Reggae cruise boasts large numbers, great music, satisfied patrons

Damian "Junior Gong" Marley participated on the Welcome to Jamrock Cruise that showcased Jamaica's beauty and culture.

Damian “Junior Gong” Marley participated on the Welcome To Jamrock Cruise that showcased Jamaica’s beauty and culture.

By Tiffany Mea

The first annual Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise broke new ground by captivating nearly 2,400 passengers with an entire week of authentic reggae experiences aboard the Norwegian Pearl ship. The cruise, which set sail from Miami on October 20, with stops in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, before its October 25 return, sold out within one month after it was announced. People came from all over the world. Even though the ship embarked from the United States, 44 percent of the passengers were international, representing almost 50 different countries.

“There was such a unique blend of people. It meant a lot to see the music bring unity between such a diverse group of people,” said Damian Marley.

Iconic movies such as "The Harder They Come," starring Jimmy Cliff, were among the cruise's offerings.

Iconic movies such as “The Harder They Come,” starring Jimmy Cliff, were among the cruise’s offerings.

Filled with jaw-dropping performances from reggae’s top artists to legendary jam sessions from world-renowned DJs and sound systems, Jamaican music was celebrated on every spectrum. From themed movie selections such as “Dancehall Queen,” “The Harder They Come” and “Third World Cop,” to pick-up soccer games and  poolside jerk chicken, the Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise gave passengers a slice of the island’s culture every day.

Sean Paul was one of the many musical performers on the cruise.

Sean Paul was one of the many musical performers on the cruise.

“Nothing like this has ever been done on this scale in the reggae genre. Never before, have you been able to see legends of this level touch the stage for five straight days in such a contained intimate setting. One minute you are eating breakfast next to Sean Paul, then watching a soccer game with Christopher Ellis and Wayne Marshall. Later in the night, you are witnessing a 2-hour set from Bounty Killer, then an historical session with King Jammy’s, Shinehead and Damian Marley at 4 a.m. This is the only place to create these type of vibes, period,” said cruiser Maya Mitte.

Musical performers included Busy Signal.

Musical performers included Busy Signal.

On the main stage, Damian, Julian and Stephen represented the Marley family, as well as their label Ghetto Youths International, with solo performances from the entire crew including Jo Mersa, Wayne Marshall, Christopher Ellis and Black-Am-I. There were more live sets from legendary bands like the Wailing Souls and Morgan Heritage. Also, international, multi-platinum pop stars like Shaggy and Sean Paul, roots reggae singers like Etana, Jah Cure and Tarrus Riley and dancehall’s biggest names like Busy Signal, Bounty Killer and Cham performed. On the last night, not even the rain could stop the vibes. Stephen “Ragga” Marley continued his set inside the Atrium and brought out all the artists still on the ship for a 3-hour freestyle session, arguably one of the most epic performances in the history of reggae.

Inspiring, conscious band Morgan Heritage, showcased their musical chops on the cruise.

Inspiring, conscious band Morgan Heritage, showcased their musical chops on the cruise.

Whether patrons wanted to hear dub, ’90s dancehall, roots or today’s hits, there was something for everyone from sunrise to sunset at the various clubs and stages on board and even on-land in Jamaica. Hailing from across the globe: London’s David Rodigan, Japan’s Mighty Crown, Los Angeles’ Dub Club, and Jamaica’s own Stone Love, Renaissance and King Jammy’s were some of the renowned sound systems and DJs that took over the decks throughout the night.

Legendary sound system, Stone Love, shared the stage to add another level of merriment to the cruise.

Legendary sound system, Stone Love, shared the stage to add another level of merriment to the cruise.

Those who stayed up after midnight witnessed rare jam sessions with surprise performances from some of the artists on deck. Click the link below to see what transpired on the 5-day voyage: information on the 2015 Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise, please visit

Happy 52nd Independence Day Jamaica, land we love!

Jubilant crowd at previous Jamaica Independence celebration at National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.

Jubilant crowd at previous Jamaica Independence celebration at National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.

