Our gift: From Jamaica to the world
Let's Talk ReggaeSunday, October 24, 2021
With Dameon “Cham” Beckett
Hailing from Sherlock Crescent, I grew up differently than the average child. It was a single-family household, my dad died when I was 11 years old, money was low and my mother had to make it work for us. I was the youngest and was always the last to receive anything. My brother and sister went to university, but money wasn't available for me to attend university, and that is when I turned to playing football in hopes of using that path as a means to get out of poverty.
In 1993, at the age of 14, I decided I wanted to do music, and that is when I met Dave Kelly. An audition was done on the spot; however, he indicated that he doesn't record “schoolas” and I should come back to him after I had graduated high school.
In 1995, after graduating Calabar High School, I went back to Dave, presented him with my graduation certificate, and that is when he produced my first breakout song, The Mass.
I was very fortunate to be making music with Dave Kelly and forging a tight bond, thanks to being signed to Mad House Records. The chemistry between us was like no other; the majority of the songs that we have written together have been major hits. Songs like Old Dog Like Me, Look Into My Eyes, Sycamore Tree, just to name a few. A lot of people wouldn't know this, but the “woiiiii, woiiiii” you hear on Lady Saw's song Eh Em is actually me, that's how involved I was in every aspect of the music with Dave. We dominated the airwaves. The hits kept coming and I was privileged to be among industry music practitioners, which then led to me meeting international artistes with whom I have done hit records. The crossover to the international side of the industry allowed me to work with artistes such as Foxy Brown, Rihanna, Akon, and Alicia Keys, and with that happening I can say that I have enjoyed the fame and fun that came along with being Baby Cham.
In the lead-up to 2005 rhythms like Bruk Out, Showtime, Joyride were among the pioneering beats from the 90s. Over the years, Jamaica has been blessed with a great deal of artistes with accomplishments at varying levels that has paved the way for a lot of us who were interested in doing music. Acts such as John Wayne, Shabba Ranks, Gregory Isaacs, Third World, the great Bob Marley, Sly & Robbie, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Super Cat and so many more. For me, I was always in awe when I saw some of these artistes who passed through my uncle's studio and what stood out was the way they commanded the microphone; I wanted that for myself. I fell deeply in love with dancehall and I knew in my heart that this is what I was destined to do.
Fast-forward to 2021, after many hit songs, many collaborations, and many awards, I am still in love with music just as when I fell in love with it as a youngster. I am of the firm belief that dancehall and reggae music are the strongest genres worldwide. Our music is very unique, and because of the sound and how lyrically talented our artistes are we connect with people. The truth is we write stories based on our everyday life. The influence Jamaica has on the world provides a door to entertainers, our music gains a wider appeal, and the same goes when our artistes sample other genres of music.
We saw a perfect example of cultural sampling when Cardi B recently held a dancehall-themed birthday party. This was called Passa Passa, which is a direct tribute to the weekly street dance which was held on Spanish Town Road in Kingston and attracted patrons in the thousands from all segments of the society. This push by Cardi B shows the pull of our music and culture and has solidified the fact that our history and culture is rich and is on the forefront of a lot of minds. In addition, the publicity that the music got from this party cannot be measured and will only do wonders for the genre going forward.
After my performance at the recently held ICONZ concert series powered by Verzuz which was held at the Barclays Center in New York it was an honour representing dancehall and reggae music and the Caribbean on a whole along with my brothers Super Cat, Barrington Levy, Kranium, Dexta Daps, Konshens, and Teejay Uptop Boss. The venue was sold out and everyone who was there came to hear real, authentic Jamaican talent, and it goes without saying that our music is in a league of its own. We represented what we love best and that shows that there is an appeal for our music. The business is growing, the music is growing and there is a yearning for our genre of music.
In conclusion, the dancehall and reggae movement is strong and we need to protect what is ours and that is our music and culture. We only have to look at the Verzuz battle featuring my brother Beenie Man and Bounty Killer in May of last year and how it changed the format of that presentation completely setting such a high bar for others to follow. We have something great that we produce in abundance and the world craves. Let us continue to share this gift with the eager global audience.
Dameon “Cham” Beckett (formally Baby Cham) is a Grammy Award-nominated Jamaican recording artiste, most well known for his 2006 single Ghetto Story from his Atlantic Records début album of the same name.
Cham started out in the music business working with the Mad People Gang, also known as Madhouse Productions. This relationship led to the release of hits such as Many Many, Boom Tune, Man & Man, all of these singles were also featured on his début album. He is currently promoting his new single Condense Milk, which features Queen of The Dancehall Spice. Follow him on IG @thecham.