By Howard Campbell—
WHEN many Jamaicans hear Bermuda, the shorts for which the island is synonymous usually pops up, certainly not head-bobbing dancehall music.
On Wednesday, Bermudan company Upper Class Music Productions and Management officially plunged into the dancehall market with the launch of its Upper Class ‘riddim’ at Stone Love headquarters in St Andrew.
Keetha Lowe (right), partner in Upper Class, and Kengele ‘HeadNoize’ Maybury (centre) pose with Paul Lowe-Chin of Kingston-based Chiney K Productions at Stone Love headquarters in St Andrew on Wednesday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)
The beat is produced by Kengele ‘HeadNoize’ Maybury, an African-American who operates HeadNoize Productions out of Baltimore, Maryland. It features established artists like Jah Vinci, Turbulance and Hawkeye as well as several dancehall aspirants.
Keetha Lowe, a partner in Upper Class, told the Jamaica Observer that her organisation plans to work on several reggae/dancehall projects in association with Jamaica reggae music industry veteran Marcia Simpson and Paul Lowe-Chin of Kingston-based Chiney K Productions.
Lowe says Upper Class was formed 10 years ago and is located in Pembroke, just outside Hamilton, the Bermudan capitol. The company is known for working with acts like American soul singer Lisa Vaughn.
She said they got involved with dancehall because it “speaks to the world” and is “an extremely attractive genre”.
Lowe is satisfied with the response to her company’s venture into the competitive dancehall market, saying, “It’s a new development for us and it’s going extremely well.”
Wine For Me is the title of Jah Vinci’s song on the Upper Class label.
Turbulance contributed Whenever You Call while Hawkeye did Never Give Up.
The multi-artist ‘riddim’ has been a financial boon for several Jamaican producers and artists in the last 15 years. Beats like Jeremy Harding’s Playground made Beenie Man’s Who Am I a hit in the United States in the late 1990s.
In 2003, the exotic Diwali by Stephen ‘Lenky’ Marsden drove Get Busy by Sean Paul to number on the Billboard magazine pop chart.
Dancehall and traditional reggae retains a strong fan base in Bermuda, a laid-back British dependent popular with tourists and retired seniors.
According to Lowe, Bermuda is “as contemporary as any part of the world” when it comes to Jamaican pop music.
The biggest reggae act in Bermuda, however, is the homegrown Collie Budz whose self-titled 2007 album peaked at number 67 on the Billboard album chart.
Lowe credits Collie Budz’ success for the emergence of new dancehall and reggae performers in Bermuda, but says her company looked to Jamaica when it decided to go dancehall.
“As far as we are concerned, Kingston is the Motown of the music,” she said.