Behind The Lens: Jik-Reuben Pringle

I get bored very easily so I decided to take a break from the music series and try something different. I appreciate Photography as an art so why not get to know some of my favourite photographers a little better. Here is the first installment.

Meet Jamaican Photographer, Jik-Reuben Pringle a.k.a Visual Ninja

IMG_20190508_140845

All photos by Jik-Reuben Pringle

1. Put your playlist on shuffle and give me the first five selections. 

  1. Bas ft. J. Cole and KQuick – Lit
  2. Nina Simone – That’s All I Want From You
  3. Ed Sheeran – Photograph
  4. Raury ft Big K.R.I.T. – Forbidden Knowledge
  5. Bill Withers – Lovely Day

You’re a past student of Edna Manley College right? 

Jik-Reuben: Most people like to think or believe I attended Edna Manley. I guess because of my appearance, level of work or simply because I was always there looking for my friend Darien or Ms. Zacca. However I actually attended University of Technology between 2009 to 2013 where I graduated with a Second Class Honors in Bsc. Land Surveying and Geographic Information Science.

Side note: I think one day Edna Manley College will give me an honourary doctorate.

What or who got you interested in photography? 

I’ve always been interested in visual arts, I practiced arts in different forms until I fully discovered photography in Summer 2010, when my classmate Kadeem showed me the use of the macro function on my Nikon Point and shoot camera, from there I started shooting every little insect and plant I could. September 2010 when I entered second year of university I joined the U-Tech Photography Club, where as my university life progressed so did my success in the club moving from a regular member, obtaining my first DSLR, becoming Vice President then President in 2012/2013 school year.

How do you feel your time at U-Tech contributed to the photographer you are today?

My time at U-Tech did contribute to my photography, my field of study actually had a course called Photogrammetry which is basically the science and practice of aerial photography which taught me a lot about the history of photography, how photography could be utilized outside of a creative stance and much more. Also, if it wasn’t for my time at the institution I possibly wouldn’t have discovered my love for photography. It was also a place to practice. The university offered a playground of people, subjects and events to capture and hone my skills in different aspects. In my latter years of University I worked for the Student Union and a number of clubs.

I remember you mentioning some time ago on Twitter that you were a lecturer. Are you still teaching? How is that going for you?

I’m not a full lecturer, I’m a part time lecturer for a course on the School of Hospitality called “Food Styling, Writing and Photography” I lecture or rather oversee the photography aspect of the course. I guide the students on how to work along side a photographer as well as capture the images for their final assessment portfolio. The course runs from January to April each school year, So I’m back on the grind this semester again. I look forward to meeting and educating this new batch of students. I enjoy educating people, so I can’t complain about this experience at all.

JikReuben_DTProject-20

I’m 24 and I have been hearing the name Jik-Reuben for quite a while. The brand is strong right now but when did you start professionally?

I registered my business last summer, so one can say I started my professional career then. However I have been taking photographs for over 8 years as a passion.

Now you can get into the local and/or foreign photographers whose work inspired you back then or even now.

To be honest, I don’t really draw inspiration from photographers per say. Most of my inspiration come from my friends in other creative fields like Matthew “ Eyedealist” McCarthy, Gladstone “S7one” Taylor, Tayo Rapport, Dan Thompson, Taj Francis, Kokab Zahoori-Dossa. Other than that, if I was to list photographers; Ansel Adams, Darien Robertson, Gordon Parks, Nickii Kane, Phvrovhxo, Lizzy Brown (My mentor), Puru Gadite and Justice Mukheli. Honestly I’m very inspired by the younger generation of photographers I love their drive and their understanding of community.

_MG_2221

You’re well known for your ‘black and white’ work. Why do you feel that is so? What about it makes it stand out in your opinion?

When I started photography I was very interested in the work of Ansel Adams, his use of Black and White and his Zoning system. I always thrived to capture and process my imagery to look like that of early black and white film, while still expressing a very cinematic approach of documenting this current generation. Presenting in black and white allows me to show the audience exactly what I want them to see which is the pure; raw emotions and feelings of a person or natural essence of a scene. While I will admire other’s colour photography I find that for the aim of my photography; colour distracts the audience from the true message. We live in a digital world filled with colour and often times viewers get caught up in the colours, double tap and keep it moving. When they see one of my images, they have to pause, because they are so drawn in and engulfed in the stillness of the moment or portrait.

When I was growing up, old people used to say “Nuh tek nuh picture of mi, mi nuh wah yuh tek mi soul” It’s funny because I feel thats exactly what I do, I capture the essence and sometimes the true side of who a person is and reveal it to the world through my black and white photography. Others who have seen my work have described my work as captivating, timeless, vintage, still and they feel the emotions of the persons I’m capturing jumping out at them, to which I’m grateful because thats what makes my work stand out and it’s what I am to achieve when I photograph something and process it Black and White.

