By Mel Cooke—–
Half-way up the stairs to the fourth floor at The Gleaner‘s North Street, Kingston, office, Jahmali responds to the standard query about his well-being with “great!”
A few steps pass as he expands briefly that it is the best of musical times for him, a recent return from a performance in Bermuda part of the reason for the buoyancy (later he adds that there are also shows in Costa Rica and Trinidad this year and European festivals in 2013).
There is also his upcoming 15-track album Eclipse, which includes Comatose, Country Road, Revolving Door and Happy Ending Love Story.
However, Jahmali’s meandering journey through the treacherous terrain of what passes for the Jamaican music business has a lot to do with his very upbeat state of mind.
And he is not short of confidence.
“I am still one of the most original artists in the business who believe in the music being original, organic, and the melodies to be original,” Jahmali said. Because of this stance, he said, he faced opposition “from dem time deh”.
He came up at the time when the drum machine was replacing the use of live drums, the drum sound key to the live feel.
Jahmali said when he insisted on live music ”it was like I was talking to trees, to objects. You can imagine the uphill battle I had in those days, to say ‘guys, are we going to do this for real?”
Then came the immensely popular El Shaddai, a year after Buju Banton’s Til Shiloh album was released. The Gargamel was in high demand to perform overseas and when he said “come singer!” to Jahmali, he took up the tour offer. However, that meant he did not perform on the big events in Jamaica while El Shaddai was hot, missing the opportunity to stamp his image on the public.
JAHMALI WENT QUIET
Then, after the El Shaddai (1997) and Treasure Box (2000) albums, plus a combination set with Yami Bolo, all following on a five-track EP release before El Shaddai, Jahmali went quiet.
Still, he said “I was here in Jamaica for the decade that I was quiet,” Jahmali doing the occasional show which kept him going.
Generating more traction was up to him and Jahmali said “Last year I did something phenomenal.”
Using his website, Jahmali put out the Sounds with Purpose mixtape of originals and covers, presented in album format.
“I knew I wasn’t going to sell it. I did it most professional and give it to my fans.”
That has stirred renewed interest in Jahmali, who relates that his publisher has said he enjoys a cult following – a core of loyal listeners who are not quick to forget Jahmali despite him not having a slew of popular releases.
Now, he wants to build on the free mixtape/album by releasing Eclipsein October 2012, a year after he posted the free release.
He also finds encouragement by literally listening to the street.
“A couple years ago every car pass mi hear the same madness, them playing the same song,” he said.
Now Jahmali hears variety, from disco to R&B and music from the 1970s. He attributes this to a deficiency in the songs which are being produced and pushed in Jamaica.
“The music them hearing not satisfying them,” Jahmali argued.
Renowned producer Clive Hunt is also working on Eclipse, which Jahmali describes as “an eclectic project. It is a songwriter’s project. These are songs. These are meant to stay in your life forever”.
Producer Carl James, who “has the sound I needed” also has input on the album.
Naturally, the music is all live. With the sound he has always wanted and a production role, Jahmali is a happy man.
“It is a wonderful experience, one of the best I have had up to now. I want the people to know this is no fluke and I want to give them the feeling of the Olympic glory,” Jahmali said.
“The mission is to put forward this new blueprint.”