He is quite well known by the reggae fraternity and has been big in reggae since I was growing up. Really he is the Michael Jackson of Jamaica. He started at eight years old, and had a mature voice in a young boy's body. He covered tunes in a reggae style, like Frank Sinatra classics: use the same song, give it a reggae flavour. We've done that a couple of times, such as the cover of `Best of Our Love' by The Eagles, whom we had always checked as artists and songwriters. That was a hit over here eight years ago. Brown did a lot of lovers' rock and cultural songs as well. In the early Eighties, there were a couple of hits in the British charts, which was a great time for reggae. Even so, if you are a hit reggae artist in Jamaica then you are known in Britain. It's not so much through newspapers but pirate stations that give out news and music. Now reggae has a lot of different facets. You talk about house, garage, jungle, and all these are cross breeds from reggae.
They are an American R'n'B band and have been around for a few years. The album is good: some of the stuff is very poppy, more so than in the past. They have used a lot of acoustic guitar. When I first heard "Unpretty" it didn't even sound like an R'n'B group, more like Tanita Tikaram. That is good, as it keeps the repertoire fresh. They do a lot of collaboration with other people. Like most women these days, they have got something to say. There's really no difference between American and British R'n'B. The music is basically the same, except that a lot of English artists look to America for influence. When Soul II Soul came out in America, however, it was appreciated that the melting pot of music in England is a lot more innovative. British music has gone on and influenced what is happening in America. Mary J Blige, for instance, is influenced by reggae and drum and bass. It's all back and forth. It keeps it moving.
Aswad's 16th album, `Roots Revival', is out now (Ark 21 Records)
Interview by Jennifer RodgerReuse content