The latest news, hottest riddims and absent friends...

Roving reporter Reshma B is back once more with the latest hot sounds from the world of reggae and dancehall...

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Last month reggae lost another great musician. Legendary trombonist Rico Rodriguez died in London at age 80 on September 4th. Growing up between Jamaica and Cuba, he attended Kingston’s Alpha Boys School where he played trombone in the renowned school band. A contemporary of the late great trombone legend Don Drummond, Rico went on to record on seminal Jamaican records like the Folkes Brothers’ ‘Oh Carolina’ and released the classic album ‘Man From Wareika’ on Island Records.

After emigrating to the UK he linked with 2 Tone Records to record with The Specials, whose debut album was produced by Elvis Costello and influenced future groups like No Doubt - both of whom acknowledged the musician’s death on Twitter. Rico’s woozy solos on tracks like ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘A Message To You, Rudy’, which hit the UK Top 10, earned him an MBE in 2007 for his contributions to British culture.

On September 30th, Neville “Bunny Wailer” Livingston - the last surviving member of the original Wailing Wailers - paid a visit to the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston and got into an altercation with a security guard who removed the reggae legend from the premises. ”There were tourists there also who took pictures with me because it was the first time they were going to see me in that setting," Wailer told the Jamaica Observer. "All of this happened before this guy came up with his attitude.”

As museum staff declined to comment, there is no way of knowing whether the incident had anything to do with the recent publica-tion of an “open letter” allegedly sent by Bunny Wailer to Ghanaian government last year. The rambling epistle accuses Bob Marley’s widow Rita Marley and Island Records foun-der Chris Blackwell of conspiring to kill Bob and Peter Tosh as well as Bob Marley’s mother Cedella Booker—along with numerous other misdeeds.

The last surviving member of the original Wailing Wailers, Bunny has long maintained that he is owed millions in unpaid royalties. “I have also filed a writ... on behalf of The Wailers respectively,” he states in the letter, which claims he is owed US$30 million. On a lighter note, the Bob Marley estate announced the release of ‘Bob Marley & The Wailers: The Complete Island Recordings’. The limited edition 11-LP collection comprises all of Marley’s Island Records catalog, pressed on high-quality 180-gram vinyl and packaged in a velvet-lined metal box, shaped like a hinged Zippo lighter.

She may be a little bit closer to God these days, but don’t tess Vanessa Bling aka Gaza Slim. The former first lady of the Portmore Empire turned to gospel shortly after her mentor Vybz Kartel went to prison, but now she’s back in the bashment groove. Dancehall legend Dave Kelly produced her latest track “Stay In Yuh Lane,” which sounds like a message to her enemies. “Some a throw shade caw them cyan compete / Right now a my ting ah bun down street.” Although no names are mentioned on the record, Vanessa was rumored to be in the midst of a love triangle with NYC dancehall artist Kranium and rising dancehall star Tiana. “Them gyal yah nah more than me / Boy cyan leave because Vanessa too sweet,” Gaza Slim chats on the track. Who the cap fit, let them wear it.

The hardest new juggling in the dance is ZJ Chrome’s ‘Let’s Rock It’ Riddim, which features high-energy computer drum roll and an all-killer-no-filler lineup. Mavado’s ‘Shadow’ and Kartel’s ‘Stop Follow Me Up‘ set the pace with Sasco, Kranium and Tifa bubbling hot in rotation, but the sleeper cut is ‘Another Man’ by Chilando, the ultimate jealous man’s nightmare. You could be “rich like Bill Gates” or watch her like TV, this girl is still gonna do whatever - or whoever - she pleases.

After reaching the top of the U.S. pop charts, Omi is set to release his debut album ‘Me 4 U’ on Ultra Records this month. The album features a ska-tinged collab with Busy Signal ‘Color of My Lips’ as well as ‘Hula Hoop’, the follow-up single to his smash hit “Cheerleader.”

Also this month hitmaker Kranium, who signed a deal with Atlantic on the strength of his international smash ‘Nobody Haffi Know’ (Nobody Has To Know) drops his 12-track project - neither an album nor a mixtape - with production duties divided between LMR and Ricky Blaze, two of New York’s most successful dancehall producers. The artist describes the set as “soap opera” so fans can expect more tunes about what goes on off-the-radar and between-the-sheets.

