'Thanks for giving us some time with this, we are really trying to increase the profile of the genre this year...'
That's how Edward Holland Jnr (middle in picture), one of the unlikeliest characters behind the current resurgence of UK Gospel Reggae signed off his email to me a few weeks back.
I first came across him on MySpace a few years ago, and right now I can’t remember if I'd heard his music before I saw him, or if it was the other way round. Either way, he wasn’t exactly what I'd imagined.
A gangling, bearded White guy born in Staines, Surrey (he's now based in Bournemouth) certainly isn't the default mental image you have when you think of smooth, quality Dub and very decent Roots sound liberally sprinkled with doses of Dancehall.
In addition to being an artist in his own right, Edward is the producer behind many UK artists bringing the UK Reggae sound back to the Christian mainstream for 2011, after what even the most optimistic of fans will probably admit has been a quiet couple of years.
The product schedule is already healthy: Bobby Bovell's absolutely
excellent 'The Emergent EcleKtic' (photo) is an instant, Reggae-
influenced classic that will be referenced for years to come.
No surprises there; he’s the son of UK Reggae legend Dennis
Nottingham-based Errol Mundle's latest project, 'Overcomer', was
released a few weeks ago. As is his usual practice, the album is a selection of RnB, Soul, church standards and Reggae.
And then there's potential good news on the Reggae-tinged
‘left field music’ front too: Sammy G (right) is planning a return
to a genre he and Birmingham producer Jimmy James
christened 'Raggage' - a fusion of Reggae and UK Garage.
And - as if that wasn't exciting enough - there's a good chance
Jahaziel might also be on board once again. It’s little more
than a Twitter-leaked germ of idea at the moment, but it’ll be
great to hear some Raggage once again...
If you want to know what that sounds like, check the link to the video
And - back to Nottingham - Ram1's video to his rather excellent debut single 'One and Only' was launched on the 20th of May. If you hurry you might still pick this up as a free download from his website. Again check the links to his site below
The track is taken from his debut album, ‘1 Way, 1 Truth, 1 Life’, with production from Jamaican and UK producers, featuring the likes of St Matthew, Spanna, Gyamma, Keneva and Edward Holland Junior.
Veteran Gyamma (you might remember him as ‘Gamma’) returned this year too, releasing his mixtape, 'Foundation' and – in keeping with the current trend – it’s available as a free download.
He did justice to the classic 'Drop Leaf' Riddim with his song 'Jehovah'. It's worth downloading this decent set just for that alone. His album (called ‘Unstoppable’) follows sometime later this year.
The debut video for his track 'Blow di trumpet' (on Edward Holland Junior's contagious 'Mad Horn' riddim) is also likely to be out later this year too.
Edward himself will also be busy over summer: 1000 copies of his 'Riddim culture' mixtape will be given away at outreach events throughout the summer. Get that if you can.
And - lest we forget - Dwayne Tryumf does a decent line in Reggae too. 'Incense Riddim' from back in the day was (and still is) a classic, with both UK and international artists getting a piece of that action. And while Tryumf himself isn't due back with any Reggae in 2011 (I checked), he's already hooked up with long-time collaborator Gavin Holligan to produce a new tune for Gavin's father, Ron.
London-based Marky T's debut single 'Millionaire', was released in May, to good feedback from seasoned DJs in the Reggae fraternity including Grantly, DJ Proclaima and Shekinah Sound.
2011 is also the year that sees the return of another the London scene's longer-serving selectors and sound men: Jason Ryda (formerly known as Redbeard, and formerly of HMSS - His Majesty's Sound System) is out of semi-retirement, and back as part of a brand new sound system, Divinity, alongside Black Finga and Crazy Ric - chances are there'll be release on that front before the year is out. Speaking of sound systems: huge shout out to Shekinah Sound!
And there's also activity on the mainstream radio front too: check out Dionne Reid's very decent 'Daddy Dear', recently play listed on BBC Radio 1.
And don't forget UK Gospel Reggae has always had strong international support: Spanna, Shadrach and King Arthur (to mention just three) are all international award winners from back in the day. At the time of writing, Ram 1's album peaked at number 6 in GospelReggae.com's chart.
Once this new movement gathers momentum we'll no doubt see some more accolades thrown our way in 2012 and beyond. My advice will be to get ahead of the curve - that way you can always feel smug when the rest of the world finally catches up...
Across the UK from London to Nottingham by way of Birmingham, it's good news for fans of the genre. Whatever your specific taste in Reggae, from Roots to Dub to Dancehall or anything in between, chances are there's some good music coming your way for 2011 and beyond.
Right now, the UK weather is doing its usual 'variable' thing. No change there, then. But if you're looking for some consistent sunshine in your life, you need to be checking out some of the new Reggae tunes coming out in 2011.
That way you get guaranteed sunshine at the touch of a button. Not a bad deal...