Events

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.

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).

K12 Community Views: Music Cruises vs. Music Festivals

In the past, music lovers use to look forward to music festivals in places like New Orleans, the Caribbean, the British Isles, New Port, Rhode Island and Monterey, CA. Today these festivals have solid competition from a new kind of music festival at high seas. One can sail the Caribbean with his/her favorite band and be treated to intimate performances and chances to meet artists face-to-face, while having the vacation of a lifetime. From big band, classic jazz, contemporary jazz, country music, R & B, Blues to reggae – these cruises appeal to a broad range of melodic taste. Guest on these cruises may even be treated to special performances.
If you have had the opportunity to attend both a land-based music festival and a recent music cruise in the in the past 12 months, tell us in 100 words or less – which was your preference and why?
In the future, if you can only attend one music festival in a single year and you are asked to make a choice which would you choose?

SummerJam Celebrates 30 Years

An earlier article on this platform reference Reggae on the River – schedule for the end July in beautiful Humboldt County, California. This festival is celebrating its 31st staging this summer. Another reggae festival that is truly worth noting this year is SummerJam: The Everlasting Festival – scheduled for July 3 thru 5 in Cologne, Germany. Like Reggae on the River, SummerJam is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Those of us who are close to both the festival and reggae music industries cannot begin to describe the challenges and “tribulations” that is involve with planning and keeping a reggae music festival going for ten years. Therefore, we hope that readers of this article will agree that the organizers of these two events truly deservers our “Standing Ovation”.
This year SummerJam organizer, Klaus Maack gave it the deserving sub-title – The Everlasting Festival – a name truly earned. Known to his friends and colleagues in the festival industry ‘Daddy Maack’, Klaus is head of Contour Music – a company that seeks to introduce his fellow Germans to a multiple faceted music industry via live performances. In an interview with the e-magazine Reggaeville, Klaus noted that a big part of his inspiration to plan the first festival was Reggae Sunsplash.

Beres Hammond
Beres Hammond

His very first festival included artists like Black Uhuru, The Wailers Band, Manu Dibango, the late Dennis Brown and Gill Scott-Heron.
When the stage is lit this year Cologne will welcome a wide spectrum of artists ranging from Damian Marley, Steel Pulse, Soja, Chris Martin and Jessie Royal to super stars like Beres Hammond and Wyclef Jean.
 
Details on this year’s festival are posted at www.summerjam.de
Contact info at:
Contour Festival Organization GmbH
Alexanderstr. 78
D-70182 Stuttgart
Tel: +49711238 50 0

Up Coming International Reggae Music Festivals in 2015

California Roots, Monterry, CA
May 22 -24,
Major Acts: Chronixx, Collie Buddz, Blue King Brown (Australia), Common Kings, Michael Franti, Steel Pulse, Tribal Seeds
Website: www.californiarootsfestival.com
Best of the Best, Miami, Fl
May 24th,
Major Acts: Sanchez, Wayne Wonder, Capleton, Beene Man, Lady Saw and Morgan Heritage
Website: www.bestofthebestconcert.com
Reggae Sumfest, Montego Bay, Jamaica
July 12th thru 18th
Major Acts: To Be Announced
Website: www.reggaesumfest.com
Reggae on the River, Garberville, Humboldt County, CA
July 30th thru August 2nd
Major Acts: Collie Buddz, Protoje (Kingston Be Wise), Stephen Marley and the Ghetto Youth Crew, Tarrus Riley, Ce’Cil, and Stick Figure.
Website: www.reggaeontheriver.com
BoomTown Fair, Materley Estate, Winchester, United Kingdom
August 13th thru 16th
Major Acts: Alborosie, Black Uhuru, Matisahu, Baby Cham, Cutty Ranks, Katchafire, Stephen Marley, SOJA, Barrington Levy, Anthony B, Protoje
Website: http://www.boomtownfair.co.uk/
Rototom Sunsplash, Castellon, Spain
August 15th thru 22nd
Major Acts: To Be Announced
Website: www.rototomsunsplash.com/es/
One Love Festival, Popham Airport, Winchester, United Kingdom
September 4th
Major Acts: Michael Rose, MackaB, Randy Valentine, Norrisman, Echo Minott, the Maytones, Little Roy and Dennis Bovell
Website: www.onelovefestival.co.uk

The 31st Annual Reggae on the River Festival

At the bottom of the web page promoting the 2015 Reggae o the River (ROTR) music festival, there is a quote from a Bob Marley song that has served as the inspiration for this web platform. It states “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”. The line is from the song Trench Town Rock, the inspiration for Kingston12.net. This year marks 31 years since the initial ROTR concert was held in Humboldt County, California. This year festival is scheduled for July 30 thru August 2, 2015.
Colli-Buddz
This year’s festival promises to continue its long tradition of bringing together great music, terrific vibes and beautiful people. In addition to great reggae and world music, the festival provides an outdoor camping experience at the French Camp grounds, near Garberville (South East of Eureka) in Humboldt County, California. This includes four days of camping on the banks of the majestic Northern California Eel River. Among the early announced lineup are reggae artists Collie Buddz, Protoje (Kingston Be Wise), Stephen Marley and the Ghetto Youth Crew, Tarrus Riley, Ce’Cil, and the Duxbury, Massachusetts based reggae group – Stick Figure.
If camping is not your thing, there are a few hotels in/near the city of Garberville (10 miles from the venue).
These include:
Best Western/Humboldt House Inn ($$)
Benbow Inn ($$$$$)
Humboldt Redwoods Inn ($)
Motel Garberville ($$)
Dean Creek Resort ($$)
For festival information Contact:
707 923-3368 (phone)
707 923-3370 (Fax)
cathy@mateel.org
office@mateel.org
 

