I’ll keep doing these productions.

    Covers For Reggae Lovers is out now. Check for forthcoming lovers and romantic reggae albums from Gappy Ranks, Gramps Morgan and more.

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