Bleaching Shop scores for Exco Levi

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Sunday, March 04, 2012

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TWO years ago, when singer Exco Levi returned to Jamaica from Canada, his main objective was to score a hit song. He achieved that and more with the hard-hitting Bleaching Shop.

The 31-year-old singer is one of five persons up for the Reggae Recording of the Year Award, at the annual Juno Awards to be held on April 1 at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.

The other nominees in the category are Luciano and Dubmatix for Seeds of Love and Life; Jay Douglas for Lover's Paradise; Steele for Woman; and Tanya Mullings for Rescue Me.

Bleaching Shop was released early last year and is the diminutive Exco Levi's biggest hit to date. Produced by Donovan Germain for Penthouse Records, it hits the much-condemned skin-bleaching craze head-on.

"I think the people who do it (skin bleaching) suffer from low self-esteem and low self-confidence. Dat's what bother mi the most 'bout the whole thing," he told the Observer.

Bleaching Shop was also popular on the Greater Toronto Area's reggae scene, spending several weeks in the Reggae Dub Plate chart. It also earned Levi Song Of The Year at the 2011 Canadian Reggae Awards.

Levi, who has lived in Toronto for the past eight years, says skin bleaching is not common in Canada. But he says it remains prevalent in Jamaica despite attempts by the Government to discourage the practice.

"Mi alone can't stop it. Exco Levi can only help spread the message," he said.

Like skin piercing and Internet porn, skin bleaching is an area of concern for Jamaican youth. In 2008, the Ministry of Health launched an educational campaign to discourage the fad, especially among high school students.

Then in February last year, the University of the West Indies' Mona campus did an extensive series on the worrying phenomena.

Skin bleaching is especially popular among inner-city youth and patrons of the dancehall. Flamboyant deejay Vybz Kartel openly uses skin-lightening substances and has distributed his own line of products.

Born Wayneford Levy in Mandeville, Exco Levi grew up in the Rocky Point region of Clarendon. His father, Michael 'Mr Cool' Levy was a deejay on the Super Soul sound system in Clarendon and influenced his decision to go into the music business.

In 2006, he moved permanently to Toronto where he recorded the patriotic Oh Canada two years ago. Around the same time, Levi says he met singer Richie Stephens who encouraged him to return to Jamaica and take a crack at making a name in the dancehall.

Not long after his return, Levi cut Bleaching Shop for Germain, the man who helped drive the careers of acts like Buju Banton, Wayne Wonder and Tony Rebel.

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