_MG_9386

You have shot a plethora of artistes at stage shows and such. Which ones would you say you’re most proud of? Also, give me a glimpse into the “must shoot this person one day” list

Interesting question…To be honest, I have quite a few of shots I’m proud of but I’ll say my image of Skip Marley with an image of his grandfather Bob Marley in the background. In this image both are striking the same iconic pose. It’s one of my proudest moments because a lot of thought went into that photograph. I was the only person that was on that side of the photo pit and I lay waited that photograph for almost 10 minutes or more. After I captured that photograph I turned my camera off, returned to the media tent and watched the rest of his set via the monitor because I knew I got the money shot. ( I really wanted to get this photo for this post but Jik says that one is under lock and key)

I’ll also add Koffee, in 2017 Wickie Wackie Fest I captured her on stage. I didn’t know much about her, I heard a few people mentioning her name along with her song ‘Burning’ but when I saw her on stage I knew her career was gonna skyrocket. Her presence on stage was that of a mature and seasoned performer like Chronixx or Jesse Royal. After the performance I had to meet her and ask her management for her to be featured in Backayard Magazine. So said so done, she blew up and is now signed to Columbia Records UK. I’m happy for her and proud that I could have spotted the greatness in her before the hype.

In 2014 I created a top 5 must  shoot list which included:

1. Buju Banton
2. Ziggy Marley
3. Beres Hammond
4. Gentleman
5. Etana

I’ve since then captured Etana in 2015 and Beres several times since 2016. I will be ticking Buju off that list this year, no doubt about it. As for the other two, it is only a matter of time.

You recently showcased at Art Basel, Miami. How did you get that opportunity and what was the experience like?

Art Basel was a vibe. I was contacted in the summer of 2018 by fellow photographer and basically older brother David I. Muir about the opportunity to showcase in the event he exhibited last Art Basel called “Let There Be Reggae”. I was told to send my concert portfolio and expect a call from the organiser. I was contacted and he loved my work and my personality. It was an interesting experience, as it made me realize just how vast my portfolio is and how much iconic imagery I had captured over the course of 6 years (2012 to 2018).
The show days were unbelievable, a lot of people were amazed at how great my showcase and especially amazed at how young I was and how much interest I have in the industry. I showcased 24 large prints and 17 polaroids of artiste from before my time like (Beres Hammond, Maxi Priest, Ninja Man, Lady Saw), of my time like (Protoje, Jah9, Ras I, Feluke, etc.) and also showed the progression of my personal growth as well as growth of artistes like Chronixx. I met and was congratulated by so many interesting people. Pat Chin from VP records, representative from Billboard, a number of veterans in the photography industry passed through. Not to mention family and friends who came. The entire experience humbled me and showed me just how many people internationally and locally really support and love my work. I haven’t seen or heard any ill comment towards me with regards to me being apart of this show and I think that speaks volumes.

Alright, give me some of the variables people should take into consideration when it comes to the pricing for your services.

Well in pricing photo and video services one has to take into consideration time, expenses, rights and licensing, how much you believe you are worth, price of your equipment, etc. Equipment ain’t cheap especially when you have to ship through Jamaican customs. Your time and creativity ain’t cheap. After a long work day photographing, because of all the creative stimulation and physical fatigue you will most definitely get home exhausted like you worked behind a desk for 8 hours. If you’re unaware on how to price a certain job, google what other professionals are charging overseas and use that as a guide to break down the job for your economy. I do this all the time especially when I get overseas and commercial clientele.

In closing, what message would you like to leave with the people?

Honestly focus on your craft, your eye is your tool, the camera is just an extension. People always getting caught up on buying the latest gear and their pictures still look plain and they can’t figure out why….they spend no time practicing, doing research and actually thinking through anything.

If business is why you’re getting into photography, PLEASE do your research, know about copyrighting, licensing, finance, marketing, etc. Don’t want to read? There are many audiobooks and podcasts that address these things for photography or just in general.
Thanks for supporting my work and stay tuned for the rest of the year as I will be dropping some new flames as the year progresses.

 

Advertisements

Get To Know [Ep.15]: Royal Blu

Today we have the international, intercontinental, intergalactic superstar, Royal Blu. I need not say anything more.

DSC_0043
(Royal Blu)

Photo by: Destinee (@bydestinee)

Put your playlist on shuffle and give me the first five selections. let’s see what you got.

  1. Been Wavey – B Young
  2. Jumanji – B Young
  3. Yo Darlin’ – NSG ft. Geko
  4. B.I.D – Tory Lanez
  5. For The Moment – Royal Blu (UNRELEASED)

Share with us some of your best memories from high school (Meadowbrook High School)

Royal Blu: My best memories from Meadowbrook was either me running away from the vice principal because my uniform was altered or me and my friends sitting and telling funny stories or roasting each other.

