Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Some Day" Betta Must Come said Jamaican Reggae Recording Artiste Sophia Squire

She is known among young and mature music fans in Jamaica for her almost puur-fect songwriting skills and delivery.  Sophia Squire who was once Back-Ground Vocalist for the late Gregory Isaacs has released a string of popular songs that has made her one of the most respected female vocalist in Jamaica.  From Rat-A-Ta-Ta-Tat, Nuh Gunz to Nah Fight Ova No Man, Nature, Love, Got A Date (remix with U-Roy), Next To Me, Love Can't Pay The Bill s, Some Day and a slew of other tracks, the mother of two has matched the skills of Tanya Stephens (who credited her for her work), Queen Ifrika, Etana, Alaine Laughton and Tessanne Chin all of whom have proven that they are not only talented vocalist or entertainers but eloquent song writers among their female counterparts in the Jamaican Reggae industry.

Since her 1993 debut entry to the local industry, Sophia Squire has written songs having to deal with current social issues and relationships which seem to best describe her preference.  Teenagers love her 'old skool' and 'playful way with words" on tracks such as, "Next To Me" and  'Nature,' while the more mature fans can relate to just about every song.

Sophia Squire's music rotates daily on many of the local radio stations in Jamaica as radio jocks simply, love her and are fans themselves.  The quiet, soft spoken rastafarian patiently awaits her big break which seem sooner than later.  Recently Sophia recorded a single entitle, "Some Day" produced by Rocksteady Fred on the Tunesberg Record label and shot a follow up video shortly after.  Within two weeks after it's release the video garnered over 100,000 views on youtube (see below).

This is huge for the Spanish Town, St. Catherine native who told N.I.P., "I am humbled at the fact that within three (3) days of the two weeks that the video has been uploaded to Youtube, it has gained 100,000 views from 15,000 to 122,000 as we speak."  This she said is indeed a first in her career and welcoming at a time when the local brand (Reggae) seem to have once again elevated from the axe of the critiques who pronounced it dead.  

The lyrics for 'Some Day' are simple, it is uplifting and motivating "we rise, we fall, we creep we crawl, still we got to keep it firm....Some day, betta must come....We have the ability fi do much betta."  Hopeful about her future, the mother of an 18 month old son is enjoying her time with her baby boy whom she say with a smile, "has shown keen interest in writing songs" but looks forward to touring again, this time however it will be a full blown, Sophia Squire in Concert, "imagine that" she said speaking her thoughts aloud.

By: Sophia McKay

Monday, June 17, 2013

Inner Circle Inspired Bob Marley, Helped Pioneer Reggae

By Jacob Katel

Inner Circle
Band portrait: Touter, Skatta, Roger, Lancelot, Ian. Circle Village wall detail

Inner Circle helped invent reggae. Now, 45 years after they started, the group is still on tour -- not even a bus crash in Baton Rouge can stop them. They perform at Los Globos on Sunday; we caught up with them at their recording studios in Miami the day they left.

Ian & Roger Roger and Ian Lewis eating ice cream on their tour bus, 4-20-2013

The group formed in 1968 in Kingston, Jamaica, in a lush and rolling tropical paradise area at the foot of a mountain. 

Inner Circle Tour Bus
The tour bus

As kids, founding brothers Roger and Ian Lewis would sneak under a fence to see the Skatalites and the Dragonaires. They could hear the bass booming through the hills, at their house near the campus of the University of West Indies.

In high school they picked up guitars and found their way to Byron Lee's Dynamic Sounds Studios. At the national Jamaica Song Festival that year, they backed Eric Donaldson on "Cherry Oh Baby." Donaldson won the competition, and immediately joined Inner Circle at Dynamic Sound to record his hit. Then they toured the Caribbean and Belize with it. The song has been covered over 50 times, including by the Rolling Stones.

In 1971 they played over 150 shows on the "bandwagon tour" with Bob Marley and The Wailers and others, including Clancy Eccles, who is said to have derived the term reggae from the word "streggae" (roughly, 'easy girl').

Circle Village
Circle Village recording compound in North Miami 

The tour supported socialist Prime Minister candidate Michael Manley. He rallied votes in the slums and won the election.

Meanwhile, more and more fans started turning out to Inner Circle's concerts.

After the tour, Marley and Peter Tosh drove an Oldsmobile to Inner Circle's house on Chelsea Ave and asked them to back Bob and The Wailers on "Stir It Up" for their new album Catch A Fire.

Wall of fame detail at Circle Village, across street from Circle House 
Inner Circle are the uncredited musicians on the original master tapes cut by wild tempered producer Harry J. The tapes went up to Chris Blackwell at Island who remixed the tracks, and put them on an album with a cover that opened like a zippo lighter.

Ian Lewis oversees a tire pressure check of the tour bus at the Circle Village compound in North Miami before leaving

Inner Circle also worked with studio kingpin Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, with dub pioneers King Tubby and Bunny "Striker" Lee at the Fire House, with engineering pioneer Lee "Scratch" Perry at Black Ark. 
Jah Rog
Roger Lewis with members of Coverdrive, a group from Barbados who are recording at Circle House

In 1974, fiery rasta youth Jacob Miller talked his way into the band after receiving an introduction. He energized crowds with his improvisations, and vocal tricks. He added an echo effect to his singing, and was dubbed "man with the bionic voice." He helped the band become the most in-demand act on the island.

Picture this: Jamaica, 1978. Jacob Miller is on stage with Inner Circle smoking a fat spliff of collie bud in combat boots, cut off shorts, and the officer's cap he snatched off the head of a police inspector. His fat belly bounces as he shakes his dreads and chants "Babylon, Babylon falling down!" Then he runs across the stage and exhales another smokey cloud before returning the cop his property. "Give the government his hat," he says, "I'm sure he's gonna get fired."

LancelotDrummer Lancelot Hall joined Inner Circle in 1986 for their Black Roses album and is still riding with them

From 1974-80 they recorded albums for Top Ranking, Trojan, Capitol, and Island Records, coming up with original songs plus American R&B, funk, rock, and disco covers. They also recruited longtime cohort Bernard "Touter" Harvey full time. He'd been playing piano, keys and organ for Bob Marley, and Burning Spear among others.

In 1978, at a show dubbed the "Peace Concert" in Jamaica's National Stadium, Jacob Miller spontaneously invited the baddest thugs of the rival gangs of West Kingston's Trench Town and Tivoli Gardens, Claude Massop and Bucky Marshall, onto the stage and brought them together for a truce.

Ian & LourdesIan and Inner Circle Manager Lourdes Hersh on the bus   

After Inner Circle's set, which was caught on film for the movie Heartland Reggae, Peter Tosh performed, and then Bob Marley.

Inspired by Miller's bravado and in a friendly act of competitive one-upmanship, Marley invited the leaders of the rival political parties, Edward Seaga and Michael Manley, onto the stage. He got them to lock and raise their hands at the height of his set during the song "Jammin'." This moment is often referred to as one of the more historic in Marley's career.

After Jacob Miller's death, Ian Lewis and keys player Touter Harvey moved to Miami and opened Circle House's recording studios, where Uncle Luke cut early 2 Live Crew hits, and filmed music videos by the pool.

Fatman Riddim SectionFatman Riddim Section, Roger and Ian Lewis