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”.

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).

2016 Top 50 Reggae Songs

Kingston12's Top Fifty (50) Reggae Songs for 2016

2016 Top 50 Reggae Songs

Song Title Artist    Label

 
Rise Up (Ft. Taffari)                              Anthony B                                            Minor7Flat5
Stay With Me                                            Ashli Jade                                            HeavyBeat
Wake Me Up (Reggae Remix)          Avicii                                                       Avici Music AB
Unstoppable (ft, Akon)                          Beenie Man                                       357 Records/VPAL
One Life to Live (Dub Re-mastered)    Beres Hammond                     FM Records
Is This Love (Montmartre Remix)              Bob Marley                            Island Def Jam
On My Way Home (ft. R. Valentine)        Cali P                                           Hemp Higher/Flash Hit
Memories                                                          Chevaughn                                Frankie Music/VPAL
No Pressure                                                         Clay                                         Countrybus Music
Espionage                                                              Clay                                         Countrybus Music
Steal My Girl                                                        Da’ville                                   O Thomas
Nail Pon Cross                                                    Damian Marley                 Republic Records
High & Dry (ft. Morgan Heritage)           Easy Star All-Stars           Easy Star Records
True To My Roots                                  Freddie McGregor                      Big Ship Music/VPAL
I Only Have Eyes For You (12” Mix)        Frederica Tibbs                Derek Fevrier
Natural Vibration (ft. J. Boog)                    Gappy Ranks                      Hot Coffee Music
Ride out Your Storm                                        George Nooks                   Tad’s Record
Mama Roots (ft. J. Boog)                              The Green                              TheGreen808
Love Note                                                              Ikaya                                        VP Music Group
Sweet Love                                                           J Boog                                      Washhouse Music
Telephone Love                                                  Jah Cure                                 VP Music Group
Who’s That Sound?(ft.Beres Hammond)  Kirkledove                       VP Music Group
Cold Water (Reggae mix)                              Major Lazar                         Mad Decent
Change The World                                            Mikey Spice                         Upstairs Music
Dancehall (ft. Mr. Williams)                     The Movement                      Rootfire Cooperative
Honorable                                                           New Kingston                       OurVinyl TV
Me & You                                                       Omari Banks                         Big Banko Music/VPAL
Red Rose                                                            Pressure Busspipe               Jalpo/Busspipe
Live Your Life (ft. J Boog/Busy Signal)    Raging Fyah                       Dub Rockers
Why Can’t You Love (ft. Spawnbreezie)    Rebel Souljahz              Rebel Music
This Train                                                                     Richie Spice                    Tad’s Record
Dance (ft. Mr. Easy & Dean Fraser)              Ricky Blaze                     FME Recordings
Photograph                                                                Sadiki                                 Skinny Boy Records
Rejoice (feat. Jah9)                                                Sara Lugo                        Oneness Records
That Love (ft. Alkaline)                                        Shaggy                              K. Licious Music Group
I Got You (ft. Jovi Rockwell)                             Shaggy                              Sony Music
Days Like Dese (ft.Dexta Dapps)[2015]  Sotto Bless                      Idi Welch AKA Sotto B
Shanty Town (ft. Busy Signal)         Sugar Roy/The Fireball Crew     Fire Ball Records
Date Night                                                 Bobby Hustle                            Giddimani Records
Girl On The Side                                    Ce’Cile                                           Creative Noize Records
There She Goes (ft. Jimmy Cozier)         Gyptian                             Diamond League UPT
Hold On                                                     Randy Valentine                        Maximum Sound
One Minute                                            Dexta Daps                               Chimney/21st Hapilos
Freedom Fighter                                  Bugle                                            Live MB Music/
Keep My Kool                                        Influential                                  Hungry Mouth
True Love                                                  Luckie D                                     FM Records
Goodbye to Love (Re-mastered)     Maxi Priest                          FM Records
Don’t Know How Much                        Beres Hammond              FM Records
Smile Jamaica                                             Chronixx                               Silly Walks Discotheque
Whisper In The Wind                            Dalton Harris                      Silly Walks Discotheque

Original Bad Boys are back

Inner Circle, the original bad boys of reggae music are back with an 8-track EP on their original Tenement Yard Riddim.  It features several artists including – Chronixx, Jesse Royal, Bugle, Assassin, Tanya Stephens and Daniel (Bambaata) Marley. The instrumental mix of Tenement Yard is worth the price of the album. The EP was released on April 21 on the DubShot Records/Sound Boy Entertainment label. They have also released a new slamming, reggae version of Snoop Dogg, Bruno Mars & Wiz KhalifaYoung, Wild & Free. The cut features I-Octane and Peetah Morgan (of the Heritage clan)

Morgan Heritage Gone Strictly Roots

I am tempted to say they are back, but that wouldn’t be true. Morgan Heritage never really went anywhere. They just keep putting out great music.  This latest album – Strictly Roots include collaborations with several artists including Cronixx (Child of Jah), Young Jo Mersa Marley (Light it Up), Shaggy (Keep On Jammin), Bobby Lee (We are Warriors), Eric Rachmany – Rebelution (Wanna Be Loved) and J Boog & Young Jemere Morgan on So Amazing. The 13-track CD was released on April 20 on CTBC Music Group.

