Tue | Jul 7, 2020

‘Untold’ new documentary about reggae singer

Published:Sunday | May 24, 2020 | 12:10 AMYasmine Peru - Sunday Gleaner Writer

Yvonne Curtis
Yvonne Curtis

Sweet Sensation is a song which reggae singer Yvonne Curtis has made her own, and has included in her repertoire for decades. Therefore, it was only right that when she did her second music video recently, that was the song she chose.

Sweet Sensation is one of my big songs everywhere. It is like my national anthem. Everywhere I go, I start the song and the audience finishes it,” Curtis, who migrated to the United Kingdom during the 1960s, told The Sunday Gleaner in a very candid interview. She spoke about, among other things, her challenges on the road to recognition and her soon-to-be-released documentary, Untold, which traces her life from her roots in Steer Town, St Ann, to the present.

“Where I’m from in Steer Town, Justin Hines was my neighbour and up the road was Bob Marley. As children we used to listen to them and they inspired me a lot. The road wasn’t easy. It’s still not easy, because I didn’t get the exposure. People often ask me where I’ve been, but I’ve always been here doing music full-time,” Curtis told The Sunday Gleaner.

Known as one the hardest-working Jamaican female reggae vocalists in the business, Curtis’ management felt the need to document her work for posterity. “Yvonne is one of the longest, continuous going reggae acts over here (in the UK). She performs in the clubs, she does soca as well as reggae, and she’s persistent,” her manager, Mark Duffus, label head of Digital Jukebox Records, said.

BBC Radio/Television, Carlton Television, The Warehouse TV Program, Roland Music and Digital Jukebox Records are part of the team involved in the production of Untold. The producers were shooting for an autumn release, but many more celebrities want to add their voices to it and show their respect for Curtis. He also mentioned that Yvonne also gained popularity when she used to host a weekly show called The Warehouse Showcase, which was televised for London’s Carlton TV.

Although her name may not instantly ring a bell in Jamaica, and she was never seen on a big show in the island, Curtis certainly has all the cred she needs to pull and entertain a crowd. In fact, she had a full roster for 2020, which included carnivals, dinner-and-dance events, and concerts, and come 2021, she will be touring the UK, performing with the likes of Shaggy, Chaka Demus and Pliers, The Wailers, General Levi.

“They have just asked back for her to perform in Brazil and Nicaragua, but I’m not sure when exactly that will happen,” her manager said, pointing out that Curtis has a huge fan base in South America, where she is looked on as a calypso and soca queen.

“In the early days, when I was with a band with a few other Caribbean musicians, we did a lot of independence shows for all the islands, but we never did anything for Jamaica. And I have never worked for Jamaica over here (in the UK) at all, and I really felt bad,” she told The Gleaner. But that has not diminished Curtis’ love for her home. The girl from Steer Town, St Ann, visits regularly. “I even performed twice down there at a fundraiser for the clinic,” she said with pride.

She was the lead singer of The Serenaders and often travelled back and forth from the Caribbean islands performing as a reggae and soca artiste. “However, when three of the band members died, I eventually went solo,” Curtis explained.

In 2013, on a joint venture with Browns Records, she released an album titled Let’s Unite in Love, which was distributed by VP Records in the US. Two years later, Curtis met record producer and label owner Mark Anthony Blak Prophetz and joined Digital Jukebox Records. The first release was a three-CD compilation of her greatest hits, followed by a crossover version of the Christmas medley When a Child is Born and Mary’s Boy Child.

Curtis is quite honest about her love for covers and confessed that she sometimes finds writing a bit difficult. “I do a lot of covers of popular songs, but I do it my way. However, I will not make a mockery of anybody’s songs. I love good music. When it comes to writing, I have to have inspiration. But Mark has me here writing every day,” she said, trying her best to sound irritated at her manager.

Curtis is anticipating the end of lockdown, so she can get her show back on the road and complete her projects, including the release of a new single and music video.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com