Often times you have stated that Stephen Marley was one of your biggest musical influences to get into music. What is it about his music that appealed to you? Also, who are some of the other influences?

Honestly, Stephen Marley’s music just spoke to me more as I transitioned into being an adult. I remember late nights of having a lot on my mind and his music would either relax me or have me deeper in whatever mood I’m in. Other influences are Damian “Jr.Gong” Marley, Nas, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Sizzla, Barrington Levy, Aidonia and Vybz Kartel.

‘Here we Go’ was the first song that got me interested in your music and it is still a fav of mine up to this day. I see that song as your “breakout” single but I might have been late to the party. You share the same sentiment? Also, what frame of mind were you in when you wrote it?

I appreciate that you like it so much, thank you! I do see it as a breakout song. To me, it’s like a time stamp for when I really grew into Royal Blu. The frame of mind I was in at that time was sad but hopeful and thankful to my family. I was dealing with a lot of betrayal and that song was me shedding all of that and preparing for the journey ahead.

Listen to ‘Here We Go’ here:

 

In this song, you make reference to your brother, Andre. Go into the role he played in your musical journey.

Andre is my oldest brother. Words can’t describe how much I’m grateful for him. He is literally the greatest big brother I could have ever asked for. That man is responsible for a lot of who I am today. I don’t just see him as a big brother, but a father figure also. I’ve never known someone so pure and so loving. He’s literally the reason for me being able to do music. 

In my humble opinion, Taj Francis is definitely one of the best visual artists from our generation in Jamaica. What is he like as your brother? 

Taj is extremely hilarious and insightful. I remember moments of staying up late and just reasoning with him from night until early morning about everything in life. He inspires me to be as great in music as he is with visual arts.

So far you have released a good amount of songs with ace producer, JLL. You guys obviously work well together. How did the link come about and what is it about him as a producer that brings out the best in El Fuego? Also, should we look out for more bangers with him this year?

I made the link with JLL through another great producer, Krs (@producedbyKrs) My friend and I met Krs at a performance we did at Ardenne High School, then through Krs’ Soundcloud, I found JLL and loved his work. So I asked him to setup the link for us to do music. JLL’s production is just groovy, yo. If you were to sum me up using music, it would sound like his beats. Also, you can definitely look out for more bangers with him.

RoyalBluTVJ_JikReubenNov2017-31
(Royal Blu)

Photo by: Jik-Reuben (@JikReuben)

Another person you work well with is fellow aritist, Runkus. Could you give us some insight into the recording process for ‘Skin Toned’?

Well, I had recorded my parts for Skin Toned like a year or so before I gave it to Runkus (@runkusinno) to finish. I didn’t have anymore ideas for it, so I sent it to him and he totally killed it. I didn’t hear his verse beforehand or anything, because I know he isn’t going to sing trash. He mixed and mastered it really well too!

Listen to ‘Skin Toned’ here:

 

You also went on tour with Runkus in Europe last year summer. Go into some memorable moments from that experience.

Man, there are so many moments, but I’ll give you one. I remember when we all were walking to this lake near to where we stayed. It was a lot of farm land in the area, so we were passing some cows and bulls near the fences. I had no idea that bright colours actually aggravated them at all, fam. Runkus was wearing a bright shirt. Like the shirt was almost glowing. Bro, the cows and bulls started ramming the fences and gates, we all literally started running fast as shit! I wasn’t about to be on news because we died from bulls in Europe.

Bredda…..jah know lol. Y’all can’t see but I’m dying with laughter. Give thanks no one was hurt. 

You released your (very brilliant I must say) EP, sinG with God, last year alongside ace producer, Foresta. What was it like working with him, your fav track/s on the project and what has the response been like thus far?

Working with Foresta was a breeze. Our personalities match in the sense that he’s very calm and cool, and our music reflects that. He really helped me to tap into a deeper side of myself musically and personally. My favourite track is ‘Blu Mahoe’. The response has been great, really. A magazine (Irie Magazine) even had us as their cover and they made it their album of the year. I also noticed through this project that a lot of people didn’t know I could sing. (haha!)

Listen to *’sinG with God’ here:

 *Also available for purchase and streaming on all online platforms.

In closing, what is it like being an international, intercontinental, intergalactic superstar? Also, what message would you like to leave with the people?

Being an international, intercontinental, intergalactic superstar is hard work……. if you’re not me. I’m pretty sure there is an alien listening to my music right now.

