LONDON was just as hip a dancehall town as Kingston back in the 1980s. The conscious message of artistes from that period like The Wailing Souls and Barrington Levy resonated with Carlton "Dillie" McLeod.
That sound inspired McLeod and his brother Raymond to start Stingray Records in London 28 years ago. The company stays true to dancehall's roots with songs like The Mood, their latest production, from Busy Signal.
McLeod told the Jamaica Observer that Busy Signal, whose songs include One More Night and Nightshift, was perfect for the song which has an old-school feel.
"Busy is a very versatile artiste so when we linked up on this track it was to reach out to the reggae and conscious roots market with some positive lyrics. For me, it's not just reaching out to the regular dancehall market — it's showing the younger generation there can also be a positive side to reggae that they call dancehall," he explained.
The McLeod brothers were born in the United Kingdom to Jamaican parents. In their youth, London was the hub for dancehall music when British labels like Greensleeves Records and Jet Star Records released a flurry of hit songs by Jamaican acts like Levy, Yellowman, Cocoa Tea, and Michael Prophet.
Those singles reflected the energy in Jamaican dance halls through producers such as Henry "Junjo" Lawes and George Phang. That decade also saw the emergence of British reggae acts like Papa Levi, Smiley Culture, and Pato Banton.
McLeod and his brother have produced songs and albums by Freddie McGregor, Dennis Brown, Lukie D, Mikey Spice and Spanish band The Emeterians. Though Jamaican music is not as influential in the UK as 30 years ago, Dillie McLeod insists there is still a place for dancehall/reggae.
"The dancehall scene is very huge in the UK; that is the type of songs that the younger generation latch on to these days. But, we still need to keep our culture going as well — it's part of reggae," he said. "Let's not take it away from the consciousness of where it's always been when artistes like Daddy U-Roy, Josey Wales etc, deejayed some sweet reggae music from back in the days."