Beres takes one step ahead

By Howard Campbell Observer senior writer

Sunday, January 06, 2013

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SPORTING his trademark hat, Beres Hammond perches on a seat on the lawn of his home in the St Andrew, still recovering from a Boxing Day party that broke up broke up at 7:00 am.

The Yuletide season was hectic for the man many consider dancehall's elder statesman. He recently returned from the United States east coast where he did promotional stops for his latest album, the double disc One Love, One Life.

One of those stops came on the popular Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show where he jammed with neo-soul house band, The Roots.

Forty years after getting in the music business with the Zap Pow band, Hammond is hip to the changes of the industry.

"Millions of people watch a Jimmy Fallon, an' many of them neva hear 'bout Beres Hammond," he said. "Being on a show like that can only help."

Released by VP Records in November through Hammond's Harmony House company, One Love, One Life has sold just under 3,000 copies to date in the US, according to SoundScan.

Though he is pleased with the response to his latest production, for which he wrote all 20 songs, Hammond says he does not watch sales.

"Bwoy, I neva watch record sales, somebody else job that. If they break mi in different markets, fine. But I'm not going to change [my style] to suit a particular set of people," he said.

With a track record of hit songs going back to the late 1970s, the 58-year-old Hammond can afford to dictate terms.

Terms which allow him to write an average of two songs a day, or record five songs a week, mainly at his St Andrew studio.

That also goes for his stage act which he says is entirely spontaneous. He sings whatever song his band strikes up.

"Right now, I live mi song dem like how mi live mi life. I jus' go wid the flow," he said.

There was a time in his career when Beres Hammond was not as relaxed. The Zap Pow years were encouraging, and he did a string of well-received ballads for musician/producer Willie Lindo, including One Step Ahead and I Miss You.

Yet, by the 1980s he was still in the 'promising singer' category, struggling to find a mass audience. That is until he linked with Lindo mid decade and cut the chart-topping song What One Dance Can Do. He has never looked back.

A purple patch in the 1990s earned Hammond fans in hardcore dancehall, a stint with major label Elektra Records and admirers like hip hop superstar Wyclef Jean.

If there is any disappointment, he says it has been the lack of development in the local music industry.

"The business side of it needs more professionals, mi frustrated wid how some people approach the thing," he stated. "They have to realise things are more like the corporate world."

Hammond, who has more US promotional dates in early 2013, still hopes to expand his horizons by performing in virgin countries like Australia and China. And there is always the matter of legacy.

"If that should live on, and I hope it will, people will see that Beres left some quality. Cause from I know myself, I never cut my thing short."




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