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» GUEST RUNDOWNS » A CONVERSATION WITH VETERAN PRODUCERS AUGUSTUS “GUSSIE” CLARKE & DONOVAN GERMAIN

A CONVERSATION WITH VETERAN PRODUCERS AUGUSTUS “GUSSIE” CLARKE & DONOVAN GERMAIN

By Simone Morgan—–

 Donovan Germain

This is the first of a two-part feature on Jamaican producers. Next week, we will look at the

younger producer’s perspective.

(L-R) Lloyd ‘King Jammys’ James. Augustus ‘Gussie’ Clarke

 

LLOYD ‘King Jammys’ James, Augustus ‘Gussie’ Clarke, Robert Livingston, and Donovan Germain are some of the names that come to mind whenever talk of contemporary reggae’s most successful producers comes up.

Their productions dominated the reggae/dancehall market for over 30 years, topping pop and reggae charts worldwide.

Recently, Clarke and Germain gave their views on the current state of reggae music production.

Their opinions were partially based on the quality of music being released compared to eras regarded by many as the golden age of reggae and dancehall.

According to Clarke, “A producer is an individual who uses his creative input from the genesis of a musical project to the final product. He is the one who is involved in the entire creation of a project, hence making that project successful”.

He added: “A producer isn’t someone who buys a ‘riddim’ then gives it to an engineer to monitor then steals the copyright and takes the credit. Unfortunately this seems to be the standards of some producers nowadays.”

Clarke stated that this policy has contributed to the deterioration of dancehall/reggae. He believes it is the main reason music, created 30 years ago, has more value than most of what is recorded today.

“The ‘Me’ factor is taking over. No one listens anymore, everyone is their own manager, engineer and producer,” said Clarke, who began producing in the early 1970s as a teenaged student at Kingston College.

He started out producing acts like Big Youth, but in the 1980s he hit it big with the Mighty Diamonds’ Pass The Kutchie.

Clarke was one of the top producers in the 1990s, releasing hit songs by Shabba Ranks, Gregory Isaacs and J C Lodge.

He went on to say that unlike he and his contemporaries, today’s producers seem unaware that they are not only competing against their peers at home. “If the aim is to create a Billboard hit, one has to realise that they are competing with the Jay Zs, Beyoncés and Madonnas of the world,” he said.

Germain also started producing music in the 1970s.

He said back then, it took years of practice and quality productions to become a respected producer, like Clement ‘Sir Coxson’ Dodd, Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.

“I will only call one a producer when I see he/she consistently making hit records for at least five years. The quality and the standard must be very fitting too… anyone who produces anything less is an apprentice as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Germain said when he entered the music business it was not about buying ‘riddims’ in order to gain the title of record producer.

“I had to go the the recording studio and pass on an original idea to the musicians after which they in turn bring the production to life,” he said.

Germain heads Penthouse Records, which is responsible for launching the career of Buju Banton. He also had a golden run in the 1990s, producing hits by Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths, Garnet Silk, and Wayne Wonder.

He and Clarke have strong catalogues that have already been the subject of reissues.

Will most of the reggae/dancehall music of today be viable 30 years from now?

Clarke does not think so.

“I don’t think some of the music being produced today will be around for the next 10 years,” he said. “Reason being, they were not made with the concept that was being used 20 years ago. Their lyrical content has to do with the trends of today, therefore as soon as those trends go out of style and mind so will the lyrics.”

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