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Jah's reggae servant in Vancouver

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Known for rock bands like Loverboy and Prism, Vancouver's reggae scene is not as hyped but the city hosts major acts annually. It is also home to Jah Servant Records, a label owned by home town boy Mark Giles.

He started the company in 2005 while living in Trinidad and Tobago, where his wife is from. As Jah Servant Records approaches its 15th anniversary, Giles is satisfied the goals he had set have been realised.

“The focus is really to just release quality reggae music with positive artistes and messages. I don't really keep count of releases but probably close to 20 projects have been released at this point, plus other productions and mixing projects I've worked on, that people have released on their own,” he told the Jamaica Observer recently.

“I'm also a lover of dub and I've always liked to promote that and include dub songs on the releases; it's great to see dub music gaining popularity again. I've also always tried to help expose new artistes on the 'riddim' projects.”

According to Giles, those beat-driven compilations are the most successful of Jah Servant's products. The latest is the Love Beyond, released in April; it has songs by artists including Papa Michigan and Fyah Wyah (Grateful); Trinidadian deejay Jah Mender (Works); Derrick Lara of The Tamlins (Don't Give up The Fight) and Dominican singer King Tappa who does Photoshop.

Jah Servant's previous compilation albums were driven by the Cornerstone, Decisions and Life Giver rhythms. In March, the label released Inna Word, an album by American singer Ione Angeles.

Giles said he heard little reggae on mainstream radio when he was a teenager in Vancouver. The songs he recalled jamming to were by popular rock artistes.

“I remember hearing songs on the radio when I was very young that had a reggae feel and I always liked those songs, not knowing that there was a whole genre of music like that at the time. I'm talking about Eric Clapton's cover of (Bob Marley's) I Shot The Sheriff, 10cc's Dreadlock Holiday, Led Zeppelin's D'yer Maker and later on Blondie's cover of (The Paragons) The Tide Is High. When I was probably 15 years old then I discovered reggae and really got into it,” Giles explained.

While roots-reggae and dub dominate the growing Jah Servant Records catalogue, Giles also produces reggae gospel artistes such as singer Mention.

Giles plans to release songs by Trinidadian singjay Simeon Sword and Jamaican singer Skunga Kong (son of roots veteran I Kong) late this year.