To all the people reading, if you don’t know my music, then here’s the chance. To the ones who have known me and been supporting, thank you very much. I couldn’t have been doing the kind of music I’m doing if I didn’t have you guys. Also, Fuego Fridays coming soon. As well as FDGD (Fi Di Gyal Dem) szn. Hide your girl from my music if you’re insecure.

Give thanks for reading. Bless up to everyone for the continued support. That’s the energy I need to continue doing this thing. Trust me, I really appreciate it.

Get To Know [Ep.14]: Jeeby Lyricist

Today we have another upcoming talent coming in from the west end of Jamaica. Specifically, Montego Bay, Jamaica. In case you missed it, check out the feature on Courtni.

His name is self-explanatory, just take a listen to his music and you will get it….. I hope (It might take you a couple plays to “get it”)

IMG_1426
(Jeeby Lyricist)

Put your playlist on shuffle and give me the first five selections. Just to get an idea of what you listen to.

  1. Everyday – Logic, Marshmello
  2. Bum Bum Tam Tam – Mc Fioti, Future, J Balvin, Stefflon Don, Juan Magan
  3. King’s Dead – Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake
  4. Hurtin’ Me – Stefflon Don, French Montana
  5. I Fall Apart – Post Malone

Brawta: When I wake up I play ‘Have You Ever’ by Dennis Brown

You’re from Montego Bay, Jamaica. You came to Kingston solely for UWI? Also, what was the transition to Kingston like for you?

Jeeby: Well, I definitely am a Mobaby and initially I came to Kingston for UWI. Kingston affords you the luxuries of having a variety of choices to meet your needs, the food, the parties and the live shows (mostly live shows). It’s as simple as MVP on a Friday and Dub Club on a Sunday. Mobay’s lifestyle is mostly tourist/business/money oriented.

In a previous interview, you referred to yourself as the “lawtiste”. Why did you choose law as your course of study?

My mother said I was blessed with the ‘gift of gab’. I think what she did – and what parents usually do- was to subconsciously place it into my mind, so hopefully I’d ascribe to achieve a job in a highly respected profession. I believe this was so, so that I could live a “better life than she did”, which is what any parent would want for their child.

It wasn’t until second year that I found a purpose in it. I realized that I could use it as an avenue to assist creatives in understanding their rights in the creative industry, review their contracts and anything they would need and wouldn’t reasonably be able to afford and also to prevent them from being taken advantage of.

Along with school and the music sometimes you host the Talk Up Yout radio show as well. Get into some advice on balancing everything.

My best advice is my slogan that I live by now “Embrace the Madness”. That’s the only advice I can give to anyone who wishes to pursue anything similar.

You are well known and appreciated for your clever lyricism. Go into your background as a writer and some of your musical influences.

When I was really young I was introduced to Damian Marley, who placed a lot of effort into his lyrics and then it was Eminem, two artistes known for their crafty lyricism in their respective genres. That is what I wanted to do, put lyrics together cleverly and receive appreciation, until I realized that not everyone could completely understand the complicated figures of speech. Then Vybz Kartel showed me exactly what it means to be a true lyricist. Which is, to take extremely difficult concepts and break them down to bits and pieces for everyone to appreciate and digest.

Basically, when it comes to writing. I just write what I feel in the moment, from whatever experiences I garner.

One of my favourite tracks from you is definitely ‘Potential’. What was the inspiration behind that song?

The song examines and expresses the thoughts of the “millenial” mind. Faced with the ultimatum of societal pressures of securing a “good job” and taking your talent as serious as possible to make it a profession. The logical mind understands that success requires dedication and focus on either one, but I think ‘Potential’ is a message to encourage others to honestly chase their passion and believe in the paths they create for themselves.

Listen to ‘Potential’ here:

You were slated to perform on the recently held Tmrw.tdy Music Festival but unfortunately you didn’t get to perform. Tell us about what happened.

I was on the lineup for the Festival but my examinations followed the performance on the Sunday. That is, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So, I made my decision after explaining it to the promoters of course.

In closing, what message would you like to leave with the people?

Love yourself first and believe in your own journey.

Give thanks for reading. Look out for the music video for ‘Potential’ coming soon but in the meanwhile check out more sounds from Jeeby on Soundcloud:

Get To Know [Ep.13]: Courtni

With a powerhouse voice and a personality to match, Courtni is on her way to greatness. As she continuously works on her craft, we spend a little time with her to get to know her a little better and get familiar with her journey with music thus far.

IMG-20180515-WA0007
Courtni (@singcourtnising)

Photo by: Yannick Reid (@thetherapistsol)

Put your playlist on shuffle and give me the first five selections. Let’s see what you got.

  1. Natty Never Get Weary – Culture
  2. Novacane – Frank Ocean
  3. Been So Long – Anita Baker
  4. Never Too Much – Luther Vandross
  5. I Used To Love H.E.R – Common

Why do you sing?

