More good music out of Jamaica for 2020 – UK-based producer - Females take the lead
United Kingdom-based reggae and dancehall producer Fabrice ‘Frenchie’ Allegre has been in the game since 1993 and has quietly been churning out projects with many of the major names in the genres while earning their respect along the way. Frenchie is the first to point out, however, that he has only “a few tunes that played in Jamaica”. But fortunately for him, the success of his Maximum Sound label is not dependent on airplay out of the home of reggae.
From his vantage point in the UK, Frenchie has observed the music evolve, and although 2020 has been a challenging one for the industry, he is impressed with the flow and quality of the recordings out of Jamaica this year. “Because of the pandemic, it has been difficult to go into the studio and produce and do the mastering of the songs, but despite all of that, the outpouring of music from Jamaica during this pandemic has been amazing. For me, the quality of songs out of Jamaica in the last few months has been much better than prior to the pandemic,” Frenchie, who is also a talented engineer, told The Gleaner.
He is especially happy that the women have stepped up their game and are penetrating the market with songs that make Londoners and others stop and listen. He named Koffee, Shenseea, Lila Iké, Shaniel Muir, and Rene 6:30 as part of what he termed “the female explosion”. He also highlighted female producer Michelle Williams, who made her debut two months ago with a project from Gyptian, Warm and Easy.
“I have never seen it like this before, with so many women having hit songs all at the same time. Lockdown, without a doubt, is one of the biggest songs this year, whether you are talking about on radio or in the streets. That song is played every day. Koffee’s Pressure Remix with Buju Banton is also big, and the Tarrus Riley and Shenseea collab, Lighter, is huge. Lila is making a great impact, and people are listening attentively,” Frenchie shared.
Among the males, Busy Signal, he said, is doing extremely well, and his patriotic Jamaica Jamaica single, produced by Frenchie himself, is getting a lot of love. The video, which dropped on August 7, has so far amassed over one million views. A collab by Busy Signal and Ce’cile, Stay Home Tonight, produced by Bulby York, is also happening in that market, and Christopher Martin is also rocking the London scene. “Dexta Daps is one of the male artistes who is making a big impact generally, and his single, Call Me If is another big hit here, and so, too, are the other songs on the Liquid Sunshine riddim by Zum,” the Brixton-based producer stated.
Interestingly, Dexta Daps has been reaping quite a bit of praise for his impressive, show-closing performance on Night Two of Reggae Sunsplash last Saturday, with one review stating that “the second night of Reggae Sunsplash, the virtual edition, belonged to Dexta Daps”. The Owna, Chinese Jordan, Miss You, Flight Mode, 7 Eleven, Shabba Modda Pot, Breaking News, Blessings, and No Underwear were the songs Dexta drew from his catalogue to thrill the online fans. He closed his performance with Call Me If.
The producer-engineer was compelled, however, to also share the downside of the trends in the music in his market. “What is not happening, however, is the new breed of dancehall artistes such as Jahvillani, Skillibeng, and Itence,” he said. These acts, however, are enjoying popularity in Jamaica and within the diaspora in the US, but the fame and fortune has so far eluded them in a predominantly reggae-loving UK market.
Frenchie, who names Sly Dunbar, of the acclaimed riddim twins Sly and Robbie as mentor, is originally from France, where even younger fans, he noted, prefer roots-reggae over dancehall. But that has not stopped Frenchie from seeking out dancehall acts to record for his label. The producer, who has released songs and albums by top acts such as Alborosie, Chronixx, Capleton, and Romain Virgo, is currently working on another album with Alborosie that is due to drop in 2021. “Albo is a genius producer who plays every instrument. This album is going to be huge,” Frenchie enthused.
Among the notable offerings last year from Frenchie’s Maximum Sound label was the State of Emergency rhythm and compilation album, led by the song Hold up Your Arms by Kabaka Pyramid and Capleton. He also co-produced the song Contradiction with Alborosie (a collaboration with Chronixx). Contradiction is from Unbreakable, Alborosie’s album with The Wailers.