50 Most Significant Jamaican Musical Artists Past To Present by Roger A. Grant
Jamaican music is at its nadir. If not for the weight of history and the proven fact that reggae has its place as a mainstream genre, it could be said that reggae’s continued potency is tenuous. Standards have seen a steep decline in recent years after gradual erosion, beginning in the 80s. The dominance of the dancehall and dancehall performers has led to the decimation of bands. Musicians have found it less and less feasible to make a living at their craft, while the beat programmers have taken over. Today's practitioners have steadily undone music's great surge from the 70s. This began almost immediately following the death of the genre's greatest superstar, Bob Marley, in 1981. The most popular artist to emerge post-Marley was a foul-mouthed toaster called Yellowman.
This was the herald of the ‘Dark Age of Reggae’ when the very ingredients that made it irresistible to the world, its spiritual attributes, were exchanged for minimalism and vulgarity. But even so, they were still others who were a counter balance to this new wave. In the 80s and into the 90s at least, there was a choice. As many slack DJs there were, one could still find cultural alternatives.
But today, even the singers are running behind the DJs, while songwriting is a lost art and musicianship rare. In addition, there is a famine of personnel in the form of managers, booking agents, real promoters and musical directors necessary for a vibrant industry.
The lack of government support over the years and the pervasiveness of ignorance shown by those active in the field have scared off intelligent people from entering. The blame for this overall collapse in standards is a collective one. In 1964, the Jamaican government sponsored local musicians to attend a trade fair in New York that brought exposure to future legends Jimmy Cliff and Toots and, in subsequent years, supported others at Midem in France. A return to showing interest and actively subsidizing the cultural export is still necessary.
Thirty years ago radio was not so myopic, although the selections offered a wider variety of music. At that time the charts reflected a broader palette with bands like Lloyd Parkes and We The People, 7th Extension, Bare Essentials, Fab Five, Chalice and Third World. Reggae artists at the peak of their careers, most of them in the 70s, played to stadiums and arenas. In contrast, today’s top acts can barely fill a club. The stars of yesteryear saw the need for touring; today’s pretenders have shunned the practice.
The Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) sales figures for 2012 showed the top artists out of Jamaica barely moving 1000 copies of their new releases. The only ones to register significant numbers were Jimmy Cliff, with his Grammy winning album Rebirth, and Bob Marley, who still remains a multimillion-dollar earner thirty years after his passing. One of the two biggest stars for the last several years out of Jamaica, the first being Mavado, has not had an international hit. The other, Vybz Kartel, had the lowest selling debut album of all time and currently resides in prison serving a thirty year sentence after being convicted for murder. Something is really rotten in Kingston.
The music has had a tremendous influence on foreign performers such as Maroon Five and Bruno Mars. They are the ones pushing the creative envelope for reggae. Locals seem to have taken what they have for granted, falsely believing that just because they are Jamaican anything will do. That is not the way Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear and others of this caliber saw it. At the same time, we must give kudos to the living legends that are still making us proud, but wonder when they depart who will carry the torch.
Younger, aspiring performers must become keener students of the music’s history. They must realize that the genre has a great legacy, which they are obligated to uphold. The "pull ups" on stage and the absence of rehearsals smacks of laziness and at worst contempt for the paying public who attend the shows. To be a world star takes hard work and sustained focus. To stand out you cannot run behind every fad you must be original. Today’s artists must leave fashion out of their craft and get back to the basics. Every great record begins with a great song. The other pieces of the puzzle are good musicians, a great producer, a visionary engineer and a properly managed record label.
The blueprint is there in the form of Bob Marley’s work, but the singers and DJs of today are building a shabby house without one. The disgrace of fellow entertainers fighting each other is killing the music. Focusing on negativity is a creative burden that hampers growth and productivity. The pioneers were interested in the world, sought knowledge and had an insatiable curiosity that allowed them to move beyond the confinement of their native shore. This new generation must take a page out of the elders’ books and embrace learning, while having big dreams. They must begin to take back the music and save it from ridicule and from becoming irrelevant. The efforts of our musical heroes must not appear as if it were in vain. Reggae music and the Jamaicans who placed it on the international stage have changed the world.
I hope that reading this book will awaken something in readers, especially those who are musical artists. 50 Most Significant Jamaican Musical Artists Past to Present (50 Most) is my small contribution to a mission with which we must keep faith.
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Jamaica is a world power. Not economically or militarily, but indeed culturally. Many Jamaican artists are world-renowned and this book will tell you why. In the space of around ten years, beginning in the early 50s when a tangible music industry took shape that was indigenous to the island, it began to impact beyond its shores. In 1963 Millie Small's hit My Boy Lollipop was the first of many. Then there was Desmond Dekker, Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert, Peter Tosh, Shabba Ranks, Shaggy and, of course, Bob Marley. Several Jamaican artists, at least a handful, have transcended the reggae genre becoming as big and influential as their British or North American counterparts. These few notables are even legends in their own right. The spirit, sound and words of this once parochial music has spread like a virus across the globe and has had a sort of colonizing effect, whereby anywhere it invaded it took root. It is a fact that there is a reggae scene of whatever size in almost every country in the world. There are artists of all races and ethnicity that are actively playing, recording and performing it and, in many cases, have adopted the religious practices closely associated with it: Rastafarianism. Reggae is seminal to many other genres such as punk, rap, and dance music that have morphed from it. The music made the island into a geographical star and people of the world are drawn to its physical beauty, robust people and unique culture. All this came through the labors of the artists that make up the illustrious list in this book.
