Bonnie pulls no punches

Howard Campbell

Saturday, April 20, 2013

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The Juno Awards, Canada's version of the Grammys, takes place this Sunday at the Brandt Centre in Saskatchewan. Five artistes are up for the Reggae Recording of the Year. Today we present the fifth instalment in a series on the Canadian reggae scene.

THE holder of a degree in political science, Bonnie Casey is well aware of the importance of diplomacy. But when it comes to reggae music in Canada, the singer refuses to hold back any punches.

Casey, who is in her 20s, has performed throughout the province of Ottawa, particularly in her hometown of Toronto. She says Canadian reggae has a lot of ground to cover if it is to compete with markets in the United States and Europe.

"The state of reggae in Canada is one step below pathetic. Except for annual festivals and a few other special events, the opportunities are few and far between," she told the Jamaica Observer.

Casey, whose father is Irish and mother Jamaican, travelled to Jamaica in late-2010 to expand her recording opportunities. She did sessions with Sly and Robbie and saxophonist Dean Fraser at Grafton Studios in east Kingston.

She also gained invaluable experience touring Australia in early 2011 with Toots and The Maytals, Luciano and Ernie Ranglin. That type of exposure, she noted, is badly lacking in Canada.

"The genre is not very popular with mainstream Canada, which is a contributing factor to the scarcity of gigs," she explained. "There is also rampant nepotism and along with that, a dog-eat-dog industry."

Though she was born in Toronto, Casey spent her pre-teen years in Montego Bay. Her years in Jamaica helped her develop an appreciation for reggae, with a slant toward lovers' rock singers like Gregory Isaacs and J C Lodge.

She says a duet with a leading Jamaican reggae singer is her most recent project.

Casey considers recording with Sly and Robbie and rubbing shoulders with greats like Toots and Ernie Ranglin Down Under among the high points of her career.

"I appreciate this immensely because a lot of the artistes here (in Canada) have not left Toronto, not even Juno winners. So I feel blessed."

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