New voyage for Jackie Mittoo in Africa

Sunday, March 29, 2015

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AT his musical peak, Jackie Mittoo recorded outstanding Afrocentric songs like Drum Song. Africa had a lasting impact on the keyboardist/arranger.


Mittoo travelled to the west Africa country of Ghana in 1985 with British reggae group Musical Youth, who were riding high at the time with the hit song, Pass the Dutchie.


While there, he led recording sessions at Black Note studio in the capital Accra which yielded the album, Jackie Mittoo in Africa.


The album was released in 1997, seven years after Mittoo's death from cancer at age 42. Tony Owens, Musical Youth's former manager who co-produced the 14-track set, is preparing to release it digitally.


"I remember we did shows in Kumasi, Accra and Togo but with some of the money we got, we went into this eight-track studio and did some songs," Owens recalled.


Patrick Waite of Musical Youth played bass on the songs, which featured local musicians. Some of the cuts, like All Night in Accra and No Show in Togo, were inspired by the visit.


A prodigy while at Kingston College, Jackie Mittoo was a founding member of the legendary Skatalites band. He became musical director at Studio One, playing on a number of classic songs such as Autumn Breeze, Hot Milk, Ram Jam and Full Up which inspired Pass the Dutchie.


Mittoo migrated to Canada in the early 1970s, and helped develop the reggae scene in Toronto.


The Kingston-born Owens has lived in the United Kingdom since 1965. He has worked as manager and booking agent for a number of reggae acts including Bob Andy, Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor and Buju Banton.


He was in Jamaica recently recording songs for an album by Kaya, a singer from Cape Verde based in The Netherlands.


-- Howard Campbell


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