Guest writer Nicky Lee-Delisle talks to Morgan Heritage about their new album Strictly Roots.
Reaching their tenth studio album with Strictly Roots, it is fair to say state that Morgan Heritage are reggae veterans. However they remain inspired, still willing to push their own creative boundaries with their eclectic blend of reggae and R&B in addition to multiple guest artists featuring throughout the album.
Strictly Roots is their first release put through their own label Cool To Be Conscious, showing that they are unafraid of risks and willing to pay attention to the needs of their audience. “When we returned from our 5 year break, we realized our audience was now 10 years younger.” I am told. “That sparked the idea that the new cool is being conscious and you don’t have to be religious to be conscious. So what better name for our label than one that embodies the direction of our music that we want to appeal to both our existing and new audience alike.”
Religion is an important factor to the offspring of the reggae legend Denroy Morgan and plays an important role in inspiring their sound. In fact, for those of you who have a physical copy, you will notice that they thank God in each name that He/She is known commonly known as. “Our spirituality guides us in life. It shapes the experiences we have in life based on the decisions we make. Being that our music is inspired by life, you can see the roll our spirituality plays within our music.” Their spiritual bond and being raised by Denroy Morgan, it can almost say that creating music together was an inevitable path for the siblings. “The decision to play as band together was made by our father when he saw the talent in us as children. The rest as they say is history. Music played a major roll alongside our upbringing by our parents. Music kept us grounded and the music our parents played kept us close to our roots from Jamaica. When we were more into Top 40 Radio, RnB and Hip-Hop. Some of the artist on rotation were the Wailers, Paragons, Heptones, Toots and The Maytals just to name a few.” Roots is a theme that keeps cropping up throughout the album and one cannot help but think it is not only referring to the genre, but also to the importance of heritage in a person’s creative being. So is it difficult for them to stay grounded to their own roots? “No. It’s not difficult at all, because celebrating where you come from is apart of the liberties and freedom within today’s society.” Is the reply.
It is no surprise that Strictly Roots has already reached number one spot on the US iTunes chart, not only does the album contain celebratory, summer anthems, charming vocals and R&B hits but also many guest artists. These include none other than Joe Mersa Marley (Grandson of the ultimate Reggae legend), Shaggy (remembered by my generation for collaborating with Ali G, although he does have much higher achievements than that), Chronixx, J Boog, Jemere Morgan, Gil Sharone, Eric Rachmany and Bobby Lee. Was this endless list deliberate, or did the album just flow in that direction? “Our intention with having the most features we’ve ever had in our career on an album was to display the globalization of Reggae music. Reggae music is no longer a music produced on the island of Jamaica. It is a music that people from all over the world loves and appreciates and is now producing it in their own countries. You can see that not only in our all star cast of featured artists, but also in our list of multi-national producers selected to work with us on this album.”
Peetah, Una, Gramps, Lukes and Mr Mojo Morgan have decided to put to good use the influence that their music brings them by working alongside Oxfam America. “We provide a platform for Oxfam America to create awareness at our concerts. When time permits, we will be getting involved in more of their ongoing outreach programs. It is important to do good in this life and Oxfam America is just another way for us to do good and pay it forward.”
Forming their own record label and reaching out to the world all while putting forth a strong tenth studio album. Morgan Heritage truly are reggae legends in their own right.
Let us know in the comments what you think of Morgan Heritage, do you own their albums, where do they rank in your reggae world?