Friday, December 23, 2005

Get Ready to Rocksteady

The Vail Daily News, Vail, Colorado

WEST VAIL - The Yellow Wall Dub Squad, an original authentic roots reggae band comprised of Jamaican studio session musicians, tours to the Sandbar in West Vail Tuesday for a rocksteady party.

The band was formed by the late Fazal Prendergast along with reggae ambassador Amlak Tafari. Fazal, who passed away in a tragic car accident on April 1, was an original recording sessions musician who had been recording since 1974 in Kingston, Jamaica, working at Rockers International backing the Augustus Pablo in Rockers Allstars Band - the first original Dub band ever created.

The Yellow Wall Dub Squad consists of original members Stevie Love on guitar (Jamaica) and Alton "Sandrum" Vanhorn on drums (Jamaica) along with Peter Tomlinson on keyboards (Jamaica), Donavan "Itawe" Cunningham on bass (Jamaica), Balboa Becker on trambone (USA), Garrett Kobsef on saxaphone and flute (USA) and manager Robert Oyugi (East Africa).

The band presents an eclectic mix of music from the rock steady, ska and rockers era.

Itawe, also known as Donavan "Danny Gitz" Cunningham, was born and raised in the hills of St. Ann, Jamaica, in the farming community of Prickly Pole, just a few miles from the home where Bob Marley grew in Nine Mile. He began his musical career in 1992, where he was given the name "Danny Gita" or "Danny Gitz" due to his growing reputation as an outstanding guitarist. Since then he has recorded as a sessions musician and extensively toured Europe, Australia, North America, Mexico and the Caribbean playing the bass, rhythm guitar and singing harmony for artists such as Sugar Minott, Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, Gregory Isaacs, Everton Blender, Yami Bolo, Iqulah, Ini Kamoze and many more.

On any given day you can hear Itawe's guitar licks playing on the radio waves of IRIE FM all over Jamaica in taxi's, busses, clubs, schools and beaches. He has played rhythm for many major festivals and stage shows, backing every major artist, including Luciano, Tony Rebel, Warrior King, Richie Spice, Jah Mason, Junior Reid, Cocoa Tea, Beanie Man, Mikey General, Black Uhuru, Errol Dunkley, I Wayne, Kyan, Angie Angel, Queen Ifrika, Sugar Minott, Freddy Mcgregor, Fanton Mojah. "Danny Gitz" recorded with Morgan Heritage playing rhythm for their number one hit, "We feel love," as well as "She's Still Lovin' Me" and more. He has also recorded for Sugar Minott, Kyan, Capleton, Sizzla, Luciano and helped compose much of Iqulah's latest released album, "Rastafari Forever," on which the Marley brothers are featured.

Over the years Itawe has been writing, composing and laying tracks in Jamaica, Europe, and North America for his upcoming album, "Journey to Life." He recently released a single in France, "Babylon Bridge," with the popular reggae group Broussai.

For more information on the Yellow Dub Allstars show featuring Itawe, call the Sandbar at (970) 476-4314.

Friday, December 09, 2005

GG on theYear in REGGAE Music (2005)

Gregory Gondo Special Correspondent
Financial Gazette (Harare)

Well it sure feels great to be back doing what I can do best--talk about my favourite subject--reggae music. And this week I will cut straight to the chase. No punany business talk, girl lyrics or anything like that seen?

Before I go into the main feature of the week, let me recap on what happened during the past 12 months in the world of reggae music.

I start off on a sad note. You may recall that I informed you in this column of the death of singer Junior Delgado. Remember the lyrics:â-oeTricksters, Girls dem a tricksters, Nine months gone, No baby bornâ-oe? (How so true, if you ask me.) The man who the reggae world knew as Jooks died on April 11 at his residence in London.

Born Oscar Hibbert on August 25 1958 in Kingston Jamaica Junior Delgado, who was a close friend of the late Dennis Brown, was also known for his 1985 hit single Broadwater Farm In London which talked about crime and poverty on a north London housing estate of the same name.

