Lee Tafari goes back to basics

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior writer johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, February 15, 2014    

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IF it were up to his parents, sound system selector Lee Tafari would have had nothing to do with the music business.

Despite the fact his father Trevor (Daddy Lee) was owner of the 'sound' Lee's Unlimited, as a youngster Tafari could not even touch the equipment or express an interest in the music.

That would soon all change after a friend billed to play at an event had a bit too much to drink. Lee had to step up to the plate.

"I was living in South Florida at the time and my friend, who was the selector, got drunk and I had to take over the party. I just went hard and after that one session people start to ask for me," he recalled.

He was only 14 years old at the time and it therefore still took a bit of convincing his parents that he had an interest in being a selector. They eventually gave in after witnessing his natural talents at taking the music to the people. With their blessings, Tafari went on to a gig with the popular sound system, Black Chiney.

This would prove to be a sound schooling for Lee, who by then was in his late teens. Tours of North and Central America, Europe and the wider Caribbean would come and the selector would revel in the excitement of the music. But then it came time for him to move on and go solo.

"When I left Black Chiney, I still got dates as people said they love my passion and my vibe. I went on to develop a project called Sight and Sounds, in which I created videos for songs, so I could offer patrons at the sessions where I played a full production... I wanted patrons to wake up the morning after and still be floating on the experience and asking themselves... 'wha dat happen las' night?'", he said.

In 2008, he did some soul-searching.

For all the hype and excitement he was experiencing, Lee felt he needed to give his audience more than just a party, and took a break from the music.

"It was that higher calling. I realised that I had to give the people more and went for cultural music. I also took a long break from selecting and embraced Rastafari which caused people to think I had gone crazy."

His break from the music would coincide with the death of his father in 2010, at which time he inherited sound system Lee's Unlimited, the equipment and the vinyl record collection. This sparked the rebirth of selector and artiste Lee Tafari.

Today, any session involving this selector is different. Reggae greats such as Burning Spear, Winston McAnuff, Peter Tosh and, of course, Bob Marley, find a prominent place on his playlist. In addition, what is perhaps his greatest difference is he plays vinyl records.

"When my father died and I went to collect the equipment in St Thomas. The people laughed at me when I started taking up the records as I was one of the first selectors to play from CDs," Tafari recalled.

The selector spoke with passion about vinyl records.

"My external hard drive crashed with all the music stored there and a taxi ran over my media player which had thousands of songs stored on it so I see turning to vinyl as something special. The quality that comes through a sound system when you are playing on vinyl is magical. When you drop a stylus into the valley of the music on a record, what comes forth is the true sound," he said.





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