Sat | Oct 31, 2020

Panton takes director’s chair for ‘Sweet Sensation’ - Offers ‘intimate’ visuals for Heavyweight Rockaz and Jesse Royal single

Published:Saturday | March 28, 2020 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
Jason and Nicki are caught running alongside Jesse’s yeng yeng to get the shot.
A screenshot of Jason behind the deck in Heavyweight Rockaz and Jesse Royal’s ‘Sweet Sensation’.

For this newest addition to reggae music’s visual library, the polymath Jason Panton gets behind the camera as co-director for Heavyweight Rockaz and Jesse Royal’s latest release, ‘ Sweet Sensation’. Set on the streets and beaches of Portland, the music video frames intimate snapshots supported by a soundtrack that Panton expects will become a fixture on lovers’ rock playlists now and for years to come.

“I didn’t use a drone. There’s no big performance piece. I wanted it to remind us, especially in this time, of the basics of what makes us love each other,” Panton told The Gleaner. In this case, the basics are loving looks, sweet smiles, salt water on the skin, and the sun shining on happy faces. When you’re driving in the car with your boyfriend or girlfriend, going to the country, there’s no drone also capturing that. I wanted it to feel almost first-person and intimate,” he explained.

Though the co-direct credit may surprise some, Panton has worked behind the scenes on music videos, starting about 15 years ago. In Jamaica, he has worked on two music videos with Buju Banton. He has also worked in the art department for music videos with The Ying Yang Twins, Busta Rhymes, and Elephant Man.

“In the mid-2000s, I had been doing a lot of video work. I used to do castings and stuff like that. Gil Green started me in the video world,” he shared. Green’s director credits include work with Akon, DJ Khaled, Fat Joe, Ky-Mani Marley, Lil Jon, Lil Wayne, Pitbull, and Rick Ross.

Busy career in graphics

At one point, Panton’s own artistic endeavours took precedence, and he galvanised a busy career in graphic and apparel design, starting clothing brands and opening a store in Manor Park. But he never forgot his interest.

Upon hearing some songs, Panton would reach out to the distributors, like VP Records, with a pitch.

“Eventually, they gave me a chance with Raging Fyah’s Milk and Honey.” It was Panton’s first official co-directing role, alongside Nile Saulter. Milk and Honey currently counts 3.2 millions views on YouTube.

Since directing is not Panton’s primary creative outlet, he usually works with other directors who are versed in the details of film-making. “This is a song I handpicked because I had a vision for how it would look, and once I told Nicki ‘Portland’, our visions collided into what you see on the screen.”

Alongside for this ride was popular local visualist Nicki Kane. The pair has previously collaborated on projects for singer Naomi Cowan, the House of Marley brand, and Kaya Herb House.

He continued: “If you have a vision and can surround yourself with people who share that vision, then you can execute anything. Fortunately, Nicki and Jesse and the Heavyweight Rockaz trust my craziness. Is me hold the speaker box and Nicki shoot or vice versa. It was a full collaborative project that I think, ultimately, brings across the feeling of this song.”

That is very important, too, as Panton believes Sweet Sensation to be a worthy addition to the lovers’ rock section of reggae music’s sonic library. “When you do a video, it’s a service. The artistes have done their part sonically. Our job as creators is to immortalise this moment in time. I hope I can push this song to be one of those records that play for a very long time. As a DJ, I really think this is a special song. I hope that everyone shares that opinion,” he said.

Heavyweight Rockaz consists of vocalist, producer, and drummer Unga Barunga and bassist and vocalist Jason Welsh. Unga’s production credits include Diamond Socks by Iba Mahr and Holiday by Ding Dong, featuring Chevaughn.

‘Small Axe’ Jesse Royal is currently working on his sophomore album as the Heavyweight Rockaz work to release their self-titled debut, scheduled to be released in the second quarter of 2020.