Leslie Butler Plus Three, We've Only Just Begun

The Butler Does it Again

Jamaica multi-talented keyboard player Leslie Butler’s new album will have its official I-Tunes release on June 9.  The album titled:  We’ve Only Just Begun features classic standards like Witchita Lineman, Love Story, Shaft and the title track.  Butler is one of Jamaica’s least known musical giants.  His classic dub album Ja-Gan (1975) is now a collector’s item. Throughout the years his multi-talents (piano, organ, synthesizer, melotron, flute and clavinet) has more than decorated the works of fellow musicians including: Jimmy Cliff, Ernie Smith, Mark Holder, Max Edwards, Kiddus I, Cedric Myton & the Congos and Bob Andy.

Itals New Release

Keith Porter & the Itals have released their latest album titled Mind over Matter. The 20-track set was released on May 5 on Ital Music label. Former lead singer Ronnie Davis is truly missed on this one.

Randy Valentine is Still Pushing

Still Pushing is the title of Randy Valentine’s new album. The 9-track set include potential hit singles like Wake the Town and Black Cinderella. Valentine left Jamaica for Great Britain several years ago and is rapidly taking his place among the conscious reggae crew in that country. The album was released in the US on April 10 on the Hemp Higher/Ariwa Label.

Barrington Levy Releases Acoustic Set

Barrington (Double Trouble) Levy has ventured out where not many reggae artists have gone – releasing an all-acoustic album. The 15-cut album entitled AcousticLevy include several of the artist’s mega hits done in acoustic style. Among the tracks are anthems such as Murderer, Under Mi Sensi, Prison Oval, Teach the Youth and Black Roses. The album was released on May 5th – on the Tafari Records label.
AcousticLevy-seedless

Giants Behind the Music: Prince Buster

Prince Buster (Cecil Bustamante Campbell) was born in Kingston, Jamaica on May 24, 1938. His work as song-writer and produce during the Ska and Rock-Steady era has made him one of the giant figures of Jamaican music. This work has earned him an Order of Distinction (OD) honor from the Jamaican government. This honor is conferred upon citizens of Jamaica who have rendered outstanding and important service to Jamaica. His body of work as producer is said to have “influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that later reggae and ska artists would draw upon”.
Prince Buster, like many Jamaican artist of the time, gained his earliest musical experience from the church. He began performing around Kingston at the “social clubs” as a teenager, and became part of a dance group that performed at the Glass Bucket Club, one of the premier music venues in Kingston at the time. He later joined the crew of “Tom the Great Sabastian”, one of the early sound systems that imported music from the United States – mostly New Orleans. Buster later went on to work with the music legend – Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, the founder of the great Studio One.
His many jobs with Studio One enabled him to learn all the important aspects of both the music and the sound system business. He started his own sound system – named The Voice of the People, and became one of the main rivals of Clement Dodd’s “Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat”. In 1961 Prince Buster started his first record label in the heart of downtown Kingston. That same year he joined forces with drummer Arkland “Drumbago” Parks, guitarist Jah Jerry and Alpha Boys School graduate, Rico Rodriquez (whom he knew from his days at the Baby Grand Club) to release his first record – titled Little Honey backed by an instrumental called Luke Lane Shuffle. That was followed up with recording of the now famous – Oh Carolina by the Folks Brothers. This song is credited with the introduction of Nyabingi Rastafarian drumming and influences in main stream Jamaican music. The song was released on the Blue Beat label in England and went on to become one of the first influential Ska songs released outside Jamaica.
In the 1960s, Prince Buster went on to release several local hits with artists like Alton Ellis on this Wild Bells Label. Among the Ska hits were Wash Wash –which charted in England and Madness which started a kind of Ska revolution around the world. At the end of the late 1960s, after meeting the world heavyweight champion – Muhammad Ali, Prince Buster decided to join the Nation of Islam. He did not walk away from the music business however, and continued to release several rock-steady hits. His song – Al Capone charted at number 18 in the United Kingdom in 1967.Over the years he has had a few cameo roles in movies including The Harder They Come – in which he played a club DJ.
Prince Buster continued to influence Ska revivals in the 1970s and 80s. It is said that the Ska revival of the late 1970s began with the British 2-Tone label’s introduction of his music to a new generation of listeners – some of who were not even born when he was popular in the UK. In 1979 the band Madness released their first single on 2-Tone, a tribute to Buster called “The Prince”. The B-side was a cover of the Prince Buster’s hit song “Madness” from which they took their name. Their second single, released on the Stiff label (“The Prince” was the only single released by Madness on the 2-Tone label), was a cover of Buster’s  “One Step Beyond”, which reached the UK Top 10.
On their self-titled debut album, The Specials covered “Too Hot” and borrowed elements from Campbell’s “Judge Dread” (in the song “Stupid Marriage”) and “Al Capone” (in the song “Gangsters”). The Specials also included a cover of “Enjoy Yourself” on their second album More Specials. The Beat covered “Rough Rider” and “Whine & Grine” on their album I Just Can’t Stop It. Campbell’s song “Hard Man Fe Dead” was covered by the U.S. ska band The Toasters on their 1996 album 2 Tone Army
Prince Buster presently reside in South Florida.