Tag: Jamaica Gleaner

Morgan Heritage Wants Reggae To Embrace NFT Amid Success Of New Single

Morgan Heritage says its time for reggae music to embrace NFT.

To stay alive in the music industry, you have to be both talented and innovative. This could be how an artist approaches the production of their music or how they approach finances. One of the directions that the music industry seems to be heading towards is digital currency, and lately, all the buzz has been about non-fungible tokens or NFTs.

Morgan Heritage may have just become the first reggae band to enter the new digital realm. They recently revealed that their NFT’s for “Light It Up,” which features Norwegian singer PelleK, has already sold out. NFTs are relatively new and in the simplest explanation, is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. The ownership rights are different from copyright.

The two-time Grammy Award-winning reggae group spoke with the Jamaica Gleaner about their decision to embrace the new trend and how they were able to join the digital currency world. They released three songs as limited-edition NFTs in partnership with Bondly Finance. One of those songs is new for the NFT collection, while the others were digitally remastered from their catalog. The latter mentioned songs will be featured on their upcoming album, Legacy.

The first track, “Light It Up,” was made available on April 17 and was sold out in a few hours. That sale brought in a total of 175 NFTs. Memmalatel ‘Mr Mojo’ Morgan told the Gleaner that the sale was historic. “It is historic for a reggae group to do this. Some individuals, whether it be recording artistes or those in pop culture, put up NFTs for sale and end up only selling one; we sold over 200,” he added.

The vocalist and percussionist of the group explained that he was exposed to blockchain technology through a friend. After that, he did his own research and realized that it was worth investing in. He added that the way he saw it was that NFTs were a new form of digital art, which could gain significant value on the resale market.

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“When there was an NFT boom with major brands getting into the space, like the NBA, that’s when we knew it was a big shift. As the group understood more and saw that NFTs were a viable opportunity, for about six months we reached out to several companies. We had to make sure reggae was there on a major level,” he continued.

He warned, however, that this new realm of finance may be more suitable to artists who already have a significant fanbase. Mr. Mojo also shared that the band was lucky to be able to partner with Bondly, who he described as a leader in the cryptocurrency realm. One of the most successful artists with NFTs so far is rapper Tory Lanez, who, through a partnership with a blockchain company, was able to generate 450 songs NFTs. He created history by selling it all within two minutes of release. That deal was worth about US$500,000.

While many artists are looking towards NFTs, not all have enough fans or recognition to make it work for them, which is why he believes that their success so far is a great leap for reggae artists.

“That’s why it was monumental for a reggae group to be able to do that, that didn’t have any mainstream success; if you look at it, our success has been through grinding and touring.”

This is another push in the band’s desire to own more of their music. He revealed that they recently secured a deal to own more of their catalog from the family-owned record label, CTBC Music Group,

“Instead of releasing new music, we acquired around 80 per cent of our catalogue, which is unheard of in our genre … this was achieved during the pandemic. To own that much of your catalogue is rarely seen in our genre,” he said. They are the first reggae group to work with
Bondly Finance and they are hoping that other established reggae artists will soon come on board.

He also reasoned that it was not so much about the money aspect of it but rather embracing new ways of getting music out to the world. “We wanted to create a reggae invasion on the blockchain on Saturday, and that’s the statement we are trying to make. We want ‘legacy artistes’ to now come through the door and do what Morgan Heritage has done, and have the same success,” Mr. Mojo said.

He added: “As a creative person, there is an opportunity to now release projects on blockchain that can be sold for an amount to remake the actual investment and at the same time introduce the music to a whole new community of collectors who can acquire, trade and resell NFTs through the platform,” he said.

Too many artists are dependent on the old ways of making money in the music business and have to wait very long before they see any profit, he continued. The Legacy album is expected on May 28, and each of the NFTs will give exclusive access to unreleased music and ownership. Those who secure NFTs will have a chance to hear the new and remastered music before the rest of the world.

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Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” Added To Library of Congress

Jimmy Cliff’s led The Harder They Come soundtrack has been added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry, an achievement for the album as it becomes only the second reggae album to have been recognized by the prestigious organization that recognizes impactful works of art.

In 2007, Burnin, the sixth studio album by the iconic reggae band, The Wailers, was awarded that distinction.

According to the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, the album The Harder They Come, which was also the name of the title song of the movie- has been selected to be a part of 25 recordings that will be preserved for all times in acknowledgment of their cultural, historical or aesthetic importance in the nation’s recorded sound heritage.

“The National Recording Registry will preserve our history through these vibrant recordings of music and voices that have reflected our humanity and shaped our culture from the past 143 years,” Hayden said.

“We received about 900 public nominations this year for recordings to add to the registry, and we welcome the public’s input as the Library of Congress and its partners preserve the diverse sounds of history and culture,” Hayden said.

In terms of importance, the Library of Congress is the highest and most prestigious awards like the Billboard and Grammys fall under in terms of artistic recognition.

