Indisputably, It’s going to be a massive, phenomenal and historic and a once in a lifetime music showcase worth every ‘Tambala’ and there is no doubt about that. They are here on a mission; to musically conquer the land of their ancestors – the motherland – Africa with nothing but strictly roots.
They’re arguably the current biggest and best-known reggae outfit across the globe with many years in the game and a sparkling reputation for dropping a host of soul-soothing, heart-melting tunes and dance-floor reggae jam-rock fillers at club nights up and down the world.
Aptly, they are dubbed the ‘Royal Family of Reggae’ and with more than two decades in the business Morgan Heritage have definitely earned their crowns.
Still, the deservedly much-loved quintet, who will be performing for the first time in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe this Sunday, January 27th 2015, have never been a band to rest on their laurels and Malawians will have surely have a good run for their hard earned money.
The world’s mega reggae band, Morgan Heritage, a music group of five Jamaican family members who were born and raised in New York, USA is always ever ready to push themselves beyond the frontiers is comprised of arty siblings Peetah, Una, Roy (known as Gramps) Nakhamyah (known as Lukes) and Memmalatel (known as Mojo) Morgan will without an iota of doubt give Malawian music lovers a special treat of a lifetime.
Spurred by their desire to conquer the motherland, the African continent, Morgan Heritage who recently released their new album, ‘Strictly Roots’ their first independently released record are poised to give it all to their Malawian fans as they kick-start their ‘Strictly Roots’ world tour of the African music sojourn in the southern African country, the Warm of Africa.
“The message is same. We will rock Malawi to the very core. We will give them nothing but the best. That is what and who we are. We aim to satisfy our fans and we are very excited to have gone back to our roots, the motherland to play music for our brethren,” Lukes told Nyasa Times in an exclusive in an exclusive interview.
“We are on a world tour promoting our new album, Strictly Roots. We are very excited to be going to Malawi for the show and we promise Malawians a good time. Everything is all set and it looks good,” added Lukes.
The Malawi show is way cheaper compared to what Morgan Heritage charges in other countries, for instance the Lilongwe show’s cover charge for a standard ticket is K10, 000.00 (approximately £10 in the UK and approximately $14 in the US but when holding shows in other countries Morgan Heritage pegs its standard tickets at £40 for a standard ticket or $50.
Asked what’s the message all about in the new album, Lukes said that the message in the new album is the same – everything about life and living – saying Morgan Heritage sings about life in general.
Said Lukes: “The message of our new and first self-produced album, ‘Strictly Roots’ album is the same – we will always be who we are – the messengers of truth.”
“In our new album, you’ll always get everything, the love songs, the political songs and the songs that look at social and societal issues. But in all our years of putting out music, this is our fully independent record and that is why this one is very special,” he added.
Put to him if this means that Morgan Heritage has permanently parted ways with their long time record label, VP records Lukes was coy to divulge the truth and was diplomatic enough not explain clearly exactly what is going on between them and their long-time label VP records .
“No man, us and VP are still good friends. We still do business together on other projects,” he assured. “But as you grow in the industry, you want to try new things, so this time around we decided that that we wanted to be the musicians, the producers, the executive producers and all of it. It was a new experience but we wanted that notch on our belts.”
“The pro of doing things independently is that you have lot more control in terms of implementing what you believe in. We didn’t have to go to a label to try and convince them to see things our way. The con is it was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it,” added Lukes.
Having found success by fusing roots reggae with R&B, Hip Hop, old school gospel and touches of rock – and with the band being equally skilled at delivering love songs as they are in providing social commentary – Morgan Heritage have established themselves as one of reggae’s most consistent and hard working acts.
And with reggae classics like Down by the River, Tell me how come, She is still loving me, and Don’t Haffi Dread among many others under their belts, they have earned a loyal fan base throughout the world.
But even more important than their professional connection, like Malawi’s successful reggae group, Chileka based Black Missionaries who will curtain raise the Jamaicans in New York reggae band at Silver Stadium alongside Soul Raiders Band, is their family tie.
The children of a reverend and gospel reggae artist Denroy Heritage, Morgan Heritage who will be playing in Malawi courtesy of a Malawian music promoter, Born African, reveals that they work hard to keep personal and professional matters separate.
“The way we were raised was to always work out a problem,” says Lukes. “So, we always try to find the common ground in everything. It can be hard because we are siblings so there are emotions involved. But at the end of the day you have to know how to separate business from everything else.”
So it’s perhaps no surprise that Lukes cites the band’s togetherness as their proudest achievement.
“Being together and sticking together as a family is a big challenge but we’ve done it for so many years and I am proud of that,” said Lukes.
‘Jamaicans in New York’
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the influences of their American surroundings, coupled with their parents’ strong Jamaican culture, shaped them both musically and as individuals.
The band references their dual heritage in the aptly titled song Brooklyn and Jamaica in which they sing about their knowledge of both places.
Reflecting on their upbringing, Lukes says: “I think we feel more Jamaican than American because of the way our parents raised us. Even though we were born and bred in America, we grew up knowing Jamaican roots and culture.
“In the home, we would only speak Patois and at school we would speak English. So even though we didn’t grow up in Jamaica, we didn’t miss it because our parents did a great job of instilling our heritage in us. We felt every bit of Jamaica from within,” he said.
Additionally, the parents of the members of the band brought a very Caribbean practice to their New York home.
“Growing up, we had chickens in our backyard that would wake up the whole neighbourhood. We were typical Jamaicans but only living not in Jamaica but in New York and that was pretty cool,” explained Lukes.
“I am sure some of the kids in the neighbourhood found it strange, but most liked to come over for food especially for food. They loved the Jamaican food.”
But aside from producing the sweet Jamaican food – and the noisy chickens – the siblings’ home was a hub for music. So it’s perhaps no wonder the five siblings followed in their father’s footsteps as they say that the ‘apple does not fall too far from the tree.’
And of course, each member of the Morgan Heritage has their own skill from Peetah’s smooth voice to Gramps’ unmistakable gruff vocals – and frequent delivery of his catchphrase ‘rockers’ – each of them has their own distinct part to play in the band.
Each member brings a different element; that’s what makes the group special. Lukes plays the Rhythm and is the band’s artistic manager while Peetah is a brilliant song writer as is Gramps and both are singers. Gramps’ deep tone really complements Peetah’s high pitched vocals.
Una, the only female member in the band, their sister, brings a female flavour through her vocals and Mojo brings the hip hop and rock elements.
With Una who also plays the keyboards, being the only band’s female member, are her brothers extra protective of her?
“Oh yes! Absolutely. She is our prized jewel and she is our everything. So we have to be extra protective towards her. It is our responsibility as it is our duty to entertain our esteemed fans,” said Lukes in a matter of fact tone.
Lukes promises fireworks and warns Malawians and all the music lovers to be ready for the explosion.
“We are ready to rock Malawi to the core with reggae vibes. Our fans means a lot to us and we always strive to give them all. It will be a blast,” declared Lukes.