In Tribute to a Legend – Lucky Philip Dube – Aug. 3 1964 – Oct. 18 2007
This article first appeared in Reggae Report, V11#6 1993
Lucky Dube… A Natural Man
By M. Peggy Quattro
Few individuals are naturally blessed with the predestined qualities of talent, wit, and a confident disposition. One such fortunate recipient is 29-year-old Lucky Dube, the remarkable South African singer/songwriter, who is presently dispensing his own musical blessings around the globe.
You are among the unlucky if you missed Lucky Dube and his mega band, Slaves, on their recent two month tour of the USA. The incredible show, which highlights Lucky’s dynamic vocals, capable of soaring three octaves, Zulu dancing from Dube, the sonorous back-up singers and stinging brass section, and infectious authentic African-Reggae rhythms, was presented in 35 cities, with venues ranging from small nightclubs to major summer festivals. Included was a free show held on a beautiful July day at Brooklyn’s Metro Tech Commons, sponsored by the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The moving response to the group’s performance was indicative of the overall reaction received wherever this talented troupe of performers set down. At the end of August, the tour moves on to Europe where they will be opening act in a series of shows for international pop star Peter Gabriel. A two-week break in their hometown of Johannesburg is followed by a concert in Capetown, then off to finish the year in Australia, New Caledonia, Japan, and France.
Considered a superstar in South Africa, Dube, who neither smokes nor drinks, modestly credits his fans for this stardom. Continue reading →
As a tribute to the genius life of South-African legend Lucky Dube, Rykodisc has released the two-disc Retrospective. This ‘digipack’ contains a 13-song disc featuring songs never before released outside of South Africa, a bonus DVD featuring the 90-minute Lucky Dube Live in Concert, as well as five music videos never released in the U.S. The album is curated by noted world music figure Tom Schnabel, a KCRW radio host based in Los Angeles, CA.
Lucky Dube was callously shot and killed during an alleged carjacking on October 18, 2007, in a Johannesburg suburb. The inspiring career of the 43-year-old national hero ended in its prime, followed by a profound sadness in the African nation that was felt around the world. Continue reading →
Alton Ellis: Godfather of Rocksteady -The Loss of a Legend
(9/01/40 – 10/10/08)
By M. Peggy Quattro
Oct. 12, 2008 – London, UK – The music world bid a fond farewell to Alton Nehemiah Ellis, legendary singer and songwriter, who peacefully passed away October 11, 2008, inside London’s Hammersmith Hospital, after a year-long battle with lymphatic cancer. Born in Kingston and raised in the Trenchtown area, Alton attended Ebenezer School and Boys’ Town School, where he excelled in music, piano, cricket, table tennis, and boxing. It is known that Alton was a skilled and talented dancer, often winning local dance contests. However, when he began performing at school concerts, his interest and passion turned to singing.
The smooth and silky voiced Ellis began his singing career in the 1950s, forming Alton & Eddie with partner Eddie Perkins. Soon after Perkins left for a solo career, Ellis moved to the Studio One label in the early 60s. Unhappy there, Alton then took his talent to Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle, where he formed a backup vocal trio called The Flames. His first solo hit was “Dance Crasher,” followed by the first Rocksteady single, ‘Get Ready – Rock Steady.” The story is that when a bassist did not show up for a recording session, master keyboardist Jackie Mittoo played the bass part himself. Unable to keep up with the quick ska beat, Mittoo slowed down the tempo, resulting in a new rhythm that allowed Alton to stretch his voice more – and the Rocksteady era was born.
Alton continued to wow Jamaican fans with the new sound, releasing such Rocksteady standards as “Cry Tough,” “Willow Tree,” and his smash hit, “Girl I’ve Got a Date.” During the late 1960s, Alton recorded “Remember That Sunday” with the great Phyllis Dillon, as well as several singles and albums with his talented sister, Hortense Ellis, including the well-known Alton & Hortense Ellis. (Continue reading to see the interviews and articles in past Reggae Report Magazines!)
