Inspired by the Notting Hill Carnival? Well, remember: reggae and dancehall are for life, not just for bank holidays...
Here's Reshma B with her latest monthly round up.
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Jewish American reggae/fusion artist Matisyahu has been dropped from this year’s Rototom Festival in Spain because he refused to make a statement endorsing a Palestinian state. Although Matisyahu was born in the U.S., pressure from the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement convinced the festival’s director Filippo Giunta to drop him from the lineup.
“My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music", Matisyahu stated on his Facebook page. “The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views; which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda. Honestly it was appalling and offensive, that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements”. Organizers said that five of the 250 artists scheduled to perform threatened to boycott the festival if Matisyahu performed because he supposedly supports 'Zionism'.
Less than a year after the formerly homeless reggae artist Gully Bop rocketed from obscurity to the top of the dancehall game, he has performed throughout Europe and the U.S. and the offers keep pouring in. The artist has now become so sort after that a Kingston resident, Kimauly Bull, will soon stand trial on charges that he scammed a Canadian concert promoter out of over $3500 Canadian dollars by posing as the artist’s manager. According to published reports the promoter sent two money transfers via Western Union, on March 17th and 18th, as partial payment for a Gully Bop show in Canada. The so-called manager was arrested and charged with obtaining money by means of false pretence. His application for bail was denied and the case goes to trial on August 24th.
Busy Signal connects with ZJ Chrome to create ‘Bubble Up’ a standout track from the producer’s new ‘Music Without Rules’ album. With a start-and-stop flow reminiscent of dancehall legend Skullman, Busy shows heartfelt appreciation for the girls who know how to brace, balance, dash out and wine up - but not necessarily in that order.
New in rotation this month is TJ Records’ ‘Tears Of Joy’ riddim, a sweet mid-tempo bubbler stacked with hard-hitting reality tunes that features voicings by Demarco, I-Octane, Vybz Kartel and Shawn Storm. This sounds like one of those riddims that will stay in the mix for a long time to come.
No matter how hardcore the dance is, there is a good chance you will hear a soulful Jah Cure selection. His latest hit ‘Life We Live’ is no exception. Since its July 10th release his new album ‘The Cure’ has topped the Billboard reggae albums chart for three consecutive weeks and counting. If anyone knows the hardships of pushing everyday Cure does :"My struggles made me who I am today. That's why I sing with feelings, it comes from my heart cause I feel the pain. Who feels it knows it."
With a vocal tone that’s one-of-a-kind in the industry, the “world singer” - as he refers to himself - is a timeless artist who doesn’t have to drum up publicity to stay relevant. With a catalogue consisting mainly of love songs, Cure seems to be following in the footsteps of his mentor Beres Hammond. Check out Jah Cure performing to his international fans on the Welcome To Jamrock cruise.
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If you find yourself on the other side of the Atlantic, New York’s Labour Day weekend kicks off with On Da Reggae Tip on Governors’ Island on September 4th. The Hot 97 crew have enlisted young guns Assassin, Konshens, Kranium and Gyptian along with the legendary Barrington Levy and soca boss Machel Montano for this year’s show. For more info and Tix visit HERE.
To Wrap Up
In a male-dominated industry like dancehall, the moments when girls are considered the centre of attraction are few and far between. But since the Macka and Spice beef at Sting 2012 then the Macka and Saw clash at Sting 2013 it’s become apparent that the ladies in dancehall are generating as much interest as their male counterparts.
This year it was the ‘Biggest Reggae Show On Earth’ Reggae Sumfest that showcased the ladies, billing none other than Lady Saw to close Dancehall Night. This marked the first time a woman has closed in the festival’s history - which is now in its 23rd year. Taking the stage at around 6am, Saw gave her usual show-stopping performance, laying down a blistering medley of hits as well as loads of ferocious freestyles for the audience who had waited in the hot rising sun to see her. Although Macka Diamond declined an invitation to join Saw onstage in a show of unity, Saw did welcome Lisa Hype for a brief guest spot. Ultimately, the stage belonged to the Queen of the Dancehall alone.
Other highlights from the females this year included Gaza Slim, who bucked the usual dancehall wardrobe trend, opting to perform her set in a red tuxedo suit with long trousers. The former Portmore Empire member, also known as Vanessa Bling, posted her outfit on Instagram with the caption “nothing is sexier than a bad woman dressing classy and in full command”.
Her set was followed immediately by Ishawna who made her debut performance at this year’s Sumfest—stepping out in a white bridal gown and veil, which she promptly ripped off to reveal a transparent body sock laced with Swarovski crystals in just the right places. The singjay has had a roller coaster ride over the last few months as the media has documented every step of her long and messy break-up with DJ/producer Foota Hype. If there was any doubt where Ishawna stood in her separation it was cleared up with the first song of her set, which opened with the verse ‘’when we lef a man we nah tek him back”.
The artist who started out as “Princess of the Dancehall,” considered more of a hot ‘it’ girl than a serious lyricist, is now standing on her own in the music biz with hits like ‘Vroom Vroom’ and ‘Ooh La La’ and collabs with American stars in the pipeline. Looks like it’s all the way up for Ms. Legendary. However any guys trying to hitch up as the next Mr Legendary be clear that those Dollars need to be flowing. As she puts it, “no more bruk boy to me ooh la la”. If only she would keep it real!
Check out out Ishawna on stage, offstage and backstage at Sumfest 2015...
Words: Reshma B