A conversation with Barrington Levy

Monique McIntosh

How the reggae legend’s just getting started

For Jamaican pop music fans, it’s hard to believe that the iconic Barrington Levy is just receiving his first Grammy nod this year, for his latest album “AcousticaLevy” – a collection of soulful acoustical revamps of his classic hits. A win would be a juicy cherry on top of a stellar career of the artiste who helped shepherd the then young genre of dancehall into her own with his signature (and superhuman) scats, trills and yodels that no electronic beat could ever quite match. But, if you ask the veteran crooner, he’s just warming up.

The National Weekly chatted with Levy about inspirations and New Year’s resolutions.

NW: “AcousticaLevy” marks your first studio album in over a decade What persuaded you to return?

BL: It’s actually been about 23 years since I did a real, full album. I did a song call “Love the Way She Love” [with Mr. Vegas] that got really big. People loved the song, loved the video. Went number 1. Th song just wake them up for something more. Though I wasn’t making an album, I was still making records, getting them down on tape.

NW: What made you decide on the stripped-down concept for “AcousticaLevy?”

BL: Acoustic music has been a passion of mine for a long time, and I just get a chance to do it now that I’m a producer. With my company Black Roses putting the album together, I get a chance to do what I want do. An opportunity to flex my dream. It’s really now that I get the freedom of doing whatever I want.

NW: What’s your favorite cover on this album?

BL: I would say “Life is Great” ft. Patrice. Because the lyrical content is true. It’s reality.

NW: You’ve made many comments calling today’s Jamaican music “disposable.” Do you still hold the same dim view now? Or do you see some progress?

BL: Dancehall can be perfect. I have a problem with the lyrical content. Maybe there is a market for it out there, but to me I wanna make music that withstand the test of time. On the reggae side, I see a couple of them doing good things. I work with Chronixx and he has some good stuff. But the majority of them till need to get with the program.

NW: With British, R&B singer Joss Stone copping Billboard’s Best Reggae Album of the year, there’s been talk about foreign acts usurping Caribbean artists in their own genres. What are your thoughts? Is it foreign market being more comfortable with their own singers? Or is there something on the part of Caribbean entertainers?

BL: The Jamaican artist, the true defender of reggae music, is not getting to chance to do that. You don’t really get the promotion from these entities in power. But with Joss Stone, I still think she’s representing reggae music. They’re all still sharing Jamaica, though it would be nice if Jamaica can come with that award. Regardless, I have nothing bad to say. Rather more love to reggae music. It’s nice to see that different cultures are throwing their love to reggae music.

NW: What’s your plan for the future? Any New Year’s goals?

BL: Get out another new album – get it mixed. Really proper reggae album, with all new tracks for 2017. I’m actually in the writing process at the moment, as we speak.

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