By Kevin Jackson Observer Writer

Friday, February 21, 2014

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IN a bid to expand his brand, Tarik 'Russian' Johnston, one of contemporary dancehall's leading producers, recently worked with two top Reggaeton acts.

Russian produced songs by American singer De La Ghetto and Puerto Rican singer Farruko. The former has collaborated with Mavado.

"I want to bring dancehall and reggae music to the forefront and to be recognised like other genres of music. I also would like to develop my label and let it reach a broader market," Russian pointed out.

The Reggaeton beat originated in Puerto Rico and Panama and is widely popular throughout Latin America. It is a fusion of dancehall, soca and sounds from Latin America, such as salsa, bomba, Latin hip hop and electronica.

Most of Russian's latest projects have been with dancehall acts. J Capri's Reverse It, To My Face by Chan Dizzy, Front and Back by Sean Paul, Mamacita by Vybz Kartel featuring J Capri, and Shake by Konshens, are some of his new productions.

Russian has been an in-demand producer since 2008. He has worked with a number of acts including the controversial Kartel.

They combined on the hits Straight Jeans and Fitted and Look Pon Wi (both of which featured Russian as an artiste).

"I met Kartel at a studio and he believed in my talent. He got my number and called me the next day to do some work. That's how the link came about," he explained.

Russian had enrolled in the Edna Manley College for Visual and Performing Arts shortly after leaving Ardenne High School. He threw in the towel after six months to capitalise on his growing reputation as a producer.

His first project was the Liberty 'riddim' in 2008 when he was 18 years old. It yielded hits like My Name by Shane O, Ago Kill Mi (Konshens) and Nah Hold We Down by Kartel. However, it was Life Sweet by the flamboyant Kartel which put Russian and his Head Concussion Records on the map.

He followed up with J Capri's Pull Up to Mi Bumper (featuring Konshens), and Wine and Kotch (featuring Charly Blacks), so too the Chan Dizzy chart-toppers Strange Face and Hello Bad Mind.

Russian came into the business with solid music ties. His father, Michael Johnston, was involved with Ronnie Burke (of Reggae Sunsplash fame) in the early 1970s when they ran the Micron Music company.

Johnston senior is credited as executive producer for Negril, the acclaimed 1975 jazz/reggae album by respected American guitarist Eric Gale.

Russian said it was his 'old man' who influenced him to enter music.

"My father played guitar and the piano. He allowed me to use his equipment until I saved and bought mine."

Being original, Russian noted, is critical to being a successful dancehall producer.

"I don't follow the trends, I set the trends," he said.

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