Giants Behind the Music: Alvin Ranglin

Alvin Ranglin was born in Eden District, Clarendon, Jamaica in 1942. He began his career in music via his District’s Adventist church choir at a really early age. He learned his trade as a radio/television repairman and started working as a technician by the time he had finished his teenage years– later graduating to repair and servicing of Jukeboxes. During this time his passion for music never waned and by the mid- 1960’s he had built and began operating GG’s Discotheque.

Alvin Ranglin

Around the same time, he opened and begun operating a juke-box sale and repair business in May Pen, Clarendon. He later added record sales and opened additional stores in the town of Old Harbor, Clarendon, Half Way Tree, St Andrew, and later Brooklyn, New York, and London, England. In 1971, he acquired the recording studio and vinyl pressing plant known as Record Specialists at Torrington Bridge in Kingston.
Ranglin began producing records around the same time he opened the May Pen store. First, producing singer Trevor Brown, and later with himself and Vernon Buckley as “Vern & Alvin” and later with Lloyd Flowers as “Flowers & Alvin”. In 1969 he established his first record label – GGs (name after the two Glorias in his life – his sister and his partner at the time)
The label produced several popular records by the duo Vern (Buckley) & Son (Gladstone Grant) – later re-named the Maytones. However, the label’s first real hit was Man from Carolina by his studio band – GG All- Stars. This was followed by several hits by the Maytones including Funny Man and Money Worries (which was included in the movie Rockers soundtrack in 1979). In the 1970’s he added Hit label which produced several hit records by both individual artists and the GGs All-Stars. Among the All-Stars hits were Flight 404, Ganja Plane, and Musical Shot. In addition to the songs mentioned, the Maytones recorded several local hits on the GGs label. Songs included a local version of Greyhound’s Black and White and Madness.
The Maytones

In the mid to late 1970s, GGs and Hit labels became home for many of Jamaica’s fledgling artists who went on to become icons in the reggae music industry. Ranglin produced a string of local and international hits with names like Eric Donaldson, Max Romeo, The Ethiopians, U-Roy, Prince Mohammed (George Nooks), Cynthia Richards, Stanley Beckford and the Turbines, Jah Thomas, Dennis Alcapone, Mike Brooks, Jah Stone, Freddie McKay, and Lone Ranger. Among the tracks that became big hits were Soldering (Beckford -1975), Hallelujah I Love Her So (Prince Mohammed-1974) and Barnabas Collins (Lone Ranger -1979). The later went on to hit the #1 spot on the British Reggae Chart in 1980.
Ranglin added Typhoon label by the late 1970s and the three labels became the home of the now legendary Gregory Isaacs. Isaacs gave Ranglin his biggest hit with Love is Overdue. He continued to work with Isaacs throughout the 1970s and again in 1995 on the album Dreaming and in 2002 on I Found Love. Isaacs attracted several of his friends to the Typhoon label – including Dennis Brown, Sugar Minott and Barrington Levy, for whom Ranglin produced a string of hits.
The labels have not produced any hit singles in recent years, but on my recent tour of the operation, I spoke with a man (affectionately called GG by his friends) who still has the passion for producing great music, and both the studio and pressing plant have been fully upgraded and ready to go.
In recent years Ranglin has branched out and has taken advantage of other business opportunities presented him. These include a Spring Water bottling plant and brand, a Bakery, Supermarket, Ice Factory & distribution. On my visit in August this year, he was close to completion of an assembly-line type bottling plant, capable of turning out between 3,000 and 5,000 bottles of product per day. As the older generation in Jamaica like to say – “Stay tuned, he is not done yet”.

Introducing Zap-Pow to the Next Generation

In 2004 VH1 Cable Television channel produce a television show called Bands Reunited – hosted by Aamer Haleem (Canadian radio and television personality). The show documented attempts of reunion of formerly popular musical ensemble for a special concert. On a typical show, the crew would go out and hunt down the ex-members of the band (often at first in disguise) one-by-one, and convince them to agree for the one-time concert. Each band member was then interviewed, usually focusing on the reasons they left the band. In most cases band reunions happen because someone makes this kind of effort to put the members back together. In other cases reunions can be an excuse for desperate, sometimes “down and out” musicians to attempt to re-live the “glory days”.
The 2016 revival of the legendary reggae band Zap-Pow was different. Although these band members had been apart since 1979, they never really left each other. Over the years they played together in recording sessions and in backing bands as part of the rhythm section for some of Jamaica’s most prominent touring reggae artists. Thus for original band members Dwight Pinkney (guitar), Glen DaCosta (tenor sax), Richard “T Bird” Johnson (keyboards) and Leebert “Gibby” Morrison (bass) getting back together was as easy as saying to each other “it’s time to do this”. The most difficult decision they had to make was selecting the complement of young musicians and singers to complete the band.

