Like many Nigerian music fans who came of age in the 1980s, Hardy Jimbaz was weaned on Afrobeat, the jazzy, percussive sound created by his innovative countryman Fela Kuti. But he was also drawn to music made by another genius: Bob Marley.
Reggae and Afrobeats (a derivative of Afrobeat) are the focus of Tuffgig Music Empire, Jimbaz's company which has offices in New York City and Lagos, his hometown. Its latest releases are the reggae songs, Different and Smile, by Nigerian singer Belliyah.
Jimbaz told the Jamaica Observer that while Marley inspired his love for Jamaican culture, it was during regular trips to London in the 1980s to purchase dub plates and the latest reggae/dancehall hits that he became more than a fan.
"I used to travel from Nigeria to London and would bring back dub plates and some current reggae songs, which I would give to reggae disc jockeys in radio stations and clubs. And at the same time, at that tender age, I most times would come in as a guest DJ on the reggae programme hosted by Mabelous Macaulay Apolloma Junior in Port Harcourt, Nigeria," Jimbaz explained.
He and two friends eventually formed The Messengers, a reggae group that recorded an album, titled Rise Africa. The musicians on that set were Jastix, official band for Majek Fashek, Nigeria's best known reggae artiste.
The group folded after members moved to the United States, France, and Cape Verde. Settling in New York City, Jimbaz befriended several Jamaicans including a bass guitarist called One Drop who he met while interning as an engineer at the fabled Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
"We recorded an album, titled The Stone That The Builder Refuse which featured [deejay] Angie Angel. The album was recorded in Apollo Theater studios and co-produced by One Drop and Ollie Cotton Jr," said Jimbaz. "It was mixed and mastered in Jamaica by Doctor Mashall and additional work by Stephen Stanley. We signed a distribution deal with the label, 717 Mashall, to release the single that we collaborated on with Angie Angel in Jamaica," he explained.
Jimbaz, who holds a degree in recording engineering and production from the Institute of Audio Research New York, started Tuffgig Music Empire in 2004. It has released songs, as well as helped nurture the careers of African artistes adept at indigenous music and reggae.
"I must say that I'm pretty excited, though in this case, I'm aligning and directing it towards my artistes. And being that they are versatile and have love for reggae music, it was just so easy to flow, because for me personally, before I became a music producer, down to having a label, I was a reggae artiste," said Jimbaz.
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