Courtni: I sing because that’s me being in touch with my truest self, being in touch with God. This is how I give back to myself, in terms of encouraging and lifting up myself. There are times when I’m so so sad and once I start singing to myself, I start to feel better. I also sing because it brings joy to others and I think that that is a part of what life is all about, being of service to each other. So when I sing, write and compose stuff, that’s me showing the God in myself. 

You were born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica (second capital city) but you made the trod to Kingston for school. What was that transition like for you?

The transition was very interesting. I think Kingston was very good for me in many ways because I’m from a sheltered, slightly over-protective home. So, being in Kingston was sort of a confidence boost because I was able to do things my way. especially when it came to music. Just the environment that I was in with all the underground artistes, they were very accepting of me. They also gave me a confidence boost because they believed in me, sometimes even more than myself (smirks)

When I first left Mobay to come to Kingston to go to UWI in 2014 there wasn’t really much of a music scene in Mobay at the time to be honest. Ironically, I actually started to get to know and link with artistes from Mobay when I moved to Kingston and that’s the power of social media. That transition was nothing but great for me and I’m forever grateful for it.

So after a while at the University of the West Indies (UWI, Mona) you recently decided to make the switch to the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Why did you decide to make the switch and how has it been going so far?

To be very honest, the interest that I have in music is so huge that anything else pales in comparison therefore going to university for anything other than music wasn’t really an attractive option but at the time it was the only option. My parents wanted me to have a safety blanket for when I leave school before the career really kick off. I’ve always had an interest in the entertainment industry so at UWI I was doing Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management but to be honest, mi anuh one big fan of school itself and the requirements for that major so I was falling behind on assignments and after a while it  just really didn’t make sense to continue anymore.

The switch to Edna was a breath of fresh air, in terms of the environment. One thing with the environment at Edna, you never feel alone. Whether it is close friends or some random classmate, the support is always there. It’s a mantra that we have over there, we are always looking out for each other. Now as it pertains to the School of Music as a collective, their ears are AMAZING (laughs) So like during a performance when you crack and you try to cover it up with some pretty runs here and there and think you get away with it, noooooo they heard THAT. They heard you loud and clear (laughs). So it’s amazing. I have that ability as well, to hear the tiny details when people are performing so it’s good to be around similar people. It’s also amazing to see the amount of raw talent that is there. Everyone is walking around with a fire burning inside. It’s been a beautiful experience thus far, the people are what makes it worthwhile.

IMG-20180515-WA0008
(Courtni)

Photo by: Tara Plummer (@_tvrv)

I’ve seen you perform a couple times and it is intriguing to me how comfortable you seem on stage. Let’s go into your background as a performer.

I’ve been performing on stage since around the age of 7. I used to dance a lot as well. Actually, I was dancing even before I knew I could sing, I was a part of my school’s dance team and choir and we participated in the cultural school competition put on by JCDC (Jamaica Cultural Development Commission) My mother (Karen Smith) is a singer and BIG performer as well so I have learnt a lot from her. I have watched her all my life and she really knows how to rock a crowd. Not just saying that because she a mi mada (laughs) So, a lot of times when I’m on stage, I’m lowkey just mimicking her. There is that and also just gaining experience and confidence over the years and learning from my mistakes as well. I also watch and learn from them as well. One of my faves is Beyoncé of course *fangirls*

You released your first single, ‘Broke My Heart’ last year. Give me some insight into the recording process for that song.

Shawn J. Smith (@shvwnjsmith) who produced the track sent me the beat and at the time it was pretty convenient because I was going through a little heartbreak so I wrote that song. I had that song in my arsenal and after awhile I told myself that is time to record and different people  were telling me that I need to release that song. I did a rough recording of the song first then listened to it over and over again just to get used to hearing my voice on a record. Then I recorded it again and added in the harmonies, runs and background vocals then I sent it to an engineer in Mobay who mixed it. When I heard the final thing, I was like, “YES! this is it!” I was a bit apprehensive to release it because I was wondering if people would actually like it but I’ve been getting some good feedback for it thus far.

Listen to ‘Broke My Heart’ here:

What should people look out for from you this year?

Weeeelllll you know mans don’t want to give it all away but I am currently putting an EP together. You can look out for that later down in the year or early next year. Right now I just want to focus on putting out singles and letting people get used to my sound and versatility. The singing is there but I also love toasting. So you can look out for that.

In closing, what message would you like to leave with the people?

Life can be beautiful when you choose to see the beauty in things around you. Keep your head up. Just know that you’re a star. This life was given to you for you to continuously work on yourself and be the best you that you can be. Mi know it hard especially for black people but try, try, try and try again. You’re all beautiful and I looooove you. (laughs) 

Whoo! and with that great message brings an end to the nice vibe with Courtni. Be sure to keep up with her along this musical journey. New music soooon forward.