Dwight Pinkney

Zap-Pow was originally formed in 1969 and had a ten-year run to 1979. During those years the other prominent members of the band included Beres Hammond on lead vocal, the legendary David Madden (trumpet) and Larry McDonald (congos). Over the years other well-known artists that performed with Zap-Pow included: Max Edwards (drums), Mike Williams (bass), Joe McCormack (trombone), Vin Gordon (trombone) Danny McFarlane (keyboards) and Cornel Marshall (drums). Among the singers who performed with the band were Jacob Miller (Inner Circle), Winston “King” Cole (Winston “Mr. Fixit” Francis) Bunny Rugs and Milton “Prilly” Hamilton (both former front men for Third World Band).
Their biggest domestic hit during the early years was a song called This is Reggae Music. The 1976 albums – Zap-Pow Now and Revolution both made it on to the UK reggae chart. Other albums recorded during the ten-year period include Revolutionary Zap-Pow (1971) and Zap Pow. They also contributed to the collections – Beres Hammond Meets Zap-Pow, Jungle Beat, Love Hits, LMS and Reggae Rules.
In the 2016 edition of the band, they have added the talented Lando Bolt (drums), Everol Wray (trumpet) and Fiona and Geoffrey Forrest on vocal. The 15-track CD titled – Zap-Pow Again produced by Dwight Pinkney was released in October 2017. It Includes eight new original songs, plus seven taken from previously released albums. The new songs were mixed by Grammy award-winning engineer – Christopher Daley (aka the Quite Giant). The remaining seven songs came from several of the group’s classic albums that featured Beres Hammond as lead singer. Songs like This is Reggae Music, World Peace 3 and Let’s Fall in Love introduced Beres to reggae music fans throughout the world.
New CD

The new album is a delight for both traditional and the next generation of fans. It highlights the strengths that brought Zap-Pow to the attention of reggae music lovers and collectors all over the world – their amazingly tight rhythm section – signature horns that are easily identifiable, plus conscious messages that defined the music of early veterans.
More on the band and its availability for bookings is accessible at: onelovemanagement.com.
Email: dwightpinkney2002@yahoo.com or davepeters1963@yahoo.com

Kingston12 HIFI: Carrying the Sound System Legacy into the Future

Kingston 12 represents the postal or zip code in West-Central Kingston, Jamaica that, along with adjacent areas of Trench Town (Kingston 13) and the south-central part of the city, was the axis of the cultural renaissance that gave the world Reggae music. It is the home of the Ambassador Theater – the place that was the flagship for presenting new talent to Jamaica and the world. The Ambassador (Bass), alongside the Majestic, Palace, and Ward theatres, provided the stages for the Vere John’s Hour. This was the talent show that introduced the country and subsequently the world to artists like Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, Bob Marley, Don Drummond, Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, Peter Tosh, Millie Small, Hortense Ellis, Bob Andy, Jackie Edwards, and many more of the stars that became the icons of the Reggae music industry. Kingston 12 was the “Harlem” of the Caribbean – an area that attracted artists such as Jackie Opel and Lord Creator who came all the way from Barbados and Trinidad, respectively.
These artists in late 1950s to early 1960s became the foundation of Jamaica’s Sound System Culture. As early as 1950, Tom Wong, a Jamaican of Chinese ancestry established “Tom the Great Sabastian” in East-Central Kingston. His sound system launched the career of the great Count Matchuki who later joined Clement Dodd’s Sir Coxsone Downbeat. Tom’s main rival at the time was Cyril Braithwaite’s “Count C – the Wizard of the West.” Count C dominated the western end of the city. These two sound systems laid the groundwork for the sound system culture which quickly followed Jamaican migration to England and the United States, and later provided the base for the spread of Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae worldwide.

Sound System Speakers

The sound system culture quickly spread amongst the poorer classes of Kingston and adjacent parish – St Andrew. Several new players entered the arena. The pioneers among them were Clement Dodd (Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat), Author “Duke” Reid (Duke Reid the Trojan), Vincent Edward’s (King Edward-the Giant) and Cecil “Prince Buster” Campbell’s (Prince Buster –the Voice of the People). That was around the same time Jamaican journalist, Vere John, started a weekly one-hour talent show, which he named after himself. It was a live performance showcase of fresh, young Jamaican talent. The audio of the show was recorded for a later weekly broadcast on the country’s single radio station: RJR (for Radio Jamaica & Radio Fusion)
From the beginning, there was intense competition among the sound system operators. They competed for crowds, music, and eminence in the local community. Thus, the Vere John’s talent exposition provided an opportunity to identify new talent that could enhance that competition. Few recording studios existed at the time. However, the sound system operators came to the show with the specific intent of identifying new talent that they could use to record exclusive Jamaican versions of American R & B and Jump Blues songs, or sometimes original materials that they played exclusively on their sound systems. These sound systems provided a reasonable alternative for the poorer sector of the population who wanted entertainment but could not afford to hire the live bands that existed at the time, such as Byron Lee and the Dragoneers, Kes Chin and the Souvenirs, and the Percy Myers Combo for their parties.
Leroy Sibbles – One of Kingston 12’s International Reggae Artists

