Ambelique hits sweet spot on


Ambelique hits sweet spot on

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Friday, July 31, 2020

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IF there's a taste of the blues on Sugar Lips , singer Ambelique's latest song, that should come as no surprise. The artiste is influenced by American soul acts and was once a member of a blues band in Boston.

Sugar Lips is produced by Danny Breakenridge for Fort Lauderdale-based Upstairs Music. Ambelique (Owen Silvera) and Breakenridge are co-writers.

Ambelique's sultry vocals are complemented by the bluesy guitar riffs of Dwight Pinkney, programming by Paul Gauntlett and Tafina Wilson who does harmony.

When Breakenridge approached him to record Sugar Lips, he knew what his approach would be instantly.

“Lovers rock is my preferred genre of reggae. I developed my style because I grew up in the rocksteady era,” Ambelique told the Jamaica Observer.

Dancehall fans will remember Ambelique from the 1990s when he was part of Sly and Robbie's Taxi Gang. During that period, they experimented with the La Trengae beat, a mix of dancehall and Latin music.

Ambelique cut several songs for the Riddim Twins including La Trengae, versions of Lionel Richie's Penny Lover, and Quando Quando, a song once recorded by Englebert Humperdinck.

The Sly and Robbie sessions were the first for Ambelique, who grew up in the Waltham Park area of Kingston, where his mentors were Frank Spence and Noel “Bunny” Brown of The Chosen Few.

Migrating to the United States in the 1970s, he settled in Baltimore and did a stint with a blues band in Boston. There, he used the opportunity to pay homage to his heroes like Solomon Burke and Sam Cooke.

On Sugar Lips, his delivery is a throwback to rocksteady icons such as Alton Ellis and John Holt. Though deejays and singjays have dominated the dancehall landscape for over 20 years, Ambelique believes there is still space for the singer in contemporary reggae.

“In England, lovers' rock is the primary sound. Most of the artistes in the UK, that's what they do,” he said. “In Jamaica, you still have that happening with Romain Virgo and Christopher Martin and Jah Cure, who has a unique sound.”

Ambelique is also working on a project with Sly and Robbie.

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