By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
By Michele Eve Sandberg
By Abel Folgar
By Ashley Zimmerman
By New Times Staff
By Abel Folgar
By Laurie Charles
Dancehall music is in a state of crisis. Violence and gun-talk rule the scene while peace and love is nowhere to be found. Most longtime admirers of the genre are fed up, but those who created the genre hate it even more. A man like King Jammy, who helped pioneer the digital evolution that's been a part of dancehall for the past 25 years, is tired of all the fuckery and isn't afraid to speak out about it. He's produced loads of hit songs during his career, and he's currently rereleasing them as a weapon to help win back reggae's soul. A massive compilation of his work, Selector's Choice Vol. 1-4, just hit the streets, and the eight discs of music here are serious.We decided to check in with King Jammy down in Jamaica to see what a-gwan.
Outtakes:What's motivated you to stay in the reggae business for so long?
King Jammy:Well, the more you make hit songs, it's like pouring gasoline in the tank. It's fuel. And it's all the encouragement I need to keep producing more and more records.
Where was your head when you decided to put together your newest compilation?
Well, Johnny Wonder and myself got together and decided we need to do something to bring back the whole reggae business, 'cause it was going astray. So we decided to take all the hits from the '80s and '90s, chose the tracks carefully. And here it is.
But what about the ultracompetitive nature of dancehall right now? Are things in Jamaica getting out of hand?
Well, some of it is good, but a lot of the artists are taking things too far. When they have a clash, they take it personal and take it out of hand. Their lyrical content is not even accepted internationally. The artists need to make some changes within themselves. They need to have fun and not take it so personal.
Speaking of reggae beefs, how do you feel about the never-ending war of words between Beenie Man and Bounty Killer? Have you had enough?
I'm fed up with it. You have other DJs, Mavado and all of them, that start that type of behavior as well. It's not good for the business. They're taking it too far.
What can be done to turn things around?
The culture is not being brought out the right way right now, and that's why I'm starting to produce new material with Ras Shiloh and Ninja Man to show the youths that you can still make good music. Plus, culturewise, you have some very good new artists, but they're not getting a chance.
Can you envision yourself retiring from reggae?
When Natalie Dessay first began blowing the minds of the world's opera queens in 1992, she was a walking miracle, the incarnation of just about everybody's hopes for the next great prima donna. That she could act as well as she could sing was beside the point. Listening to her first records was to hear a human being hitting superhuman notes, and it seemed only natural that she should be a great actress as well. Hell, if you're prepared to accept one miracle at face value, why not two?
For that reason, watching the stunning new collection of Dessay's greatest stage moments, Le Miracle D'une Voix, is a must for anyone looking to witness the essence of a coloratura soprano. There are a few moments in Le Miracle that capture some of the what-the-fuck-did-I-just-see?-ness of Natalie's early career. But if you take the collected clips in chronological order from her 1993 Olympia in Les Contes d'Hoffmanthrough her turns as Lucia and Ophelie a full decade later what emerges is a heartbreaking picture of a singular wonder disappearing from the face of the Earth. By 2000, Dessay had developed a bad habit of pushing her lovely, sparkly instrument into heavy roles it couldn't sustain. Though she sang well, her voice was damaged beyond repair. She's now undergone two rounds of vocal cord surgery, and in this DVD's most recent selections, you can hear a woman struggling mightily for notes and timbres she could have summoned in her sleep only a few years earlier. But even those arias especially the breathy, desperate Mad Scene from Hamlet are redeemed by Dessay's sensitivity to the music's drama.
If you can get past the tragedy of it all, this DVD yields many good things. For the laugh factor, you cannot beat Dessay's mid-cunnilingus cadenza in "Duo de la mouche" or the jewelry lust that consumes her in "Glitter and Be Gay." Dessay pushes herself like crazy in two different takes on Strauss' Zerbinetta, proving herself the only soprano in recent memory up to the emotional demands of Hofmannsthal's libretto. And the earliest of her three Olympias the one from 1993 puts to shame every other version of "The Doll Song" you've ever heard. The night that aria was recorded, Offenbach was smiling in his grave. It'll be a long time before he smiles like that again. Brandon K. ThorpDeadheads Unite