Keeping it Honest in 'DC'Sunday, June 19, 2016
KINGSTON, Jamaica – While it doesn't have the activity of major reggae centres like New York City or Los Angeles, Washington DC has been a hub for Jamaican music for over 35 years.
Honest Music, an independent label in the American capital, was formed in 2008. It has quietly assembled an impressive catalogue of recordings by American and Jamaican artistes.
Darryl Burke, a 'DC'-born musician, is a senior member at the label.
"Christos Vrenios founded Honest Music mainly to produce and release his own music under the moniker Christos DC. I became a partner 2013, at which point the label began working with more artistes whom I had recruited to put the label on the map in reggae. We both produce and write also," he told OBSERVER ONLINE.
The label's initial releases were albums by Christos – Time To Rise, Under The Sun, and Long Road. The latter featured singer Kenyatta Hill on the song, Just Talk To Me, and launched a relationship that has since yielded songs like Policeman, Hill's current song.
Hill, Don Carlos, Ras Attitude, Carl Malcolm, Perfect Giddimani, Puma Ptah, Akae Beka, and Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite are some of the acts Burke and Vrenios currently work with.
Malcolm, best known for the 1970s easy-listening hit Hey Fatty Boom Boom, is a long-time DC resident.
Burke has worked as a keyboardist with several reggae acts including Hill's father, Joseph, charismatic leader of roots group Culture.
Hill Snr died in 2006 while touring Germany.
"I've known Kenyatta since my days touring with his Dad. I was later contracted to tour with Culture featuring Kenyatta Hill on a tour in the Northeast region of the US in 2013. The guitar player had to back out last-minute, and I brought Christos in to fill the position. From there, driving from town to town, Christos started to play some of his music and Kenyatta was very impressed with the level of production," Burke recalled. "He and Christos decided to collaborate on a song, which ended up being Just Talk To Me."
Vrenios, also a DC native, has worked with Sly and Robbie, Augustus Pablo and Flabba Holt of the Roots Radics Band. His introduction to reggae on the road was touring with Peter Broggs, who was associated with RAS Records, another Washington DC 'indie'.
Honest Music has some way to go to have the impact RAS did in reggae, but Burke and Vrenios are in the business of promoting Jamaican music for the long run.
Along with Policeman, they are projecting compilation albums featuring songs by their resident artistes.
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