King of Kings. Lords of Lords. And… The Storm of Storms
The whole city was caught in a torrential downpour Thursday Night that buzzed mobile phones with legitimate flash flood warnings — as streets like 12th St and Callowhill filled up with 3ft + of water [see photo below]. Thus, the scheduled performance at a then puddly Underground Arts was quickly moved to higher ground; at the friendly and cozy confines of The Fire in Northern Liberties.
So, after a quick jaunt and unexpected performance from “The Homophones” — South Philly rock band who was gigging on The Fire’s calendar — “The Young Lions Tour” (on the tail end of two months across the United States) took center stage after midnight.
Youthful backing band The Bebble Rockers quickly dialed in the sound [and UP the bass] before welcoming headlining act Kabaka Pyramid to begin his talented display. Arguably, and perhaps due to a lack of peers willing to do so, Kabaka in many eyes is a leading torch bearer for critically acclaimed conscious reggae artists. Search his catalog of recordings, or step inside a live show and you’ll quickly find he’s up to this challenge.
Chanting against social injustice and for the teachings of Rastafari, the Kingston born and bred performer proudly shines a bright smile on stage to balance a focused and gifted delivery. Unfazed by the change of venue and later start time, Kabaka Pyramid roused his audience and shared many pleasant exchanges, pausing at times to explain the poignant messages in his lyrics .
Fellow Jamaican (Linstead, St. Catherine-born) and tour-mate Iba Mahr provided an ample encore presentation, plus more, bouncing between a raspy-er style and sweeter notes. This effort succeeded in keeping The Fire [pun intended] burning well past closing time — with hands, sentiments, and mind states held high. This tour being an in person introduction to many for Iba Mahr, it will be interesting to see what heights he ascends to.
For those who have not yet been introduced, if you’re looking for a band that stays true to the conscious principles of reggae, blends in the latest sounds and musical influences of today, and boasts outstanding vocal talents, search no further than Morgan Heritage. For those fans already well acquainted, you know that these trademark characteristics have remained proud fixtures dating back to the early 90’s. We haven’t seen the Morgan family in unison the last several years, as each member has remained active but more individually, making this latest collective re-emergence that much more special.
The five siblings and original members of Morgan Heritage — Una Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Peetah Morgan (vocals), Roy “Gramps” Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan (rhythm guitar) and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan (percussion) — shine on as the offspring and living legacy of famed Jamaican reggae singer Denroy Morgan. Recently, the next generation has joined in the shape and sound of Gramps’ own son Jamere Morgan.
In this current era with its generation criticized for its sense of entitlement, many seemingly too-often fail to recognize those who came before and struggled for the betterment of humankind. Morgan Heritage though, graciously gives due notice to the predecessors of their trade who battled and faced prejudice during a remarkable and transformative time. Yes this includes Bob and Peter, but stretches far beyond and into the isles of past icons the likes of Jacob Miller, Inner Circle, Dennis Brown, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, and Black Uhuru… the list certainly goes on.
Morgan Heritage remind their listeners that the work moving forward is not, nor will it ever be done. An ever-changing world provides new challenges, and needless to say, many of yesterday’s problems still remain far too prevalent today. But key is the road map their words in effect become, offering a guide to live better for your fellow woman and man. In the name of love and understanding.
I spoke with lead vocalist Peetah Morgan about the current state of reggae music, the important messages Morgan Heritage sings about in their songs, and discussed reggae’s transformation into a global music genre.
Two.One.Five Magazine | Morgan Heritage Exclusive Interview
ARAN HART: Why does Morgan Heritage feel it’s important to shine light on the founding figures of Roots Reggae music?
PEETAH: It is important for us to pay homage to the pioneers because they’ve been through the struggles that we are free from facing today. They broke down so many barriers. And that has allowed us to go into countries and places that they weren’t able to go because of the stigmatism that was upon Rastafarian and Dreadlock people, playing rebel music. We are now playing in places, on TV, and on radio stations that they never played on. It’s a great feeling for us to be doing this today as a tribute to recognize the hard labor of those who came before us.
ARAN HART: Is Roots Reggae music’s future in good hands?PEETAH: Roots Reggae music forever will be in good hands. It’s great now because it’s not just Jamaica. The music has become global. You have great reggae bands playing roots music from here in America, in Europe, Africa, Japan, and the South Pacific. We still have Jamaicans like Tarrus Riley and Morgan Heritage, Anthony B, Luciano, the list goes on. But it’s not just us anymore… it’s foreigners who have joined us as torchbearers of the music.
So our eyes are not just looking at what is coming out of Jamaica, we are also seeing what is coming out around the world. Bob Marley prophesized it many years ago — that reggae music is only going to become bigger and more global. Now we are seeing those words become reality. If you go onto iTunes, you’ll see that most of the top selling reggae music is not from today’s Jamaica — you still have the Wailers and Peter Tosh. We give thanks to the international bands like Rebolution, Soja, J-Boog, The Green, Lord Alajiman, and otherswho are carrying the torch because Reggae music is beyond borders. Reggae music is beyond color. Reggae music is beyond the islands.
Most reggae was created out of Jamaica and it was Jamaican artists who faced persecution to establish this music globally. But we are not fools to not understand where the music is today. We appreciate what each and every one is doing for the music. At the end of the day it’s not about people, it’s not about race, it’s about the music.
