Highlighting roots-reggae

BY CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON Observer staff reporter livingstonc@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 19, 2013

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LOCATED in rural Hatfield, Westmoreland, the Highlight Recording Studio is a small operation committed to making big-time music.

Its production team is led by veteran musician Paul 'Sly' Francis. Journeyman roots-reggae group The Itals have recorded there, as well as artistes from Africa and Europe.

Straight From The Heart, The Itals' 2010 album, was produced at Highlight by Francis. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.

"With my little voicing room and equipment I do my thing," Francis told the Sunday Observer.

He says the studio started modestly three years ago with a radio and computer but has evolved into a state-of-the art recording facility.

Francis' focus is recording and releasing quality roots-reggae music which still has a significant following overseas, especially in Europe.

"I work with a lot of guys out of Europe and Africa such as Dutch Gold and Papa D and the 6 Revelation Band," said Francis.

Though he works with budding artistes including his daughter Shankika, Francis prefers working with veteran acts such as The Itals.

"The Itals are selling but not in Jamaica. Everyone writing the same story here and that's not taking us anywhere," he said.

Francis has toured the world as a drummer with acts such as The Mighty Diamonds, Mykal Rose and Tony Rebel.

While on the road, he says he observed the positive response to roots music. That has inspired him to produce sounds with international appeal.

Born in the Westmoreland district of Burnt Savannah, Francis is in his early 50s. He decided to open a recording studio in his home parish after working two years as an engineer with American producer Steve Weinstein at the Jah Freedom studio in Negril.

Francis divides his studio duties by playing in bands on the North Coast hotel circuit.




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