Twinkle Brothers and Earl 16 live at The Drum, BirminghamRespect to Norman Grant and the band (Black Steel, Dub Judah, Aron Shamash, Prince Barry, Jerry Lions and Derek 'Demondo' Fevrier the engineer) for an incredible night at The Drum, Potters Lane, Aston, Birmingham, UK. The show went like this: firstly, Jako Melody warmed up the crowd with a different selection playing some up to date stuff from Jah Cure “Love Is” and I Wayne for the crowd. These are the sort of tunes that are crossing into all the main stream with artists like Fanton Mojah, It takes nothing at all to praise the king and Richie Spice coming with tunes like,” The way you are living “. I love the vocal ability of these artists and the message is in the songs. Be good and goodness will follow you. Jako also played a few tracks from Sinead O'Connor’s new album which she worked on with Sly and Robbie.
Then Earl Sixteen came on which I watched from the engineer's box - the best seat in the house. It’s loud and clear up there and you can see the whole stage. Earl Sixteen seem to enjoy it as much as the people, who were a mix of cultures but mostly Rasta followers. Can I say Jah Rastafari praised music is the only thing that actually can unite and not divide. What the people really wanted was Twinkle they gave Earl a good reception and he did put on a good show. Once the main act got on stage and started singing tracks like "Don’t board de wrong train, don’t board de wrong train" and "Dem never get burned dem never get burned" you just had to sing along. It was hot in the place and the people joined in all throughout the show singing and dancing. It was well worth seeing the Twinkle Brothers live.
Interview with Norman Grant - Twinkle BrothersAs I travel my path of life I truly feel blessed to do the works I do. Meeting up with Twinkle Brothers again after nearly ten years was just another blessing. We last meet up at Milliondollar Club in Wolverhampton. Grant said “Me never know it’s been so long”. He firstly told me that Ralston was back home in California USA, they had just finished touring South America, but he would be singing Jehovah for him. This track can be found on the album ‘All The Hits’. It’s a must-have album if you’re a real reggae buff. Previously the brothers had been together doing the normal festival circuit. Twinkle have been performing on the international circuit of festivals for the past ten years, the festivals seem to be evolving into bigger events every year.
Grant said “it is nice to do an event like this evening at the Drum it’s more personal so we can get closer to the people”. Grant was looking forward to doing other stuff apart from the hits. He said “I know de musics been playing cos like there’s lots of sound systems round these parts that’s heavy weight that play roots cos twinkle brothers plays roots reggae. We are still underground in comparison to other major players in the industry”. “The way I put music out I put the message out weather the thing sell or not because in the long run it will sell, some songs take longer to sell than others. I’m not in it for the quick fix”.
So you’re really in it for the love of the music. “Really that’s how we started out. I haven’t done any other job all my life so it is also my business you know. I’ve been paid to sing since I was ten. We started out singing in competitions in 1962, when Jamaica got its independence. These competitions were called Pop and Mento festival and we represented our parish. We won gold as solo artist and as a group we won gold medals from 1962 to 69” .That puts you on 4 decades in the industry. “I think I was doing it before that in the hotels with different bands. I think all these things help me with my melodies and to write my own songs, because a lot of people use other people’s melodies without even knowing it."
Your style of music is Shaka style - that heavy rootsy style. "Well Shaka style of music was around before Shaka" is what Grant was trying to tell me without taking back anything from Jah Shaka sound system. " I made my first record for Beverly's in 1964 - you know Lesley Kong”. Now there’s a man I'd like to meet.
Grant went on and listed some of the artists that worked with Kong. He also says that once you find your own style of music you will stick with it. Sometimes you got to create a style but mostly you just go with it. I asked if Ralston brings the American influence in to the songs and Grant said “no not really because I do most of the writing. Once you have that style you want be influenced by other things. Once you create a market your fans expect you to do it. If you switch you’ll lose your fans.
Talking about albums Grant filled me in with more datails of his career. What’s your label called now because I’m thinking Rasta Pon Top? "Its Twinkle. The first album out was, 'Rasta pon top it' was put out on the Grounation label in 1974 that’s when I first came to England. We were working with Bunny Lee in 1971 even Lee 'Scratch' Perry. We did some songs for Dynamics. We were doing it even without thinking about the money. We had to rehearse because even if it was only one track we had to do it in one take. You do what you have to do”.
We talked about music and the youth of today and I said how some of the youths of today’s easy come easy go world think they don’t have to work and everything will be dropped in there laps. ”if you check out the biographies of these stars you will see just how hard they do work." Grant went on to say that he worked with all the new reggae artists coming out of Jamaica and where ever else they come from to do the reggae festivals, but one artist he calls by name is Fantom Mojah. This was the very same artist that Gramps from Morgan Heritage came up with when I asked what artist you rate that is coming out right now. I know a lot of DJ’s that rate Mojah as a good up and coming artist. Grant also named artists like Aisha who has a new album out on Ariwa music on Mad Professor’s Ariwa label. "The album is the best I’ve ever heard from Aisha, I love it - she has defiantly grown.
Rebecca, Alison, KD Levi & Steve Santana are some of the artist that Twinkle brothers have out all over the world. Grant said, “I often drop in the local record shop to listen to what is out. With my music as soon as I got 14 tracks mastered I put it out but I also put out 7” and 12” There’s always stuff out there for the crowd that support Twinkle."
We talked about what is out there and Grant said “the DJ thing has run its cause. Back in the old days we used tell the artist that couldn’t sing, You cant sing that’s why them become DJ’s or sing jay’s” That’s the good thing about reggae it takes you so many ways because all over the world there are reggae communities. All I try to do is do my thing I don’t see myself as changing but every day I grow”.
Twinkles advice for you is “remember there is not just one type of people in this world, it’s a melting pot so people have to learn to live with one another, with your neighbours and brothers and sisters. I’m into peace and love in my lyrics. Even when I sing reality I have to remember that lots of people are listening to the music. I sing about how I feel and you must remember that you can get three different meanings from one lyric. Music can influence people so I always try to remember that because as a singer you got to be diplomatic, not like a politician or a preacher, but you still have to know how to get your message across, yah know’ them say Soft answer turneth away wrath’ it’s just how you deliver it. Right now we are living in an aggressive time even the leaders when they give a speech they are aggressive in there speech and the preacher is rar rar in his sermon." Grant roared like a lion. He’s telling us we are here on borrowed times. "Well really we need more love and love haffi share. Yes and really only the rasta man preach peace and love all dis time”. What is your next project after this? "I’m off to Jamaica to recharge my batteries but I will be back to do some dates in Italy then ill be back in England for Christmas."
Final word from Grant “Rasta pon top the wicked a go drop”.
© Jayne Jay 2005