When Marisha Wallace took on the role of Effie White in the West End production of Dreamgirls, she wasn’t just following in the footsteps of Jennifers Holliday and Hudson, or covering for the ailing Amber Riley after the Glee star had gone down with pneumonia. Also adding to the pressure, Wallace was making her London theatre debut as a virtual unknown [over here], having been allotted five days to learn the entire part, refit costumes and resize wigs, not to mention move both continents and time-zones… there’s no wonder she had misgivings when first she walked out onto the stage at the Savoy Theatre in 2017.
“I had seen the show with Amber,” recalls Marisha over Zoom, “so I knew when she made her entrance… it’s like a celebrity moment: they call out ‘Here’s Effie!’ and when she walks out the audience all just stands and cheers. When I walked out it was to absolute silence.
Streams Of Thought, Black Thought’s continuing series of solo EPs, has been gently swelling in size. From a mere 18 minutes on the first instalment, volume two grew to 24 minutes. The latest runs to 35.
“I definitely like to put out material that is produced in the most efficient way,” says the Philly rapper and Roots frontman, over email. “No filler, no additives and preservatives. I appreciate a project where the fat has been trimmed. So though this music is just over 30 minutes, I feel it’s concise and to the point.”
It’s not because he lacked songs from which to choose.
“I’ve been recording maybe more than ever. I definitely felt like I had to put some music out at some point this year ‘cos of how much music I’ve been recording. I really wanted to get it in the hands of other people.”
Jeremy Harding, producer of VP Records’ newly released Dancehall Anthems is best-known for having discovered Sean Paul and then managing him during the glory years, when dancehall ruled the Billboard charts and Sean became the biggest-selling Jamaican act since Bob Marley. The pair won a Grammy for Dutty Rock and broke through many barriers in their rise to the top, whilst helping establish dancehall as a major force on US urban radio, in the clubs and on the international charts.
He and Sean parted company several years ago but the two have remained friends, hence the latter’s track on Dancehall Anthems. Jeremy hasn’t been prolific since returning to production but Heaven is Jah9’s bestselling single to date and recent tracks with Tessanne Chin and Christopher Martin – whose cover of Little Green Apples is sublime – show that he still has what it takes, even if he’s no longer considered cutting-edge.
After a conversation lasting nealry three hours I now know why he’s frequently asked to give lectures by the likes of Red Bull Academy and UWI, and also why he’s been successful in the boardroom as well as the studio…
In a parallel universe, London based fusion band The Soothsayers would be Mercury Prize winners, feted in the broadsheets and on 6Music, with their name called alongside those of Moses Boyd and Shabaka Hutchings. That may yet happen, but cult status suits them well enough in the meantime as they celebrate the release of their latest album Love And Unity – a masterful distillation of styles including reggae, dub, Latin, Afrobeat and jazz-funk, and which they recorded between Brazil and the UK shortly before the pandemic struck.
Their trip to Brazil began with a sojourn at Barra Do Sahy, where they acclimatised before sessions at Studio Traquitana in Sao Paulo began. Soothsayers’ trumpeter Robin Hopcraft describes the place where they stayed as, “literally a cabin and some hammocks in the jungle, overlooking this amazing bay. There was a little stream running nearby, there were toucans and massive butterflies flying around the garden and yet it was only two hours from São Paulo. It was perfect.”