This competition among the sound systems not only laid the groundwork for today’s dancehall “selector culture,” but was also the foundation upon which the entire Jamaican music industry is built. The art of toasting on records flourished during this period. This consisted of rhyming vocal patterns over instrumentals that later evolved into social commentary; it also became an important part of the entertainment. Over the years this legacy has provided roots upon which multiple Jamaican musical genres emerged – from Jamaican Jump Blues, Ska, Rock Steady to today’s Reggae and Dancehall.
Today, many young selectors and sound system operators have embraced the opportunities presented by new technologies to create modern Dancehall – substituting computer-assisted beats and instrument simulation for real instruments and live musicians. This is usually supported by computer-generated playlists via programs like Serato and Virtual DJ – replacing turntables. However, one sound system that has figured out how to master the new technology and new trends without discarding the foundation is Los Angeles, CA-based Kingston12 Hi-Fi.
This sound system is under the direction of the super talented, master DJ, rapper, singer, songwriter, musician, and Reggae/Hip Hop artist Edmund Carl Aiken, Jr. – Shinehead (Jamaican In New York fame). His partner in life and music – Diana Camacho aka DJ Papalotl aka Buttahfly – makes up the other half of the Kingston 12 Hi-Fi team who is charting the path by showing fans how to navigate both lanes without choosing one at the expense of the other.
The sound system is named after the historic LA Reggae club venue Kingston12 which was founded by Richard O’Brian, aka King Richard, a Jamaican expatriate in Los Angeles, California who operated it as part of a restaurant /nightclub establishment. He, along with his family, ran the venue they named after the community in Jamaica that they hailed from, which of course guaranteed the authenticity of the music given Kingston12’s aforementioned musical history.
The Kingston12 enterprise was also the first of its kind on the US West Coast. Richard and his family established a place where for more than twenty years Los Angeles residents and visitors were treated to live reggae performances, and/or club DJ’s playing Reggae, Dancehall, and Hip Hop music, while having an authentic Jamaican meal or mellow island drinks.

Shinehead, a British born Jamaican who was already well established in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Europe, and Japan, met King Richard shortly after he moved to Los Angeles. King Richard became ill shortly thereafter and passed away in the summer of 2014. Shortly after meeting King Richard, Shinehead quickly discovered that they both shared a musical camaraderie. He even played records on a small portable turntable for Richard as laid sick in his hospital room towards the end of his life. Although Shinehead and DJ Papalotl were away in NY performing at the time of his passing, Richard told his family that he needed someone who was committed to the music and culture to carry on the tradition he had established on the US west coast. As such, Richard’s last dying request was that his vast collection of Reggae/Dancehall vinyl records would be bequeathed to Shinehead.
King Richard

His wide knowledge of Roots, Reggae, modern and traditional Dancehall, plus his extensive experience in Hip Hop, R&B, and US rap music positioned him as the ideal candidate not only to carry on the vision of King Richard, but also to expand the foundation instituted by early forerunners Count C, Tom Wong, Clement Dodd and others – a Kingston12 legacy.
Shinehead a former major label (Elektra Records) artist inserted his brand into the Kingston12 Hi-FI concept, and in the four years since 2014, the sound system has become an integral part of world music festivals such as Rototom, Outlook, Reggae Geel, Reggae Sun Ska, and reggae music cruises – including Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock Cruise.
The addition of DJ Papalotl aka Buttahfly to the Kingston12 team allows them to perform at the highest level. DJ Papalotl (a public school teacher) is a multi-media artist, a sound engineer, and a videographer with a passion and skill for mixing music. One might say she brings her “magic fingers” to Kingston12 Hi-Fi.
Her life as a DJ began at college parties and at her college radio station – KSPC 88.7 FM. Here, she developed her mixing skills in Reggae and Dancehall music. She progressed to become the “mix mistress” of the college parties and later graduated to local nightclubs –introducing them to her brand of Roots, Reggae and Dancehall, Hip Hop and R&B. Her extensive technical skills, combined with both her and Shinehead’s knowledge of Roots and modern music, has directed Kingston12‘s path to be able to perform on any stage.
Shinehead & DJ Papalotl aka Buttahfly

