Greetings. Yes, I know it has been almost a year since you have heard from me, but although I have been in absentia, my spirit remains with you. Sometimes my travels will take me to the far corners of the Earth and in my constant pursuit to bring good reggae to people universally, I can be "out of touch." I still do not own a cell phone, so when I am out of touch, I really am.
I spent a good part of last year getting ready our "Reggae For Kids Movie Classics." It is now out on the street and we are getting some very positive reactions. It really is an amazing process to witness every note being recorded, voicing all the individual artists, working with an engineer to mix all the tracks, working with the artists and designers to prepare the cover and finally see the "birth" of the CD when it hits the street. I am sure I will never be more enthusiastic about seeing this whole process come full circle.
December was a month I will always remember. I made my first trip to Africa. My friend, Justin Engles, who owns and runs Revolver Records, had contacted me months earlier about making a huge reggae festival in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban. He has been the one person to keep Jamaican reggae thriving in South Africa as many other labels there have "dismissed" it (notice the dis in dismissed?). His plan was to bring three big culturally roots acts there and partner with the biggest promoter in the country, a man named Attie van Wick who runs Big Concerts. Attie had recently brought Sting, Michael Jackson and U2 there (get the picture?). Together they booked some spectacular venues and it was arranged for Burning Spear, The Wailers, and Culture to come. Culture has been the biggest selling artist for Revolver for a number of years, so this was a big thing for both RAS and Culture. Also, Spear and Culture had never performed in South Africa, so we knew this was history in the making.
We landed in Capetown on December 14 with the first show on December 15. Schools all let out early on the 15th of December for summer vacation (southern hemisphere=their summer=our winter) so this would be a way for the youths to all celebrate the start of their vacation. Capetown is really one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. There is a huge mountain plateau which hovers over the city—which is right on the coast—and has a real beach feel. We took a very cool hanging cable car way up to the top of Table Mountain and wandered around up there for most of the day. Don’t ever go to Capetown and not go to the top of Table Mountain. (Doctor’s orders)
The following night was one of the most awesome reggae experiences to ever come over me. I like to hang around the entrance to reggae shows and see whom are the people coming in. This night you saw serious dreads from the bush wearing crocus bags and having big bong-like pipes. You saw young surfer kids. You saw more middle class looking dreads as well. A beautiful combination of peoples. Culture went on after a few local bands and got the crowd VERY excited. There were about 10,000 people all under an open tent behind a shopping mall called "Century City." I went out into the crowd and took a spot a little elevated so I could see the crowd all grooving together and jamming to The Wailers. As they performed song after song by Bob Marley, I could feel the music really reaching these people and the message of the music taking hold. I was getting goose bumps and chills just watching the people. When they finally performed "Africa Unite" as their encore, I had tears rolling down my face as I witnessed the great unity among the entire crowd. They were no longer black and white. No longer rich and poor. Just one united, free South Africa. I was blown away. I can never remember feeling quite like that and when I went backstage and saw Attie the promoter, he commented to me, "In all the shows I have done, over 1000, I have never seen such a mix of people all jamming together in perfect unity. This is a day of history for South Africa." And then Burning Spear was the perfect icing to the cake. The people rallied behind him and the night was complete. I know everyone who was at that show had their lives changed that night. No one who was there will ever be exactly the same (myself included). This is the power of reggae. This is the power of the message. WOW.
The next night in Johannesburg was in a large indoor hall with maybe 8,000 people. The show as great and the response was like Capetown, but it was a different vibe. The people loved the music, but somehow, there was not the same connection as the night before. Durban was in a huge soccer stadium which held 60,000 people with only about 6,000 in attendance. I had taken some malaria pills that day so I could go up into the bush and see some wild animals on safari, so I was feeling very feverish and nauseous that night, so I went to my room early.
The next day everyone had a day off, I cooled out in my room (still fighting the effects of the malaria pills) and on the following day, after everyone left to come home, I went into the bush (with a guide) to see the wild animals. I went to a reserve called Hwehuehe, about three hours into Zululand above Capetown. I can tell you it was spectacular!!!! Imagine hundreds of miles with big mountains and rivers with animals roaming freely. I saw giraffes, lions, zebra, rhinoceros, water buffalo, monkeys, and hyena. What an experience!!!!! And that night I stayed at a lodge in the bush. Very rustic yet very nice. I will recommend this to anyone who gets the chance to go to Africa.