The Library of Congress also recognized the work of reggae’s living legend Jimmy Cliff. “In the case of reggae singer Jimmy Cliff, who starred in the first Jamaican-produced feature film, The Harder They Come in 1972, the movie soundtrack featuring six songs recorded by Cliff has been credited with taking reggae worldwide while also presenting other reggae stars to a global audience,” a press release from Hayden stated.

A humbled Jimmy Cliff, however, sees the recognition as a win for Jamaica and an inspiration for the music industry to create greater music going forward. “I think that’s a cool honour for the Jamaican music industry and myself, seeing that I have a number of songs on it. It’s encouraging for us artistes, producers and musicians to create even greater music; as for myself, it is my intention to do just that,” he told the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Harder They Come soundtrack

The Harder They Come features soundtracks from Jimmy Cliff who recorded six songs, Grammy winner Toots and the Maytals with two songs- “Pressure Drop” and “Sweet and Dandy”; Desmond Dekker with “Shanty Town,” and The Melodians who recorded “Rivers of Babylon,” The Slickers for “Johnny Too Bad” and Scotty with “Draw Your Brakes.”

The iconic songs dispersed throughout the movie tell the tale of the young Ivan, played by reggae artiste Jimmy Cliff, who was the protagonist as he moves from the countryside to the City in search of his dreams. Being innocent and unexposed, he soon learns how harsh the world can be as he dreams of becoming a singer. In spite of knowing he is talented capable, his abilities are exploited for little money by the half-white producers who are the gatekeepers of the music industry during this era. It was only after he resorted to a life of crime in an effort to figure out who he is- his music hit the airwaves and soon becomes the hottest sound on the airwaves. Being on a high from the attention and success of his music, which sadly only became successful due to his criminal notoriety, Ivan becomes an outlaw- taking on the persona of a cowboy as seen in the popular movies of the time, and before long, he too like the cowboys have a certain outcome as law enforcement close in on him.

The film was directed by Perry Henzell and co-written by Trevor D. Rhone. It is said the story of the film is loosely based on the true story of Rhygin, an outlaw hero who was popular among the poor inner cities in the 1950s. The film, the first of its kind, features all Jamaican voices in the mother tongue of the land- Patios- an authentic representation of Jamaican-ness in films rarely seen nowadays.

Henzell’s daughter, Justine Henzell, who is the owner of Jakes in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, shared the news of the latest achievement of the film, even as her father has passed on. “We are thrilled that ahead of the 50th anniversary of the film, next year, the Library of Congress has honoured the iconic soundtrack that has helped established reggae music even further globally. And to think that this is only the second reggae album inducted after Burnin’ by the Wailers,” she said in a Gleaner interview.

She noted that by preserving the title, the Library of Congress ensures that 100 years from now, the album will be available in whatever format is being used in the future.

The Film The Harder They Come

The film was the first of its kind and became a local sensation on the island due to its natural and authentic portrayal of Jamaicans or rather afro-descended Jamaicans in areas across the island. According to Perry Henzell, at the time of the film’s release- “lack people seeing themselves on the screen for the first time created an unbelievable audience reaction.”

The film was released in February 1973 in New York City by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures to little attention. However, it became more popular when it was played to midnight audiences nationwide the following April. The popularity of the movie was limited outside of Jamaica and the Caribbean because the local Patois spoken by the characters was so thick that it required subtitles, something rather strange since Patois is still regarded as an English Language variant.

The Library of Congress says around the time of the film’s release, the soundtrack made its way to American audiences. Among Cliff’s six songs on the album are the title track and the seminal, Many Rivers to Cross, which has since been covered by myriad artistes, including Cher, John Lennon, UB40, Annie Lennox, and Percy Sledge.

Harden noted that although only the title track was recorded specifically for the movie’s soundtrack, “the album collected numerous reggae stars and presented essential works in the genre to a new global audience. This exemplar of the diverse sounds of reggae in the 1960s and ’70s has enjoyed enormous critical praise and continued popularity in the US. The album has appeared on every version of Rolling Stone’s Top 500 albums of all time,” a release added.

The Harder They Come soundtrack was released in 1972 in the United Kingdom on Island Records and issued in February 1973 in North America as Mango Records. It peaked at No. 140 on the Billboard 200. A year after the film was released, it was declared the “Rock Film of the Year” by Rolling Stone in 1973.

The movie was so popular that in 1980, it became a book written by Jamaican-American author Michael Thelwell under the same title. Fifty years later on, the movie and book still form a major part of academic discourses uncovered by the film, such as poverty and crime, race and class relations, and other social sciences topics at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and other academic institutions abroad.

Meanwhile, under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian of Congress, with advice from the National Recording Preservation Board, selects 25 titles each year that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and are at least ten years old. Recordings by Janet Jackson, Kool & the Gang, Patti Labelle, Nas, Marlo Thomas, Louis Armstrong, Ira Glass, and Kermit the Frog are among the 25 titles which have been selected.

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