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

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).

KING VIPER SOUND: Carrying on the Dancehall Tradition

kv-crew-at-workThe tradition of Jamaican dancehall Sound System has often been referred to as a kind of mobile disco. The “dancehall disco” was the linchpin for the development of the entire Jamaican music industry – which today has evolved into reggae and modern dancehall genres. These “mobile discos” actually gave rise to the country’s recording industry. The first local disc pressing plants were set up to press American and British records for Sound Systems. Similarly, the first locally produced discs were produced for the Sound Systems.
The late fifties saw a significant increase in both the number of Sound Systems and discs producing outlets. Jump Blues from the United States was the dominant music played at the time. Artists like Fats Domino, Rosco Gordon and Balladeer Johnny Ace dominated the Jamaican dancehall. The dominant Sound Systems at the time was Tom the Great Sebastian (the original home of the great Count Machuki) and V-Rocket. By 1960, the Sound System phenomena had expand to include major players Vincent Edwards – King Edwards the Giant; Clement Dodd’s – Sir Coxsone Downbeat; Arthur Reid’s – Duke Reid the Trojan and later Cecil Campbell’s – Prince Buster the Voice of the People. The large Sounds cultivated protégés such as Dr. Dickey’s Dynamic (the original home of the great U-Roy and King Tubby), Supertone the Ambassador, Count Bells the President, Prince Lloyd the Matador and Sir Nyah the Conqueror.
The establishment of local production facilities in Jamaica – first Stanley Motta and later West Indies Records (WIRL) launched Jamaica into the record production business – at first for Sound System operators only, and later for consumers. Records were initially produced with blank second (flip) sides or instrumental version of the song on the flip side. This gave rise to toasting as the DJs quickly learned to “ride the rhythm” on the flip side. Count Machuki is credited as the originator of this concept.
Throughout five decades, Jamaican music has evolved through several genres – from Jamaican Jump Blues, to Ska, Rock Steady and now Reggae and Modern Dancehall. However, throughout these decades, the concept of real Dancehall has remained constant. The huge oversize speakers – usually in an outdoor space with DJs that incorporate a kind of African call-and-response in their toasting as they “ride the rhythm” defined what dancehall is all about.
Today, King Viper Sound – a Sound System based in Washington DC area of the United States takes the history and the cultural phenomena that characterized dancehall culture very serious whenever they play. Owner and Technical Director Tony Armstrong (Father Lulu) and son Kevin, plus a team of DJs and selectors provide local and regional dancehall fans on the US east coast with a true taste of what music use to be like back in the day when Sound Systems competed for the title –“King of Jamaican Dancehall”. They have built multiple sets, which allow King Viper to perform in multiple settings simultaneously.
Armstrong was introduced to the Sound System during his formative years while living in Jamaica. He actually ventured into the business in 1973 when he built his first system – Lulu’s HiFi playing for house parties and helping to sow the seeds for Ska and Reggae as a prominent music genre the Washington area. Over the years he has remained an integral part of the Washington – Metro area Sound System scene, either as an operator or as sound engineer for one of the prominent sets. This period included time with Emperor Sound and at the Turntable and the Hummingbird – two of the first nightclubs in the Washington area that featured a format of predominantly reggae music.
oversize-speakers
King Viper can be heard live on digital radio at kingston12.net every Saturday night form 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM as they take real Jamaican Dance to the World. During this five-hour session, listeners get to enjoy dancehall music in its purest form. The play-list may range from the early nineteen sixties to the Friday prior to the air date.
father-lulu-at-work
As Armstrong describes it – Each week they use the music to take listeners into the heart of the places – to “meet” some of the players that to a large extent, define Jamaican culture. King Viper’s main objective is to enable listeners to feel like they are actually there in a space with no walls, surrounded by large, oversize speakers, great music, and good vibes.
Listeners at home can move their furniture to one side, call up friends and have a dancehall session. Armstrong describes King Viper Sound really simple….”a Sound System that plays reggae music with a calming vibe, that is conscious, but can sometimes hit hard’. But as the great Bob Marley once said “when this music hit you will feel no pain”.

CLAY: Clay List – Right on Time

Clay (born Clayton Morrison on August 9, 1982 in Kingston, Jamaica) is a classically trained pianist, music producer, song writer and reggae singer. He currently resides and record out of the United Kingdom. In his short years in the music business he has established himself as brilliant artist/songwriter/producer – working with artists such as The Neptunes (currently produced by Pharrell), Teddy Riley and Timbaland. Clay’s body of work (client list) include labels such as Sony Music, Atlantic Records, WEA, VP Records and Avex & Pony Canyon (both Japanese companies)
Clay
In addition to the piano, the very versatile Clay also plays drums and guitar. He is described as “having an incredible ear for music – with no boundaries or limits on genre”. Clay is as comfortable with Hip Hop, R & B and Pop as he is with his chosen genre – reggae and is rapidly becoming an artists’ favorite artist.  He has established his own Calybeat label which he describe as half of his first name and “I like clay because a potter uses it and molds it into something beautiful and since I make music and can mold sounds into a beautiful song, the marriage of Clay and Beat work well”. On Claybeat he has developed a unique sound that works as easily for Sean Pauls’s Hold My Hand as it works for Timbaland Hip Hop sound, the Chipmunk’s Pray for Me or his latest release-Can I Have My Heart Back.
While Clay is still busy stamping the Claybeat “signature” a number of projects, his solo career has really taken off and he has become part of both radio playlists and the dancehall scene in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe with songs such as Fire, Life, London Town and Shadow after Dark. His latest five-track EP titled Clay-List include potential hits such as Late than Never, Still the Same and two of this writer’s favorites- Clean Hands and Dirty Heart & Wolf Inna Sheep Clothe.
He describes his personal goal as simply “make great music that inspires people and to maintain a balance in his life”. You can checkout his music a Blog at reggaepromo.weebly.com
 
 

Giants Behind the Music: Vere Johns

Vere Johns (Joseph Vere Everette Johns) was born in Mandeville, a city located in the parish of Manchester in central Jamaica on November 28, 1893 and died on September 10, 1966. He was a journalist/actor and one of the island’s earliest radio personalities. He was producer and host of the Vere Johns talent hour on radio, a program that contributed to the launching of the careers of many of the country’s musical giants. Vare Johns served in the South Lancaster (England) Regiment in World War 1. After the war he moved to the United States where he found work as a newspaper columnist and as host of talent contests.
He returned to Jamaica in 1939 and later joined the Jamaica Star newspaper – where he wrote the weekly column “Vere Johns Says”. Shortly thereafter, he began hosting a weekly talent show on RJR, one of the island’s two radio stations, called “Vere Johns Opportunity Knock”. This show is said to have launched the careers of several artists – among them : Lloyd Charmers, Hortense Ellis, John Holt, Bob Andy, Desmond Dekker, The Wailers, Alton Ellis, Jackie Edwards, Dobby Dobson, Boris Gardiner, Laurel Aitken, and Millie Small. These talent contests were held and recorded live in venues such as The Majestic, Ward, Palace and Ambassador Theaters.
In addition to showcasing talent, these shows also served as scouting venues for producers such as as Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Prince Buster and Arthur “Duke” Reid – the primary record producers and Sound System operators of the period. Singers were recruited and taken to the Stanly Motta studio (the only recording studio in Jamaica at the time) to record cover versions of US hits for their sound systems.
In addition to his contribution to the music industry, Vare Johns was one Jamaica’s earliest Shakespearean actors and acting teacher.