Worldwide reggae community lost Bunny Wailer/ The memories of the music industry’s exponents

Bunny Wailer, last member alive of the historical musical group ‘The Wailers’ is dead few days ago in Kingston. The lost of the beloved singer is so hard to accept for the whole reggae community around the Globe. It seems as an era is ending up now… But we know his legacy will live eternally.

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Interview with J Written: “People have the power every day to change the way they look at themselves”

Today we have interviewed a new rising star from Jamaica: J Written. The young Artist Jason Rasheed Wright, stage name J Written, was born in 1994 and he was destined for musical prowess from an early age.

Growing up with his mother, father and two sisters, J Written’s life was blighted by financial instability and constant moving around various areas of Kingston, Jamaica.

“I was unable to socialise with my peers because of my parent’s fear of negative influences,” says Written.

“I was forced to stay inside the house with my sisters. This is how I found out writing and reading was an easy way to escape the grey reality. I wrote daily journals and personal articles on the wall of my homes.”

Writing poems, speeches and essays helped sharpen the tools he uses today. He joined the debate team at his high school Bridgeport High, which gave him the confidence he needed power.

He later discovered a talent for dance even forming a squad at the age of 16. The troupe known as the Acez Dancers took Kingston by a storm.

Despite those moves, he felt there was something missing in his life. He was still writing but dancing and writing was not enough.

I was also studying for my flying pilot’s licence and completed the first part of my training but was unable to complete the process due to economical pressures.

So, at the age 18 he started to fiddle with his old broken-down computer at home, selecting and building beats. Then he started to sing on his own riddims putting a title to one of his productions called “Top Floor Music”.

His passion for music continued: he was often visiting various prominent studios in Jamaica, including JAMINS in Trench Town.

JAMIN studio Fifth Street Trench Town has become his camp where his career began to take a new socially conscious shape. His first notable release was as lead singer with the Right Band. The track is entitled “Remember December”, which focuses on the economic stress of Christmas.  Next up he got a major release featuring international Recording Artist Alborosie entitled “Fear to Understand” that gives a different highlight in J Written’s musical journey.

Gege Vibes: Hi Written what’s up? At what stage is your musical journey?

J Written: I just observe what I see happening around me, then I transform it in lyrics of my songs. I’m also lucky cause right now I have a support team who is managing me and I’m trying to achieve the highest standard in what I do.

G.V. About highest standards in your career, what about your experience with Bunny Wailers? How did it start ?

J.W. We became connected through King Calie and Dre Tosh when they brought bredrens who I was with at that time to his museum to rehearse for a couple of shows. Over time his son and I became close, but the family did not know me as a singer, I was just the bredren around the musicians. Now they appreciate my artistic skills as well.

G.V. : What do u think is the biggest result you actually achieved during your career then?

J.W. To be honest I’ve done so much in my career, but the real highlight of all if it was when someone reached out to me saying that somehow I helped to make his burden lighter. He just listened to one of my songs. I think that’s what all artists should aim for. It means to make a positive impact on someone’s life.

G.V. You just talked about positivity. In your opinion why is it important for the new generations to keep doing positive reggae music?

J.W. I believe in all the positive music, no matter what the genre is. I found over time that I express myself better using Reggae, but whatever style is used to bring across the message is a thumbs up for me.

G.V. What’s the message beside your single ‘Fear to understand’ featuring Alborosie? And how was to collaborate with him? 

The song “Fear to understand” is showing the people who believe that they are a failure that they have the power every day to change the way they look at themselves.

G.V. Are you planning to release any official album?

J.W. Albums and more projects are always at the forefront of my mind, if I even tried to slow down and stop it would be like trying to bottle the sea. There’s lots more projects coming soon. I am currently in studios  working on my EP due to be released early next year 2021. I generally just go with what my energy tells me.

Eugenia Conti

Interview with I-Taweh: “My dream is to live long and healthy to see the unification of this human race”

Donavan I-taweh Cunningham was born in the hills of St. Ann, the same parish in Jamaica where the great Marcus Garvey, Burning Spear and Bob Marley all rise from. Like most successful artists, he comes from humble beginnings. Raised in the farming community of Prickly Pole, he spent most of his childhood farming alongside his father and four brothers. As a young child he played music on handmade instruments crafted together from bamboo and sardine tins.
It was the move to Kingston in 1992 that jump-started his musical career. Living between the communities of Mall Road, Grants Pen, Portmore, Rockfort, and Duhaney Park, I-taweh found comfort in the ghetto at the Community Center of The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari.

This was extremely influential for his music and his mission, where he was amongst some of the greatest musicians in the industry including Dizzy Johnny Moore, Earl Chinna Smith, Nambo Robinson, and Bongo Herman. During this time he was rarely seen without his guitar, and was given the nickname Danny Gitz. Along with the name, his skills and reputation as a musician began to grow, until the legendary Sugar Minott took him under his wing as his guitarist and harmony singer.