Reggae Sumfest Set for July 12 – 18, 2015

Call it by either of its branded names “The Greatest Reggae Show on Earth” or the “World’s best Promotion of Music as a Universal Force”, it comes down to one thing – the best experience you will have at a music festival (including the latest trends of festivals on the high seas) anywhere in the world this year. This festival which many skeptics predicted that in a few years would have gone the way of most over hyped music festivals – out of business, will celebrate a quarter century in 2018.
Reggae Sumfest (formerly Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest – named for its former headline sponsor) was first staged in 1993 when faced with the loss of Reggae Sunsplash – at that time the world’s largest reggae festival, a group of Montego Bay based business men and women came together to form Summer-fest Productions Limited. That year the first festival was staged in Montego Bay, August 11th -14th.. That same year Reggae Sunsplash moved to Jam World in St. Catherine, Jamaica  (on the outskirts of the city Kingston) and pulled in 60 thousand attendees. Many predicted that because most the attendees of Sunsplash in Montego Bay drove in from Kingston, this new location near that city, coupled with the huge first year attendance at Jam World marked the “death nail” for any competition in Montego Bay.
What those “predictors of the doom for Reggae Sumfest” did not quite understand was the fact that the majority of attendees of Sunsplash and even those from Kingston did not simply attend because of the opportunity to listen to reggae music. The music festival location – Montego Bay, provided an occasion to get away (for a few days) from the hustle of Kingston or to plan a vacation that include sun, fun, beach, great food, hanging out with the most friendly strangers and the opportunity to replace stress with best reggae music on earth.
Personally, even as one who consider myself a Kingstonian, my Jam World experience in 1993 lasted only one night – although I spent the entire five days of the festival in the city. After attending the first night at Jam World, I completely lost my desire to attend a music festival in a location where as a child we referred to as the “other side of back-a-wall”.
The nomadic experience of Reggae Sunsplash in the years that followed – Jam World to St. Ann (near Bob Marley’s place of birth) and later Ocho Rios and now “out of business” is testament to the fact that leaving Montego Bay represented a huge lost of perspective on the part of the organizers. Festival attendees are mostly middle class working young people with limited time and resources. The  music festival provide a single opportunity for vacation and great music.
Since 1993, Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay has provided the opportunity for foreigners, expatriate Jamaicans and Jamaicans at home to plan a vacation that includes beaches, sun, fun, great people and good music. One has to simple look at the over-head shots of an Isle of Man festival – off the cost of Great Britain, or the music festivals on the Gulf Shores of Mississippi and Alabama to understand the impact of a reggae music festival by the sea. The ambiance of Montego Bay provides that kind of a back-drop for Reggae Sumfest.
Add a highly committed and well organized team of promoters who have struggled through the years of “back-breaking” financial losses to a point of profitability over the last ten years. The growth and success of the festival over the years can mostly be attributed to this team of promoters who are highly motivated to expose attendees to the “best of “rising stars from all music genres throughout the world; to remind us of the great international stars who continues to create our music and culture – from Lionel Richie, Usher, Mary J. Blige to the Temptations, while showcasing the very best that reggae music has to offer. In its twenty plus years, Reggae Sumfest has showcased almost every artist that has been of any significance to our creative music culture.
The list is long and include many modern acts like Shaggy, Chronixx, the second generation of Marleys, Beres Hammond, Tessane Chin and many from the dancehall genre such as Bounty Killer, Beenie Man and Lady Saw; in addition to several who are no longer with us, such as Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and John Holt. Unfortunately the late legend Desmond Dekker never got to perform at Sumfest and we are still waiting for the living legend – Jimmy Cliff.
The festival has now cemented its place as one of the world’s great “music festivals by the sea”. Each year international press coverage continues to grow with entertainment journalist coming from major television, analog radio, digital audio and print outfits – including E-television, BET-TV, Access Hollywood, Vibe Magazine and Billboard in the United States; BBC in England, Channel O, South Africa and media form Brazil and several Central and South American countries.
Reggae Sumfest has been successful in part because the promoters have received strong support from the Montego Bay business community. In addition to Red Stripe beer that initially partnered with the production as a headline sponsors, others such as Appleton Rum, VP Records , Ocean Spray, Pepsi and local hotels such as Iberostar Resorts, Secrets, Holiday Inn Sunspree and Sunset Beach Resort continue to provide strong support.
This has been a brutal winter for those of us who reside in the North East and East Central areas of the United States. Even my friends in Florida inform me that they too have had several 30 degrees days. I am told by relatives in Great Britain that Europe have not fared much better. This has moved the thinking about, and planning for summer vacation higher up on our list of priority for 2015. Thus the producers of the festival might well take note of this and begin to announce the line-up for this year’s concerts a bit earlier than is normal. That will provide many of us who like to plan in advance the encouragement to write on our calendar in large print – Reggae Sumfest vacation, July 12th thru 18th, 2015, Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Look for updated information on the Sumfest Facebook page facebook.com/ReggaeSumfest