As if that was not enough, on June 11 another reggae star went the way of the flesh. Her name was Jennifer Lara. She died in Kingston Public Hospital from brain haemorrhage. Jennifer Lara who was 52 years old at the time of her death, was probably best known for her hit single entitled Consider Me which was recorded on the rhythm track of Delroy Wilson's I Don't Know Why. She also provided backing vocals for the likes of the Ethiopians, Dennis Brown and Freddy McGregor.

Yes ,these stars are no more, but we give thanks and praises for the good music that they bequeathed to us. Their deaths truly hurt because they could have given us more of the inspiring music but we have to accept it as part of life's rich tapestry.

On a brighter note though, in July one of reggae music's leading veterans Little Roy returned to the stage for the first time in 26 years. The show was held at the Cable and Wireless Golf Academy on Knutsford Boulevard in Kingston. You might want to know that Freddy McGregor's Prophecy and George Nooks' Tribal War were remakes of Little Roy's originals.

Little Roy, who was born Earl Lowe, claims that although Toots Hibbert is credited for giving reggae music its name, he was infact the first to use the name reggae when he did a song entitled Reggae Soul for producer Prince Buster in 1967 which he also claims was the first song of the genre. He started out with two friends, Harold Burgess and Barrington Bailey both of whom now play in the horns section of Bunny Wailer's band.

During the period under review, Dub poet Mutabaruka, who was here last year for the Zimbabwe International Book Fair launched a collection of his poems. The volume is entitled The First Poems/The Next Poems. The poems, which Mutabaruka claims he wrote when he was about 16 years old, were first recorded between 1990 and 2000.

Not to be outdone, the in-demand musician, Lloyd Parks, leader of the 30-year-old We The People Band released his long-awaited CD called Genuine Gold.

It features artistes Lloyd Parks says he used to look up to. These include Marcia Griffiths, John Holt, Ken Boothe, Boris Gardner and Nadine Sutherland, among others. Lloyd Parks is the father of keyboardist Jacqueline better known as Tamika. It runs in the family as you can see.

And last but not least, around mid-year, Buju Banton of Boom Bye Bye fame scored a hit through a duet he did with Anthony Cruz. It would seem like when it comes to duets or collaborations as they call them in Rasta parlance, Buju Banton has the Midas touch.

His tune with Anthony Cruz entitled Place Too Bloody in June hit the number one spot on the B Mobile Mega Jamz Reggae and the South Florida Reggae Charts. It also made the top ten on the New York Reggae Chart. Previously Buju Banton had scored big hits with songs such as Pull It Up and Who Say both of which he did with Beresford Hammond, Too Young (with Cocoa Tea) and Second Class Love (with Carol Gonzales). That is all I had on some of the highlights on the reggae scene in the past 12 months.

This week I had intended to profile drummer Lowell Dunbar and bass player Robert Shakespeare better known as Sly and Robbie. But their handlers have not yet responded to my e-mail. As soon as I get the response I will feature this duo widely believed to be one of the world's best rhythm sections. Reggae music commentators call them the Rythm Twins.

Sly and Robbie have promoted, among others (through their Taxi label), Black Uhuru, Beenie Man and of course Red Dragon who, on one of his songs, talks about dresses that reveal as much as they should cover courtesy of the provocative slits. Remember him saying â-oewe call them scandal slits because it exposes the girlin you knowâ-oe

Be that as it may, we will never run out of ammunition. There is a lot to talk about in reggae music you know. You might also want to know that I received a positive response on the feature on Bounty Killer who had two shows in Babylon recently. The first show was held at Stratford Rex (London) on November 6 and the second one was held at Club Isis (Nottingham). My childhood friend with who I herded cattle back home in Mahusekwa (Marondera), Alexander Mharapara who owns Y2K Promotions and his Jamaican friend Chris of Chris Platinum Promotions promoted the shows.

Requests, requests, requests! They are coming in thick and fast. And this week most of you wanted me to feature the man who calls himself the High Priest of Rastafarian Movement. I am talking of Keith Blair better-known as Anthony B. To me personally, he is Peter Tosh reincarnated. Others say he is the personification of African consciousness in reggae. He dwells on the serious themes of hope, resistance and love.