Give thanks for reading. Bless up.

Get To Know [Ep.12]: Leno Banton

REM Collective (@REMCollectiveJA) is a group of young creative minds that I think people should really keep an eye out for. The group consists of recording artistes, visual artists, music producers etc. Basically, if you want anything from the creative arts field, just link them! In case you missed it, I already featured some members from the group in previous episodes, Yanah (singer) PalacePikney (music producer) and Khari Kamau (visual artist)

This week we have another artiste from the REM family, the young Banton! Leno Banton is in a league by himself as his music is just different from everybody else. Different in a good way. Blessed with the gift of undeniable flows, catchy and thought-provoking lyrics, Banton is sure to get your attention as you press play.

Image result
@LenoBanton

Photo by: Yannick Reid (@thetherapistsol)

Put your playlist on shuffle and give me the first five selections. Let’s see what you got.

  1. Protection – Protoje feat. Mortimer
  2. Wrong Side of the Law – Protoje
  3. Family – Popcaan
  4. Reggae Origin – Agent Sasco
  5. Anytime – Melovice 

What are some of your best memories from high school? (Meadowbrook High School)

Leno: Well I would say, just how carefree I was. People were more genuine back then, I guess. Also, selling Hershey’s and just chilling with friends.

Where did the journey start to becoming a recording artiste?

Music has been a part of my life since birth. I always knew that I wanted to be an artiste but I didn’t start recording until near to the end of high school when i used to record rap music on my phone and SNR (@snr876) would mix the vocals and ting.

What was it like growing up with Burru Banton, as your father? How much did he influence your choice to get into music?

I got to see how much people respected him for who he was and what he stands for and that was really a big part of me wanting to be an artiste to be honest. Seeing him go to the studio and going with him sometimes got me to love the feeling of being in a studio. He influences me more now because we reason about music and I can have a better understanding of things now.

Image result
Left: Leno Banton, Right: Burru Banton

Photo by: Romario LYNCH (@lebosslynch)

You released your debut album, REMSZN (2016) for free on all platforms. Why did you choose to take that route?

I don’t really put any labels on it to say it’s an album or mixtape, to me it was a project I put out to get everybody familiar with REM and I wanted everyone to get it. So, making it available for free was the most practical thing to do.

Did you release any projects before REMSZN?

Nah. Just some singles but I don’t really consider those as my official tracks anymore.

Listen to REMSZN here:

One of my favourite tracks from you is definitely SIMMA (feat. iotosh) Could you give us some insight into the recording process for this song?

It was basically just me and PalacePikney (@palacepikney) in the room and I already knew how I wanted it to sound with the main vocals but the harmonies were the only problem. Palace gave me his opinions and I just worked with it.

Listen to ‘SIMMA’ here:

 

What are some of your other interests outside of music?

I dig chilling with trees. If I’m not at home you can find me under a tree. I dig anime, cartoons, world theories, the ancient people’s way of life and I generally just like to observe.

What should people look out for from you this year?

I’m just going with the flow for now.

Cool cool. In closing, what message would you like to leave with the people?

Put your trust and foundation in Jah because this generation don’t really stand for anything, it’s all trends and what’s hot and not what’s right. So don’t be a sheep, try not to be a wolf either nor a shepherd, be a bird.

Well that was a well rapid episode lol. Give thanks for reading. More episodes coming….. well rapid.

In the meanwhile, check out more sounds from Leno Banton on Soundcloud:

https://m.soundcloud.com/lenobanton

 

Get To Know [Ep.11]: Naomi Cowan

One thing that I’m always critical about and always looking out for from an artiste is how they sound outside of the studio. There are a few gems/singers out there that can replicate the same sound from the track in the studio to when they are performing live. I believe these gems should be treasured because…… dis anuh no play ting!

Naomi Cowan is indeed a gem.

Headshot
(Naomi Cowan)

Photo by: Nickii Kane

Why do you sing?

Naomi: I sing for people. As I have experimented with different talents that I have, I’ve realized that my core intention is to reach people in a positive way, tell stories, connect with them and hopefully, give them the freedom to tell their own stories. I sing because of what it does in the hearts of other people. I think music is so powerful and it is a tool that we can use for good so, that’s why I sing.

You are known in some parts for your work as a TV host/producer. How has the transition to the music industry been for you?

The transition has been quite interesting, multi-layered. Not only have I been transitioning into music from television but I have also been transitioning from countries. I was living in Toronto around this time last year. On the inside of the music industry, what I have been picking up, is that a lot of people are observing and watching me. Not in a bad way but different artistes have come up to me and say, “I wah see wah you a come wid” Seeing that I’m the child of my parents (laughs) people are interested to see if I’m going to be exactly like my Mom, what kind of vibe I’m coming with etc.