Long before Facebook Live was popular among users, Shinehead and DJ Papalotl made it part of their mission to use modern technology to elevate the sound system and Dancehall culture to a higher level. Their weekly presence on Los Angeles based – Diggindaily.com – a collective of local DJ using the digital space to take their music worldwide, together with live programs twice a week on Irish and Chin’s SoundChat Radio have served to expand their worldwide audience, and build an airwave audience with their English partners, Unique Radio UK in London and Stingdem Radio in Birmingham.
Their weekly live Friday night broadcast on Kingston 12 Digital Radio (Kingston12.net) gave sound system culture a presence on two of the major Digital Radio Apps for both Android and Apple products –TuneIn Radio and Simple Radio. In addition, Kingston12 Hi-Fi has also placed the sound system/dancehall culture as part of the audio programming lineup on most new V-Tuner stamped high end stereo system such as Denon, Bose and Yamaha; and on Wifi enabled radio products from manufacturers such as Grace, Sangean and Pico.
In addition to exposing the music and cultures that have provided the foundation for Reggae as an established musical genre, Kingston12 Hi-Fi has continued a sound system tradition that is not often mentioned when dancehall and sound systems are discussed. That is – identifying and launching new talents via the BUTTAHFLY FX show. Much like their forerunners Sir Coxsone, Prince Buster and more recently, Sugar Minott’s Youthman Promotion, Kingston12 Hi-Fi continues to introduce the world to new talent and give established talent a platform to show the world what they have.
In the past year, listeners were introduced to young Hip Hop talent like Banga Brownin, J Niles (the Yung Ruler – son of the late Gregory Isaacs) and were re-introduced to General Smiley of Michigan & Smiley fame. Their careful selection of the music they play, together with interviews with artists and industry practitioners like music teachers from the world famous Alpha Boys School in Jamaica have lent a public media sensibility to their presentation of dancehall and sound system culture.
In the radio business these days we often say that appointment radio is dead. However, in their presentation for a live audience and/or for digital radio, Shinehead and DJ Papalotl are making sure that this does not apply to the sound system. Audience come out to see them live or tune in to their Digital broadcast because they know they will be rewarded with great music, magic mixes and most importantly, they will learn something about the music, the culture and artists.
Kingston12 Hi-Fi continues to live up to its true name – a sound system with the usual customized built set of double scoops and tops that are almost 40,000 Watts of power. Shinehead and DJ Papalotl often take out their four sets of scoops and tops for a variety of events. These events that take place all over Los Angeles, mostly in the different cultural enclaves that appreciate international music and culture. These include the Silverlake and Leimert Park downtown Los Angeles, and at venues in adjacent Culver City. Each event is usually promoted in Social Media with a theme with the hashtag (#SoundFiSound) as part of the movement to incorporate a physical sound system with relevant cultural events and affairs that promotes public service issues such as breast cancer awareness, Jamaican cultural events; and presenting local and visiting DJ’s and artists.

Zumba: Dancing Your Way to a Healthier Body in 2019.

At the beginning of 2017, I joined a new fitness club. One of the things that made this particular fitness club so enticing was the large selection of group fitness classes that they offered (from TRX training, Cardio Interval training, Core Training and also host of Zumba classes).

Zumba Class

As a former personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I was simply amazed at the large selection of classes in comparison to the corporate gym I use to work for and wished more classes like these were available to augment the training program I designed for my former clients.
Prior to joining this new fitness club, I found myself struggling with my weight, which came as a huge disappointment to me and I am sure to those who once looked up to me to as a source of inspiration as they were striving to achieve and/or maintain their own fitness goals. Although I knew my weight gain stemmed from various stress factors in my life (i.e. working full time, going to graduate school, dealing with family matters, purchasing a home, etc.), I still needed to find a way to pull myself out of my slump. So, I began having these internal dialogues with myself in which I reflected on conversations I once had with former clients that helped to motivate them to stay on track. During one of these internal dialogue segments, I remembered how I would stress to my clients the importance of aerobic exercises, as it has consistently been proven to be the most effective way to lose weight. But, unfortunately, when most people hear the word “cardio” or “aerobic exercise”, they cringe; largely because they find cardio to be mundane, boring, and simply not fun. These feelings are usually based on their experience with traditional methods of cardio exercises like, walking or running. Interestingly, I found myself expressing some of these same sentiments. Although I would alternate my cardio between, biking, walking or running (on my cardio days), it still wasn’t stimulating enough and was becoming more of a chore.
As I continued to reflect on the conversations that I had with my former clients, another thing that kept resurfacing in my mind is how I would tell them to choose cardio activities they enjoyed and which doesn’t make them feel as if they are doing work (like going on a natural trail walk, hiking, kayaking, doing yard work or perhaps dancing). Shortly after reflecting on these conversations, a light bulb went on in my head. Why not give Zumba a try? Being a former member of a local Mamba Dance Team and also a former avid Latin dancer, it seemed only natural that I would have considered Zumba classes sooner. However, I confess that I thought it was a fad and also could not comprehend how people could be in a room following the dance lead of one or two individual instead allowing their own creative dance move to flourish within their body in response to the beat of the music.
Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my thinking that Zumba is perhaps a fad. In fact, despite its current popularity The American College of Sports Medicine still dropped Zumba from its 2014 list of Top 20 fitness trends. But does this mean that Zumba is completely fading? Absolutely not! Zumba is very much alive and has a life cycle just like other things. People will explore and embrace different fitness option based on their current lifestyle. Zumba wasn’t for me 10 years ago, but today, it has been a wonderful complement to my fitness goals. And these days, instead of questioning the Zumba format, I now appreciate the fact that because I have so much on my plate, I can get a great workout and don’t have to think about coming up with creative dance moves on my own. I invite you to also consider Zumba as a way to help you meet your personal fitness goals!
More information is available in two articles at:
http://www.health.com/weight-loss/best-exercise-to-lose-weight; and
http://jap.physiology.org/content/113/12/1831#T2
Contributor: Renna Reddick

Obesity is a Major Worldwide Challenge: Where does Your Country Rank?

