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'Listen To The Call' expanded for Haiti

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Handel Tucker (left) and Raymond Azan, producer/arranger and writer of 'Listen to the Call', respectively, at Tuff Gong Studios, Marcus Garvey Drive, St Andrew. - photo by Mel Cooke

Producer and arranger Handel Tucker smiles as he explains to The Sunday Gleaner how Raymond Azan presented him with a song and he took it into 'Handel World'. The transition also meant a name change, from Hear The Calling to Listen To The Call, which Tucker had just finished running through at Tuff Gong, Marcus Garvey Drive, last Tuesday afternoon.

It also meant an expansion in purpose and performers, as Azan told The Sunday Gleaner that initially he had written Hear The Calling as a theme song for his 'Charity for Jamaica' organisation, to be sung by Luciano. Now, Listen To The Call is being used as a fund-raiser for Haiti, after that country experienced an earthquake which has wreaked incredible death and destruction, and Luciano's voice has been joined by many more.

Tucker's face reflected his intent listening when he was at the mixing board, fingers moving faders as he adjusted the sound. When he moves in to the famed voicing room at the Marcus Garvey Drive, St Andrew, studio to speak with The Sunday Gleaner, Tucker smiles as he speaks about Listen To The Call, but he is no less focused on the song and purpose at hand.

He names Luciano, Toots Hibbert, Beenie Man, Tarrus Riley, Cherine Anderson, Alaine, Jimmy Cliff and Mutabaruka among the artistes who are included in the project. He extends his hands fully to either side as he says he wants to span "from Jimmy Cliff to Mavado". He is also intent on Listen to the Call making money.

"The aim is to make it a lucrative project that can send funds to Haiti through Food For the Poor," Tucker said. "The best way we know as musicians is get an A list of people. We want to reach to the emotions, but this is a project where we want to make money."

no charge for talent

Everyone working on the project is contributing their talent free and Tucker notes how willing everyone has been. "Barrington Levy left country immediately. I just spoke to Maxi Priest. He is in MoBay for Jazz Fest and he is very committed," Tucker said. Technology will facilitate the recording process, as Cliff is in Paris and Diana King is in Florida.

Other artistes want to get involved and Tucker says one of the challenges is to decide on a cut-off point. Recording should have ended yesterday and Tucker is projecting a mid-February release for Listen To The Call. There will also be a video to go with the song, although the continuous movement of performers poses a challenge.

Tucker borrows an Obama phrase, "the fierce urgency of now", emphasising how important it is to get the song out quickly. "This kind of project gives you the adrenaline. Being tired is not an option right now," he said.

He also wants it to reach as many people as possible. "We are reaching to the world, to promote the song worldwide," he said. "It is a powerful song, it is a powerful effort and I believe we will have a powerful result."

muta intro

There is a powerful, distinctive voice at the beginning. "I said Mutabaruka's voice must be the first you hear," Tucker said. So he asked the poet to say something philosophical, but not obviously about the situation. "He just came in, one take," Tucker said.

Azan said that "my songs are either personal issues, or issues close at hand". Hear The Calling came out of an experience where he expanded his tendency to lend a helping hand beyond his family to a place of safety in St James, after his wife and son participated in a visit there. Azan ended up organising 'Charity for Jamaica' to raise funds for the home and did 'Jamaica Our Home' with Handel Tucker, their first project together.

"We had two small but successful fund-raising events in Florida," Azan said, the first one held in 2007. In planning to go bigger and better in April 2009, Luciano was asked to participate and "despite the issues he has had to deal with, (he) stepped up. He is a very genuine individual and gives himself to causes of this nature".

"Every word is carefully thought out," Azan said of the song. "It is what I feel."

"With the devastation in Haiti, I feel the direction the project has taken is beyond my initial projection. I am humbled by the outpouring of support by the performers," he said.