In PART III of our USUAL SUSPECTS feature, legendary JBC broadcaster and MIDNIGHT RAVER contributor Dermot Hussey sits down with longtime friend Sly Dunbar to discuss Bitty McLean’s TAXI SESSIONS album.
Many thanks to Dermot for his help with the feature.
DH: Sly Dunbar! When did you start working with Bitty McLean?
SD: “When did I start working with Bitty? I start working with Bitty, lets see, we met through Ali Campbell of UB40. He used to live in Jamaica and they had that studio by St. Mary’s. I met him again when we were in England playing live in-studio, a thing that was broadcast to live radio. He is the kind of person who loves the music very much and he keep up to date with everything and he knows the riddim that he wants. He then hooked up with Guillaume Bougard and they became tight.”
DH: What is it like to work with Bitty, a singer who is an engineer as well, someone who has other talents as well?
SD: “Well to work with him it mek easier because, you now, he travels with his own microphone and…he’s not really a perfectionist but someone who goes with the riddim and the groove and the elements.”
DH: What potential do you see for him?
SD: “For Bitty? Well the sky is the limit, he has such great potential.”
DH: How do you select which artists to work with or is it just a spontaneous thing?
SD: “Well sometimes it is spontaneous but not always. That makes it kind of hard because some young, inexperienced artists you have to help teach them and bring them along. But an artist like Bitty McLean who has been there, you know, it makes it a little bit easier to find what you want to get from him and what he wants to get from you and you communicate and compromise and put it together and make it work.”
DH: Are there any emerging artists that you see on the horizon that you might like to work with?
SD: “There are a lot of young artists in Jamaica right now who are singing reggae. A lot of local artists with great potential. Just give them a good riddim to sing on…it could work you know. A production outfit to look after them and guide them. Like Bunny Brown and a few others come around like Daniel the DJ. I think you know.”
DH: The Taxi Sound in the 1980s and the Taxi Sound today…what would be the significant difference if any?
SD: “There is a difference, the real difference, it just, you know just like people like you who play it pon the radio, you just have to put the groove in the right place. The main thing is the groove, you know…keep people dancing…dance music for everybody so they can forget their troubles. Back then when the sound was like, it wasn’t really dancehall, to the music they play in the dancehall, and then to the dancehall where the deejay come to the front line, we have to gear up ourselves inside of that global element. It’s just a flip and a switch. I know everyone has the ones they like when the elements are working together at the same time.”
DH: Let me take another angle here and ask you a few questions that my friend have for you. Do you and Robbie own the rights to the “World-A-Music” riddim?
SD: “Repeat again?”
DH: The “World-A-Music” riddim, did you guys license it to Damian Marley to use or did they use it without permission?
SD: “Oh no, we gave him permission to use it. I think CBS was giving him the runaround so I said sure he can use it.”
DH: Now, did you play drums on “Punky Reggae Party?”
SD: “Yeah, I play drums on it yeah. But it was at Joe Gibbs studio, Robbie did not do the bass.”
DH: So Carlton was not involved on that one?
SD: “Carlton Barrett, no, on the version that went in the chart [the b-side to the 'Jammin'' 12", the studio version, it was played at 3/4, no that was done at Joe Gibbs studio."
DH: So what do you have in the pipeline for the immediate future in 2014?
SD: “Well, everyone is looking to Africa. The riddim is Africa. I can see it really coming into the front line. I work to keep it grounded in Jamaica…in the Jamaican roots…for our culture you know?”
DH: Yes, for the integrity, yes. Well, Sly keep me in the loop OK?
SD: “Yes Dermot, and nuff respect!”