2013: My year in review

December 31, 2013

I’ve decided not to write a top ten list of the best reggae albums in 2013. I feel like the list format is taking over all media – with attention spans and social networking habits dictating that a list is the easiest form of journalism to digest in the digital age.

That said, it is nice to look back on the passing year so instead I am reviewing the highlights of my year as a music writer. It’s been a year of ups and downs for reggae media: the BBC album reviews shut down due to budget cuts and United Reggae has had internal problems that meant they missed out on the summer. However, 2013 saw reggae music take me to some of the world’s most amazing places – the last being the birthplace of reggae itself…

In January I went to Gambia for the Mad Professor’s Back To Africa Festival where I conducted this deep interview with Winston McAnuff.

Winston McAnuff in Gambia, 2013 - Photos by Véronique Skelsey

In February Jah9 released her debut album with Rory Stone Love – New Name. I had the opportunity to stay up late with her on Skype recording her life in her own words.

As March turned to April the London International Ska Festival 2013 held its fourth consecutive (and 25th anniversary) edition. This was the most successful so far – the highlight was watching Vin Gordon playing on a boat on the Thames. In the run up to the festival I had the privilege of interviewing headliner Ken Boothe.

May broke a record with one of the fastest interviews I’ve ever done with Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt Usain Bolt but I was also summoned to the studio of UK producer engineer Prince Fatty for a far longer and more revealing interview.

June saw the publication of my second conversation with Sizzla Kalonji. Even though the phone line was bad he had some interesting things to say.

Bunny Lee - I Am The Gorgon, 2013 - Photos by Véronique Skelsey

In July I was invited to Summerjam in Cologne where I had the pleasure of seeing Chronixx live for the first time and Protoje perform with his band the Indiggnation. You can check my festival report here.

In August I travelled to the beautiful island of Sardinia to experience one of Europe’s most relaxed and friendly festivals; Sardinia Reggae Festival 2013. There I had the rare chance to interview Capleton.

By September I was back in London for the premiere of Bunny Lee’s I Am The Gorgon – one of the better reggae documentaries of recent years.

In October and November I finally fulfilled my ambition of travelling to Jamaica where I conducted this interview with Earl Chinna Smith at his yard.

I’d already been to Gambia, Sardinia and Cologne this year – but Jamaica is by far the best place I have ever visited.

Earl Chinna Smith - Inna De Yard, Kingston, Jamaica, 2013 - Photos by Véronique Skelsey

There were many fantastic albums released this year by Protoje, Jah9, Etana, Brinsley Forde, Cornel Campbell (twice), Captain Sinbad, Chezidek, Lutan Fyah, Lloyd Brown and Luciano – as well as Milton Henry (which I did not cover as I wrote the sleevenotes). Yet my favourite release of 2013 was not a full album but one of many strong EPs this year – Better Than Love by Christopher Ellis – you can read the review here.

At the risk of turning this into a list – my favourite reissue was Freddie McKay’s Tribal Inna Yard and my favourite non reggae album was Beautiful Africa by Rokia Traore.

Finally in December I finished the year with a chat with one of Jamaica’s hottest artists Jah Bouks.

Based on information mentioned in interviews or guesswork I am looking forward to albums in 2014 from: Alpheus and Roberto Sanchez, Black Roots, Capleton, Christopher Ellis, Chronixx, Derajah, Earl 16 and Roberto Sanchez, Hollie Cook, Jah Bouks, Kabaka Pyramid, Lloyd Brown, Luciano x 2 (Mad Professor and his Dennis Brown tribute), Lutan Fyah, Midnite, Perfect and Irie Ites, Pressure, Raging Fyah, Rasites, Stephen Marley, Wayne Marshall, Winston Francis and Prince Fatty.

Projects that I am hoping will see the light of day:

Jah9 and Beres Hammond, Necessary Mayhem meets Gussie Clarke, Brinsley Forde and Sly and Robbie.

Happy 2014

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