FOR many years, Shanachie Records has been one of the world’s leading sources for indigenous and roots music. In terms of reggae, its catalogue includes revered recordings from the music’s golden age of the 1970s.
Shanachie has, however, reached out to a younger audience in the last decade. Currently, the company is putting its promotional muscle behind 9INE, a reggae/soul album by American singers Syleena Johnson and Musiq Soulchild.
Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor, Syleen Johnson and Musiq Soulchild.
To be released in September, the set is produced by Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor, a leading figure in dancehall/reggae. Randall Grass, Shanachie’s president, spoke to Splash recently about plans for 9INE.
“Our promotion strategy is aimed both at the reggae and R&B market, especially Musiq and Syleena’s fan base. We are servicing reggae radio in Jamaica, the US and UK, but also urban radio in the US and R&B/soul radio in the UK,” he explained.
Grass says a dancehall mix of Feel The Pain, the album’s lead single, will be serviced to club DJs worldwide. Music Soulchild and Johnson are also expected to do shows in the US next month as part of 9INE’s promotion.
According to Grass, Shanachie’s involvement with 9INE seemed natural. The label released Johnson’s previous album, Labour Pains, while Musiq Soulchild appeared in a music video by The Floacist, a soul poet signed to Shanachie.
9INE is the latest effort by the New York-based company to reach a contemporary audience. Like Rounder Records in Massachusetts, Shanachie is known for its vast catalogue of roots music, which includes titles by reggae acts Augustus Pablo, whose East Of The River Nile album marked the company’s association with Jamaican music in 1978.
Shanachie also has albums by Dennis Brown, The Mighty Diamonds, Culture and the Wailing Souls in its catalogue. In recent years, it has released new albums by Third World as well as a slate of smooth jazz and neo-soul acts including singer Crystal Bowersox, the 2010 American Idol runner-up.
Johnson told Billboard magazine early this year that the collaboration with McGregor resulted from a tape he sent them of a new sound he was working on. It impressed her and Soulchild enough to consider doing a song with him but once they got into the studio, the project evolved.
“The music was so good and Musiq and I both love Kemar’s production so we’re like, ‘why don’t we just do an album together’,” she said.
Johnson and Musiq Soulchild are part of the neo-soul explosion that took place in the United States during the mid-1990s. McGregor is best known for producing Etana’s I Am Not Afraid and Mama Don’t Cry by Gyptian.