In 1998, I-taweh became the youngest member of The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, Jamaica’s most influential Nyahbingi, religious and cultural group. With Brother Sam Clayton as the leader, they toured Europe extensively until 2007 presenting traditional Jamaican music and educational workshops.
I-taweh produced and composed his first solo album, Overload, which he released in 2011. He has since gone one to self-produce two more albums, Judgementwhich was released in February 2017, and his latest project, Reload, released on January 3rd, 2020.  He is currently promoting his new single “One too many” that is denouncing the brutality of police against black people in the World. He composed this tune after the tragedy of George Floyd, happened in USA. The Artist underlines that every human being deserves the same justice and human rights otherwise there will be never any peace without any justice.

1. As many great artists you came from modest origins. Could you explain us how did you approach to your musical journey in the first place? 
I started out in a tiny community called Prickly Pole. It’s in St Ann Parrish, Jamaica, just a few miles from the home where Bob Marley grew in Nine Mile. My first real musical approach was playing in the church of my community.
2. Who are your biggest artistic inspirations? 
I would say The Wailers and Kenny Rodgers.
3. You’re a Rastaman. Could you tell us something more about the tour u did in Europe in 2007 to educate people to this culture? How it was the feedback here so far?
 Yah man. I’m proudly a Rastaman. The tours I did in Europe were very good for me especially because I got the chance to visit new places, to meet new people to share my vibrations and Reggae music with.
4. Your last project ‘Reload’ was released on January 3rd. How was working at this project with your team?

My latest album “Reload” was released in the beginning of this year, was a very good experience for me putting it together, I wanna give thanks to all who was there with me for the ride. This album is I-Taweh’s greatest body of work-to-date.

All songs are composed, written, and produced by myself through my independent label Tap Nat Muzik.
5. Do the topics inside your albums reflect any of the main dream of your life? 
The main dream of my life is to live long and healthy to see the unification of this human race. I tried my best to express this message through my latest album.
6. Do you believe in the power of conscious music as a privileged way to give universal messages then? Why in your opinion is important that younger artists keep some great values of the past? 
Yes, I do believe in conscious positive vibes. Since I was a little boy ’till now it’s being a positive uplifting force in my life. Today I’m in a point that hopefully I can reach some young minds and souls with my music.
7. Any Future project as soon as everything will return back to normal?
Well, I am always working on projects, the inspirations keeps flowing which I’m thankful for… so I am constantly in the studio recording new songs. I’ll soon update you.
8. Could you give a special greetings for Gege Vibes Magazine readers?
Eugenia Conti

Interview with Courtney ‘Bam’ Diedrick – Grammy Drummer touring the World with Damian Marley

(Cover Photo credit: @radiantsun9)

Courtney Diedrick, also known as “Bamdrumz”, is the official drummer for Damian Marley. We meet him in O2 Academy Leeds (Uk) during Stony Hill European Tour 2018. Straight from Jamaica, and exactly from Brown’s Town (Saint Ann), “Bam” informs us about the legendary drummers who inspired him during his journey: Carlton Barrett from Bob Marley & The Wailers, Sly from Sly and Robbie, Squidly Cole from Stephen Marley, Deleon White also known as Jubba from Dubtonic Kru and many more. He feels good to inspire the new generations today, especially in his community, because he believes this is the meaning of playing music.

Secondly, he underlines the attachment with his family and to the brothers John, Rayon and Sean. All his siblings are musicians and they helped in molding his career prior to furthering his studies at Edna Manley College of Music in Kingston. His older brother John met Damian in Montego Bay and later introduced Sean aka “Young Pow” for the audition as keyboardplayer, who surprisingly saw that drummers were also being auditioned, so he passed on the news to “Bam”. His history began much earlier when he started playing in church at age of 16, later on in Hotels, teaching music in high school and now touring the world with “Jr Gong”. He still remembers his level of anxiety when he went to audition to play and he could see a long line of drummers from around the world waiting for their turn. Despite the insecurities of the moment, Courtney “did his thing” and reached the goal. He discussed the importance of never forgetting that positive vibration that musicians should feel when playing their instruments. He tries to treat every opportunity he gets to play with passion as if it was his first time playing the drums: “Playing with Damian is a great feeling that will never leave me because the moment you lose that feeling, you lose everything”. 

Then we talk about the most beautiful memories of his tours in the world: “We have a lot of highlights and many other stuffs that have happened on the road, but to visit the Mother Land Africa was a huge deal for me, it was always my dream even before I started touring.”. “Bam” tells us how much his origins have influenced even his style of playing. Reggae is a music full of feelings that reminds us of the past, for example slavery: “You can feel emotions in reggae – he continued – and my playing has a lot to do with my roots and my culture”.

