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DJ Kurt Riley driven to create more hits - Disc jockey turned producer challenges Switzerland-based singer on new track

Published:Wednesday | September 11, 2019 | 12:19 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Irina Mossi
Irina Mossi

DJ Kurt Riley has shown that he is not just another disc jockey who shouts catchy phrases on the microphone at parties and feeds off the energy of females going wild for soca and dancehall.

Riley has been building up a solid résumé in music production. Already under his belt is the Recording Industry Association of America certified diamond and gold hit, Gyal You A Party Animal, the biggest song in Charly Blacks’ catalogue thus far.

He has also produced Romain Virgo’s Trouble from the Love Sick album, as well as Beres Hammond’s My Kinda Girl, which is featured on the latest album of the lover’s rock artiste titled Never Ending.

“To be perfectly clear, I am interpreting music my way, at my own speed ... I don’t know a better way to describe what I am doing. Coming from somebody who plays music for a diverse audience – from street sessions to large carnivals and private functions for diplomats – all different musical tastes, I believe I have been exposed enough to produce rhythms of all kinds,” Riley told The Gleaner.

The disc jockey stepped out of the regular comfort zone, merging with a long list of recording artistes, producers and musicians such as Jay Crazie, Kirk Bennett, Nigel Staff, Peter Coppin from Barbados, Thygeson Penn Joseph of Studio 758 in St Lucia, and Finland-based Antti Toivonen, to name a few, to collaborate on several projects. He has already released juggling projects Via Riddim, Rum Runner Riddim, Animal Instinct Riddim, and the soon-to-be-released Caribbean Rock Riddim, which features the likes of Busy Signal, Elephant Man, Camar, Leftside and Sean Taylor, among others.

However, the project that Riley has taken charge of recently is one that will undoubtedly show a unique flavour to his musical mix. It involves Switzerland-based singer Irina Mossi who connected with Riley earlier this year during her short stay in Kingston. The two were introduced by a mutual friend, recording artiste Mackeehan, who instructed Mossi and her sister to freestyle on a microphone while the DJ was playing on a set one night.

The look on Riley’s face said it all. He says he got the chills. Challenging Mossi’s range and vocals, Riley explains, “I switched up the genres, which included a neo-soul rhythm to which she met me head-on. First, I was playing a reggae track but I realised she was able to adapt to anything, I was like wow.”

A magical connection was made that night, hence their first collaboration called Just For One Night – which could easily be described as reggae meets neo-soul – it is like listening to Anita Maker spitting sensual lyrics on a reggae rhythm that was produced by R&B sensation Kenneth ‘Babyface’ Edmonds. The production and composition by Riley is soulfully complemented with lyrics written by Mackeehan, Jah David, and of course, Mossi, and was recorded at UIM Studios.

Mutual love of music

He says it is anticipated that the mutual love of music and respect for each other’s talent is felt by listeners.

Mossi’s versatility as a singer, living in Switzerland with roots in Congo, was recognised from a tender age when she got in sync with all kinds of music from gospel, singing in church, then she transitioned to jazz as a member of a youth jazz ensemble until she formed little groups that performed soul.

She is no stranger to reggae music either, having toured as a backing vocalist with international recording artistes such as The Wailing Souls, Cali P, Stonebwoy and Randy Valentine. Mossi has been travelling to Jamaica, the home of reggae music, to learn about the roots of this genre as she makes steps towards a solo career.

In addition to the track produced with vocals, Riley has experimented with an acoustic version that features Elton Brown, professionally known as Elly B, dubbed one of Jamaica’s promising and talented young musicians, doing a wonderful guitar solo titled Beautiful Imani.

Both tracks are examples of live musical sensations; the rhythm was recorded at Anchor Studios with musicians Kirk Bennett on drums, Danny Axeman on bass guitar and Andrew Marsh on keys. Elly B recorded his guitar at Jambian Music Studios.

The projects would not be complete without the mixing and mastering skills, Riley shared. “I must extend much respect and honour to the legendary Steven Stanley for mixing the tracks at Jambian Music Studios, and Rohan Dwyer for applying his mastering technique.

“What can I say about my expectations for the tracks? Well, who is to like it, will like it, and for those listeners who normally expect certain types or styles of music from me, the production is to show a different side to who I am,” Riley said.

In a similar declaration, Genie Sweetness, Jambian Music’s project manager, added, “These works of art cannot be classified by genre, they are emotions, from a feeling or a mood that will last beyond your first listen.”

The project will be made available worldwide on all digital platforms this Friday, September 13.