– by Nadine White –
Widely dubbed as the ‘Royal Family of Reggae Music’, it was great to see Morgan Heritage (Peetah, Gramps, Una, Mojo and Luke Morgan) back in the UK. They briefly performed at the Indigo2 (Greenwich, London) last year, as part of the ‘Respect Jamaica 50th’ Independence celebrations, and returned this year to kick-start their ‘Here Come The Kings’ tour on 19th July. Debuting at #2 on the American Reggae Billboard Chart, ‘Here Come The Kings’ is the group’s first album in 3 years and they are delighted to be back, after their unanimous decision to take some time out: “We couldn’t ignore the demand from the media and the fans for our return.”
They took a break, now they’re back!
Now residing in Jamaica, Morgan Heritage were born in Brooklyn (USA), raised in Springfield, Massachusetts and the effervescent bunch are extremely family orientated both off and on stage.
The reason behind their decision to take a break from the scene was in order to spend some quality time with their children, “We are all parents. With the fast pace of what we do, time just flies and if you’re not careful, you can miss out on some integral years in your kids’ lives, that you just can’t get back. We didn’t want that, we wanted to be there for them”.
From the inwards banter to the finishing of one another’s sentences, it quickly became apparent just how close these siblings are. Aside from bonding onstage when performing together, in their spare time, Gramps likes to host barbecues, “I love to barbecue – yah man, some fish stuffed with some okra and some callalloo and t’ing, y’know dem way deh?!”. It was very entertaining to hear how often they all switched from their native American accent to the rawest patois you’ve ever heard!
In the time spent away from the scene as a collective, the inspiration to pursue solo projects struck and their individual brands were born. “We just couldn’t keep still. We were all used to recording music, as this is what we know. Pursuing solo careers, in the meantime, was more manageable than being in a group, because it didn’t impinge on the time spent with our families as much,” explained Gramps.
Many groups, irrespective of genre, are prone to inner disputes, which can cause friction and conflict. This has led to the split, break-up and demise of many.
Despite their closeness, there were rumours which had circulated suggesting that Morgan Heritage’s break was down to similar reasons and they had no intention of reforming. However, once put to them, they were keen to deny this, with Peetah exclaiming: “It was challenging not being in a group. It was actually weird looking to my left and right onstage and not seeing my sister and my brothers there and I know the others felt the same.”
It’s great to know that normality has been regained, as the public get to hear more from this regal crew! With their tour schedule fully booked for the rest of the year, legions of fans doing the ‘one foot skank’ at their sold-out shows and their latest single ‘Perfect Love Song’ peaking at #1 on the UK’s official reggae chart –‘The Heritage’ are back on top, as the most successful Jamaican contemporary reggae band.
Reggae bring back sweet, sweet love!
Yet, I was surprised to learn that reggae is not such a celebrated commodity in its native Isle of Jamaica. “Reggae is not played in Jamaica” says Peetah “and, as far as aspiring reggae artists go, it must be hard to make it if your own country is not even supporting you. Dancehall is now the ‘pop’ music in Jamaica and so that takes precedence over reggae. That’s just the way it is. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – we love dancehall – but it is what’s happening. Still, we give thanks because reggae is still alive and well, in spite of this. The world loves reggae; there has been no ‘revival’ of it, as it never died in the first place”. Gramps added, with his baritone voice and a warm chuckle, “Did you know Jamaica runs things? It’s true, if you didn’t know.”