The name of a family member of the Marley clan can be heard at the Reggae Grammy Awards with regular repetition. Not so in - in many aspects - special year 2020. Because on January 26th, 2020 it was different and the reggae community around the world clapped their hands for joy: This year's winner was the young singer Mikayla Simpson a.k.a. Coffee. At the age of 19 both the youngest and the first female award winner in the Best Reggae Album category. Congratulation! Koffee, born in a neighborhood in Spanish Town, made her first musical experiences in the church choir and acquired the skill of playing the guitar herself. In her senior year, Ardenne High School in Kingston, she smelled the smell of audience applause. In 2016 she won a talent competition there, where she sang in front of 1,000 enthusiastic listeners. Five years in the school choir and caring for the choir director brought her this important emotional success shortly before the end of school.
She made her awesome and intelligent anthem for the legend Usain Bolt and the song Burning known to an international audience in 2017. From then on, Koffee went up the success and career ladder because in January 2018 she brought Reggae legend Cocoa Tea onto the stage at the renowned Rebel Salute Concert. With the few songs in her portfolio, she was able to inspire critical local and international audiences on the spot. Everyone asked themselves: Who is this newcomer?
I myself remember her first appearance, which I was able to experience very clearly: On February 8th, 2018 there was a concert at Wickie Wackie Beach. It was late at night, Chronixx was giving a quiet performance in front of a small audience, the show was babbling to itself and he announced a singer by the name of Koffee. I thought to myself: "I hope she has caffeine in her voice or I'll be out soon". After the first sung lines of her song Raggamuffin I was fascinated by her varied voice and the positive lyrics: One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain.
With Chronixx and also with Cocoa Tea she was then represented for the first time on international stages in 2018, e.g. on the Rototom in Spain. At the end of 2018 the song Toast was released, which you couldn't avoid in Jamaica in 2019. Not even Governor General (GG) Sir Patrick Allen, after all the highest representative of the state, who quoted Achievement Awards from her song at the annual event:
Blessings all pon mi life and,
Mi thank God for the journey,
The earnings are just fi di plus
Gratitude is a must (yeah)
Mi see blessings fall pon mi right hand,
Buss a toast fi di friends weh
tek off the heavy load
Sir Patrick Allen: „That says so much about what the Governor General’s Achievement Awards (GGAA) is about. Thank you, Koffee,”
The release of the EP Rapture for Columbia Records in March 2019 then led to standardization for the Reggae Grammy 2020 in November 2019 - with a joyful perception - alongside long-established reggae heavyweights such as Third World (with an album co-produced by Damian Marley), Steel Pulse (and their last album release in 15 years), Sly and Robbie ... and Julian Marley. The “musical accolade” then followed, as already mentioned above, in January 2020. The first female winner was received extremely positively in Jamaican society and in large parts of the reggae community.
Let's keep our fingers crossed for the young artist that the lyrics with their youthful perspective and the refreshing music will make them successful even in times of Corona and afterwards. One of her latest songs, Lockdown, asks the right question: “Where will go, when the quarantine thing done and everybody touch road?
Since December 2018 Buju Banton has been back in Jamaica after being released from the US penal system, the reggae artist who was successful in the 90s tried to reconnect with the music scene on the island. His first appearance on March 16, 2019 in the sold out National Stadium was a huge success with a series of new songs. The 40,000 fans celebrated their dancehall star like in the old days. At the “Jamaican Festival Competition” in July of this year, he was able to prevail against many reggae heroes with his song “I am a Jamaican”. "I am a Jamaican" - the song can be found online with lyrics - was designed by Banton in the style of traditional, successful festival reggae hits.
Buju Banton, who was born in Kingston Down Town in 1973, came into contact with this reggae scene as a teenager. His first musical successes were achieved and in 1992 even brought him the record for the most successful single of the year before Bob Marley. Many national awards and first international recognitions followed. In the following years he himself turned to the Rastafarian movement and, against this background, presented perhaps one of his strongest albums in 1995 with “Til Shiloh”. With his own record label, which he founded in 1996, his rise to the acclaimed international dancehall star began, a music genre that he mastered just as much as roots reggae. During his recordings, he worked with great success with everyone who was well-known in the reggae scene. In addition to his concert successes, he also supports a number of charities.
The texts on the subject of violent crime and intolerance ("hate speech"), which he and other dancehall stars used again and again, led to increasing criticism from churches, civic movements, reggae fans, event organizers and public institutions, which finally became the "Reggae Compassion Act" resulted. Songs with "hate speech" content - especially calls against homosexuality - were put on the "red list". Buju Banton's song “Boom Bye Bye”, which was written back in 1992 and contained violence against homosexuals, was of course right at the top of the prohibited list (I don't want to quote the text, it can be found online). As a result, many appearances at concerts and festivals, especially in Europe, were no longer possible for him. Why the still successful artist got involved with drug traffickers in the USA remains incomprehensible. Once in the clutches of the US judiciary, there was no mercy for involvement in trafficking 5kg of cocaine. After the Grammy Award for the best reggae album in 2011, he had to serve his prison sentence. He is silent about the prison conditions. His management took “Boom Bye Bye” off their play list in spring 2019 and Buju Banton assured without explanation that he would no longer play the piece.
The restart 2020 was covered by the corona wave like many other artistic projects. Nevertheless, Buju Banton, one of the greatest reggae talents despite all the criticism, has produced a number of new pieces. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to build on the successes of the 1990s internationally.