Courtney is the Grammy Drummer of this year with “Stony Hill” Album. Nicely, he gives thanks to all the fans for it sharing with them his happiness about this result:“I rememeber all the nights that we spent in the studio with my crew without getting any sleep and now this great joy finally pays off”.

  (Photo Credit: @itseltonbrown)

He didn’t work only with Damian Marley but with several international artists as Mick Jagger, Nas, Kieth Richards, Eric Clapton, Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, Playing for Change P.F.C., I-Taweh, Jah Cure and many more. Playing for Change is a project between street musicians and mainstream ones from all over the World. This group is the perfect example to show people we are more alike than different and it doesn’t matter our culture or the color of our skin. Reggae music is a universal language.

One of Courtney’s future projects is to give more light to the jamaican drummers featuring them on a documentary. Another project is about his productions that are in a pause right now, but will be out soon.

Passion, talent, determination, attitude, gratitude and humbleness are just some of the features that makes Diedrick so popular and respected in the actual worldwide musical scene. We are waiting to hear his riddims and to appreciate him in the role of producer as well.

Eugenia Conti


ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH ‘017 / Beenie Man chiude la line up della 24esima edizione dal tema “Celebrating Africa”

Rototom Sunsplash 2017 chiude con l’annuncio dell’ultimo artista che completa la line-up del Main Stage : il ‘Dottore della Dancehall’, Beenie Man si aggiunge alle star del reggae che saliranno sul palco principale quest’estate nella sua edizione del Celebrating Africa che si terrà come sempre a Benicassim (Spagna) dal 12 al 19 agosto.

Questo bambino prodigio giamaicano che iniziò la sua carriera come dj e che nel corso degli anni diventò un grande artista, torna al Rototom Sunsplash, dove si esibirà mercoledì 16 agostocon la sua inesauribile energia e temi dancehall. Beenie ha viaggiato e suonato in molti paesi africani nel corso della sua lunga carriera, per cui esiste un legame molto speciale con questo continente che funge da protagonista con lo slogan Celebrating Africa di quest’anno.

Il reggae è il battito cardiaco dell’Africa. Nato in Giamaica dopo l’indipendenza coloniale, questo stile musicale si diffuse in tutta la diaspora raggiungendo ogni angolo del globo. L’offerta del Main Stage del Rototom Sunsplash unisce il reggae dalla Giamaica, Europa e America, con altre forme influenti parallele provenienti dall’Africa e della scena reggae di questo continente, completando il ciclo vitale di questo genere.

Sabato 12 agosto il festival avrà inizio con lo stile reggae innovativo britannico degli Steel Pulse. Formatisi in Handsworth, Birmingham, questa band che negli anni ’70 ha raggiunto il picco più alto nella scena competitiva reggae, si caratterizza per i suoi messaggi forti riguardo la liberazione della popolazione nera e la loro dedizione per andare oltre i confini del reggae, il che rende il loro live un’esperienza unica. A seguire si unirà un altro gruppo cruciale, formato a Falmouth, Giamaica, pero stabilitosi in Inghilterra, The Twinkle Brothers. Questi veterani, che inizialmente nell’era dello ska erano dei bambini promettenti, adesso sono i maggiori esponenti dell’energico stepping roots. Ad onorare il Main Stage ci sarà anche la band catalana di ska latino La Pegatina e Nkulee Dube, figlia della leggenda sudafricana del reggae Lucky Dube.

Domenica 13 ci sarà un tributo speciale alla musica Africana con la presentazione di Felabration, di Seun Kuti ed Egypt 80. Seun, figlio del rivoluzionario nigeriano pioniere dell’Afrobeat, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, che metterà in scena uno spettacolo con materiale inedito composto da suo padre. La sua band, Egypt 80, è composta da molti degli stessi musicisti che non solo accompagnarono Fela durante la sua intensa carriera, ma che furono arrestati anch’essi insieme a lui dalle autorità nigeriane. Sempre la notte del 13, il Main Stage farà danzare con i suoni dolci del rocksteady degli anni ‘60 con due referenti giamaicani di questa epoca: The Heptones e The Silvertones. E, infine, il giamaicano Shaggy, creatore di greatest hits dancehall come “Angel” o “Straight for a woman” e cresciuto nella scena locale delle feste di quartiere a Flatbush (New York), il quale chiuderà la serata al meglio.

Lunedì 14 agosto il Main Stage ospiterà la band ska inglese ammirata a livello internazionale, The Specials. Formatasi nel Coventry e ispirata alla musica giamaicana e al punk, questa formazione portò lo ska ad un nuovo pubblico includendo nei loro testi dei messaggi di unità e creando un gran numero di fan in tutto il mondo. Saranno accompagnati dal gruppo veterano giamaicano Inna De Yard, il protagonista del film Rockers Kiddus I, Cedric ‘Congo’ Myton, Winston ‘Electric Dread’ McAnuff, Derajah e Kush di Uprising Roots. Il cantante originario dell’epoca dancehall, Don Carlos, sarà anch’esso nella line-up di quest’anno.

