GRAMMY-WINNING Jamaican music producer Supa Dups has taken the ambitious task of finding a permanent home for Caribbean music in mainstream America.
“Where reggae is concerned, it is not as big as it could be because the unity is off. As soon as we can work together, then we’ll have a vibrant industry again. The industry is there, but our successes come in spurts, like a novelty, and like every couple of years you have a one song like a Cheerleader (Omi) or a Gimme Di Light (Sean Paul) come around,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
“Mi want reggae fi be part of the mainstream music and stay that way. Mi want when the Grammy Award a show, our awards can be televised live. Mi nuh know if mi a shoot too high, but that a just mi dream,” he continued.
To fulfill that dream, the Florida-based Supa Dups organised a ‘collective of creative industry people’ for a four-day camp at Miami’s Circle House Studios. The group comprised artistes and producers.
“The idea came about a month ago. The camp started [last] Friday and ended Wednesday. This is the first time anything like this has ever been done. It’s a blend of new flavour and experience. Everybody here is my bredren,” he said.
Sunday night’s impeccable Reggae Night: Bob Marley’s Roots Rock Reggae – A 70th Birthday Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl proved Jamaican reggae is more than alive in Los Angeles. This year’s Reggae Night was pegged as a celebration of Bob Marley’s 70th birthday, and the likes of Ziggy Marley, Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Inner Circle and the Skatalites all joined the sold-out party.
Eight-member ska, reggae, jazz band, the Skatalites got the festivities started and, boy, were they awesome during their 45-minute set. The immensely peppy crowd enjoyed them a lot, especially Doreen Shaffer’s vocals.
Inner Circle, a sextet also from the Caribbean island, went off for another 45 minutes. Lead singer Errol “Skatta” Bonnick was spot on during the nine performed tunes. “Bad Boys,” their finale, proved magical musically. We all get a kick out of that track every time we hear it, it’s so popular; experiencing it live was nothing less than spectacular.
Inner Circle turned up the Hollywood Bowl, hands down. It’s safe to say everyone was excited to see this illustrious music act as much as they were there to witness history by the Marley brothers.
Despite the turned up energy, Ziggy and Stephen (and at one point even Bob’s grandson Skip Marley) quickly soothed the crowd with “Redemption Song.” The brothers sang the mellow, uplifting tune – as well as the rest of the memorable 15-melody set – as a duo.
Throughout his career, Bob had been an unexpected ambassador of attempting to cure racism and hate with music and love. He truly believed in such a thing; his music, of course, is his most prominent example. With “Redemption Song,” we saw the Marley brothers go about promoting just that about their father.
The third song of the night, “Is This Love,” quickly created chills among the audience. The live rendition of the late-1970s piece was romantic and upbeat. Vocals from both Ziggy and Stephen were the closest thing that there could be to Bob’s distinctive voice. This was such an impactful tune of Reggae Night this year.
Another intriguing moment came when Skip delivered an epic “Roots Rock Reggae.” The palpable public engaged with Skip on the “roots rock reggae” stanzas, and the tenor saxophone play was incredibly sensual.
“Buffalo Soldier,” “No Woman, No Cry” and “One Love” were all stunners. “Get Up, Stand Up,” which talks about the act of battling oppression, proved motivating with regard to fighting for our many rights in life. While at times being undertone in sound, “Get Up, Stand Up” bestows an aggressive energy (in a positive way) intermittently. The on-stage demeanor of the Marley brothers depicted such.
For the encore, the Marleys granted us “Could You Be Loved” – one of Bob’s highly recognized tracks worldwide. The song, which was rendered beautifully, served as a reminder that Bob was and continues to be one of the best songwriters of all time. If you think or believe otherwise, just ask the Angeleno fans who attended this year’s Reggae Night how much they love and enjoy reggae.
Kingston, Jamaica is the cornerstone of reggae music. Some of the greatest reggae artists in history were raised or spent a considerable amount of time in Kingston. The legendary group, Inner Circle is no exception as they also hail from where many say reggae was born.
Inner Circle formed in 1968 and is still releasing music that resonates with audiences of all ages. The newly released collaboration with Kabaka Pyramid, “We The People Ha Fi Talk”, is generating buzz within the reggae world. The group responsible for the television show COPS theme song still performs to packed audiences around the globe. Inner Circle completed a European tour a few months before we spoke and was getting ready to perform at the Hollywood Bowl w/Ziggy and Stephen Marley.
Maliika Walker recently spoke with Roger Lewis about the great Jacob Miller, the Reggae Grammy, and former band members Stephen “Cat” Coore and Ibo Cooper among other topics. Here is their conversation.
Maliika: You guys are legends who are still going strong. Over 40 years in music.
Roger Lewis: Yes longevity has its place. We have survived a long time in the business and we are proud of the legacy we have built. We still perform around the globe and we also own one of the top recording studios in all of Miami, Circle House. Even with all of our setbacks, like the loss of Jacob Miller, we are still going strong. Our reggae roots run deep, from the 70’s to now. Even when we were in high school.
Maliika: Some of the past members of the band include Third World greats Cat Coore, Ibo Cooper, Bunny Rugs. Please share a little about their time with the band.
Roger Lewis: Yes we started while still in high school Willie Stewart, Ibo Cooper and Cat Coore. I must say my musical knowledge was enhanced by knowing Ibo Cooper because he’s a classically trained musician and an excellent teacher. I was fortunate enough to know him and be taught by him. Cat Coore is also an extraordinary musician. His mother, Rita Coore, was a phenomenal music teacher and hailed from Trinidad.
The early days were a happy time for me because I was coming out of high school learning music and those guys enhanced my musical knowledge. The formed Third World in 1973 and we got Jacob “Killa” Miller. He was the man with the swag, the people’s singer. Jacob Miller brought a whole different vibe to the group. We got seven years of greatness from him before his passing.
Maliika: Jacob Miller is one of the greatest reggae artists in history, and he was also lead singer of Inner Circle until his death.
Roger Lewis: Jacob Miller possessed natural talent. He had a great feel the music. I can go on and on. You only had to point Jacob in the right direction and he took care of the rest. He came from a musical background. People loved him in Jamaica. Jacob was one of the first artists to talk about living in a tenement yard and licking weed in a da bush. He wanted to come out in the open where the breeze could blow it far away.
FLORIDA’S go-to recording facility, Circle House Studio, has embarked on a new musical journey.
Owned by brothers Ian and Roger Lewis, founding members of reggae group Inner Circle, the North Miami entity is conducting workshops in engineering and music production.
“We’re giving real-world, hands-on experience here, nothing that can be learnt in school. We’re teaching the essence of engineering, using cutting-edge SSL (Solid State Logic) consoles,” Abebe Lewis, 38, traffic manager and Inner Circle’s marketing manager, told the Sunday Observer.
“The sessions are also open to professionals who are into the field and want to stay on top of their game as well as to network,” he continued. Read more