By Carmen Glover

Kingston, Jamaica: On August 6, the picturesque island of Jamaica, known for late reggae icon Robert (Bob) Nesta Marley, delicious food, a lilting Caribbean accent and a cadre of fiercely proud and ambitious nationals, celebrates 52 years since the country gained it’s independence from the United Kingdom.

Jamaica's Prime Minister Hon. Portia Simpson Miller.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Hon. Portia Simpson Miller.

The feeling of pride that infuses the hearts of Jamaicans at this time of the year is boundless. Many nationals, myself included, have flocked to the island to enjoy the Independence galas, festival song contest and other entertainment activities among family and friends.

Jamaica's Minister of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change Hon. Robert Dixon Pickersgill.

Jamaica’s Minister of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change Hon. Robert Dixon Pickersgill.

Jamaica has nurtured sons and daughters who have excelled on the national and international stage in just about every professional category imaginable. Among the Jamaican stalwarts who inspire a devoted following and interest in the country are former U.S.A. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Colin Powell; Charlotte Hornets Assistant Head Coach and former Knick center Patrick Ewing; track stars Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

NBA Hall of Fame Center and current Charlotte Hornets Assistant Head Coach Patrick Ewing.

NBA Hall of Fame Center and current Charlotte Hornets Assistant Head Coach Patrick Ewing.

Additionally, there is U.S.A.‎ Ambassador Susan Rice who boasts Jamaican heritage through her grandparents; entertainers and activists Sheryl Lee Ralph and Harry Belafonte; musicians Shaggy and Sean Paul and many more who span the professional spectrum.

Ambassador Susan Rice is the United States National Security Advisor.

Ambassador Susan Rice is the United States National Security Advisor.

While Jamaicans have a proud history of achievements, the country still has areas that need to be addressed in order to push the island forward to sustained growth and stability. For instance, the tendency that has recently been embraced of selling off national businesses to foreign investors is distressing and does not bode well for the nation.

Jamaican Independence postage stamp from 1962.

Jamaica Independence postage stamp from 1962.

Also, the incidence of crime, an issue which has plagued the island for decades, needs a feasible solution. The fact that the country is experiencing a drought since May, prompting the imposition of a water restriction by Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill, dampens the spirit a bit.

2013 World Athlete of the Year Award winners Usain Bolt (l) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (r).

2013 World Athlete of the Year Award winners Usain Bolt (l) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (r).

Nevertheless, these are exciting times for Jamaica as it ‎celebrates 52 years as an independent nation. The country’s motto “Out of Many, One People,” resonates deeply as the genuine warmth and passion of Jamaicans shine through from the moment a visitor or returning native lands on Jamaican soil.

Popular reggae singer and Grammy Award winner Shaggy is actively involved in social issues in Jamaica.

Popular reggae singer and Grammy Award winner Shaggy is actively involved in social issues in Jamaica.

In my case, being here for the Independence celebrations after a long time away evokes a flood of pleasant memories of a carefree childhood filled with summer excursions to the beach in Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. As I retrace those steps with my family, I am grateful to be home and proud as ever of my rich heritage. Happy Birthday Jamaica, land we love!–

Maxi Priest thrills, enchants in SiriusXM listening party



Maxi Priest thrills guests at listening party at SiriusXM for his new album Easy To Love

By Carmen Glover

Sensuous, charming, talented reggae star Maxi Priest had the audience eating out of his hands when he put on a dazzling, yet intimate performance at SiriusXM studios in Manhattan on Wednesday night to give a preview of his latest album, Easy To Love.


Maxi Priest and DJ Face rock the audience on the sound system.

The event was hosted by veteran Caribbean-born journalist Pat McKay, whose program on SirusXM is called “The Joint.”  Reggae music powerhouse VP Records and the Jamaica Tourist Board sponsored the exclusive event. DJ Face spun music to keep the crowd entertained prior to Priest taking the stage. But once the reggae icon made his appearance the crowd was enthralled, listening raptly, nodding in agreement, asking questions and sharing feedback, as he talked about his musical influences and gave context to his diverse, richly textured background, interspersed with him crooning songs from the new album.


Maxi Priest is joined by Actor/Singer Leon and Pat McKay of SiriusXM’s The Joint.

