Entertainment

Mikey Bennett gives FROM THE HEART

Thursday, November 08, 2018

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Victoria Pier on the downtown Kingston waterfront was filled with the sweet sounds of reggae on Tuesday, as local distillery Appleton Estate launched its latest music project, a 13-track album, Heart of Jamaica.

The project — produced by award-winning Jamaican producer Mikey Bennett — features an eclectic mix of Jamaican artistes, from established veterans Freddie McGregor and Pluto Shervington to those on the rise Natel, Jesse Royal and Sevana and emerging acts Justine and Jamilia Falak.

Brand PR manager at Appleton Estate, Alison Moss-Solomon told the gathering that the project was the company's way of giving back to consumers.

“For the past two years Appleton Estate Jamaica Rums has been doing Signature Nights. As a gift to our consumers, we have been giving Jamaican artistes live music. When we decided what we wanted to do for Christmas this year we wanted to do an album with some of the artistes from Signature Nights. We approached Mikey Bennett and he was just as excited. So this Christmas, once you purchase one 750ml bottle of any in the Appleton Estate range, you will receive an album,” she said.

Producer Bennett said it was first suggested that the project be a Christmas album; however, he was able to convince Appleton not to limit it to the Yuletide season.

“We have so many holidays that we don't have Jamaican songs for, so why not create a song for all the seasons? So every month for the year there is one of these songs that will be appropriate. In this day and age, it's hard to get a budget to do things the way we used to do it in the old days. I had also just finished a two-year project at UTech (University of Technology) working with some young writers, so I had at my fingertips five or six young writers. So when we agreed on the occasion that we wanted to celebrate for one month , three nights a week we sat and we had writing sessions. It was done the old-time way. You got a demo, you went into the studio and you got the best musicians available to create the tracks. This process was well-documented so this is a template for Jamaican music.”

For help with the musical and creative direction of the album, Bennett drew on the skills of veteran hornsman Dean Fraser. The two arrived at pairing voices with the tracks.

“One of the things I said to Appleton, and they were happy, is that there was no way I could do an album of this nature without introducing some young talent. One of the things I said was that a collaboration was the best way to introduce a new talent. So once you found talent that was at a certain level that you figured wouldn't embarrass you, people who you know needed a 'buss', that was what we set out to do.”

For singer Natel, the experience was one to be treasured.

“We listen a lot of music. As you see, every house, every taxi, every bus, everywhere has music so its one right to have a vibe and something to evoke the emotions of everybody at everything. An album like this can be played by everyone from one to 100 and enjoy it straight through. It has everything,” said Natel.

That sentiment was echoed by Jodian Pantry.

“I almost didn't recognise myself on the track, because that's not usually how I would sing. But Uncle Mikey (Bennett) is so in-depth with everything that he does musically , that he can totally get some things out of you that you never thought you had. And that's what he did with me on this particular track (Phenomenal Woman). I'm really excited to be in the presence of a lot of great people.”

For Wayne Marshall, his contribution on the project has extra-special meaning.

“I remember Mikey calling me and saying we have a track that sounds like you. A lot of times producers call you and say they have a song for you, it's not really it. But when I went in and I heard the demo of the song You Are my Father I was blown away. The fact that I lost my dad earlier this year and I really was thinking of dedicating something to him. I want to keep his legacy alive and show people and tell people how much I love him, and how much I appreciate what he did for me. It was just the perfect song and I can see myself delivering it with the utmost emotion.”

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