I got home in time for Christmas (on December 23) and had a wonderful time with my family. When I return next year I will take at least one of my sons. Jah guide.
January saw me off to Midem, which is a large international music convention in the south of France. RAS had many people excited about us as the Billboard issue which was circulating at Midem had a cover story about our "Reggae For Kids Movie Classics." There was a real buzz about RAS and "what we were up to." I had planned to go to Morocco with Brice from RAS, but had to return to the States to see my son Eric in a school play about Mozart. I learned a big lesson that day. Always try to be there for your family. It means a lot to them and goes a long way. I put his needs before mine and I know he knows what I did.
Well, in March (just two weeks ago) I went to Lima, Peru with Israel Vibration. It was our first time there, and I can tell you—reggae is exploding there. The vibes were great. And we had a good crowd. The fans knew all of the songs and I was amazed at how much they really loved the group. And the mangos . . . !!!!!
And it had always been a dream of mine to go up into the mountains of Peru and visit Machu Picchu. I have always been very interested in Incan culture. In fact, after graduating high school way back in 1972, I spent two years traveling throughout Colombia and Ecuador and even lived with an Indian family outside of Otavalo, Ecuador. I have always loved the Indian people and found them to be some of the most humble and innocent people I have ever met. Yet, I never made it to Peru or to the fabled lost city of Machu Picchu. I figured that since I was in Peru, I must take some extra time and go there.
So Buffy—the Vibes roadie—and I went by plane to Cusco and after settling a day, due to the high elevation, we toured the four towns of the "sacred valley." The population up there is almost pure Indian, so the vibe was VERY intense. And the next day we got the train to Machu Picchu. You can only get there by train and you are traveling along some very steep mountains along a raging river. It is very exciting. You then take a bus winding up a mountain and at last on top of a mountain, above the clouds, you arrive at the lost city of Machu Picchu. This was never found by the Spaniards and is a city built of stone. These people were more advanced than our civilizations and I can only think of where they would be today, if they had been left alone. An amazing place. If you can get there, please, go there. It will uplift you to great new highs. WOW.
The day after I returned from Lima, my wife and I went to Puerto Rico to see the triumphant return of Gondwana, who have become superstars in their country of Chile. We were also filming a new video of Tony Rebel of "Jah By My Side" which he has re-sung in Spanish. He would also perform the Spanish version on stage with Gondwana. It was great to see everyone from Gondwana again as it is far from here to Chile and we do not see each other often. The people of Puerto Rico really love them and the concert was great. It was also great to see Rebel vibing with Gondwana and the Puerto Rican people. I know this video will be great as the producer really got into it and took Tony to many places in and around San Juan to get some great footage.
Arriving home on Sunday from Puerto Rico, I had a show to promote that night with Luciano and Junior Kelly. I had only two hours sleep from the night before, but the positive vibes of Luciano kept me going and finally on Monday, I could rest. What an eleven-day run. Peru, Puerto Rico and then Luciano in DC. WOW.
So finally today, I have some time to get caught up with you all. We have an exciting month ahead (no traveling for me—I am under house arrest by my family!!!!). We have three new releases by Tony Rebel, Angie Angel and Chaka Demus & Pliers. It is part of a new campaign we have to "clean up the dancehall." These are three slammin’ releases and we know dancehall fans will get a treat to hear some conscious and positive lyrics from three great artists. We are proclaiming that "slackness done!!!!" Please join us as we try to accentuate the positive and do away with the negative.
We also have got the rights to the first Mutabaruka CD "Check It!," which has been unavailable for close to seven years. This is a stellar release—produced by Chinna Smith—and is a must for any serious reggae collection. Really, check it.
Also, a dub collection from Israel Vibration is being put together. This is called "Dub Combo" and features the dubs from both "Pay The Piper" and "Jericho." Stay tuned for more on this.
I promise I will try (heh, heh) to keep up with you on a more regular basis. It really is my pleasure to share these experiences and feelings with you. So stay in touch with us. Let us know how you feel about what we are doing. And Jah guide and protect you, going out and coming in.
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