A recent study published at https://renewbariatrics.com/obesity-rank-by-countries/ , estimated that approximately 775 million of the world’s 7.6 billion people – including adult and children are obese. The research suggests there are nearly 650 million obese adults on the planet (as defined as a body mass index (BMI) over 30).

In addition, there are also about 125 million obese children and adolescents in the entire world according to a BMI over 30. The study suggests that the majority of the obesity on the planet resides in a few countries.

IKAYA: Writing Her Name across Many Hearts

The reggae music industry is heavily male-dominated.  Throughout the years female artists like Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley and Carline Davis are among the very few that became “household” names.  Today there is a new group of female artists who have kicked the door wide open. Artists like Alaine Laughton –stage name Alaine, Ventrice Morgan – stage name Queen Ifrica, Shauna McKenzie – stage name Etana, Tessanne Chin and Cherine Anderson are writing their own story in reggae music. One such artist that jumps out of the bunch is a singer who I heard for the very first time 2013 when I hosted a Friday afternoon reggae show in Tampa, Florida. Her name is Kadian Blair – sage name Ikaya.

IKAYA
IKAYA

Ikaya stands out among a small group of female reggae artist and song writers who can really sing. Not women who have to purr seductively over highly syncopated tracks and auto tune – as writer Patricia Smith once note – “who writes checks with advance hype that their voices couldn’t possible cash”.   There is no screeching and snarling in her rhythms. There is no over sampling to attempt to hide anything in her voice. What she delivers is what you hear – all natural, all hers. Her songs come from the heart – odes of love and life.
Ikaya was born Kadian Blair in the heart of one Kingston’s “tough zone” called Waterhouse (also the birthplace Jamaica’s multi-Olympic gold medal winner – Shelly Ann Frazer). It is said that her parents (which include the man we call coach – Hugh “Bingy” Blair) loved R & B and classic reggae music. As a result, Ikaya began discovering her talent at the tender age of 4 – while auditioning for her pre-school choir. As a teenager she performed at various small venues and soon ventured out while still in high school with a group called B2K.  In 2001 she was introduced to the popular reggae artist Clifton Bailey – stage name Capleton, aka the Fire Man. She became a background vocalist and later opening act for Capleton – accompanying him on several world-wide tours.  She also had the opportunity to collaborate with him on one of his mega hits – a track call “Fire”.
While some might reference the influence of R & B and Dancehall music on her reggae style as “old school”, I simply call it original. It is original because it was R & B, American Jump Blues and Dancehall music combined with the African Kette drums that gave us reggae. Reggae music has its roots in the original sound system/dancehall culture – the culture of King Edwards the Giant, Duke Reid the Trojan, Count Bells the President and many others.
Today her extended list of hit singles includes enough songs for three albums. Her 2016 “Ugly Girl” and accompanying video had many in and out of the entertainment industry talking. Another 2016 hit “Love Note” is still in regular rotation on kingston12.net, and reggae formatted, digital stations throughout the world.  Other hit single include “My Man” (2015), “Write Your Name” (2010), “Broken Wings” (2013) and “Stuck in the Middle” (2016). Ikaya is a multi-talented artist with talents that include rapping/DJ which she demonstrated on two of her songs “Fly Away” and “Ain’t Giving Up”.

Her debut studio album is now past overdue, but it is in the works. She continues to write songs and record tracks for her first album –slow and deliberate like a painter doing the master piece that he/she knows will define his/her life. The album is not yet titled.  She anticipates that this album will show everyone what many of us already know – that she is a master of her craft. As she explain “All of me, my life, my experiences, love, family, friends and my surroundings. It’s an expression of my versatility compiled on one CD. My greatest joy will be that my fans and friends appreciate and have fun with it!”
Ikaya has been recognized for her early contributions to the reggae music industry with a “Best New Artist”, “Best Music Video and “Female Artists of the Year” awards. She continues to be in demand for the big shows and reggae music festivals as word of her talent gets around. She has performed for Reggae Sumfest (Jamaica), Sting (Jamaica), Jamaica Day (Canada), Reggae and R &B festival (New York) and most recently – the Grace Food & Music Festival (Washington).

New Smart Phones: Why is the Excitement Gone?

