My pick of the Jamaican artists whose music brought a smile to my face in 2014 – Barbara Makeda Blake-Hannah.

no-maddz-shotta-750x750Top of my list is NOMADDZ, a unique group of which there is no comparison or precedence. A mix of dub poets, performance artists and reggae singers whose music is a fusion of sounds and whose lyrics are always thought-provoking, each is talented in their own right. We haven’t heard from them in a while since they dropped “Breadfruit is The New Bread”, though we’ve been watching some excellent acting performances from Everaldo Creary and Sheldon Shepherd in the Jamaican movie “Betta Must Come”. Now NOMADDZ has teamed up with Sly & Robbie to produce a new album that displays their many versatile talents excellently and will probably earn lots of accolades in 2015.  “(Watch NOMADDZ – ‘Shotta’)  

IMG-20141222-03059stephen newlandROOTS UNDERGROUND and RAGING FIYA are reggae bands in the lineage of Third World and Steel Pulse that command a stage in their own right, not merely as backing artists to a major act. A recent double-bill in Kingston over Christmas confirmed the musical excellence of both bands that has seen them each booked for the major music festivals in 2014 and to come in 2015.  STEPHEN NEWLAND, lead singer of Roots Underground, is an electric performer who brings further dynamism to the group’s rootical music, while Raging Fiya – though only a few years old – show a cohesion and professionalism that makes their performances good to watch, listen and dance to.

kelissaKELISSA McDonald stands out from the upcoming female musical flowers that include JAH9, , HEMPRESS SATIVA, CEN’C LOVE and newcomer NEO-SULAN SMITH with a series of dynamic performances at home and abroad. A powerful solo show before Christmas gave insight that she holds her own as a performer on the recent international tour with Chronixx, and it is clear that her few single hits will surely increase in 2015. Often keeping her company is her brother KEZNAMDI, whose 2014 songs “Darkness” featuring Kabaka Pyramid and “Weekend” showed that he is a talent in his own right. (Watch ‘WINNA’ ft. Chronixx )

jesse royal
and KABAKA PYRAMID all came to attention at the start of the ‘Reggae Revival’ movement, almost indistinguishable from each other. But each has carved out a space as a solo artist in 2014, distinguished by a hit that has given them greater visibility and enabled them to stand out from each other.  Each can be proud of their increased popularity and tour dates in 2014, following hard on the heels of CHRONIXX and PROTOJE, who still hold the top spots among the ‘Reggae Revival’ crowd.  WATCH 
DRE ISLAND – ‘Rastafari Way’: 

exile di brave

dexta malawiEXILE DI BRAVE and DEXTA MALAWI are a new breed of roots artists who have developed an identity while hosting music events that feature them and their group of artist friends. Exile Di Brave‘s ‘Vinyl Thursdays‘ revived interest in vinyl disc sessions and gave a few up-coming artists a weekly chance to dub live. Dexta Malawi launched his catchy hit song and video “Woke Up This Morning” with a Boxing Day 2013 party at popular Afrocentric restaurant Veggie Meals On Wheels that took the song on its global journey. Both artists have toured Europe in 2014 and are set to continue in 2015.  WATCH “Woke Up This Morning’ Dexta Malawi 


NEW REGGAE GENERATION – In late 2013 three friends ARSEENAL D’ARTILLARY, IYAH GIFT and MAKONNEN BLAKE-HANNA who have been working as solo artists on their own careers, united in a musical fraternity to perform as the N.R.G. – the NEW REGGAE GENERATION. The unusual trio who sing together, back each other up and mix it up in a combination of roots reggae, hip-hop and dub, received special attention for their performances at a growing number of 2014 events, including the popular ‘Kingston Dub Club’ Sunday night session, Bob Marley Museum’s ‘One Love Fridays’ and the ‘Pay Attention’ hip-hop sessions.

iyah gift albumRSEENAL ALBUMWhile accepting the growing recognition of N.R.G., each artist continues to work on his individual career with positive results that will increase in 2015. Solo albums were released by IYAH GIFT and RSEENAL in 2014, soon to be joined by MAKONNEN in 2015. IYAH GIFT brings a touch of his African parental roots to his music, (LISTEN HERE) while RSEENAL‘s album ‘A Luta Continua – Vitoria e Cierta” (LISTEN HERE:) reflects his position as a committed revolutionary, whose bullets are his rapid-fire lyrics.

