-February 13, 2013
It’s a warm evening on February 12th 2013 and it’s also the date for the listening session for the long awaited sophomore album from Protoje, The 8TH Year Affair. The venue chosen is the Tuff Gong Studios on Marcus Garvey Drive.
My first time on the grounds of one of Reggae’s landmark sites filled me with sense of expectation, anticipating something great, and as I entered through the gates, I was greeted with musical tributes from the Black Love Sound. I thought how fitting.
An event of this nature was not without the presence of some of the integral contributors to the Reggae Revival movement. I-Nations Books and Necessities and Veggie Meals on Wheels represented well, providing “food” for the minds and the temples of those gathered for this special event.
Patrons slowly gathered meeting and greeting as we awaited the official start of the programme. Among them were Jason Lee Worton, Anubis Communications, Gideon from the Jah Ova Evil movement, Conkarah, Dutty Bookman, Bebble Rock, Mystical Revolution Band, Keida, Jah 9, I Wayne Chuck Fender and Black as Cole band, just to name a few, amply providing support to the movement by their presence.
The host for the evening was the Royal Roots Queen Elise Kelly, from IRIE FM’s “Easy Skankin” show. She brought salutations at minutes past 9pm. In her address, she encouraged the youth to stay focused on good music, expressing her joy to be alive at this important time when the music is at this critical changing point. She likened this era to the 70s when the music of the legends was at its height and creating a stir amongst the people and to see it again, meant that good music would continually survive.
After a brief introduction from Mama Elise, Dutty Bookman, author of Tried and True took the podium adding his greetings. Dutty shared his thoughts on Protoje, who he called his “true brother”. In endearing tone accompanied with words, he spoke of Protoje’s work as music from the heart, which stemmed from the life, lived from his heart. Referencing the music of the era past such as the works of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, he briefly summarized what the Reggae Revival movement was about, placing the Revival in its rightful context, as an energy of and for this time. He pointed out that the uprising of such ones as Chronixx and Jah Ova Evil movement, was only the surface of the Revival, and against this background, he admonished those present to pay attention to the music but also focus on building the Creative Industry of the nation because this is where the movement could be used for nation building.
After these sobering words, Mama Elise returned and made room for ZJ Sparks from ZIP FM, who shared her thoughts on the man and music of the moment. She emphasized that from her interaction with both, she found there is an embedded pace and intelligence in the lyrics and the delivery of Protoje’s craft. She also mentioned that it is critical to note that in delivering the product, many seeds had been sown and indeed are still be sown to make sure the music’s message reaches as wide an audience as possible. The focus was not simply to reach the current recipients in the immediate generation but those to come. In closing Sparks made special mention of Billy Mystic, who has been integral in providing a stage for the promulgation of artists from the Revival via venues such as Jamnesia and Wickie Wackie.
The next item on the programme was a video presentation on the album. In speaking of his works, Protoje alluded to the reward of inner satisfaction which comes when a work represents the best of which we are capable. The images on screen showed the artist as performer but also life behind the music. It was definitely refreshing to see the images captured, gatherings to eat, cook and play football, smiling faces all around, just features of everyday life. This spoke to and confirmed the humility and realism I had come to associate with Protoje.
He also spoke about the transition from the 7 Year Itch to the 8th Year Affair shedding light on the approach taken to cultivate the latter. Protoje pointed out the deliberate influences from the sounds of the 80s, from artists such as Ini Kamoze and Black Uhuru which had affected the feel and sounds of the album. He spoke of the need to save and preserve the quality of the music. His intent was to strengthen the music and he had no concern for those who would choose not to play his music, as the message would still get to the people. Working smartly and from the heart would bring its fruits.
Striking in his presentation, was the ease and grace with which he spoke, as songs such as I n I and Hail Ras Tafari provided the ambience to his even pace delivery. In relating his growth in Rastafari, he stated that the music manifested directly what he was experiencing in his life at this time, which is more of the King and more reverence. As a custodian for the music, he was endeavoring to put out the proper sound and quality.
In closing, he poignantly expressed the need to ensure the quality of the music, a quality that could not be confined to time or an era, in essence presenting timeless sounds.
Mama Elise then returned to the podium to introduce to the now mushrooming audience, a representative from the National Library of Jamaica who would be accepting a legal deposit of Protoje’s new album to the records at the Library. This would ensure the preservation and availability of the music to the public. After the handover was complete Protoje offered greetings to the audience thanking Mama Elise and ZJ Sparks for their support in the fight to keep good music on air.
He explained that his message was also that of bringing the Good News and cited I-Nation and others who are a part of the same mission. He emphasized the need to honor greatness among us when persons are able to appreciate this adoration, as well as sharing what we have partaken with others. He gave special thanks to Don Corleon, his Mother Lorna Bennett, Jason Lee Worton, Paris Lamont, Romaine Virgo, Tessanne Chin, Toi and Chris Watts, the supporting vocalists on the album, as well as those involved in the creative process such as Anubis Communications.
Protoje closed with requesting that the each person take on the 8th year affair challenge which was to share, if after listening you liked the album, with 8 persons. Closing salutations then followed and the Listening session began with Black Love Sound bringing the entire 8th Year Affair to the ears of the audience.
The final segment for the evening consisted of a questions and answers session and open floor for the audience to share their sentiments. Noteworthy statement made by one patron was the need for the music to speak more on repatriation to which Protoje provided a sufficiently solid response, he agreed and added that while it is important to speak of returning to Africa, it was important prior to this, to ensure that we equip ourselves so that we can make a valuable contribution to the Motherland.
This closed the night’s activities, bringing down the curtains to what was definitely sobering edutainment. So the bonus to the evening was purchasing the 8th Year Affair, delivered with such ease and grace. A solid piece of musical artwork from a lyrically fluid artist to who much respect is due.
It was my pleasure to be there and to bring you this review. Stick and Stay tuned to this page for more as the trod continues.