First Christmas in Jam Rock
French producer looks forward to oxtail; loving Skeng, Valiant, Ding Dong, among others
French producer Jean Philippe is spending his first Christmas in Jamaica this year and says he has been captivated by the country's music, nightlife and entertainment. (Photo: Romardo Lyons)

With an undying love for old and new school dancehall music, reggae, Jamaican nightlife, party culture and food, French producer Jean Philippe says his first Christmas in "Jam Rock" will be one of mega proportions.

Philippe, who has worked with artistes such as Ding Dong, Kranium, Spice and Shenseea through Ovaproof Booking and Music Production, has been in Jamaica since December 5, and will leave the island early next year.

But he is certain that one month is ample time to be fully immersed in all things Jamaica.

"I've been in Jamaica before, but this is my first Christmas, first new year here. Honestly, I don't know too much. I have a girlfriend here and she's been telling me about the oxtail and the kind of food that she's getting Christmas. I'm gonna try it. I don't know much about the special traditions for Christmas. I see everybody wearing stuff in the streets. I see a few trees, some lights; we have the trees and the lights also in France. Honestly, I don't know much of what to expect. But I'm going to discover that. It's interesting," Philippe told the Jamaica Observer.

Philippe continuously mentioned the wild nightlife that has captivated him. So deep within it, he was walking around seeking a phone charger at 2:00 am on Christmas Eve outside Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston, when he came across this reporter.

"Every day you can party… you can go to one, two, three parties. We have lots of parties also in Paris, or in Europe, but the nightlife in Jamaica is kind of specific and well active. How the people party… it's a bit different. I love the shows. For example, I like Ghetto Splash. I like the vibes. I'm going to Sting, I'm going to Beres [Hammond] show. I'm going to a lot of different shows because of the people that I work with, but I love the music and the music vibe. I love the nightlife and how the people enjoy themselves," Philippe told the Observer.

"The nightlife is different. I hear Ding Dong a lot, and I see him on TV everywhere. In the parties his music plays a lot. I still hear a lot of Vybz Kartel… I hear Skeng playing, some Valiant. I like to discover the youth. I went to meet some people to work to bring them to Europe. I like the music, so that's the vibe," he continued.

It has been said before that there is no sincerer love than the love of food. Philippe would very much tweak the phrase a tad bit to have it say "Jamaican food."

"I like the food. Jamaican food is very good. I learned how to cook it. I can cook curry chicken, jerk chicken, brown stew fish, different things. I'm on the road with Jamaican artistes when I do tour, sometimes for six weeks. So we end up you knowing people. We learn to know each other and they show me some stuff, and I show them some stuff. And I have some Jamaican friends that teach me how to go about."

Philippe has also experienced the excitement surrounding the FIFA World Cup locally, and even as an outsider, he stopped to ask himself: "Am I in Brazil?"

"I see how people are also passionate about football with the World Cup and Brazil. It looks like Brazil is Jamaica," he said, laughing.

"I'm French, so it was a little hard time in the end, but it was a nice World Cup still. People are passionate about Brazil and sometimes Argentina too. But I see Brazil is still the biggest side that Jamaica likes," he told the Sunday Observer.

The producer noted that in Europe, dancehall music has different spaces and spheres.

"For example, in France, we have a Caribbean community from Martinique, Guadeloupe. Jamaica has its specificities; the culture, the ways and the music. Personally, I'm passionate about reggae and dancehall for quite a long time. So I'm getting used to the culture, the movement and everything. A difference in producing for Jamaican artistes is the artistes are more accessible compared to American artistes," he said.

"For example, when we were younger, we could get big artistes from Jamaica… Buju, Beenie, Bounty come in and we get them in the studio to do dub plate, we could to talk to them. If something is a vibe, it is good, we can record songs with them or whatever. But American artistes, they are very difficult. Jamaican artists are accessible, and after that, they are also very reactive. So they can improvise easier. They are really they can work on spot. One time with Gyptian, I went to the hotel where he was staying, and I bring my mic and my computer and we did three songs in few hours."

BY ROMARDO LYONS Staff reporter

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