“I want to give thanks to God and all the West Indians out there,” Priest said after specifically acknowledging the Jamaicans in the audience. “Tonight is a musical experience. We own this culture and we have to bring it together and keep it together,” he said, imploring the media to continue promoting reggae music. At McKay’s urging, Priest shared details about his early roots in sound systems. “As a kid I used to run around with a sound system, vibing on the microphone,” he said. “I was the hype man and the singer and I also used to build them, then I progressed to working in the studios.”


Maxi Priest poses with a guest at his listening party.

Describing his musical influences, Priest did not hold back. “I grew up with Dennis Brown and Burning Spear. My heart goes out to Dennis Brown,” he said, before launching into one of the late reggae legend’s hits Should I, as the guests sang along and applauded.  Priest also said that Bob Marley was one of his early influences as well. “When I came into this business I was influenced by Bob,” he said, but he explained that Brown taught him early to “sing for the girls,” advice that he took to heart. Priest talked about the perks of being a musician and he proudly called himself “a lover’s man. I make love, that’s what I do,” he said, as laughter erupted.


Maxi Priest provided insight into his background at listening party for Easy To Love.

Priest explained that Easy To Love features solid collaborations. “I’ve been fortunate to have worked with Beres Hammond over the years and it was actually him who inspired this album. He kept saying: ‘You should do something with VP’ and I want to big up VP. That’s the foundation that’s left of our music,” he said as the guests echoed their agreement.

“This album will come out the beginning of June,” Priest said of Easy To Love, mentioning some of the producers who worked on the album, including legendary duo Sly & Robbie. Priest performed three of the songs from the album, title track Easy To Love, Loving You Is Easy, and Without A Woman, his duet with Hammond. Mckay coaxed Priest to share his views about his childhood and the role of music in the world.

Maxi Priest

Maxi Priest’s latest album, Easy To Love.

“Love and music bring people together,” he said. “Growing up my challenges were facing responsibilities, making definite decisions and sticking to them. I love this industry. I’ve been blessed to do what I’m doing and to travel. ”

Singer/actor Leon came by as the event was winding down, interacting with Priest before posing for pictures with guests. Priest also introduced his adult son and spoke about health concerns of his newborn daughter. Priest spoke glowingly about a recent Caribbean concert he had with longtime reggae singer Super Cat and expressed hope that music produced by Grammy-winner Shaggy, on his behalf, will eventually see the light of day. Easy to Love will be released in early June and Priest will perform at BB King’s Club in Manhattan on Wednesday, June 11. –

Please follow us on Twitter @OnPointPress_.

Gifted musician Paul Kastick mentors, develops new singers

imageBy Carmen Glover

The picturesque beauty of the island paradise of Jamaica has nourished, soothed and nurtured many illustrious talents who have dominated on the world stage. From track stars Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce who were named 2013 World Athletes of the Year, to intellectuals spanning many fields, and recent season five winner of “The Voice” Tessanne Chin, Jamaica can effortlessly stake its claim on the diverse talents of its sons and daughters.

Tessanne with her producer Paul Kastick of Groove Galore Muziq and Big Mountain band.

“The Voice’s” Season Five Winner Tessanne Chin with her producer Paul Kastick of Groove Galore Muziq Productions and Big Mountain Band. Kastick and fellow producer Rudy Valentino produced her hit “Hideaway.”

Paul Kastick, an extraordinarily gifted musician who, with fellow musician Rudy Valentino, produced Chin’s resurgent hit “Hideaway,” is poised to dominate 2014 with his diverse skills of producing beautiful music while developing a new crop of singing sensations. Kastick has toured or played on the same shows with some of the elite names in the reggae industry including the 809 Band, Shaggy, Maxi Priest, Diana King, Steel Pulse and Ky-Mani Marley. As CEO of Groove Galore Muziq Productions and a member of Big Mountain Band, Kastick proudly points to his Jamaican roots and his early musical influences as the reasons for his stellar successes professionally and his profound determination to develop new musicians in 2014 and beyond.

Paul Kastick enjoys a light moment backstage with Shaggy.

Paul Kastick enjoys a light moment backstage with Shaggy at New York’s Barclays Center in 2012.

