by Nadine White
Today I had the privilege of interviewing the Grammy-nominated extraordinaire that is Mr. Hugh Beresford Hammond. And pleasantly, despite being a living legend, there was not a hint of ‘airs and graces’ about him. As they say, my ‘spirit took to him’ straight away!
Just fresh from touring the UK alongside Romain Virgo & Tarrus Riley for ‘The Greatest Reggae Show on Earth – Part II’, Hammond has been very busy promoting his brand new album ‘One Love, One Life’ – courtesy of VP Records. His first album in 5 years, this double-disc effort is due for release on November 12th, with most of the songs on the album actually co-produced by him. The album’s first single, ‘In My Arms’, has already been receiving massive airplay across the UK’s radio stations and is climbing Natty B’s ‘Official Reggae Chart’ on Choice FM. Whilst we are glad to see his triumphant return to the limelight, the million dollar question had to be asked: “What took so long, Star!?” (‘star’ being in the literal sense!) Well the past few years have been far from dormant for this hit-maker, as he explained that he had been busy touring various countries as well as helping to nurture up and coming talent under his independent label Harmony House. “I promise that I won’t leave it so long to put out another album, next time” he laughed, with a youthful twinkle in his eye. Laughing along with him, I decided to go straight for the kill. After all, Beres did say ‘Ain’t It Good To Know’. For some time now the rumour mill has been churning with talk that the artist has been suffering with throat cancer and, like many, I was keen to find out what the 57 year old Veteran had to say on the matter. A solemn silence descended upon the room, the traces of smile disappeared, his brow deepened, and an almost hurt look came over his face.
“The internet the rumour mill, now, that’s what you call ‘viral’. Somebody may not like you or speculate about you and before you know it, it’s everywhere. I have never had a problem with my health, maybe a little cold here and there, but that’s about it. I haven’t been to the doctor’s in about 5 years.”He sings about ‘Doctor’s Orders’, but hasn’t been in years! Love it.
Beg you some of that health and strength then Beres, because most people go to the doctor more frequently than that! Whilst ‘showbiz’ gossip is quite unforgiving, he did acknowledge the legions of fans who are genuinely concerned about his well-being and added: “I’d like to tell the people that, whilst I appreciate the concern (where there is concern), keep me alive – Don’t call down illness on me. It’s not good for your health” So for every loyal Beres Hammond fan out there, Christmas has come early; he’s in ‘tip top’ condition and “plans to keep going for another 100 years”. Speaking of longevity, August 6th saw the Tropical Isle of Jamaica celebrate 50 years of Independence this year. The air of jubilation was shared by Jamaicans in both ‘Yaahd’ and the UK, and the ‘Official Jamaica 50 song’ was unveiled just before the big day. Produced by diamond-selling artist, Shaggy, a line-up of artists were featured on the track entitled ‘On A Mission’, including Agent Sasco, Tessanne Chin, Tifa, and Beres Hammond. With its electro-pop beat, the song was subject to much criticism, with many saying that it wasn’t an accurate reflection of the ‘changing faces’ of Jamaican music. Beres Hammond has so many hits under his belt, I wondered how he felt to be part of such a canned project?
“Well…(long pause) it’s a song and I was honoured to have been asked to be a part of it though I would have much preferred if it stuck more closely to the musical roots of Jamaica.”
By the same token, he cited that ‘popular’ music has taken over the Jamaican dancehall, with many of its tracks being influenced by ‘other cultures’.
“I am not satisfied… perhaps it’s none of my business because I sing reggae music, however, I am not satisfied. I feel as though dancehall music is going away from its roots. I’d like to see a change in that although some good, good reggae is still being produced.”
At the forefront of the modern reggae scene is none other than his former protégé, Jah ‘Siccature’ Cure, who recently got hitched. Despite the rape scandal which saw Jah Cure incarcerated for 8 years back in 2007, Beres and he remain firm friends: “I don’t throw any of my friends under a bus. I can only hope that he’s learned from his mistakes – if he made a mistake (because, who am I to judge), and he continues to make good music. What a voice!”
On the topic of friendship, he added: “Buju and I met on ‘music street’ and I long to see him. The whole industry does. He is one of the finest talents that Jamaica has and he is of no use to us in there (prison)”.
We wrapped up our lovely chat with a conversation about the beauty of reggae music and how much it has evolved. In reference to Levi Root’s ‘Reggae Reggae Sauce’, Beres even commented “Although I am not hearing enough of it on the radio, there is no denying that reggae is so nice, that they had to name it twice!”. Booked up to tour America until late December, 2013 promises to be an even busier year for this man as he continues to promote his latest album and tour the world bringing a joyous message to the masses through the gift of song.