Only a few years ago many of us (yes, I did it once) lined up outside the front door of an Apple store waiting for an opportunity to purchase the latest Apple smart phone. Although Samsung phones were not released with the same fanfare, android enthusiasts could hardly wait to get their hands on the latest version of the Samsung Galaxy. Today the “noise” has quieted a bit, and there are hardly any lines at the Apple store. In fact, I barely remember the release date of the IPhone 7 and people are simply not talking about these devices anymore.
Why are people not talking anymore, probably because there is very little for one to get excited about today regarding the new smart Phones? Quartz – a digitally native news outlet, established 2012, for business people functioning in the new technology driven global economy provided the chart below comparing the latest version of smart phones with the best mobile technology.

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Smart Phone Comparison Chart

The point here is that mobile technology has become so advanced, and there is so much packed into each model (low end to high end), that what you purchase hardly make a difference anymore. Thus the Apple IPhone 7 looks and feel like an Apple IPhone 6 or 6S. Steve Jobs – the innovator is long gone and now all the other manufacturers are catching up. Whereas Apple might have the best camera, the average consumer hardly notice this because most smart phones now have decent, functional camera technology that makes differentiation extremely difficult.
One of the more common complaints I have heard regarding smart phones is the storage capacity. According to Quartz, the manufactures have heard this complaint loud and clear, thus this is one area where we will see significant improvements over the next few generations of smart phones.  Apple has already taken the first step to increase the storage capacity of the IPhone 7 to as much as 128GB. We might also begin to see more options to off load data to some kind of Cloud services.
It is rumored that Apple plans to release three new smart phones later this year to mark the tenth anniversary of the launch of their first smart phone in 2007. According to the Wall Street Journal (d/d 2/28/17), these will include a 7S, a 7S plus and a high end device with flexible display that include a light-emitting diode (OLED) curve screen. This screen supposed to provide brighter, more vivid colors than liquid-crystal (LCD) displays. Although this screen is being produced by Samsung, Apple will have exclusivity on this model for some time. It will be somewhat different from the OLED model now used for Samsung phones.
It is being reported also, that on the new IPhones, Apple will replace the lightening charging ports with a new USB –C port – thus standardizing the IPhone with other smart phones. According to the WSJ article, the home button will be gone – replaced by touch-sensitive areas on the phone and a “function area”. Apple will also add wireless charging capability to this high end model. Most important, it is rumored that this model will retail for $1,000.00.
Well, what does a $1,000 phone looks like and what will it do? If it is just another high end phone – good luck to Apple. However, if it is what I think it is – a lifestyle device – for the generation who does not now own a TV set or a table top radio; does not read the newspaper; prefers to watch the Super Bowl at a sports bar rather than watching it at home, and do not care for most of the technology that the 40 and 50 plus generation among us are still excited about, then it is a really good idea. I can hardly wait to see this piece of technology. Financial analysts are projecting that the release of this device will be huge in countries like China – increasing Apple stocks from present average of $140/share to a record – in the $160s.
The bottom line is this; most smart phones are really similar in design, operating system, and capabilities these days. Some of the newer models have trimmed back the number of proprietary apps and features. Others like Samsung are trying to differentiate itself with virtual reality, 360-degree photography (who cares about this?) while Google is using its virtual “Assistant”—a supercharged version of the Android’s voice assistant.  Apple’s IPhone 7 tries to stand out by offering options most people will never use – like dual-camera. Samsung recently unveiled an updated version of the Galaxy S7 (called the S8 – with the new  infinity screen), to try to make up for the market share they lost last year as a result of their exploding devices.

Worlds “Best Cities to live” study Neglect Impact of Social Justice

Mercer’s City Benchmark study for 2016 is out and as in previous years, seven of the top ten cities that offer the highest quality of life are in Europe. They range from Vienna, Austria at number 1 to Basel, Switzerland at number 10 (tied). The three outliers are Auckland, New Zealand (#3), Vancouver, Canada (#5) and Sydney, Australia (# 10 tied with Basel). The full list is available at https://www.imercer.com/content/mobility/quality-of-living-city-rankings.html.
According to the Mercer study, Singapore was the top Asia-Pacific city (25), whereas Dhaka – the capital city of Bangladesh was the lowest ranked at 214. In North America, Vancouver, CA (5) was the highest ranked city. It was followed by two Canadian cities Toronto (16) and Ottawa (18). The highest ranked US city was San Francisco (29). Monterrey, Mexico (110) was the highest ranked city in Central America: whereas, Santiago, Chile (84) ranked highest in South America.
Among Middle Eastern countries Dubai (74) and Abu Dhabi (79) ranked highest. Durban, South African (87) was the highest ranked African city. In the Caribbean, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadelope (73) was highest ranked – followed by San Juan, Puerto Rico (75). Among the English speaking islands – Nassau, Bahamas (114) was at the top. Kingston, Jamaica came in at 153.
The primary factors used to predict quality of life were (a) Connectivity to regional and global transportation networks; (b) Economic, social, cultural and environmental competitiveness; (c) Attractiveness to tourists, globally mobile talent and multinational companies seeking to invest; (d) The unique strengths of the city that can be leveraged to distinguish it from other cities: and (e) Overall city infrastructure. However, a most important measure which could have enhanced the validity of this study was not included. Social justice is the norm that describes the fair and just relationship between individuals and society. It is usually measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activities and social privileges.  These measured should be primary factors in any study that attempt to quantify the quality of life in any society.
It is social justice that assigns rights and duties in institutions and enables people to receive the basic benefits and burdens of cooperation. These often include taxation, social security, health benefits, public institutions, trade unions and labor laws, public service and market regulations, and other essential government services that ensure the fair distribution of wealth and other opportunities. While the study provides a good snapshot of destination to expand business operations, its neglect of the vital importance of social justice as an indicator of quality of life makes it a poor gauge for individuals seek to move to an international city.

