French-based reggae singer Winston McAnuff starts A New Day
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Jamaican reggae artist Winston McAnuff has joined forces with French musician and accordion player Fixi on the album A New Day. His experience of personal tragedy has made him keen to protest at evil and boost "gross national happiness".
McAnuff, known affectionately as "Electric Dread" for his energetic stage performances, has been in France for the last 13 years. He’s found an appreciative public here and a host of musicians interested in exploring uncharted musical waters.
Winston McAnuff sings "Let him go" live in RFI studio
A New Day marks the second chapter in this exciting and original collaboration.
“Many things we do have never been done before,” says McAnuff. “Like a Jamaican singing on an accordion. You don’t really find that.”
The duo wanted the album to have a wide spectrum of music.
McAnuff has composed on Fixi’s music: Jamaican calypso, maloya from Réunion Island, but also Afrobeat from Nigeria and Brazilian and Colombian beats as on the lilting, upbeat Garden of Love.
The song You and I has a strong Afrobeat bed, driven along by Fela Kuti's former drummer Tony Allen on percussion.
But singing on the 6/8 Maloya rhythms of the song One Two Three was a big challenge, admits McAnuff.
“It’s out of the box,” he says. “It’s different timing from what we sing in the West. We do 4/4. Reggae is 4/4. Even Fela Kuti was doing 4/4.”
They pulled off the exercise well.
“We have to try and find some gold for the listeners,” McAnuff says. “And nothing comes easy.”
Only one of the songs on the album, I’m a rebel, is pure reggae.
“But you don’t need much positive to cancel a lot of negative,” says the 55-year old Jamaican dandy.
He says reggae might not be rebellious music as such but it is still the voice of protest.
“It protests against the evil systems. Whether in low or high places.”
And in their own way Winston & Fixi are rebelling.
“We’re rebels musically because the genres we do is a reflection of that.”
While some songs like Johnny and Let him go are very socially aware, the latter pleading for police to give youths in the ghettos a second chance, the album has an upbeat feel overall.
And this despite, or perhaps because of, McAnuff’s own recent personal history.
He lost his young son Matthew in a gun shootout in Jamaica last year.
The opening song Garden of Love is about planting seeds of love he says.
“We say when you plant food it’s like printing money. So imagine when you’re planting love.”
For McAnuff the album A New Day is all about Gross National Happiness – GNH instead of GNP.
“We’re trying to create some gross national happiness. If the people are happy then the government will be. And if the community is happy maybe that energy will go to the world.”
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