L’attività nel Main Stage continuerà martedì 15 con un concerto che ha ispirato una collaborazione molto speciale. La star tedesca del reggae Gentleman si esibirà assieme al figlio del grande Bob Marley, Ky-Mani, in uno show in cui ci saranno canzoni scritte da entrambi gli artisti, mixando così la musica europea e giamaicana in un tutt’uno. Questa serata proseguirà con uno spettacolo degli immortali Toots & the Maytals, gruppo veterano che ha raggiunto un numero record di successi in Giamaica da quando nacquero nell’epoca di ska. La voce inconfondibile di Toots, rispetto a quella del cantante soul americano Otis Redding, e una band che include i musicisti che lo hanno accompagnato sin dagli anni ’60, garantiscono uno dei punti forti del festival. L’influenza internazionale del reggae tornerà con i californiani Stick Figure e la cantante nata in Kenya con sede in Germania, Treesha.

Mercoledì 16 agosto, l’edizione Celebrating Africa del Rototom darà il benvenuto sul Main Stage al headliners senegalese Youssou NDOUR. Pioniere della musica mbalax nel suo paese ed ex ministro del Turismo e della Cultura in Senegal, il suo vasto repertorio musicale include collaborazioni con Peter Gabriel, Wyclef Jean, Bruce Springsteen e Lou Reed. D’altra parte, in rappresentanza della Giamaica ci sarà la leggenda del dancehall Beenie Man, recentemente annunciato. La dolce voce del promettente cantante reggae Christopher Martin e il potente roots contemporaneo di Raging Fyah porteranno la musica reggae all’attualità.

Giovedì 17 agosto il festival sarà testimone della reunion dei membri originali dei The Wailers. Quattro decenni dopo che Bob cantò Africa Unite e ricevette la Medaglia della Pace delle Nazioni Unite nel 1978 da parte del Youth Ambassador senegalese, la sua band originaria sarà di nuovo presente per l’edizione del Celebrating Africa. Questo stesso giorno il palco principale riceverà anche i Mellow Mood. Ultra vincitori del ‘Reggae Contest’ italiano torneranno a condividere la loro musica con la quale sono riusciti a trionfare a livello internazionale e il cui successo è sempre stato supportato dal pubblico del Rototom. Infine, questo scenario brillerà con l’energia femminile della cantante e DJ rasta Hempress Sativa e darà una scossa al pubblico con i potenti bassi della band di Bristol (Inghilterra) Black Roots.

Venerdì 18 agosto segnerà un altro punto degno di nota nell’edizione del Celebrating Africa. La stella e attivista reggae della Costa d’Avorio Alpha Blondy torna a presentare il suo Solar System Band sul palco principale. Con una carriera discografica iniziata nel 1982, cantando in diverse lingue e fondendo il reggae con migliaia di generi, la musica di Alpha è centrata a pieno nella tematica che racchiude la 24° edizione di questo festival. Lo stesso giorno, accanto a lui ci sarà uno dei giovani artisti rasta più in voga del momento in Giamaica, Chronixx, accompagnato dalla sua band Zinc Fence Repentino. A metà del tour, dopo l’uscita del loro primo album full-length, Chronology, questa performance farà parlare molto nel mondo del reggae e negli anni a venire. Il dub avanguardista dei veterani attualmente londinesi African Headcharge e la musica new-age del duetto spagnolo Iseo & Dodosound, confermano ancora una volta l’impegno del Rototom a portare avanti i nuovi suoni del reggae.

A chiudere il Main Stage, sabato 19 agosto, ultimo giorno del festival, sfilerà una serie di artisti molti dei quali con forti legami musicali e personali con l’Africa. L’evangelista roots reggae e ‘Jah Messenger’ Luciano, che sta diffondendo la sua visione Rastafari in tutto il continente già da molti anni, si esibirà accompagnato da Sly and Robbie britannici, Mafia & Fluxy. Due DJ giamaicani veterani che resero popolare l’arte del toasting in Giamaica e in tutto il mondo, si troveranno sul palco assieme quando U Roy apparirà accanto a Big Youth come parte di uno show nel quale presenzierà anche la giovane promettente cantante dancehall, Nadine Sutherland, e il maestro della dub britannica Mad Professor con lunga carriera alle spalle come promotore del reggae in Gambia. Aggiungendo un sapore più locale, si aggiungerà anche la cantante andalusa Amparo Sánchez, che riprende il suo progetto musicale per ri-unirsi alla sua banda Amparanoia.

Insomma questa 24esima Edizione del Festival Reggae più importante di Europa si presenta come imperdibile.