“When I was ten, growing up in Montego Bay, Jamaica, we used to have two marching bands: Montego Bay Boys Club and Tyson. It used to be mesmerizing to me to hear the marching bands coming through,” Kastick said reflectively, while musing about his childhood. “You would drop everything you were doing and just stare. I had an obsession with the bands and seeing the guy throw the drum sticks up in the air.”

Kastick explained how he would walk along the path on his way home from school and peek in on the Boys Club practice sessions. “When I saw a brown-skinned guy, Carlos Gonzalez, playing the drums, I said to myself: ‘He’s good. I could do that one day,'” Kastick recalled. He took his childhood dreams to heart and quickly began to play in his high school band, although he recalled that the band only played “orchestra music” at the time, requiring him to learn to “read music.”

Paul Kastick doing what he loves most, playing the drums.

Paul Kastick doing what he loves most, playing the drums.

Honing his talent while passing time at his late mother’s store, Kastick said he would watch as various bands rehearsed nearby.

“I didn’t have a drum set at the time so I would play on my legs and in the air,” he said, laughing at the fond memories evoked by the imagery. “In 1982 my uncle went to New York for the first time and he came back with a video of MTV Top 40 Countdown. I saw Van Halen, Hall & Oates and the rock music brought out something in me. I started to get obsessed with the music,” Kastick recalled. “The defining moment for me was in 1983 when I joined with Benjy Myaz and we began to learn more about music. Shortly afterwards, Chalice’s album ‘Blasted’ with the hit single ‘Good to be There’ came out and the group’s drummer, Desi Jones, revolutionized the music,” he added.

New York based singer Faraji, is another singer whose upcoming album is being produced by Paul Kastick.

New York based singer Faraji is another intriguingly exciting singer whose upcoming album is being produced by Paul Kastick, who has a knack for producing memorable hits.

As Kastick matured, opportunities opened up to him and he landed a job as the drummer for the in-house band at Seawind Resort in Montego Bay. Throughout the tourist mecca, it was the norm to see Kastick, with his music bag slung casually over his shoulder, clicking his drum sticks in the air or randomly on cans and other surfaces, happily practicing notes only known to him, while residents and tourists simply stared and wondered: Who is that guy?. Kastick was caught up in his own musical realm, visualizing music’s vast terrain, while occasionally indulging in non-music related talk. His immense joy at being around music and being able to live out his passion daily was infectious. Music, unquestionably, was his life.

Belinda, who had a hit single in 1991, is working with Paul Kastick on her upcoming album.

Belinda Brady, who sang backup for Shaggy in the past, is working with Paul Kastick on her upcoming album.

For years, Kastick’s warm-up song was the sweet strains of Priest’s “Wild World,” though as a young man starting out in music, meeting Priest seemed like a far-fetched dream. But Kastick said he looked up one day while rehearsing with 809 Band at 2B Grove Road in Kingston, Jamaica, and saw Priest watching from the door.

“I could not believe it,” Kastick said emphatically, relishing the memory even decades later. A bond easily developed between the two musicians and Kastick has been touring with Priest since 2000.

Priest, who said he considers Kastick “a friend and co-writer,” describes him as “one of Jamaica’s all time greatest drummers both live, and in studio.” In an indication of Kastick’s life coming full circle. Priest, who Kastick admired so much as a young man, said that Kastick is “a true pioneer and I’m honored to have him as family, a member of my band, and a creative entity in my music.”

But it took Kastick many years before he got to the point of touring with mega-stars, running his own music company and producing work for fledgling singers.

Paul Kastick, (second from left) with the members of Big Mountain band.

Paul Kastick, (second from left) with the members of Big Mountain Band.

“In 1985 cabaret singer Dennis Malcolm came to me and Benjy to do a reggae cover version of Brook Benton’s “I Love You in So Many Ways,” Kastick said of the period shortly after he began to work at Seawind Resort. “Dennis was the first person who took us into the studio. I always thought that Benjy and I would be like the great Sly & Robbie team.” But their lives took different paths and in 1989 Kastick auditioned for 809 Band. “Four months later I got a message from 809 to come to Kingston on July 26, 1989 and by that time the Seawind Band was getting lots of attention,” he recalled.