A Tribute – Gone But Never Forgotten
Words and Photos by Lee Abel
“Bob Marley said,
‘How long shall they kill our prophets
while we stand aside and look’
But little did he know
that eventually the enemy will stand aside and look
while we slash and kill our own brothers
knowing that already they are the victims of the situation”
Delivered by his grandmother on a farm near the small mining town of Ermelo on August 3, 1964, he was not given a name. He was not expected to live. But like every other challenge, save one, that was to follow in his 43 years, he refused to be a victim. The Apartheid system in South Africa provided little opportunity for proper health care, quality education, or employment. Its rigid laws cruelly dictated the movements of black families and individuals. Furthermore, his father had a liquor habit and abandoned the family before he was born. His mother Sarah left shortly after to seek domestic work in Johannesburg, hoping to send money back, rarely able to. He stayed behind in a mud hut, cared for by his beloved grandmother who nourished him, body and soul.
Junior Reid and Michael Rose: Veteran Vocalists Blend Genres and Eras
By Angus Taylor
August 29, 2008 – London, England – A sparsely attended Forum in Kentish Town witnessed two veterans who have fought to stay current in an ever-changing reggae market. Former Black Uhuru singers Michael Rose and Junior Reid faced a tough assignment in a one-third capacity crowd wearied by an afternoon at the sound systems of Notting Hill, but their steely professionalism and refusal to let nostalgia rule made this a select gathering to remember.
Despite being announced with little fanfare, Dawn Penn and the Righttrak Band dutifully warmed up the place; building to her smash hit “No No No.” Roots artist Iqula followed with a fiery set featuring an electric cello while clenching a red gold and green flag in his fist, exiting to the first hearty cheers.
Michael Rose and the Dubline Band took no chances making their entrance, starting with stripped down renditions of “Party Next Door,” “Sponji Reggae” and “I Love King Selassie,” furnished by tinkling piano and hard, reverberated snares. Continue reading →
Jimmy Cliff – Delivering Oneness on the Global Stage
Interview by Angus Taylor (reprinted from reggaenews.co.uk)
Perhaps the greatest living Reggae star, Jimmy Cliff was instrumental in introducing Reggae to an international audience. Not only famous for his memorable music and energetic performances, the Jamaican-born legend is also renowned for his producing and acting skills (starring in the international hit movie The Harder They Come, and work on his own record label. Angus Taylor speaks to him about his incredible career and his upcoming one-off live appearance in Bournemouth (UK).
AT: You started in music as a teenager – did you always plan to be a singer?
JC: I always wanted to work in the entertainment business. I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a singer or an actor. As a matter of fact I started out in school as an actor. But I always wanted to be close to the entertainment world.
AT: So if you weren’t a singer would you have taken that path?
JC: Yes. I think I am established in many parts of the world as an actor along with my music. But to tell you truth acting is my first love.
AT: What do you think of the Harder They Come musical?
JC: I have seen it. I was present at its first opening. I quite liked it. I was very surprised. The man playing my part did a great job.
AT: Where you a guest of honour?
JC: Yes, of course I was.
AT: Why do you think audiences still respond to well to the story after all these years?
JC: I think that movie captured the spirit of a point in time in our history and in life. That point in time and the character I played are still valid today and probably will be valid throughout all times. There are certain films that capture the essence of the time and that is one of those movies,
AT: There was talk of a sequel.
JC: (Laughs) It is still in the pipeline – yes – we are having hitches along the way – but I’m still confident that it will be done.
AT: You come to the UK to play in Bournemouth on Wednesday 16th April – what can your fans expect?
JC: Well a lot of the fans will be expecting the songs, the music they know, of Jimmy Cliff so of course I will have to do a lot of those songs. But at the same time – what does Jimmy Cliff have to offer that is new? So I will have an opportunity to do some of that.
AT: So will you unveil some brand new songs?
JC: Yes, I intend to because my last album which came out – maybe two years ago?
AT: Black Magic
JC: Yes Black Magic. (2004) I don’t think a lot of people have seen me perform any songs from it. Those songs are still valid for me to perform, and there is some new material that I am currently writing. (Laughs) Maybe I’ll just do those songs acapella!
AT: You’re well known for your faster paced early Reggae hits but your roots tunes are very underrated – such as “Lets Turn The Table” and “Under Pressure”…
JC: That is true.
JC: I think it is down to timing with certain songs timing and exposure. I think “Lets Turn The Table,” “Under Pressure,” a lot of songs like that didn’t get the exposure they needed. Part of it was my transition between record companies, for example.
AT: So it was mainly logistics. Do you think not being a Rasta affected your career during the Roots era?
