if bob marley is the globally recognized king of reggae music, then marcia griffiths is the undisputed queen, the first lady and matriarch of reggae.
since making her debut some four decades ago with byron lee and the dragonaires band, griffiths has become a part of the very bedrock of reggae music, proving the most enduring and hard working woman in reggae.
with "shining time", she celebrates her 40th anniversary in the music business with a mixture new originals and classic covers (including paul and linda mccartney's "my love," burt bacharach and hal david's "a house is not a home," stevie wonder's "until you come back to me" and the marley tribute "crazy baldhead") and new originals that feature guest turns by beres hammond, shaggy, cutty ranks, annette brisett and hopeton lindo, who served as co-executive producer with syl gordon and patrick lindsay. underneath it all are tracks delivered by such reggae luminaries as drummer sly dunbar, bassman robbie shakespeare and saxophonist dean fraser.
laced with griffiths' trademark messages of love and positivism, 'shining time' takes its name from its most nostalgic selection, a wistful song announcing a spiritual rebirth of sorts. "that song is saying thanks to my audience," griffiths says. "every single word is like giving back to my audience, telling them thanks and about all that i've gone through over the 40 years. whether it was good or bad, they stood with me, they supported me, and i'm just giving back, saying thanks to them."
such tracks as "my life" and "my heartbeat" also find her looking back and sharing life experiences. on the former, she proclaims, "as long as i know that you love me too/nothing can come between a love that's true/love conquers all." "in this album, i was very careful in some of the messages that i am sending, and these songs relate very much to my lifestyle and my experience in life. the lyrics are the most important thing because this is how we send a message throughout the world, through our music and the lyrics in our songs, so i am always keen on my utterance, and the things i say in my songs, because i want to send a positive message to my people to teach, educate and uplift through the medium of music."
it's a mission that began almost by accident, when the now-55-year-old griffiths was overhead singing in her poor west kingston neighborhood at the age of 15. while visiting griffiths' next-door neighbor, philip "boasie" james, lead singer of the blues busters vocal duo, caught the young songbird belting out an aretha franklin or carla thomas song, as she was prone to do at the time. so impressed was he, james brought griffiths, who sang in the church choir and in school plays and concerts, to byron lee that very same day, insisting that she be included on the upcoming talent show to be held at the carib theater in kingston.
while lee was initially resistant, he added her to the show, during which griffiths brought the house down with a version of "no time to lose" by stax soul diva carla thomas. "one of the things that knocked out the audience was that i copied carla slur for slur, every slur i made like carla," remembers griffiths. "they couldn't believe someone could emulate carla so well." lee's manager was so impressed that he took griffiths to jbc television studios where she performed two nancy wilson songs, again delivering a perfect facsimile of a celebrated american vocalist, leaving onlookers slack jawed.
"at that time, i was never myself," she says. "if i sang a carla thomas song, you could close your eyes and you wouldn't be able to tell it wasn't carla thomas singing. if i was doing aretha, i would sound like aretha. anybody's song i was doing, i would sound exactly like them. i would cross every t, and dot every i. i would have the exact tone and the exact sound-everything."
she joined lee and the dragonaires as a vocalist in 1964. soon after, griffiths joined the elite group of reggae luminaries who recorded very early on for clement "coxsone" dodd at the hallowed studio one, birthplace of her first hit, "feel like jumping." with american r&b and soul still very popular in jamaica, griffiths continued to cut her teeth on covers of songs by thomas, franklin, wilson and dionne warwick.
it was at studio one where she would team up with influential reggae songwriter bob andy, with whom she would eventually form the duo bob and marcia. beginning with "really together," they would record a string of local hits, and the top five u.k. pop hit "young, gifted and black."
it was andy who pushed griffiths to develop her own style, apart from her heroes. "bob andy, when he started writing for me at studio one, he would say to me, 'marcia, you cannot sound like this person or that person, you have to sound like yourself.' so when i started doing the original songs that he had written, then i started doing them like for myself, because i've never heard them before, i've never heard anyone doing them."
in the early 70s, she joined fellow studio one pal and future icon bob marley and the wailers, forming marley's fabled i-threes with rita marley and judy mowatt, a trio she still performs with to this day. from 1974 until 1980, griffiths toured the globe with marley and the wailers, proving an essential component behind such tracks as "no woman, no cry," which recently entered the coveted grammy hall of fame. forever thankful for her time in the i-threes and with marley, she says, "i never took him for granted. he was very, very, very, very special, and i have no doubt that bob was truly sent from the almighty god."
scoring with such songs as "stepping out of babylon," griffiths continued her solo career while with the wailers, recording such high note albums as naturally and steppin' with reggae's sole established female producer sonia pottinger. in 1982, a year after marley's death, she recorded "electric boogie," which would later go on to be a no. 1 hit in jamaica. in 1989, after a washington d.c. disc jockey started playing it, the song became a hit in america, hitting the billboard charts and spawning the dance the electric slide.
over the next decade, she released the albums indomitable, dreamland and certified while appearing on albums by bunny wailer, tony rebel, wyclef jean, jimmy cliff, freddie mcgregor, bob andy, buju banton, ninjaman, steely & clevie, the itals, beres hammond, cutty ranks and many others.
after some four decades of music, griffiths is a pillar of reggae music. and, without doubt, in terms of women in reggae, all roads lead back to her. and that's one of the things she's extremely thankful for: "almost every single female that rose up in the business in jamaica and elsewhere, they all acknowledged the fact that they were all inspired by me, and that to me, means more than money. that shows to me that i am a role model, and i'm admired, and i am doing something that is right and something that is good, because all the singers came up doing my songs, even most of the young, up and coming djs coming up today, they're all inspired by me, and i think that's fantastic, that encourages me and that shows me that my work is not in vain."