Paul Kastick at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles, California, working with his Big Mountain band members.

Paul Kastick at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles, California, working with his Big Mountain band members.

Kastick’s involvement with the 809 Band led to an exhilarating journey during which he traveled regularly to Japan for the Japan Splash musical extravaganza, where he garnered attention for his talents but most importantly, cemented a loving, supportive and strong relationship with 809 saxophonist Dean Fraser.

“Dean was like a father to me,” said Kastick, who has never met his father. As a father himself, Kastick realizes the important roles fathers play in children’s lives. “When I had off days and would travel to see my girlfriend at the time, Kathy Williams, Dean was the one driving me to see her,” he said. The 809 Band is a highly respected band in reggae music and stars such as Luciano, Sizzla and a host of others have had hits produced by former members of the band.

Paul Kastick is lost in his private thoughts, as he ponders what's involved in producing new hits for his singers.

Paul Kastick is lost in his private thoughts, as he ponders what’s involved in producing new hits for his singers.

As the need for large bands waned in the mid-nineties, Kastick shifted his focus to diversify his opportunities by accepting an offer to tour with Diana King in 1995. He then joined Shaggy on tour in 1996, after first meeting him in 1993 when he played with the 809 Band at the Japan Splash and the band backed Shaggy, Gregory Isaacs and Buju Banton.

“In 1995 Shaggy came back with “Bombastic” but we were on tour in Trinidad with Beres Hammond and Shabba so we were unavailable to tour with him, but the night when Shaggy won the Grammy for “Bombastic” his manager called me and said they wanted to change their band and they wanted me, Michael Fletcher and Christopher Birch to join them,” he said.

After rehearsing for a week in Jamaica in 1996, Kastick and the rest of the band went on world tour with Shaggy, visiting South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Poland, Beirut, Lebanon; Belgium and Germany, among others. He recalled that the South African stop was the most memorable.

“The tour was two years after Nelson Mandela came to Jamaica and I played for him,” Kastick said. “When I landed in Johannesburg I felt like I was coming home to my roots. Maybe it was subliminal based on the history of apartheid.”

Paul Kastick gives his all in his performance.

Paul Kastick savors the power of the music and its impact in transforming the lives of music lovers across the globe as he renders yet another solid performance.

Kastick toured with Shaggy extensively until 1998 on the “Spirit of Unity Tour,” featuring Shaggy, Buju Banton, Steel Pulse, Beres Hammond and Lucky Dube. The tour was a summer tour in the U.S, and it ended in Hawaii. At the end of the tour, Kastick accepted an offer from Big Mountain Band.

“The manager of the band, who I knew from before, called to say the band needed a new drummer to build something solid,” he said of the transition. Joaquin “Quino” McWhinney, lead singer of Big Mountain Band, remembers observing Kastick in 1997 while on a European tour in Amsterdam during the period when Kastick was playing drums for Shaggy.

“We were sound checking at the Milky Way music club when I noticed Paul standing in the middle of the dance hall with his arms crossed, studying us intently,” McWhinney said, while adding that over the past 16 years “Paul became my close friend and partner.” Straddling a blend of reggae that incorporates a variety of styles, McWhinney explained that “Big Mountain is committed to create a sound that does not exclude any racial or cultural community and Paul brought to Big Mountain an extensive array of experiences in reggae music but he also taught us not to be afraid of our American roots.”

Kastick’s decision to accept the offer to join Big Mountain Band changed the trajectory of his career and led him to  producing, which allows him to expand his repertoire by working with new singers to help shape their careers. As Chin basks in the success of winning “The Voice” and continues to enjoy success from the Kastick/Valentino produced hit “Hideaway,’ Kastick is firmly focused on developing two singers who have enjoyed modest acclaim on their own: Belinda Brady and Faraji.

Paul Kastick shows that deep concentrating is necessary for a great show.

Paul Kastick shows that deep concentration is necessary for a great show.

“Belinda used to sing background for Shaggy in 1995 and she is Jamaican with Canadian heritage,” Kastick explained. “She sings big and powerful like Tessanne and she called me after she heard ‘Hideaway’ to discuss working together,” he said.