Infact he is so big that according Jet Star Reggae News of January 1998, his single Nah Vote Again, was a major factor in making the Jamaican elections of 18 December 1997, the most peaceful one "since the insidious cancer of gun violence was introduced in West and Central Kingston, prior to the elections of 1967".

Anthony B himself admits that he was inspired by Peter Tosh. I remember that on one of his CDs entitled Live At The Battlefields he sang:â-oeLegalise marijuana, You will have a better world, Reaching out to my mentor, I 'n' I say this is the meaning of reggae music across the world, One love, equal rights and justice, Give it up for Peter Tosh, Everyone is crying out for peace, non is crying out for justice, But they will be no peace till there is equal rightsâ-oe

What is more, Anthony B is as controversial as the enigmatic Wailers founder member who was well known for his short-fuse temper. At Sting 2004 the firebrand chanter delivered a scathing criticism of the Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson and the policies of his government. Shades of Peter Tosh at the 1978 One Love Peace Concert when he attacked the prime minister and the shistem. Infact, controversy should be Anthony B's middle name so to speak.

Check what he says on one of his songs on the Live At The Battlefields album . . . I 'n' I say rastafari is not here to confuse, Rastaman is here to teach you, Rastaman is here to educate you, Reggae music beat down the walls of Babylon, Wipe down oppression, Set the captives free, I wanna see people with love for humanity, I and I say burn the Queen of England for slavery and racial discrimination, I and I burn Pope John ina Vatican, I burn Bush and I burn Bill Clinton, I burn Hitler, Tony Blair, I burn Mussolini, I burn P J Patterson, I burn Seagaâ-oeNow you cannot get any more controversial than this. Can you?

Just like notable reggae singers such as Bob Marley (Mellow Moods) Peter Tosh (Bush Doctor) Toots Hibbert's Mytals (Monkey Man) Justin Hinds and The Dominoes (You Are A Jezebel), Twinkle Brothers (Chant Rastafari), Anthony B honed his vocals skills in the church and school choirs.

He made his debut as DJ with the Saggy Hi-Power Sound System after which he moved to Portmore in the parish of St Catharine in 1988 where the Lovers Choice Sound System was ruling the roost. There, he met with DJs such as Professor Nuts, Baby Wayne, Mad Cobra, Little Devon, Determine, Mega Banton, Ricky General and Terror Fabulous who collaborated with Nadine Sutherland on the international hit, Action.

But one thing distinguished Anthony B from his stable mates--he refused to do girl lyrics even though they were the in thing in the 1990s. It was not until 1993 therefore that the uncompromising Pan-Africanist achieved modest success with his debut single The Living Is Hard, which he did as a duet with the Half-Pint sound-alike, Little Devon. Even after this success most notable producers such as Black Scorpio and King Jammys were apparently not convinced and they were reluctant to immediately sign him on. It was only Garnett Silk's producer, Richard "Bello Bell" of the Star Trail Label who "took the risk" and signed Anthony B.

Hits started flowing in quick succession. These included Repentance, Fire Pon Rome and Raid Di Barn. This culminated in his landmark debut album Real Revolutionary. Then came the other albums, Universal Struggle, Street Knowledge, Power Of Creation and Live At The Battlefields. And Anthony B has never looked back. He is perched right at the top of the present wave of DJ music, tearing up the dancehalls.

In local dancehalls Anthony B's most popular tunes are Damage and Rumour. If you don't know these tunes, then you haven't been to the ball. Gwaan Anthony B. He has also done collaborations with Culture (Two Sevens Clash) and Mighty Diamonds (Pass The Kutchie).

A special thanks to all those who have supported this column, Dennis Wilson (UK), Dr Richard Guzha (US), Sheasby Huwait Saruwaka (New Zealand), Alexander Mharapara (UK), DJ Biscuit, Clutton Patsika, Motsi Sinyoro, Weston Mazhawidza, Alan Matsikure, Simba Chihono, Nicola Ndoro, George Chisoko and of course my significant other Auxilia and our beautiful children Chipo, Farai and Tinotenda. That will include all of you who I could not mention here. God Bless you all.

Hey folks I have enjoyed writing this as much as I should. Just remember that I love you and you and you baby.

My name is GG.