Barrington Levy

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Godfather of Reggae Barrington Levy to Headline Extravaganja

:: Barrington Levy ::
:: Incredibowl’s 420 Extravaganja ::
:: City Hall Denver :: April 20 ::

By Brian Turk

The Don of the Dancehalls, Barrington Levy, is one of the godfathers of reggae. Levy cut his first single in 1977, at the age of 14, and he is currently putting the finishing touches on his new album It’s About Time. The title is quite fitting, considering his fans have been waiting 17 years for an album of new material sung only by Levy.

Levy has ridden the wave of dancehall from its original dub roots to the hip-hop collaborations in the ’90s, and he has always been able to catch a wave on his own terms. When ‘rude boys’ like Bounty Killer, Mad Cobra and Buju Banton started bringing dancehall into more violent territory, Levy stayed focused on the positivity. It seems as if years of being surrounded by the gangster side of dancehall had started to take a toll on Levy, and he shared some candid thoughts on this subject in a recent interview with The Marquee from Jamaica.

Levy’s new album is rumored to be his last, but it sounds like he might be conflicted on that decision. “That’s what I was thinking [that it be his last], but people keep saying to me I must not say that, because I am well and alive, and I need to keep this thing going, and I talk like I don’t believe in what I was doing,” Levy said.

It’s not as if Levy is tired of making music, he is just tired of making it in a negative environment, he explained. “I just don’t like where the music has gone to. Disc jockeys asking you for money to get airplay. Disc jockeys becoming producers and if you don’t sing for them, then you don’t get played,” Levy said. “Politics in the business now — it sucks. It is very discouraging, ya know? I am just pissed off with where the younger ones are taking it now. In my time it was fun, it was laughter. Everyone was enjoying it. Put it this way, the dancehall scene was from the ’80s to the ’90s. That’s it. It’s done.”

If dancehall is dead, Levy said that the lacking quality was a catalyst to the genre’s demise. “The lyrical content of it sucks. They say anything on a record now, and don’t even care about what they’re talking about,” he said.

Levy’s first full-length album Shaolin Temple was recorded at King Tubby Studios, where making beats and dub sounds was done by hand. Studios were laboratories of analog equipment and live instruments, sounds were manually layered over each other on tape, and reggae artists were craftsmen. Lyrics were written with meaning and purpose, designed to convey a message and tell a story. “The beauty of the music is not there anymore. The liveness of the music is no longer existing. Anyone can just go grab a sample now. To me, dancehall really have the dub in it. When you listen to my songs, you hear that thumping bass line, the rub-a-dub style. The dancehall today, it’s not like that anymore. A man just take a ‘Boof, Boof…Boof, Boof…Boof, Boof,’ and then they put a little ting over it,” Levy said.

A lack of musicianship, the absence of hands-on creativity and deep lyrical content are some of the external factors when you look at the death of original dancehall; but there are some more internal ones as well. “A lot of dem is not in it for the love of it anymore. When I come into it I didn’t even know that there was money to make. I was just doing it for the love of it. Nowadays, they just do it for the money and the big cars. I think hip-hop has a lot to do with that. These young artists watch BET and MTV, and see these rappers and certain people talk about wealth, and not talking about humanity. You have to understand that those who put their trust in vanity have no love for humanity, and dem fade away,” said Levy.

Levy is about as real as it gets, and It’s About Time is all about staying true to the positive vibrations he set out to create when he was just 14. “It’s an uplifting album. I have tracks on the album that will uplift everyone — teaching. It’s all about teaching the positive side of life on this album. I try to keep it like that at all times,” Levy said.

Levy is coming to Denver on April 20 — 4/20 — to take part in Incredibowl’s Extravaganja, and he was quick to point out what a solid fit that is. “Remember,” he said, “I am the original man to sing ‘Under Me Sensi!’ It’s a good thing. I think they should definitely legalize the thing!” Not only does Levy believe in legalization, but he also believes that marijuana is a medicine. “I have seen with my own two eyes that marijuana cure people. There was this white youth from England. He come from England with dangerous asthma. From the time he come here and start to smoke weed, that guy do not have the asthma problem again. I mean the guy used to walk around with four or five pumps, for when he got his asthma attack. The guy start to smoke weed, and now he don’t have that problem anymore. It is definitely a medicine. Marijuana is a God thing. He grow it. So, you know, it is sacred,” he said.

Levy is the main event at Incredibowl’s 4/20 Extravaganja, and other headlining acts include Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad, Guilty Simpson, and Reggie Watts. Local flavor will be represented by bands such as Bloodpreshah, DJ Uplifter, Frisky Squid, Magic Beans, Nikka T, The Reminders, Wandering Monks, and Zobomaze.

 

:: Barrington Levy ::

:: Incredibowl’s 420 Extravaganja ::

:: City Hall Denver :: April 20 ::

 

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• Dennis Brown

• Buju Banton

 

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