DANCEHALL DAYS

Last weekend Jamaican artist, Charly Black, performed to a capacity crowd at The Blue Flamingo and was in good spirits despite having just touched down in Perth just an hour before his show.

The hardworking, internationally-acclaimed singer/songwriter had already visited three cities and, upon hitting the stage, graciously acknowledged the waiting crowd. True to his charismatic nature, the self-proclaimed ‘party animal’ performed his international hits, Perfect, Gyal You A Party Animal and Whine And Kotch and left some ladies swooning, a few even inviting themselves onto the stage to dance with the singer/songwriter.

Black was happy to meet the people of Perth, especially a super-fan from Malawi whom he clearly adored, breaking out into a song for her. “I’m here for my fans,” he would later explain. “I’m here to let them see that I can sing in person, they’ve been asking for me since 2008. One of the greatest things I’ve learned over the years is to let your fans hear that you sound like your recording. A lot of artists buss different, they didn’t grow up in the streets, they grew up in the studio, you know? So people never really get to hear them. Fans don’t know if you can hold a note or perform on stage.”

With a gruelling international tour schedule, Black remains as hardworking as ever. “I don’t really get much sleep,” he notes. “I’ve been wanting this since was a child, since I was five-years-old. I don’t see the point in slowing down. I’m not here to worry about the next artist’s career, or who’s in and who’s not, who’s running the place. My focus is on my work. One of my biggest dreams is to fill Madison Square Garden. That’s what I’m working on; when you can sell an arena, that’s beautiful as an artist. I don’t see myself as a one hit wonder, every song on the new album (due for release later in the year) is fire.”

Proudly hailing from the northern seaside town of Rio Bueno in the Parish (State) of Trelawny in Jamaica, Black has maintained his stance on producing lyrics and music of a positive nature, choosing not to follow thematic trends on violence. “It’s something that I’ve wanted to do, to represent my parish. As a country artist, you don’t get much love. To make things worse, I’m not singing songs about guns or rifles. I’m proud to come from the bush, you know? So it’s totally different and it’s harder. I’m here to change that.”

It was no surprise when Black explained who he looked up to in the industry. Known for guiding and nurturing many young Jamaican artists over the decades, dancehall legend Bounty Killer was there for him too. “Bounty Killer has had more influence on me than any other artist.

“I went to one of his events out of respect for the veteran, and began talking with him without explaining anything about my music.” In 2007 whilst Black was promoting his song, Buddy Buddy, Bounty expressed his pride in the young artist’s music and lyrics and encouraged him to keep writing. “I didn’t introduce myself to him as a writer, so that was the first bit of encouragement he gave me, and from there he kept encouraging me in different areas of the music business, telling me what to look for and what not to look for, and pulling me up on things I was doing wrong.

“There’s no disputing the man. Killer is like a Prime Minster, he’s a street god.” Black also spoke at length about his respect for Beenie Man, the well-rounded veteran entertainer who “could mash up the place without even singing for 20 minutes.” 

Respecting artists such as Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Ninja Man, Josey Wales, Buju Banton, Terror Fabulous, Terry Ganzie, Beres Hammond and more, Black explains that although he loved each in their own right, he has his own style. Known for the popular, raw, free, Jamaican, unapologetic, sexy style of lyrics and music, he prefers not to “sing songs of violence, about taking lives and bad-mind things. I just like to keep entertaining people all over the world.”

Although Jamaica is a melting pot of many styles of music, the most popular genres Jamaicans are known for throughout the world are the slow, conscious rhythms and lyrics of reggae and its derivative - the fun and fast beats of dancehall.

And with such a rich culture in music, come the local music festivals. Reggae Sumfest, one of the largest reggae festivals in Jamaica, is known for showcasing artists from both abroad and locally. Having previously performed there, Black stands firm on the possibility of returning. “If Sumfest can give me one million Jamaican dollars I will go.” Explaining the difficulties that many local artists faced in the festival industry, he added, “I will always respect Sumfest because I grew up on it. I’m not going to be one of those artists that are going away anytime soon so they’re going to continue to see me.”

The recent Rebel Salute music festival (the largest annual roots and conscious music festival held in Jamaica - lead by Tony Rebel and Queen Ifrica), was also on Black’s mind. “I performed at Rebel Salute. Big up to Tony Rebel. Tony Rebel and Queen Ifrica keep it real Jamaican. No foreign artists, strictly reggae music. Strict with ganga, rules, strictly energy, and no alcohol. It was a great experience, my second time.”

Having recently signed a deal with Universal/Aftercluv Dancelab, Black is quietly confident about the future of his music. “It means more I’ll have more opportunities; more doors will open to reach more people. A lot of other labels helped Sean Paul and Shaggy but me, be I’m kind of different, I sing more raw dancehall. They’re not putting any pressure on me and I still have the freedom to perform my other songs. I’m very honoured to be a part of their team and they feel honoured to be a part of my team as well.

“We have a particular song to finish in LA – a song that’s going to be huge. The album going to be huge. Let me give you an inch, you’re the first one to know – Shaggy’s a part of that.” Without giving too much away, Black’s new collaboration with Shaggy will be dropped as a single before the release of his debut album this year. “Shaggy’s the boss,” he notes.

Unity and strength are an important part of Black’s approach to the Jamaican music industry. His advice to the youth of today? “Stay focussed and remember the lord, always respect your elders, always respect your parents, never let anything get to you, always be humble, family’s always number one. Always have humility and respect for others; be real to yourself even if you can’t be real with others, and never try to fabricate your life. Always be positive and real.”

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