Gone Too Soon: Reggae Music Fraternity Losses in 2016 Part II

Vandelin “Vonnie” Mcgowan (Arscott), PhD, OD

vonnie-mcgowan
Vonnie McGowan

 
Vonnie McGown, died in Miramar, Florida on August 18, 2016. Vonnie’s contribution to promoting Jamaican culture and advancing Jamaican causes in the USA, as well as her selfless work on behalf the less fortunate in Jamaica is now legendary. She is credited as one of the first US-based individuals to sponsor Jamaican artists for single performances or nationwide tours in the United States. She also worked as a representative and/or manager for several acts, including Sanchez and Dennis Brown. She was a pioneer in promotion of Jamaican acts in the United States and in Jamaica. Her US shows included the Reggae Sunsplash US tour, and the only all-female reggae tour of the US – featuring Marcia Griffith and Judy Mowatt
Vonnie was promoter of the very popular Nostalgia in Gold series in south Florida – which put many Jamaican reggae acts on the same stage with the likes of the late Ben E. King, Freddie Jackson and Jerry Butler.  Her list of awards includes a Caribbean American Media Association (CAMA) for pioneering Caribbean radio in the US and an International Reggae Music Award (IRMA) for her outstanding contribution to the development of reggae music. In 2011 her body of work and many years of dedication to Jamaica, Jamaicans and Jamaican causes earned her the Order of Distinction – a national honor awarded by the Jamaican Government to its citizens who have performed a lifetime of outstanding service.
Among the US radio stations where Vonnie left her footprint was WHBI –FM, NY; WAXY-FM, NY and WOL-AM, Washington, DC.
  Bobby Ellis – Trumpeter
bobby-ellis
Bobby Ellis

 
In Jamaica Bobby Ellis was mostly known as that session musician whose contribution to reggae music development cannot easily be measured. He is regarded as one of the most influential trumpeter who played on a number of landmark Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae hits. For this writer, he was simply the father figure who took me to see my first international soccer game. Ellis was 84 when he died on October 19, 2016.
Ellis was born in Kingston and attended the famous “Music Factory” – Alpha Boys School for wayward boys in that city. His contemporaries at Alpha included legends Don Drummond (Trombone), Tommy McCook (Multi-Instrument) and Headley Bennett (Saxophone). He played on early Jamaican Jump Blues hits by Roy Wilson and Joe Higgs and on recordings by the Blues Busters and later, on hits for Bob Andy – including the “anthem” – I Have To Go Back Home. He was a key player in the Black Disciples that played for Burning Spear.
Ellis was awarded the Order of Distinction in 2014 – a national honor awarded by the Jamaican Government to its citizens who have performed a lifetime of outstanding service. His exceptional service was in the area of music and culture.

Top 10 Reggae Albums for 2016

Jamaica Music Festivals: Struggling for Viability?

