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The story of ‘What ah joy’ – new nu-reggae from Toronto’s the Memberz

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The Memberz are the closing act for MooseFest: celebrating 5 years of Roots Music Canada, a one-night festival in honour of this here website June 4 at Toronto’s TRANZAC. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Show starts at 7 p.m. Get your tickets HERE:

Ten years ago, in a sketchy Jamaican recording studio in Northern Toronto, The Memberz’ band leader Roscoe Christie put down the headphones and declared “Finally. A place that has the right sound.” At that point, the core unit of Mavriq, Charmizelle, Carlton and Roscoe began to record and re-record the original Canadian reggae music that would eventually become the first Memberz album.

As the project grew, and grant applications failed, they would contribute their weekly wages to continue developing their unique, nu-reggae sound, inspired by the revived confidence of Toronto’s socially influential Jamaican population, which was flourishing under the surging success of Drake and the Toronto Raptors.

Adding in Corby on guitar and Brophy on reeds, they carried the bed tracks that they had assembled off to Jeff McCulloch (Scott B Sympathy, Lillian Allen) at the historic Wellesley Sound studio, located back then at Queen Street East and Ontario Street. As the LED’s pulsed to a CD of Johnny Osbourne at King Tubby’s on his sound board, they told Jeff that this was the necessary quality of sound that should be reaching out to the world to represent the reggae community from Toronto. An alliance was formed that would sustain a long-term dedication to crafting and re-crafting the dozen original songs contributed by the band’s three songwriters, Mavriq Brown, Carlton Dinnall and Charmazel Jorman.

Read about our other MooseFest performers: Dave Newland, Onion Honey, Noah Zacharin, Tragedy Ann, Tannis Slimmon and Lewis Melville, Lynn Harrison, So Long Seven and the Memberz.

The Memberz spent the next several years following Jeff’s nomadic sound studio around the city, to Church Street, Wellesley West, Leslie, Sherbourne and Pape, adding instrumental tracks and layers of harmony, releasing a couple of well-received singles and videos, and building a fan base with shows across the city, and on weekend jaunts to Barrie, North Bay, Sudbury and The Muskokas.

At a lunch meeting five years ago, celebrating the completion of the shooting for their second video, Work It Out, bandleader Roscoe Christie (20th Century Rebels, Boncongonistas, Revelation) announced, “No more singles, no more videos. We have to put out an album now. And it has to be full of bangers too, no “try-a-t’ing” business.”

By then, there was enough perfected material to begin the precarious (and pricey) task of mixing and mastering the album. Seeking a certain clarity and warmth, the band ended up at Noble Street studios, where Shawn Mendes and scores of international stars have come to refine their sound. Once again, Roscoe spent weeks inside the headphones, balancing out a concept that would be true to the original roots vision, with enough sparkle to welcome the ears of a broader marketplace, until it was finally in a form that The Memberz could proudly present to Toronto and to the world.

An opportunity arose for collaboration with Canada’s champion of roots reggae, Exco Levi, who has dominated the Juno Awards for a decade, and as a result, the single chosen to introduce The Memberz’ first album is What ah joy, featuring a smooth chorus delivery by bass man Carlton, rich harmonies by all of the band members and the intensely positive lyrical liaison of Mavriq and Exco. A connection with Uganda video wizards Makaka KRITIK resulted in a scintillating lyric video, a montage of the faces of joyful people with the fluid depiction of the words of the song flowing around them.

In their long game, The Memberz have maintained the resolute purpose and positivity that the Rastafari community originally proposed, with a specifically Canadian buoyancy . The first results are at hand today with the release of a lead single, What ah joy, which rose into the digital platforms on Monday May 22nd, along with an accompanying video made in Uganda, debuting on YouTube’s Reggaeville channel. It is the first of their three fresh nu-reggae songs slated for summer 2023 release, because, hey, summertime IS reggaetime.

With special guest, multi-Juno winner Exco Levi aboard for extra impetus, the band will be showcasing the song live at The Garrison in Toronto tonight at EXCO LEVI’S HIGH PRIEST REGGAE FESTIVAL: A Tribute to Denise Jones., and making a special appearance at Roots Music Canada’s festivities at the Tranzac on June 4th.

 

Fresh Toronto reggae – What ah joy.

Indeed.

https://open.spotify.com/album/780UlwTdqYWQodXYxw10m1?fbclid=IwAR3wCMOChS877e0bR5gXyjCHyFq9ktfZlm94hvVD37XyPoVBROsdUI_lT7k#login

 

 

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