Drummer keeps the beat alive

Friday, June 20, 2014

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IN an era of programmed jams, the drummer has become almost obsolete to contemporary reggae. Some, like Kirk Bennett, are keeping the beat alive.

In a recent poll by the website largeup.com, Bennett came in at number eight in a table topped by the legendary Sly Dunbar.

The list included some of the musicians who inspired Bennett, such as Dunbar and Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace.

While he favours playing live, Bennett has nothing against going computerised, especially when producing for his Kirkledove Records label.

"I'm not going to say programming is bad, because I programme a lot. But mostly I stick to the vintage thing," he told Splash.

Bennett is the top session drummer in Jamaica. He has played on numerous hit songs including Lion Paw (Tarrus Riley); Solid as a Rock, Thank You Mama (Sizzla); I Feel Good, Come Down Father (Beres Hammond); and Queen Ifrica's Lioness on the Rise.

Although drummers are still assured of a touring job, not many get calls for live sessions in Jamaica.

"That's sad 'cause yuh have a lot of good young drummers out there, but I guess yuh have to be on top of yuh game. Programming is cheaper but yuh get a different vibe when yuh play live," Bennett said.

The age of the programmer was at its height in the early 1990s when he joined Kaushion, Bounty Killer's backing band.

Most producers in Jamaica turned to programmed beats following the runaway success of the 1984 hit song, Under mi Sleng Teng.

Born in Trelawny and raised in Montego Bay, Bennett was more into live patterns as a youth drummer at Muschett Primary School.

He earned his stripes playing the north coast hotel circuit. Moving to Kingston, he joined Kaushion and later Hammond's Harmony House band.

In addition to Wallace, Bennett cites Dunbar, Carlton Barrett of the Wailers and jazz man Steve Gad as his biggest influences.

Like Dunbar, he has done his share of computer beats. His productions include Tek Wey Yuhself and Daggering by Mr Vegas; Elephant Man's Yuh Too Bad Mind; and Bedroom Bully, a big hit for Busy Signal.

His latest productions include Natural Green Herbs by Queen Ifrica and Tony Rebel's Seventy Bars.




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