Bermuda-born reggae star Collie Buddz is back with a new EP ‘Blue Dreams’ and if you know anything about Collie at all, then you know herb Is a priority in his life. So if you hadn’t figured it out already, yes “blue dreams” refers to a certain strain of marijuana. The herbal theme carries through on cuts like ‘Prescription’ and a skit (apparently based on a real-life scenario) which shows him and a friend having difficulty locating their lighter and Rizal in hopes of burning one more spliff. But not all the tracks are devoted to the holy herbs. Of the track ‘Sweet Wine’, the artist says “I wanted to do a spin on Beres Hammond’s ‘What one dance can do’”.

While it might be a tall order for anyone to match up to reggae’s #1 soul man, Buddz version is a variation on the idea of stepping to a next guy’s girl. Since bursting on the scene with the 2006 hit ‘Come Around’, Buddz has only sharpened his skills, and ‘Blue Dreams’ is a timely reminder of how nice he is on the mic. His performance at this years On Da Reggae Tip last month served notice to any haters that the time to fall back is now. And yes Collie would say, he’s “blind to you” anyway.

Watch Collie Buddz talk about his new EP and his Ganja inspiration...

The annual Giants Of Lovers Rock concert returns to the Indig02 October 23rd, headlined by the Queens of Lovers Rock Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson along with 26 other acts representing London’s original reggae sound. With the tube running all night this year you can keep the evening going at the afterparty till 2am! for more info visit HERE.

In case you missed the boat last year, Damian Marley's reggae cruise will be setting sail next month, and there is still time to book a cabin. Last year’s first-ever cruise was such a success that Gong and his team had to double up this year and charter a second boat to leave as soon as the first one gets back to dock.

Departing from Miami, the first five-day cruise heads to Jamaica on 30th November with pit stops in Mobay and Ocho Rios. Both cruises are packed with superstars including Jr. Gong, his brothers Stephen ‘Ragga’ Marley, Julian Marley, and Ky-Mani Marley as well as Barrington Levy, Bounty Killer, Popcaan, Tanya Stephens, and Cham. The latest addition to this year’s lineup up is the original Don Dada himself Super Cat. And after hours all-star sound systems like King Jammy’s, Stone Love, and Saxon Studio from the UK take over for unlimited juggling. For more info visit HERE.

To Wrap Up...
If there only there was such a thing as ‘Endless Summer’. Trinidadian recording artist Kes, who normally spends much of his year jetting from carnival to carnival, knows the feeling all too well—which may be what inspired him to write a song by that name. For years Trinidadian soca has been dismissed as “seasonal” music, hot during the run-up to carni-val then back on the shelf until next year. Not only are times changing for soca, but Kes has never been one to limit himself to one genre of music. You may remember his lovers rock duet 'Loving You’ with Jamaican soul sister Tessanne Chin, who won big on The Voice and stepped out of the reggae box. By the same token, Kes has always made it a point not to be pigeon-holed as a soca artist. His hit 'Tuesday On The Rocks' was built on a rock steady reggae riff while other tunes have been straight up island pop.

Apparently his eclectic efforts caught the attention of one of the biggest pop songwriters in the world, native Jamaican Claude Kelly, a Grammy-winning songwriter responsible for some of the biggest hits in the industry—ranging from legends like Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson to all-time pop faves Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and cur-rent superstars Jason Derulo and Miley Cyrus. Safe to say Claude knows a star when he sees one.

During the past year Kes signed to Kelly’s new imprint, Weirdo Workshop. The first fruits of that collaboration, a single called ‘Balloons’, is already gaining momentum since its re-lease this August. No wonder Kes The Band had a packed turnout at at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom this month. Those who have seen Kes work a stage will not be surprised to learn that he was once a member of a rock band. His performances never go amiss - there’s always a sea of screaming girls and he seems to somehow make eye contact with almost every female in the room.

Kes’s infectious blend of island pop and modern soca with a rock n roll twist is a mix of fun and passion, a little like listening to Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’. As the night continued the place brimmed with happy faces—the guys singing along to ‘Wotless’ and when Kes turned to his new song ‘Balloons’, the girls melted with every word floating away like the colourful balloons released in the club.

After the show, when asked a simple question: “Why Kes?” He took a deep breath and replied: “There’s many many talented people in the world,” Claude replied, “who can sing who can talk who can dance who look good—all that stuff. But there’s very few people who have all that stuff but also have the rare quality of being unafraid to tell the truth. Kes is a natural born leader.” After comparing Kes to Michael Jackson, Sting, and Sade, Claude wrapped it up by saying “Why me?” That’s a lot to live up to, but judging by his performance it seems Kes is ready… no pressure!

See Kes chat about his new music and call for unity between Machel Montana and Bunji Garlin.

See ya next month!

Words: Reshma B

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