JC: I didn’t wear dreadlocks but the concept of the Rasta… I don’t see how I could be a Jamaican and not embrace a sense of what is the concept of Rasta. Most people would say “oh he doesn’t have dreadlocks so he is not Rasta.” But my universal outlook on life means I couldn’t align myself with any one particular movement or religion so as to limit myself to anywhere or anything like that.
AT: You’ve seen Reggae from the very start – do you like where it’s going?Y
JC: Well it has two branches. It still has the roots branch… you know with a lot of the deejays and some singers,too, like Tarrus Riley and people like that, or Sizzla as a singjay as we say. So it still has the branch that sings about roots and culture and uplifting positive messages. And then there’s the other branch we call dancehall and that is really about… sex. I don’t condemn that part neither… I think there is a place for everything. I’m happy to see the two sides striving. But I would prefer and hope to see the roots and culture area getting more prominent but maybe we’re just going through that transition of time.
AT: Are you a fan of Tarrus?
JC: Yes. From a long time, even before he got popular.
AT: Who/what do you listen to these days?
JC: Well, I am the type of artist that likes to stay current. So I listen to every form of music that is going on that is current. So let’s say I’m in Peru or Mexico or Brazil. I will walk into a store and pick up things. I don’t really download because it is not easy to get stuff that is not popular. I often want to get things that are rare and not so popular. I especially like to pick up music that has the folklore, the roots, of that area of that country.
AT: That country’s own version of Reggae?
JC: That’s right.
AT: Not many acts play in England or the UK these days – or say it’s hard to play – do you find this?
JC: Personally I don’t. I don’t play a lot in England. In the old days I would do a British tour where I go up north, come down, do all over the country. I’ve not done that for a long time. Maybe today it is not economically viable with the big band that I travel with from Jamaica, to come to the UK to do a few shows – I don’t find it difficult. I have a few shows in the summer, including Glastonbury and other stuff.
AT: Your touring with a nine piece band – will there be a full horn section?
JC: Not a big horn section, we have just two horns – we have trumpet and tenor sax who will also double on alto.
AT: In terms of what UK fans are used to that is a big horn section!
JC: Yes. It’s a band that I’ve played with for quite a few years so I’ve bonded with them well and its good.
AT: Do you see yourself as more than just a Reggae singer?
JC: Well, first of all I see my self as an artist, a creative artist. And remember, when I came on the scene there was nothing called Reggae. So I had to help create that. I put in my energy, which is my own… a very upbeat part of the thing! And create what is now known as Reggae. But I’m a creative artist and I’ve put that into many different genres of music, but because my roots is Reggae, I will always be categorized as Reggae. But if you listen to a song like “Many Rivers To Cross,” can you classify that as Reggae?
AT: Do you have a message for your UK fans?
JC: Well I think we are a point in time of humanity where we have to become aware of ourselves and what is going on on our planet. I mean it has become a cliché word of sorts – global warming. But about seven or eight years ago I made an album called Save Our Planet Earth, just to show I was aware in those times. So I think there is something we can do about that and show our awareness. Then you have places like Darfur and Tibet that mean we have to become more aware of ourselves spiritually, some would say politically, globally. We are living in a global environment right now.
Jamaica’s Rootz Underground and France’s Babylon Circus
Deliver High-Energy Roots Ska Reggae
By M. Peggy Quattro
Photos Lynn Dearing
April 27, 2008 – Miami, FL – The award-winning 20-year-old Rhythm Foundation once again presented the best in music from genres not normally visited in South Florida. Known for showcasing music from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe, the Rhythm Foundation and Heineken delivered a knockout show at the oceanfront North Beach Band Shell on Sat., April 26, 2008. The vintage deco amphitheater was over-flowing with the type of jubilant and gyrating fan every promoter and band hopes to entertain.
Following an energetic welcome from Kulcha Shok’s Lance O, the stage was transformed into a gypsy circus when Babylon Circus, the virtually unknown-in-the-US, 10-piece Ska/Rock/Dancehall/Reggae/Jazz/Swing ensemble, took musical control. When the wicked Dancehall strains of “Get Outta Control” were unleashed, that’s exactly what the crowd decided to do. With blazing horns and rock hard bass and drums, the front of the stage filled with lively dancing newly-found fans. Continue reading →