throughout her career, her mission has remained the same. marcia griffiths' music has always been about connecting with other souls: "the most important thing to me is how many lives i can touch during my time on earth. and even from a little girl, i always say to myself, 'i want to be of service to mankind, to do something for people.' so maybe if i wasn't a singer, i would have been maybe a nurse, or something, as long as i'm helping people.
after 40 years and an estimated 20 albums, she's looking forward to a 50th anniversary in music: "i shall sing as long as i live," she says. "as long as god preserves me and as long as the talent is still there, i would just love to continue to feed people's souls with good, positive music, to teach, educate, uplift. that's my intention. i want to touch as many lives as possible."
'the g takes on a lot of meanings - gorgeous, genius, goddess'
she is one the most enduring female entertainers in the reggae music history with a career spanning over a decade. she started out using the name sister janet, which she later changed to lady g. she likened onto sister nancy, found inspiration from lady ann but developed her own style over time.
born and raised in spanish town, st. catherine (ja), she vibed with other entertainers like papa san; promoting concerts and vibing lyrically together they scored with a local hit back in the 80's with 'round table talk'. the magnificent duo has also coupled to include tracks like "legal rights", cut for producer winston riley made a firm impression. had it not been for san's change in his musical direction the two might still be collaborating today.
lady g performed at school concerts and got noticed back in 1983 at a street independence dance. her djing skills got her introduced by friends to the black scorpio sound system and this lead to lady g djing in live sessions with the sound. this experience became invaluable and allowed her to deliver command performances appearing on concerts such as sting, sunsplash, sumfest and the bob marley festival.
with a long standing career lady g thinks that the dancehall business can be a difficult place to work in for the ladies.
after the release of albums 'nuff respect' (gussie clarke) and 'god daughter' (1995), lady g's 'man a bad man' was featured on the movie soundtrack 'third world cop'. she continued her trail of hits with the cross-over garage hit 'girls like us' featuring crissy d (oracabessa records), which was no7 in the uk pop charts. she has also worked with artists such as sugar minott, anthony red rose and barrington levy. lady g has toured europe, the caribbean and japan still keeping her original style but changing with the scene. her future goals include operating her own studio, writing, recording and producing for herself and upcoming acts. her favorite artists include, ziggy marley & the melody makers, barrington levy, papa san and beenie man.
the singer, writer, producer and mother whose lyrics deals which often deal with feminine issues, hopes to see the female artistes get better respect. lady g is force to reckon with, her ability to deliver on both roots and dancehall tracks accentuates the star and keeps her balanced as an entertainer. she continues on her journey to superstardom.
author: a. shalome
brick & lace
brick & lace are the undisputed sirens of dancehall, bringing their sizzling beauty and boldly innovative music to the world. tasha, nyanda and nailah are the new voice that breaks down all the essential elements of reggae's dancehall and r&b creating their own sound called sexy roots.
their name, brick & lace, epitomizes what the girls and their music represent: the dichotomy of strength and femininity. like the complex and delicate patterns that make-up a lace garment, the ladies voices are an embellished stew of reggae's soul incorporated with pop melodies, alongside r&b's funk, buttressed on the solid brick foundation of true talent.
in a short period of time, brick & lace have managed to work with some of the music industries heavy hitters and hit-makers including: producers dallas austin, full force, salam remi and tricky stewart. pioneering divas lauryn hill, roberta flack and diana king along with reggae phenomenons bounty killer and beres hammond.
coming out of kingston jamaica, brick & lace's talents were discovered in their church by one of jamaica's prominent booking agents. as a result, the girls collaborated with several local and international artists, opening up for r&b songstress roberta flack and dru hill along with singing backup for beres hammond and diana king. even with their immediate success in jamaica, the girls aspired for more, and determined to land a record deal, decided to venture out to miami.
while heavily pursuing their dream in miami, the girls honed their talents, concentrating on writing, arranging their own music and conceiving the sound that is now known as sexy roots. their talents and vibe caught the eye and ear of producer extraordinaire dallas austin who quickly signed them to his publishing company.
working with dallas exposed brick & lace to the elite of the music industry with whom they created strong friendships and business relationships. in a career defined by milestones, few compare to the experience of working with five time grammy award winner, lauryn hill. while recording in miami, lauryn overheard the girls harmonizing in a hallway. their undeniable talent so much impressed lauryn that she fell in love with their vibe, ultimately inviting them to not only to tour with her, but also add vocals to her sophomore album.
working with such trailblazers as bounty killer (they currently have a hot collaborative single, which will be released in spring 2004), brick & lace are a consistent presence in the jamaican dancehall scene. recently performing at the 'spring spreak' extravaganza in negril and the unplugged bob marley tribute, the girls have built-up a large fan base in jamaica; building on this is their new goal. brick & lace are poised to explode on the world dancehall scene with their landmark style of sexy roots.
in an industry that promises originality but pushes out drone replicas, brick & lace have carved out a distinctive, cutting edge and groundbreaking sound coupled with exquisite beauty. they are on the verge of becoming the new musical phenom with an innovative sound that is going to break the mold and bend the defined boundaries of music genres.
brick & lace….dancehall has never looked so good or sounded so sweet!
wanna hear how brick & lace sound? listen to
||kesselhaus - kulturbrauerei [berlin]