Morgan Heritage had flown in from Uganda just the night before and lead singer Peetah Morgan sounded positively upbeat.
“We’ve been to Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, South Africa… we’ve been all over, and wherever you go in Africa roots reggae comes out on top. It’s the staple pretty much everywhere. They face enough struggles in Africa, and it’s the messages in roots music that speaks to them.”
It would be. And what of African reggae?
“Well that’s developing on a major level,” he continued. “Music is now a major industry in Africa, and artists and musicians are learning to transform their talents into different sources of revenue… ”
All names have meaning, but some are really saying something. The quite singular title Jazzmeia Horn is indeed a provocative comment on a defining aspect of American history: The Colour Line, or, to be more precise, the cruelly unfulfilled destiny of those who dare to cross it.
“Yeah, it’s a gift from my grandmother, actually,” says the 25-year-old vocalist on the phone from her home in Harlem, New York. “She wanted to be a concert pianist, and just because of what was going on in society, the racism she was dealing with at the time, she couldn’t.
“She wanted to play jazz and be a concert pianist but she didn’t have the opportunity to do that. She thought that a child from my parents should be named ‘Jazz… meia’, so it’s really like I’m living her legacy.”
What you doing Sunday night around half past midnight? Instead of sleeping, you could be tuning in to ‘Maysa’s Karaoke Sundays’ on Facebook Live. It’s something the Incognito singer and, of course, solo vocalist in her own right does any time she’s at home – for her it’s 7:30pm, of course – just for fun and to reach out personally to her fans. And she always wears a nice hat.
“Ha! Yeah the hats! It’s just a little theme I have going,” she laughs. “Basically, I sit outside my bedroom at my computer and sing to people who can’t get to my concerts or sing songs that I don’t do in my show. After all, I have a lot of catalogue now.
“I had people on from Egypt last night – had nearly 5,000 people watching live and then by the next morning almost 7,000 had seen it… ”
What to do when you’re a black, female, self-taught-saxophonist with a penchant for jazz, soul and reggae, and little interest from the major record labels because you refuse to tie yourself down to just one musical style? Simple: invent a genre all of your own and go the indie route.
It’s certainly what YolanDa Brown – that’s double MOBO winner, Urban Music Award winner, sold-out international tourer YolanDa Brown, don’tcha know – has opted to do on her second album, Love*Politics*War, just released by Black Grape/Absolute. ‘Posh Reggae’ she’s calling it – which is a name both typical of the artist’s sense of humour as much as it is a handy label for her blend of styles. Because, by ‘Posh Reggae’ YolanDa does not refer either to, say, soft-reggae-with-knobs-on or even an album made up of a reggae track followed by a quick soul tune and then a bit of smooth-jazz: instead she actually blends the styles together at once, often, for example, improvising with a jazzer’s vocab over a reggae rhythm while a guest vocalist lays down a soulful melody.
“My next aim is get ‘Posh Reggae’ onto iTunes, recognized officially as a separate thing… ”