Big Youth's time has come


Big Youth's time has come

Observer senior writer

Friday, August 07, 2020

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WHENEVER Big Youth hits the stage, he opens his show with I Pray Thee, his powerful chant on the hallowed Sata Massa Gana rhythm. That is deliberate.

“Yuh mus' bless di people dem 'cause wi live in a sad world yuh nuh mi bredrin,” said the veteran deejay, who will be awarded the Order of Distinction (OD) by Jamaica's Government on October 19 during the annual National Honours and Awards ceremony at King's House.

One of the survivors of the 1970s roots revolution, Big Youth set the pace for modern toasters with a unique style that made songs like I Pray Thee, S90 Skank, Hit The Road Jack and Every Nigger is A Star dancehall standards.

Those songs also keep the 71-year-old artiste on the road. He is a regular on the European reggae festival scene; his last run there was in 2019 as part of the Rockers Tour alongside Kiddus I, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace and Lloyd Parks and We The People Band.

As for being a recipient of the OD, Jamaica's sixth highest honour, Big Youth said, “Mi jus' feel good. Nuthin never happen before it time.”

Though synonymous with west Kingston, Big Youth was born Manley Buchanan in Rae Town, central Kingston. His introduction to music came from listening to pioneer deejays like Count Matchukie and U Roy during the early 1960s.

In 1971, he recorded Moving Man, his first song, which was produced by Gregory Isaacs for Isaacs' fledgling African Museum label.

The following year, Big Youth hit the charts for the first time with S90 Skank, produced by Keith Hudson.

He still records, with many of his recent productions being with European artistes and producers like Zack Starkey, son of Ringo Starr of The Beatles.

“Mi still have a vibes an' di melody is still there. A dat people want,” he said.

Big Youth's next album, the aptly titled Cultural Icon, is scheduled for release late this year.

Other entertainment and arts recipients of the OD this year are singers Eric Donaldson, Cedella Marley and Keith Lyn, actor Oliver Samuels, Deiwght Peters, head of Saint International modeling agency; dancer/choreographer Clive Thompson, music producers Jon Baker and Robert “Bobby Digital” Dixon (posthumously) and British broadcaster David Rodigan.

The Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service will be awarded to dramatist/ writer Amina Blackwood-Meeks, and Anthony “Chips” Richard, a music industry veteran based in the United Kingdom.

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