Another big part of the transition is the fact that as a TV host and producer, for the most part, unless you have your own show your job as host is to tell someone else’s story or the story of a brand but as a singer, you’re using your voice. You’re not speaking on behalf of anyone. So, the transition has been pretty cool.

Speaking of your parents (Carlene Davis & Tommy Cowan) Does it ever get overbearing or annoying that people often times make reference to them before they get to you as an artiste? 

When I was very young it used to be annoying, which is probably one of the reasons why I didn’t do music from earlier. I would be like, “I’m my own person. Stop asking me to sing in public! I don’t know you from anywhere” (laughs) I used to be a bit sassy about this whole thing. Now, I don’t have a problem with it. At the end of the day, the work that they have done is impressive. What they have done for the industry is phenomenal. So, for me, to be prefaced by that is a honour. Not only because of their reputation but who I know they are and what people see them as. Some people see them as royalty, legends even. To be prefaced by that is a huge responsibility but more than anything, it is a honour. 

Cool cool. They are stalwarts in the business indeed. Alright, back to the music. When did songwriting come about for you?

Ooooo that’s kinda tough because I grew up being in the studio and always pitching in on some of my Mom’s stuff but it was about in 2011 when I started to go into the practice and the discipline of it. Then couple years after I picked up the guitar and taught myself how to play, so I could sing, play and write on my own time.

I was first introduced to your music when you made an appearance on Smile Jamaica (popular early morning TV show) From the first note! I was really impressed and didn’t care about your last name lol. What was that experience like for you?

Oh wow! yeah that was cool, especially being on a live television show. It’s familiar territory for me but it was unfamiliar in a sense because I was singing. It was a blessing to be able to perform when Emprezz was hosting. I’ve known her for quite sometime. I was an intern back in the days with her in television. I loved it! Smile Jamaica is a great opportunity to be able to connect with all of Jamaica and I got some positive feedback. Next time though, I want to perform with musicians.

I have also seen you perform live and it is evident that you have been working on your craft for a while. Talk to me about your vocal training (if any) and how important live performance is for you.

Let me tell you, I love performing live. I have always been a performer. When I was younger, if I knew that my parents were having over guests, I would call my neighbours and be like, “We gonna put on a show! We going to do dance, drama and singing. I’m going to collect $100 from every person” So that everybody could buy a patty the next day. So yeah, I was a little hustler from those days (laughs) Performing has just been my thing. I have done every extra-curricular you can think of, drama, singing, football, track and field, gymnastics…..everything!

Thank you for noticing that I have been working on the craft. I feel like live performances is where all the pieces come together and you get to connect with people. As I said, I sing because of people, because I love people. (exhales) It just gives me warm fuzzy feelings when I can perform with a band and there is good sound and lighting and all of that coming together. My vocal training has been mostly led by listening a lot. I have listened to so many different vocalist while growing up. Of course, with my Mom being my first influence. To be honest, singing at church has helped me as well because every Sunday I used to go up there and sing different type of songs and every week I would discover new parts of  my voice. I haven’t worked with a coach professionally on a consistent basis but I will see specialists from time to time. Honestly, a lot of it has just been me practicing.

Your first single is ‘Things You Say You Love’ featuring Mark Pelli (from pop-reggae band, MAGIC!). How did you get to link up with Mark for this track?

Mark is a Toronto native that lives in LA (Los Angeles) I have a friend in Toronto who is kinda integrated into the music industry, he is the one who introduced me to Mark.

Watch the official music video below:

 

Put your playlist on shuffle and give me the first five selections let’s see what you got.

  1. Matt Corby – Made of Stone
  2. Naomi Cowan – Paradise Plum
  3. Kid Cudi – Pursuit of Happiness
  4. Lorna Bennett – Stop Look Listen
  5. Far East Riddim (produced by King Jammys)

Apart from music, you are also passionate about giving back. Tell us about some of the projects that you have been involved with.

Over the years I’ve always made an effort to invest into the lives of others, to be the voice for them. The Mary’s Child Home for Teen Moms is a place where I invested lots of time doing motivational sessions on the weekends and taking the girls out to different events. This was steadily between 2012-2014. I even created my own little non-profit organization ‘NCouraged’ to foster that. When I moved back to Toronto, I was able to get donations through Food for the Poor sent to the home.

In Toronto. I co-founded ‘Studio Bud’ an initiative where we run creative workshops with youth to help build their creative confidence. One of my proudest moments in Toronto was helping to co-ordinate ‘Love Toronto’ where we fed over 200 homeless people and over 100 people volunteered, It was MAGICAL.

In closing, what message would you like to leave with the people?

Be everything that you are.