rockers revolution coverMAKONNEN,  a ‘tech genius’ whose early musical years were spent as composer/producer of a number of artists and hits, took on the added musical role of artist in 2013 and came to attention with the popular airplay of his first single “Red Eye”.  Makonnen’s Soundcloud page (LISTEN HERE) features several tracks from his upcoming album ‘Rockers Revoution‘. Dermot Hussey, musicologist and host of “RIFFIN” online radio show, says of Makonnen: “What I like about Mak’s music, is the creative elements he produces. His work is very focused, and he makes use of a wider sonic choice, his beats underscore that as a young brother he marches to a larger sound. There is a lot of talent in Jamaica, but an equally repetitive factor, a kind of mono culture, the same thing over and over, or one thing at a time, but as a young man, he understands the generational shift, because he’s a part of it, and understands that it relates to a bigger picture.”

STARS OF 2015  – These are the Jamaican artists whose performances and music I will be looking out for in 2015. Wishing them all the BEST for the New Year.


GIMME LIKKLE BASS – The Dub & Rockers Revival


Dub Club

dub station

It is now easy to enjoy a musical night out every night of the week in Kingston. I don’t mean stage shows with reggae and dancehall stars, or high-priced performances at exclusive night clubs – they happen too infrequently, and at a cost not always within reach of music fans’ pockets.

I refer to the rising popularity of a new breed of free, open-air music events featuring sound systems playing Dub & Rockers – a genre of music with heavy emphasis on drum and bass that was popular in the late 60s and early 70s, when Jamaica’s reggae made the world get ‘irie’. Some of the featured artists of that era include Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Augustos Pablo, Jah Shaka, Bunny Brown, King Tubbys, Black Uhuru, Mikey Dread and many others whose music filled   the dance floors of that era one generation ago.

wednesdays       By the time the Monday Blues have worn off and the work desk has cleared somewhat by Tuesday, you can begin your musical nights on Wednesdays at DUBWISE, a session held at the popular Whitebones fish restaurant on Constant Spring Road, where plates of steamed fish and curried lobster are as much a part of the night’s fun as the steady pounding of Dub Music.

viinyl thursdays       On Thursday nights the adventurous venture into Tavern, a small community nestled on the banks of the Hope River just above Papine. There, popular artist and DJ Exile Di Brave hosts VINYL THURSDAYS, a session of exclusively vinyl platters dating back to reggae’s 70s and 80s. With the lights of the riverside community as a twinkling backdrop and a cool breeze blowing through the ackee trees, the event is a favourite stop for Rastas of all ages, both from the Tavern community and visitors, such as a Japanese group led by ISHI whose selection and Patois rap are pure Jamaican roots.

On Friday nights you can stop by veteran guitarist Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith’s INNA DI YARD, where the dub is live with any number of musicians and artists stopping by to lend their arts to the session.  On the same night DUB SCHOOL is in session at Veggie Meals On Wheels, the city’s leading Ital restaurant nestled in a corner of Regal Plaza, Cross Roads. VMOW has its own faithful group of supporters who regularly patronize the restaurant, so irie friends are always around to nice up the vibe.

Rseenal, Jahson, Makonnen, Iyah-Gift
mikey general1
Original Mikey General

Definitely spend Saturdays at ROCKERS REVALUTION, that takes place outside Kairo Soul Wholesale at Mary Browns Corner, Constant Spring Road. There reggae artist Rseenal D’Artillery and his partner Marianita Sakiya turn their shop into a music venue every Saturday with dub music and live performances by a roster of upcoming artists such as members of his performing group New Reggae Generation (N.R.G.) Makonnen and Iyah Gift. Producers Jordan Armond and Blaise Davis bring their original Natural High Music dubs to the night, while Supa Nova Sound provides the music backing for the performing artists, who have included Original Mikey Dread, JahsonDexta Malawi and Exile Di Brave. Kairo Soul Wholesale does a regular and brisk business inside the shop while patrons at the club and restaurant in the plaza sit outside and enjoy the evening’s music and performances.

