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Traditional reggae acts will rise

Published:Wednesday | April 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

Veteran Jamaican broadcaster Lister Hewan-Lowe believes the recent troubles of dancehall artistes with United States (US) authorities will open the door for traditional reggae acts in that country.

Hewan-Lowe, who hosts two programmes on Stonybrook University's WUSB 90.1 FM radio station, was in Kingston last week. He told The Gleaner that reggae promoters in the US will not be pressured to find alternatives because some top dancehall artistes have reportedly lost their US visas.

"The biggest mistake people who make music in Jamaica make, is that they think we live in a world of borders, and that's ridiculous," Hewan-Lowe said. "You've got cats in Germany and all over the world creating some of the hottest reggae riffs and people are listening to them."

Revoked visas

It was recently reported that the US Embassy in St Andrew revoked the visas of top deejays Beenie Man and Bounty Killer. The embassy has not commented on the rumours but Beenie Man has recorded a song, saying his US travel documents were taken away.

Two other big dancehall performers, Buju Banton and Capleton, have also had tough times in the US. Banton is currently in a Florida jail awaiting trial on cocaine charges. Capleton was recently forced to cancel several California dates after protests by gay groups in that state.

Hewan-Lowe said while some reggae promoters on the US east coast may feel the pinch economically, the tour circuit is unlikely to suffer.

"Promoters are already finding people to fill the void. Plus, there's still a demand for people like Sean Paul and Tarrus Riley," he said.

There is also still a demand for Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley. He is involved in one of the most anticipated summer tours this year with roots rapper Nas.

Their highly-anticipated Distant Relatives jaunt of North America and Europe starts in May.

The California summer festival scene is also strong. The 26th staging of the two-day Reggae On The River show takes place in July and features Sly and Robbie, Sugar Minott, Rootz Underground and several non-Jamaican reggae acts.

Born in east Kingston, Hewan-Lowe has been on Stonybrook University's airwaves since 1972. He hosts the politically-charged programmes, 'Burn Baby Burn' and 'Saturday's A Party', on Thursdays and Saturdays respectively.

He was a publicist with Island Records for 10 years in the 1970s and early 1980s, working with acts such as Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Grace Jones and Robert Palmer. Hewan-Lowe also produced several cutting-edge reggae artistes, like Yabby You, for his Clappers label.