DJ Chris: Flying reggae's flag in Canada

Howard Campbell

Friday, April 19, 2013

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




THERE have not been many successful producers in contemporary dancehall/reggae coming out of Canada. In recent years, however Chris 'DJ Chris' Serre has stepped up to fill that void.


Last year, the Toronto-born Serre scored a solid hit in the Greater Toronto Area with Real Life, done by Luciano and Chuckle Berry on the revamped Pick Up The Pieces beat.


The song was released on his New Brand Music label. It came after several trips to Jamaica, in which Serre did the studio rounds in Kingston, rubbing shoulders with leading producers such as Augustus 'Gussie' Clarke, Sly and Robbie and Mikey Bennett.


Though Real Life has helped him maintain a profile in Canadian reggae, Serre says there is still some way to go before Jamaican music ranks alongside pop music in terms of popularity.


"There is still room for improvement and we the producers and the radio disc jocks are doing our best to maintain the listenership/fan base," he told Splash. "I think the DJs and radio stations are doing their best to expose the music to a wider audience."


Serre has been involved in music since he was a teenager, playing clubs throughout Toronto. He later cut his teeth working clubs in Montreal and Vancouver, as well as rocking the halls on cruises by the Royal Caribbean International shipping line.


In 2005, he launched New Brand Music. The label's first project was The Spotlight -- a compilation album featuring Canadian reggae acts.Since then, he has been to Jamaica and recorded a number of contemporary and old-school artistes including Chuckle Berry, Anthony Malvo, Gyptian, Exco Levi and Ronnie Thwaites. His productions include an update of the Pretty Looks beat made famous by The Heptones at Studio One.


Serre's take on the Pick Up The Pieces (made popular in 1977 by vocal group The Royals) is his most successful project to date. There are other songs on the beat including Can't Draw Wi Out by Malvo and Sizzla.


Despite challenges, in terms of airplay, Serre is optimistic about dancehall/reggae in Canada. "It is good when you see college students and young people gravitating to the sounds, especially now that people want to be identified with anything Jamaican," he said.

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