That’s where we end our chat with Naomi. Wild ride right? Be sure to look out for her follow up single, Paradise Plum (produced by Teflon ZincFence) on May 4th!

NaomiCowan_ParadisePlum
(Paradise Plum cover photo)

Photo by: Nathan Patrick Photography

Get To Know [Ep.10]: Tracker John MD

Anyone who knows me personally or just from Twitter, knows that I’m a huge Protoje fan. In 2016, Protoje surprised his fans with an exclusively free album, namely Royalty Free (Side B) In his usual unorthodox and unapologetic style, he just released half of the album but let me tell youuuuu, it a di sickest half a album! loooool. He can take as long as he wants with the other half because I know it will be qualityyyyy. From the day it was released up to this very day, I have had the project on repeat. I just love how “out of the box” it is.

So, for this episode, I caught up with the producer who was responsible for two tracks on the project. This is the amazing, Tracker John MD!

Put your playlist on shuffle and give me the first five selections. Let’s see what you got.

  1. Bout Noon – Protoje
  2. Hustler – Kabaka Pyramid (UNRELEASED)
  3. Be Careful With Me – Cardi B
  4. Walking Trophy – Hood Celebrityy
  5. If You Let ’em – Trips Up

Name one album that you’ll probably never stop listening to and why.

Tracker John: Good question….. I’d have to go with ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ double disc CD. My  reason being, every clan member had their own element and brothers like The Rza, 4th Disciple and Allah Mathematics had to design the right sound.

Go into your main musical influences and who or what initiated your choice to get into music production.

Well, my musical influences are my father and uncle. Both of them are the reason why I’m making music today. I remember when I was 7, my brother and I went to my Dad’s house for a photoshoot. My father and uncle being Haitian were talking in creole about me as I had my fingers placed on the keyboard he had just bought us. I asked him what were they saying but he laughed and said I’m too young to understand. I guess they were saying that I will be great one day.

Hahaha great story. You play any instruments currently?

I’m currently taking piano lessons. At last! (laughs)

How does being able to play an instrument assist in beat making/ the production process?

It helps dearly. Music is vibration and every chord progression brings a different energy and feeling. 

“It’s key to know the scales”

– Silver Sargent

How did the link come about with Protoje for the songs on ‘Royalty Free (Side B)’ and have you done any work with any other Jamaican artiste/s?

My production credits with Jamaican artistes are as follows:

Mr. Vegas – Like That (2004)

Protoje – Can’t Feel No Way (2016)

Protoje – Glad You’re Home (2016)

Alborosie feat. Protoje – Strolling (Remix) (2017)

Kabaka Pyramid – Kabaka vs Pyramid (Remix) (2018) *UNRELEASED

In 2005, I took a trip to Jamaica with my business partner at the time who grew up with Diggy. I was only 19 when I met Protoje. People called him Oje from around his way. I remember I saw a Triton keyboard at Protoje’s house and I said, “Yo, can I make a beat?” Diggy said, ” Yeah man” and he was shocked that I made a full beat in 5 minutes. Can you imagine that 11 years later he still remembered me?

I sent him a DM via Twitter after he released Ancient Future and told him that I’m still making beats. He sent me Dennis Brown’s ‘Don’t Feel No Way’ to sample. I doctored the track but I felt that I could do something else of my choosing so I selected ‘Ring My Bell’ by The Bloodsisters. I sent the track and the rest was history. Oh yeah!…. I did get a call from Protoje to work on ‘7 Year Itch’ but the sound we were gonna buss was way too ahead of it’s time.

IMG_20180420_124608
Left: Tracker John, Right: Protoje

Could you give us a simple breakdown of the creative process behind the ‘Glad You’re Home’ instrumental? I must say, I have had both tracks on repeat! but Glad You’re Home is my favourite, it just has a certain bounce/swing to it.

Glad You’re Home was a sample that fell right into the drum pattern. The sample that punches in like “any time, any day” is my favourite. When Diggy sent the rough vocals through WhatsApp, he sung lyrics over that part. My voice message was like, “Yo, I thought you would have caught that sample like how Dipset does!” When he sent the verse again he laced it proper. He knew exactly what I was talking about. The most important thing of all, is when my childhood friend, Paris Wilson heard it when I was making it and said, “G, I know you like ‘Can’t Feel No Way’ but ‘Glad You’re Home’ is the one!” We’re from Hartford, Connecticut so Paris kept saying, “The streets can bounce to it ’cause it has a fusion of Trap as well.”

Listen to ‘Glad You’re Home’ here:

 

In closing, is there any message you would like to leave with the people?

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter: @trackerjohnmd

Give thanks for reading as always. This was a refreshing episode for me. I hope you enjoyed it too.

Follow me on Twitter: @Shawn_FTC

Blessings.