Under the creative direction of music producer Mikey Bennett, Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum has produced their very first reggae album called The Heart of Jamaica. From the veteran vocal stylings of Pluto Shervington to the energetic rhymes of Ding Dong, the compilation album marries seasoned and rising talents in 13 tracks, meant to stand the test of time.
“It’s a kaleidoscope of songs that tell stories of Jamaican people – the struggles, the triumphs and our love. We’re hoping you can feel the energy, love and soul that all the artistes and production team have put into this album,” Brand PR Manager Alison Moss-Solomon told The Gleaner.
The idea for the album stemmed from the brand’s Appleton Signature Nights series.
“We wanted to continue that and give our consumers something special, When we approached Mikey Bennett, he was as excited as we were,” she added.
The spirits brand approached the prolific producer with the idea and the title, and he loved it.
“We’re celebrating the Jamaican experience. We have a song for every major holiday. Over the period of a year, every month, these songs are gonna be relevant. We have a birthday song with Ding Dong and Tamo J. That’s gonna be visited every week, every day!” he exclaimed.
According to Bennett, there is a song relevant to Valentine’s Day, a New Year’s Eve song, songs to empower women and men, a graduation song, a rum song, Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day song.
He added: “Wayne Marshall did the Father’s Day song called My Father. We knew he would be perfect, but he had just lost his father. And I was saying, ‘rhatid’. But I still called him and said it’s probably the wrong time, but everybody thinks you’re the best person.” My Father is the album’s first official single.
Along with the Glory To God singer, the album’s artiste list also includes Natel, Duane Stephenson, Jesse Royal, Wayne Marshall, Bugle, Justine, Freddie McGregor, Chevaughn, Tessanne Chin, Jodi-Ann Pantry, Jamila Falak, Minori, Flavia Beswick, Chris Martin, Sevana, Dean Fraser, Pluto Shervington, Tamo-J, Ikaya, Stephen McHugh and Craig Jackson.
Bennett believes The Heart of Jamaica will stand the test of time because of the perennial nature of reggae music, as well as the exuberance exhibited by the younger contributors.
“I think because they realise with dancehall and popular music, after two months there’s a new song. Being a reggae album, it’s going to gain permanency. The young artistes have a sense of legacy, a sense of permanency, and recognise it’s something that’s special,” he said.
Among the writers were students from Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and the University of Technology, UTech. Bennett told The Gleaner that he recently completed a programme at UTech teaching songwriting. “I was able to use five of the best students,” he said.
“We did it the old-fashioned way. We wrote the songs, did the demos, then went into the studio and made the riddim tracks. We took that approach.”
The Heart of Jamaica album was a passion project on all sides, but orchestrating the multitude of talents was a challenge.
“Once we got them, it was easy. It’s what we do reflexively. But the timing was a little bit unfortunate for us. People were on tour, or just coming back from tour. Some of the songs, we had to do them and send them to the people abroad. We were talking to people in Europe in the nights, singing the songs for them and going through. Freddie McGregor started learning his song while he was on tour in Europe. Ikaya had to fly out, so she did about 10 different studio sessions, and had to be sending stuff back to me,” he explained.