HIS VIEWS ON WORTH ETHICS AND CONSISTENCY
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Protoje on Why Art Is Power (featured in The Huffington Post)
There are times you meet an artist whose very presence breathes the power of creation, who you just know is bound to have a huge influence. The first time I met Protoje, one of the leading voices emerging from a movement being dubbed the “Reggae Revival,” I had that feeling. First being introduced to him by my collaborators at Manifesto Jamaica in 2008 at Jamnesia, I felt truly blessed knowing I was watching the evolution of a superstar who was getting ready to launch.
The relationship between art and community can be naturally synergistic — the community nurtures the artist, who then reflects back a vision of the community, helping to define its essence. At certain points in history you can see a concentrated yet organic rush of like-minded individuals powerfully framing their community — think of the Russian writers of the 19th century, Mexican muralism in the 1920s, American peace poets of the ’60s… that’s what’s going on in Jamaica right now, again. A wave of artists are embodying both the roots of the music their parents listened to, as well as mixing it up with dub, rock, jazz, hip hop, creating all kinds of crazy sick sound which defies definition.
Protoje exemplifies this new-found energy with lyrical prowess. The country is literally overflowing with fresh talent like Jah9, Kabaka Pyramid, Five Steez, Chronixx, No-Maddz, Raging Fyah, Roots Underground, to name just a few, and even the Jamaican government is paying attention, holding their own reggae-fest at Arts in the Gardens.
Q&A: Bob Marley Producer Chris Blackwell on the 40th Anniversary of ‘Catch a Fire’
Island Records founder doubles as real estate/rum mogul
Forty years ago this month, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell introduced the world to Bob Marley and the Wailers with the groundbreaking album Catch a Fire. The seminal work smoothly blended pop and protest with a slow, syncopated shuffle. It broke racial, religious and musical barriers and put Marley on the map.
Now, half a century after the famed producer got his start selling ska singles out of the back of his Mini Cooper, Blackwell shows no signs of slowing down. Rolling Stone called him in Paris and he paused to chat about the new wave of Jamaican music, being saved by Rastafarians, making rum and how Fats Domino helped pave the way for reggae.
Has Jamaican music changed much in the 40 years since you released Catch a Fire?
It’s changed a lot musically. It’s been through a process. It went from reggae in the Seventies to dance hall, and that became really huge. Then dubstep came, and that had some Jamaican elements to it. Now, there’s a whole new wave of artists, songwriters, actors, musicians. There’s a really creative new wave emerging in Jamaica right now.
Can you give some examples?
There’s a guy called Chronixx I think is really great. There’s a band called the No-Maddz who are more like theater than a group. They’re actors. It’s this whole audio-visual kind of thing. It’s different. But they’re really good, really talented and really smart. There’s the band called Raging Fyah that has the essence of classic reggae, but it doesn’t sound like old music from 50-odd years ago. Then there’s also the oldie but goodie, Shaggy. He’s doing some great music. Those four are good examples. They also happen to be groups I’m talking to. So, check them out.