ARAN HART: You touch on many issues and have many messages in your songs… What is at the top of your list right now of issues you feel people can and/or should be fighting against/for?
PEETAH: We fight against racism number one. We fight against segregation and oppression. We fight against injustice. And we fight against sexism. And we fight for equal opportunity in the working world. For example, we have women now who are doing twice the work of a man and still only getting paid half as much. We are about equality and justice for all people. No matter your race, your color, your gender, or your creed. So we fight for women’s equality and rights. Without the women, we wouldn’t have the world that we have today. These things are important to us as a people and as a family. All people are respected for what they bring to the betterment of humanity.
In Jamaica right now, our communities are being hurt by gun-men, violence, and sadly enough we have a lot of young children who are being raped. These are things that we want to see eradicated from communities across the globe and are at the forefront of what we pay attention to. We need to educate our youth. We need to reach out to prepare the next generation who are coming up in the world today and will lead tomorrow. Everything is all about a better world. Everything we do and focus on — from relationships, to our social commentary, to spiritual awareness. The foundation of all of this is love.
ARAN HART:Including songs like “She’s Still Loving Me” and your latest single “Put it on Me,” Morgan Heritage is known to produce beautiful Lover’s Rock. Do you believe that pure love, kindness, and romance are the solutions to these issues you just mentioned?
PEETAH: Without love we have nothing. Love is the biggest foundation to everything we do in life. So, when we write songs about love and relationships, this is a form of consciousness. You have to be consciously aware to experience or share love with the ones that you love. You will always get that side of Morgan Heritage through our music. Just as much as you get social commentary or the spiritual awareness, you will always get love songs through lover’s rock music because it is a major part of life. Without love we wouldn’t be here. Our parents come together and make love to bring forth more love, which is life.
ARAN HART: How does it make you feel, having this opportunity to bring these messages to people’s awareness across the globe?
PEETAH: I’m grateful and thankful everyday because it could have been anyone else. It didn’t have to be us. But we are aware that we have been chosen to do this. It’s fascinating to go to a foreign land, in front of people that speak a foreign language, and realize that the music talks, and brings so many people together. So it’s fascinating to see how through our music we are able to communicate and inspire so many people, globally. It’s a blessing and it gives us encouragement to continue doing what we are doing, because this is why we do it.
ARAN HART: Talk about the latest projects Morgan Heritage have been working on and what we all have to look forward to…
PEETAH: In addition to our own recently released single and video, Put it on Me — which is doing very well globally and we are very grateful for — we have been producing and song-writing a lot for other artists like J-Boog, Irie Love, and many others from Africa. It is a work in progress and we will continue to be song-writers and developers of new talent. Also, look out for our own project set for release next year. Plus, we have been working a lot with Gramps’ son, Jamere Morgan. Morgan Heritage has a lot more in store for you, yah mon.
Friday April 18, 2014 – photos and story by Aran Hart
Stephen “Ragga” Marleyfilled the Trocadero Theatre Friday night with the special sounds blending his namesake’s classics, his own hits, and introducing his latest album Revelation Part 2: Fruit of Life (look for its release later in 2014), gathering fans from all around the Philadelphia and Tri-State areas.
The night opened with Stephen’s son Jo Mersa engaging the audience with a young generation style of conscious lyrics and “ghetto-youths” dancehall. Jo Mersa studio tracks like (Comfortable), cut through clear but his live performance still needs improvement.
Jo Mersa – Comfortable
Dancehall artist Wayne Marshall followed with smooth lover’s rock steady riddims like (Good Love) that moved the crowd, especially those who came with their lover, to feel all right. Marshall can switch up to some bad man tunes (I Know) over dance based sounds so his show mixes both styles his fans have come to expect.
Wayne Marshall – I Know
When the main attraction, Stephen Marley, stepped out in his usual denim attire the crowd crescendoed to greet the reggae superstar with love, which was certainly the theme, and one reciprocated throughout the performance. Standing front and center with his signature lion-art designed guitar, Marley interacted with the crowd with radiant smiles and that ever-so familiar raspy Marley trademark voice, receiving warm responses as his band dropped into recognizable tunes, or announced the newest premiers. Wayne Marshall made a quick cameo appearance, and even reggae stars Capleton & Sizzla jumped out in front of the bright lights to fill the room with excitement performing the album’s new song, that actually dabbles into EDM and dub-step styles, (Rock Stone).
Stephen Marley Ft. Sizzla & Capleton – Rock Stone
The Bob Marley classic Could You Be Loved jammed on as Stephen bid farewell, until next time, to the crowd who cheered him back on stage for a heartfelt encore that concluded with another new premier of the beautiful acoustic ballad (Celebration)- featuring Jo Mersa. The chorus sings: Cuz tonight / We ‘gon have a celebration of our life/ Party from night / ‘Til morning light / We all have a good time / Good vibrations.
Revelation Part 2 features a neo-soulful and hip-hop intertwined track with Philly’s own Black Thought (Thorn Or a Rose). This, along with the aforementioned Rock Stone, are proof that Marley continues to successfully bridge the gap between different genres and further cements his prowess as a critically acclaimed producer in the industry beyond the reggae landscape.
This was indeed a celebration, and a revelation, with host Stephen “Ragga” Marley.
Stephen Marley Ft. Black Thought – Thorn Or a Rose