Gabre Selassie

The ‘Pappa’ of the nightly dub music sessions is Sunday night’s DUB CLUB, hosted by Ras Gabre Selassie at his beautifully decorated venue high up in the Jacks Hills overlooking the lights of Kingston spread out below. Every Sunday night the road is lined with parked cars and the venue packed with the beautiful and irie Kingston bright set, as well as visiting reggae fans from around the world. It’s at Dub Club that you will bump into the new popular young artists like Chronixx or Jesse Royal, relaxing from their summer tour dates with friends they knew before they became world famous.

Chronixx & Kelissa

The return to Dub & Rockers music is a recent trend, that highlights one of the many evolutions Jamaican music has undergone since it’s beginning. Asked to explain the popularity of Dub & Rockers, none of the artists involved have an answer. “Just time,” said one. “It’s original and people always like the original,” said another. But another explains: “Rockers was part of the original sound system culture that helped to create and solidify the sound system culture of Jamaica. It was never gone, it never died in Europe. It’s just that the need for conscious music has grown stronger and conscious people want somewhere to go out at night too.”

IMG-20140620-01786IMG-20140712-02010       Meanwhile, patrons say they ‘love the vibe’ of the Dub & Rockers sessions that offer natural juices, ital food and soy ice-cream refreshments, hand-made craft items like the coconut shell jewelry by Trench Town Cultural Yard or the fashions by Zion Ites. It’s a welcome peaceful vibe, with the sound systems, artists and patrons supporting each other’s events. Pick your night to enjoy some Dub & Rockers, old school style.


Stepping out, Stepping UP – Maki-B

Mak FoundationStepping out from behind the producer’s console, where he made hits for Capelton, Jr. Reid and Teflon — to name a few, Makonnen Blake-Hanna a.k.a. ‘Maki-B’ shows his musical and lyrical style in a sampler of singles from the New Generation of Reggae. From growing up around producers like Computer Paul Henton, Scatta Burrell, Don Corleone and more, and with more than a decade as a composer and producer of beats for a number of young reggae artists, Makonnen Blake-Hanna is fulfilling his lifelong ambition to bring his own music and lyrics to the world.

Alone, and in combination with his musical friends IyahGift, Rseenal D’Artillery, Whisky Baggio, Mc Chita, and in alliance with Orange Hill Records, he is now releasing his music in singles and videos that give him a chance to express himself musically and lyrically. The songs have a uptempo throwback to the old school style of roots dub/reggae and dancehall vibez from the great sounds we are used to hearing from the heart of Jamaica, with clean messages and uplifting riddims that inspire and educate through JAH Love. These tracks speak to and for the youths of ghetto all over the world right now.

LISTEN TO ‘RED EYE’ from his new EPK

Maki-B says “Red Eye” is a lyrical look into the life of a young Rasta man living in Babylon in this day and age, and how he uses the teachings of Rastafari to conquer the bad=minded people. “We are the new generation of real Jamaican Rastafari Reggae Artists & musicans” he says,  “so we face many things in our musical life’s journey. My style is blended from the great elders like Bob Marley, Supercat, Briadeer Jerry, U-Roy with some new vibez like Damian Jr Gong, Ky-Mani Marley, Sean Paul and Colibudz.”

Iyah Gift, Whisky Baggio, 77 Klash,Maki-B & Orange Hill Mgr. Scur Lowe
Iyah Gift, Whisky Baggio, 77 Klash,Maki-B & Orange Hill Mgr. Scur Lowe

Maki-B is bringing Orange Hill Music back into the limelight after so many years, by introducing to the label a new breed of artists he has beenn working with who are unique and already making names in the reggae music industry: Jamaican/Nigerian Iyah Gift, Rseenal D’artillery – a Heiniken DJ contest winner;MC Chita – Zimbabwean music award winner, and ‘star of the West’ Whisky Baggio.

For certain, they will surely be next year’s reggae music talking points. Their first release “Set It Off” has attracted national attention on social media and already has more than half a million views in less than one month of release.

Following hard on the heels of that hit, the team produced “Pressure Is On” featuring Whisky Bagio, produced at Flex RichStudio in Sav-la-Mar, Westmoreland. The video was so hot, the group was featured and interviewed on HYPE-TV’s popular UP & LIVE Friday show. Much more is expected and much more is promised from Maki-B and his team.