SPANNER BANNER The Chillin’ is Over
by Karie Russell
There are many unique things about the Reggae industry. One is the unusual monikers some artistes go by. For example, the list of artistes who make up Reggae’s “musical tool box.” There is Screwdriver, Pinchers (Jamaican slang for a bird-beak pliers,) and Pliers. And, of course, no tool box would be complete without a spanner (wrench)–as in singer Spanner Banner.
Now, apart from being both linked with this tool box scenario, Spanner Banner and Pliers are otherwise connected on two counts. They are brothers and they are both signed to the same recording company, Island Jamaica.
Pliers’ career is already somewhat successfully cemented as he is part of the “wicked” hit duo, Chaka Demus & Pliers, who has had such hit songs as “Murder She Wrote” and “Tease Me,” which went gold, selling some 400,000 copies.
Spanner Banner (born Feb. 6, 1959, in Rock Hall, St. Andrew, and christened Joseph Bonner), on the other hand, has not been as successful as his brother; but he has, and is having, his fair share of success as a singer and songwriter. Continue reading
Yami Bolo – Burning up the Charts From Jamaica to Japan
by Howard Campbell
The conviction Yami Bolo shows as he belts out Bob Marley’s “Heathen” reflects the singer’s coming of age, a conviction that is further enhanced by his commitment to the perfect sound, even during rehearsal. Four takes and a “turn it up little more deh bassie” and Yami Bolo is ready to rock.
Bolo was at the Tuff Gong headquarters rehearsing for the Feb. 6 Bob Marley concert at the Bob Marley Museum for which he was one of the top acts. While the event was a tribute to one of his heroes, the fact that he was billed as one of the evenings stars meant that Yami Bolo is finally being given the recognition that had proved so elusive to him at home.
A jocular, laid-back six-footer with a ready smile, Bolo is the typical Roots man. At home in cut off jeans and Reebok sneakers, he has reason to be satisfied with the route his career has taken in the last 12 months, and as humble as he is, isn’t afraid to say so. “Things a come on good, y’know,” the 24-year-old remarked prior to tuning up. “Right now, we jus’ a concentrate on all that is good for ’95; we’d a like win all awards ’cause we put we heart inna this project.” Continue reading
Gregory Isaacs – Coming in Rough in ’95
by Howard Campbell
An impish grin curls across Gregory Isaacs’ lips, his head bowed when the questions about his well-publicized battles with cocaine come up; how it has affected his career and if he’s still dependent on drugs. “Bwoy, mi nah really deal wid dat right yah now, mi ithren,” he says in that low, familiar nasal tone, “cause wi get to much bad publicity; anything Jamaican people hear dem believe right away, dem nuh inquire.”
You can’t blame Isaacs for wanting to erase the memories of the darkest period in his life. Since his first run-in with the authorities eight years ago for cocaine possession, the self-proclaimed “Cool Ruler” has experienced a decline of sorts in his career.
At 44, he’s still capable of rocking the crowds with a seemingly endless number of Lovers Rock hits (as seen at the White River Reggae Bash two years ago), and is still able to charm the ladies with his legendary onstage rapport. Though he has had a clutch of minor hits in recent times, the chartbusters that fans have come to associate Gregory Isaacs with have dried up; and many point to his experience with drugs as being the reason for the current dry patch. Continue reading
Twenty Years Strong – Sly and Robbie
by Howard Campbell
Sly Dunbar smiles when asked what he thinks about the inevitable comparison of himself and partner, Robbie Shakespeare, to the legendary Clement “Coxsone” Dodd as Reggae’s greatest producers. “He’s [Coxsone] the greatest man,” says the dreadlocked drummer. “I’m his biggest fan and he doesn’t even know it.”
While Dunbar’s modesty concedes that accolade to the Rocksteady great, he and Shakespeare have no equal in the endurance department. Their eclectic style has encompassed Reggae’s metamorphosis from the post-colonial Rocksteady sound and the Rasta culture of the Marley era to the present Dancehall phenomenon.
There’s no disputing Coxsone’s contribution as a pioneer and visionary, but the magnitude of the “Rhythm Twins'” success, both as internationally respected musicians and producers, is incomparable. Continue reading
LADY G – DON’T CALL HER GAL
Interviewed by M. Peggy Quattro
Written by Sara Gurgen
The talented ladies in Reggae have historically taken a back seat to the popularity of their numerous male counterparts. A handful of singers, and even fewer DJs, have held their ground and withstood the test of time.
Not to be outdone by the current crop of new lady DJs, the lovely and talented Lady G has consistently proved that she is not yet ready to be considered among the “dead and gone.” The sweet appearance of Lady G does not belie her steely interior, and the Spanish Town-born DJ has taken her shot at macho males with her latest sizzling releases. Lady G, who has seen a great response to her hit song “Me or the Gun,” a demand that her man choose between which one “gives more fun,” is now coming in strong with her latest song “If I was a Gal.” “You’ve got guys who call women gals; that’s not the right way for a man to style [call] a woman,” said Lady G following her terrific performance inside Ft. Lauderdale’s Reggae Cafe. Referring to her new song, she goes on to explain: “It’s not the name they should call the women. In some countries–like Trinidad–they call their women gal. It’s not the name that they call the women, it’s the way they express it.” Lady G is telling the men that if they want to get a woman’s attention, these days, that’s not the way to do it. Continue reading
A Conversation with Original Skatalites’s Tommy McCook
by Lee O’Neill
It would not be an exaggeration to call the Skatalites the first superstars of Jamaican music. Not only the house band for Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd’s Studio One label and Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label (along with dozens of others), they were also Jamaica’s hottest live act at the peak of the Ska era. As individuals, they played on nearly every song of significance in the early ’60s, defined the Ska style, and became the core of the bands that would create Rock Steady. It would be no exaggeration to say that the roots of Reggae begin with the Skatalites.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Tommy McCook, leader and tenor sax player for the Skatalites and founder of Rock Steady’s Supersonics, shortly before the release of the Skatalites newest album, Hi-Bop Ska. The album features Prince Buster and Toots Hibbert on vocals, along with guest artists from the contemporary Jazz world–well-known names like Monty Alexander, Lester Bowie, David Murray and Steve Turre. It brings the music full circle to reconnect the sound of Jazz with the original Ska sound. That should come as no surprise to those familiar with McCook, because, as he told me, “Jazz is my first love.” Continue reading
SISTER CAROL – CALL MI SISTER CAROL
by Empress Modupe Olufunmi
Recently, I was honored to have a bonafide Sister come through our gates in Brooklyn to share some positive reasoning and good vibrations with the Flatbush massive. I speak of one of the hardest working women in the music industry, Sister Carol, otherwise known as the Black Cinderella or Mother Culture. Sister Carol took time away from her busy schedule as an activist, artist, educator, mother and wife to engage me in a crucial discussion about music and her contributions to Reggae.
Sister Carol’s presence in the house was a special treat for my eight youths. They came strolling in from outside, one after another, to greet her. With her usual natural composure, Mother Culture spent a little time getting acquainted with them. The older youths tried their best to contain their delight at having “Sister Carol in da house, word!” However, my two youngest daughters, Yeshimabet and Tanagna Worq, would not ease up on Sister Carol. Needless to say, it was difficult to begin the interview. Amidst all the traffic and noise of young people going in and out the gates, Sister Carol and I embarked on an uplifting journey. Continue reading