50 Most summarizes the life and work of each artist. This anthology of sorts further provides the reader with heretofore little known facts about them, including the back-stories to their rise and, in some individual cases, subsequent downfall. You will become aware of some of the colorful personalities behind the scenes and their part in shaping the lives of the main subjects. It will educate and enlighten and, for some, it will be like a stroll down memory lane. Most importantly it is a document that puts the spotlight on the achievements of those who have dedicated themselves to something that has helped to enrich the lives of others. Some who did not make the list of 50 are featured in the opening bonus section, “Seven of Merit”, which also contains a tribute to Sly & Robbie. 50 Most mainly focuses on solo performers, although some of their works overlap with groups to which they belonged. Many of the artists here will never have a singular biography that may be worth writing, but here they can receive their due. Above all, 50 Most is a testament of men and women from humble backgrounds who persisted and triumphed over adversity.
Table of Contents:
Seven of Merit
Tribute to Sly & Robbie
50 Most Significant Jamaican Musical Artists – Past to Present
Lee Scratch Perry
The book is available worldwide on Amazon
Roger Grant - Contacts:
For Further info: Roger Grant c/o Organic Base Books
Email: email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org
619 Entertainment Group - Contacts:
Roger Grant (Managing Director)
Roger Grant - Biography:
Roger Grant is more known in his role as a record producer and artist manager. Starting out from the late 80s he co-produced songs by Lady G and Sanchez while working with Canadian based label Kool Vibes and continued into the 90s by establishing his label Organic Records. As the head of Organic Records his name became a familiar one and synonymous with the reggae artist Natural Black. Grant produced and co-wrote Natural Black’s first hits, Songs With Feeling and Bad Mind and managed him for five years. Now Grant adds another title, author, with his first book, 50 Most Significant Jamaican Musical Artists Past To Present.
The book has just being released on Amazon worldwide and available in paperback format as well as digitally on Kindle. Grant states that the work was four years in the making and came from a personal passion for the music of his native country and an underlying respect for the artists who made it. The book from the author’s perspective summarizes the careers of 50 artists whom he deems to have made significant contributions to the development and popularization of Jamaican music.
Roger Anthony Grant was born in Kingston, Jamaica and grew up in the community of Tower Hill. He attended Seaward All Age and Calabar High Schools. He furthered his studies and gained a Diploma in Entertainment Management from The Institute of Management and Production and a Certificate in Public Relations from the University of the West Indies.
His first job in 1986 was as a clerk at the offices of The Director of Public Prosecutions. Later on he sold insurance for Island Life and worked as a staff reporter for a community newspaper The Boulevard News. All throughout this time while working to make two ends meet in order to support a wife and two sons he longed to be active in the music industry. Grant from an early age was an amateur singer and a budding songwriter. He also indulged his other passion for writing by being a frequent contributor to the editorials in the daily papers and later on being published in The Jamaica Gleaner, Now Entertainment magazine out of Florida and another leading lifestyle magazine The Buzz.
In 1999 Grant in partnership with his brother Peter Grant and former Ruff Kut guitarist Collin Whyte started Organic Records. With his brother migrating and Whyte dropping out of the business Grant soldiered on putting out singles with Sanchez, Fourth Street Sisters and US based reggae group Big Mountain. Being a label owner and producer also gave Grant a chance to commercially exploit the many songs he wrote and he subsequently signed with ASCAP registering as a songwriter and publisher setting up a music publishing wing called Organic Base Music.
In 2004 Grant migrated to the United States settling in Philadelphia and in 2008 became the CEO of 619 Entertainment Group a partnership with three other Jamaicans. The company has on its roster two new reggae artists Hefla Nyah and Princess Thundah. Grant by himself also manages singer Asfa and is a PR consultant for several others.
Being a believer in not letting any of his talents go to waste Grant started writing 50 Most Significant Jamaican Musical Artists Past To Present in 2010. He said,” I am proud of myself” after the book came on the market as his new year present the first week in 2015.
About the book he says, “I think this work is long overdue and it will leave a record of other artists apart from Bob Marley and the other more recognizable names”. He also said “the music is suffering because of a generational disconnect” and that “I hope this book will address and also arrest the current situation of wanton ignorance at it relates to the roots of our culture”.
Grant still lives in Philadelphia with his second wife and three of his six children.
For further info contact Roger Grant c/o Organic Base Books. Tel 267 407 6262 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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