Although Kastick is producing an album for Brady, she is also working with Sly & Robbie and Tony Kelly as well. Faraji, on the other hand, whose style is of the soul reggae alternative genre, with songs such as “Come Again” and Sensimellia Love,” has a different connection with Kastick.

“Faraji is like a brother to me while Belinda is a friend that I linked up with,” Kastic said. However, one thing is clear: He is fiercely committed to both singers. “I am fully vested in them,” he said firmly, emphasizing his laser-like focus on solidifying the singers’ respective careers.

Kastick also works with Dorrett Wisdom (Dwisdom), who, he said, “In 1991 she had the hit single ‘First Real Love,’ which was produced by Willie Stewart of the group Third World. Dwisdom has been singing backup over the past 15 years for Beres Hammond and touring with him. She is working on her second album with Harmony House and Kastick is producing a remake of her 1991 hit “First Real Love.”

The music has captured Paul Kastick's body, mind and soul as he gives it his all.

The music has captured Paul Kastick’s body, mind and soul as he gives it his all.

King, who fondly refers to Kastick as “Styk,” said she “cannot imagine being without him.” She speaks highly of the 20 years that she has been working with the gifted musician and is rueful that he doesn’t have “a few clones” due to the intense demand for his indomitable musical skills. “Not only is he super talented as a live drummer and musical director on stage, he is just as talented and innovative in the studio when it comes to drum programming and producing,” she explained. “He’s on top of his game in every way.”

King expressed admiration for Kastick’s tendency to keep current with technology and musical trends while retaining his passion for musical excellence. “He isn’t afraid to say exactly what he thinks because he believes in the integrity of the music, which is why all the top international Jamaican artists’ first choice to work with is Paul.”

Kastick sees great things ahead for both of his singers as he works diligently to expand their musical reach and expose them to a wider audience. At the same time, Kastick is committed to continuing to tour with Priest, producing sweet music with Big Mountain Band, accepting other musical engagements and spending quality time with his family.

Gonzalez, who used to play drums with the Boys Club Band and whose late father was a saxophonist from Puerto Rico, was surprised when he learned that Kastick used to watch him play in their shared hometown of Montego Bay.

“That makes me feel good that I was like a role model to him and I’m happy that Paul went on to follow his dreams and do well,” he said. Gonzalez, who is no longer involved in music and resides in Toronto, Canada, said: “It just goes to show that you should never give up on your dreams.”

Paul Kastick and the members of Big Mountain Band rehearsing.

Paul Kastick and the members of Big Mountain Band having fun while rehearsing.

McWhinney agrees with that sentiment wholeheartedly and credits Kastick with helping him embrace the full scope of his dreams.

“Paul encouraged me to be myself and not try to copy Jamaican reggae. He encouraged me to reach deep into my experiences in life. I can’t stress enough how important it was for me to understand that,” he said. Savoring the richness of their close bond, McWhinney is pleased that as Big Mountain Band returns to the studio to record an album after a long break it will be with Kastick’s involvement.

“I’m so proud and happy to have my brother Paul by my side,” he said. “Paul Kastick is one of those rare examples of talent, professionalism and sincere heart that keeps reggae music alive and well in 2014.” Infused by the comfort of Kastick’s presence for the next phase of the band’s journey he added: “Big Mountain is back.. Big Time….” Undoubtedly, Kastick, who is described by Priest as an “amazingly versatile musician,” would agree.

The sky is the limit for Kastick as the New Year unfolds and his musical expertise expands. it seems that his work ethic will continue to be his strongest asset.

“Paul takes his work very serious: Always organized, early for work, the first in rehearsals, the last to leave, and enthusiastic when touring,” said Priest.

As Kastick continues to demonstrate his highly developed sense of professionalism while thrilling audiences with his vast skills, the world of music will continue to celebrate his tableau of musical passion, genius and excitement, mixed with a spirit of collaboration, all honed and nurtured on the breathtakingly beautiful island of Jamaica, where he grew up and still calls home.–

Please follow us on Twitter @OnPointPress_.