The Jamaica Jazz & Blues (JJB) music festival which is normally schedule for January (the last full weekend prior to the US Super Bowl) was cancelled for 2016. Not only was the cancelation regrettable, but the late announcement of the cancellation (11/16/2015) was most unfortunate, because many of the customers who are mostly repeat attendees had already planned their vacation around the festival.
While the attendance for the festival does not appear to be growing in size, there is a group of “faithfully committed” who make this an annual get-a-way. They book hotels up to a year in advance, because as one young man from New Jersey, US told me – “they care far less about the performances and more about the vibe “of meeting up with their friends.
According to the organizers, they are “taking a year off to re-group and focus on planning a spectacular 20th anniversary celebration” in 2017. They further noted that because they realize how much the audience always look forward to this event, “they really tried to make 2016 a reality, however, things just did not work out”. “Therefore, instead of trying to push and stage a festival that would not be of the usual standard, they decided to cancel the event”. As of this writing, there is still no word from the organizers regarding a date for 2017.
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However, those of us who have attended at least twelve of the eighteen staging of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival (formerly Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues) have been expecting this for some time. Personally, similarly to the young man from New Jersey referenced earlier, it has been many years since I have attended a music festival in Jamaica simply for the music. This dates back to the final few years of Sunsplash and the early years of Sumfest. Back then, I could truly say they I enjoyed the music and performances at a Jamaica music festival. I can remember stopping my rent-a-car outside the Sumfest venue on a Sunday morning – on my way to the airport, just to get a ‘little bit more” of Dennis Brown. These days we attend “just for the vibes”.
Recently we had another announcement – Sumfest, the country’s premiere music festival announced that it was facing major financial challenges and as a result, was being sold to California businessman (now making Jamaica his home) Joe Bagdanovich – the current president of Jamaica-based, Down Sound Records. Immediately, the new owner move to reduce the three-day festival to two days and eliminated all international acts – which had been an integral part of the festival since its inception.
Sumfest which celebrated its 24th year this year, like most new business ventures, operated at a loss during its early years. However, it was believed to have settled in to produce handsome profits during the next ten years. Then over the last five years it began to struggle. During these struggling years a marked difference in the composition of the audience was quite noticeable. Also, quite obvious during these later years was the fact that attendees were beginning to pick individual nights to attend. Local-based Jamaicans seem to most favor dancehall night, while both overseas-based Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans seem to prefer the international nights. Thus, in spite of the fact that the vides in the city of Montego Bay seem festive for five  or six days, most people only attended one or at most two nights of the festival.
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The hotel rooms were mostly occupied by foreign-based Jamaicans and a few non-Jamaican guests, as most home-based attendees drove back to their homes after the concert. In reality, in the case of both Reggae Sumfest and Jamaica Jazz and Blues, a small group of entrepreneurs have been doing the “heavy lifting” with very little benefit to show.
The post analysis after the recently concluded two-day Reggae Sumfest was “satisfactory”. According to an interview with the Jamaica Observer (7/26), Deputy Chairman Robert Russell noted that “they were not only happy with the two major live performance nights, but all the events leading up had surpassed their expectations”.
He added that “Dancehall Night was just great, with strong performances, no problems whatsoever in the park… no expletives on stage, it was just spectacular”. The attendance was estimated at plus/minus 15,000. He continued “Saturday, the crowd was not as strong as Friday, this was expected. But this didn’t have an effect on the performances which were great”.
Viewers around the world had the opportunity to watch part of the live event (including simultaneous backstage interviews) via cutting edge panoramic 360-degree video technology. The attempt was commendable. However, the streaming service was not up to the challenge as the 360 technology apparently requires far greater bandwidth that the amount allotted.
While one has to simply commend Russell and the new owners for their effort, the realty is – we have two music festivals that are both vital to the Jamaica’s tourist and music industries and even more crucial to any attempt to develop the country as an event destination – that are struggling to stay viable. The question now is: Where do we go from here? The Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Culture recently announced initial plans to make Jamaica a “music festival destination”. Included in this initial strategy are plans to add new festivals in alternate destinations in the island.
This effort was launched with the Jamaica’s first Ska/Rocksteady festival (titled The One World Ska and Rocksteady Music Festival) in Kingston in November 2016. According to the Minister of Culture “we want to position Kingston as a cultural destination… one which has given the world four distinct genres of popular music — Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, and Dancehall”. The Minister further noted -”this festival further aims to bring world focus to Kingston and benefit the people of Kingston”. “Music tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments of this market. It is estimated that 10 million people travel worldwide for music festivals. If we can get 0.3 per cent of this market to come to the One World Ska and Rocksteady Music Festival, we would be doing well”.
I truly believe that while this effort is well intended, this is like adding new rooms to a hotel that has been showing 50% vacancy for a very long time. In addition to revenue for the tourist industry and Jamaica indirectly, music festivals presents great opportunities for visitors to engage directly with the Jamaican people. Therefore I encourage both the Tourism and Culture Ministries to work together to save the festivals that have already established brand identity.
Both festivals need assistance in the areas of long-term strategic focus and short-term grants/investment. I am proposing that representatives of the two ministries, representatives of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and directors of both festivals come up with a five year strategy for each festival.  This will allow for thorough examination of costs and alternatives, discussion of areas and assignment of responsibilities, set expectations, examination of investment models/options, review of best festival management practices and a look at potential partners (domestic and international). Such strategic focus will allow for reasonable projections, open windows into availability of new technologies that can expand the benefits and set real expectations for return on investment for all parties. The TEF could provide two-year advance funding commitments over a four year period. The first two years in the form of a grant with stringent requirements that must be met by the producers, and the second two years in the form of a low interest loan to be fully repaid within three years after the end of the four-year funding cycle.
This team should come away with both investment guidelines and timelines, and be prepared to publish a definitive model that other annual Jamaican music festivals may utilize. Such a model must be guided by the concept “we are all in this together” and most important, a pledge to get festival attendees to come to Jamaica once again for the music, performances and culture, in addition to the “Good Vibes”.
One of the odd things about modern music festivals today is that initial success is not always measured in attendance figures and gate receipts. At many of the large music festivals such as the I-Heart, the I-Tunes and South by South West music festivals, levels of engagement have become an essential measure in the success formula. However, at the end of the day, in a challenged economy like Jamaica’s, music festival should not expect government assistance for periods beyond five years without showing viability