“I always like to make music which is about where I am at. Right now, family life is at the forefront.”
So says Ntjam Rosie of her latest album, Family & Friends, the second part of a trilogy that began in 2017 with Breaking Cycles and will culminate with a third set that she plans to record in the land of her birth, Cameroon. But that’s Rosie all over: never one to stand still or to eschew an opportunity to develop her creative outlook, she is always looking forward to the next inspiration. And this time, as she says, it was all about the stuff nearest to home.
“I’ve been realizing how much family and friends give you,” she says. “In this line of work you always have to find out what home means – on tour it’s the stage or it’s the things in your suitcase, or it’s the band that you tour with. But, of course, before that it’s the people who live in your house, your family… ”
“Finding your tribe, your ‘people’, is a great thing,” opines Robin McKelle contentedly, as we discuss her new album over the phone from France. Alterations, just released, is a fine, jazz-inclined collection primarily of covers of songs written and/or performed by female artists.
“I had a blast during my time with The Flytones, for example,” she goes on. “For me, it’s all about the sharing and the process, and I have never had so much fun recording an album as this one. ‘Cause recording can be stressful: y’know, due to time limits and, of course, there’s never enough money. Sometimes you feel like you’re watching it actually disappear out of your account as each studio minute passes! So managing all that can take away from the artistic process. But this time Shedrick [Mitchell] ran the sessions and I could just sing. I got back a lot of my mojo. Not having to wear so many hats all at once was a relief… ”
Busy Signal has always been different. He’s the very definition of versatile, and the only predictable thing about him is that he’s unpredictable, because even Busy himself doesn’t necessarily know where he’s headed next.
Blessed with a fertile imagination and the most advanced mic skills of any living Jamaican deejay, he follows where inspiration leads, which is why you’ll hear so many different influences in his music other than bashment and reggae, from pop, country and R&B, to soca, Afrowave and even gospel.
Such an open-minded approach has served him well and so too, his uncanny reading of the zeitgeist. Since his emergence in 2005, he’s remained at the forefront of Jamaican music’s evolution, whether by collaborating with Major Lazer as dancehall and club music drew ever closer together, or spearheading a roots revival in Jamaica with the album Reggae Music Again. He’s also very prolific, since there’s rarely a month goes by without a new Busy Signal release…
When José James cut his fourth album No Beginning No End in 2013, he left the life of the independent artist behind for a long spell with Blue Note Records. The March release of his ninth album, No Beginning No End2, marks his return to the indie life, but this time he’s set up his own record label, Rainbow Blonde, for the purpose. There are, he says, a couple of reasons.
“On the one hand, my musical team, Taali and Brad Bender, have been producing my work with me all these years anyway – we did the music together, handled the concept, art direction… everything. There was never any A&R – it was just us. So it wasn’t that dramatic to do it for ourselves this time.
“On top of that, the music business has become so corporate. I mean, Hasbro owns both Peppa Pig and Death Row Records now! This way, when someone asks us something about what we’re doing, we have control over it – music and career control. It’s what Ray Charles and Nina Simone and John Coltrane all fought for. And every one of them, with the exception of Ray, did not own their own masters… ”