Around the mid 70s throughout the 80s there was a mass exodus from the Caribbean island of Jamaica to the four corners of the earth due to intense political turmoil on that island state.
Out of this turmoil arose the singer, artist, songwriter and performer we know today as Jahmark, whose craft began to emerge around the legendary Marley family.
As fate would have it, Jahmark’s path crossed with Bob Marley’s sister, Pearl, in Miami, Florida around 1979 and they became very good friends, even dating on and off for a couple years. He was around Mother B’s home (Bob’s mom) one day and remembers Bob writing one of his songs around 2am one morning, “Music got you dancing on the floor, begging for more…” which Ziggy later recorded with the Melody Makers. He witnessed various impromptu sessions with the Wailers at this time.
In 1980 he wrote his first song with Pearl entitled “Misconception”. This song was never recorded but was performed live on numerous occasions in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area by Jahmark’s first band he ever performed in, SUNRAY, whose bandleader was known as Rick Pengelly.
Towards the end of 1980 he witnessed the tragic return of Bob to Miami after his Central Park collapse in New York. According to Jahmark, “That is the only time I had ever seen brother Bob look even the least bit unsettled. He always had maintained an air of confidence and was always so full of life. Give thanks to the Most High that he was able to leave traces of his positive attitude and vibrance on his recordings for the rest of us to enjoy for-I-ver”.
In 1981 Jahmark painted “The First Supper” in Mother B’s Miami home (the house that Bob built) as a prayer for Bob’s recovery. It was done in acrylic on a 20 ft. x 4 ft. brick wall, which rests beneath the kitchen counter still to be seen there to this very day. After Bob departed to Zion, Jahmark became more determined than ever to “Keep Rasta Music Alive”. Around this time Sunray disbanded and Jahmark formed another group with Sunray drummer, Ken Gordon, called ROCKSTONE. While performing with Rockstone one night in Fort Lauderdale he had the good fortune to meet world renown bassist, Jaco Pastorias.
Rockstone had a good little run for a couple of years and during those couple years they had the opportunity to back up such artists as Josey Wales, Brigadier Jerry, the Mighty Diamonds and the Tamlins.
By 1983 Jahmark re-located to New York where he formed the REDEMPTION POSSE band with his good friend from St. Mary, Jamaica, Emanuel Walsh. The other founding member was Anthony Patrick Ross of Coconut Grove, Florida. The group was managed by Gilly Gilbert (a.k.a. “Gilly Dread”), Ital chef, and sometimes road manager for Bob Marley and the Wailers in their heyday.
In 1986 the Redemption Posse performed at the Jamaica Sunsplash (where they also backed up the then up and coming DJ…Tiger, on his first major public outing). They also performed on the annual island-wide Festival competition making it all the way to the finals at the National Arena in Kingston where they won the prizes for best performer and songwriter.
Among their competition at the time was Tinga Stewart, Faith D’Aguilar, the Jamaicans, Stanley & the Turbines, etc. To be received in such a manner by Jamaican people was a huge treat for Jahmark for it was the first time he was able to return to his homeland since his family’s exile in the mid 70s. After his performance he ended up staying for around six months before returning to the U.S.
After their triumphant return from Jamaica, the Redemption Posse were performing in a Manhattan club called S.O.B.’s where they also backed up Leroy Sibbles of the Heptones. This was in 1987 and after their performance they were approached by a Japanese promoter, Katsuya Abe, who was so impressed by their vibrant and positive energy that he invited them to perform in Tokyo, Japan. They performed there on a six month contract at which time they gained an appreciation for Japanese culture.
The band at that time consisted of Jahmark-vocals, rhythm guitar, Emanuel-vocals, drums, Vere Isaacs-bass guitar, Jimmy Graham-lead guitar and Robert Mansfield-keyboards, back-up vocals. After their Japanese adventure the members of the Redemption Posse embarked on their own individual solo careers, and at that time JAHMARK & THE Soulshakers were born in Tokyo, Japan, at first consisting of all Japanese musicians.
Jahmark & the Soulshakers (“Far East Crew”) were a ten piece hi-energy band. The rhythm section was formed from a Japanese ska/punk band known at the time as INDEX, whose leader was a super-talented guitarist known as Koji Shikano. They were schooled thoroughly by Jahmark in the art of playing reggae music and they performed throughout Japan until around the end of 1990. They were well received by Japanese audiences, for it was like a novelty to see their own people playing reggae music seemingly so effortlessly well.
Around this time Jahmark & the Soulshakers had the opportunity to record a single at the CBS-Sony studio with Japan’s PJ band, Jah KSK, Rankin’ Taxi, as well as Sly & Robbie, and Tyrone Downie of the Wailers. The name of the song was entitled UNITY and each of the four vocalists (Jahmark, PJ, Rankin’ Taxi and Jah KSK) contributed lyrics to the song.
Not long after that, Jahmark re-located to Los Angeles, California and by the beginning of 1991 Jahmark & the Soulshakers (“West Coast Massive”) were in the rehearsal studio. They made their debut performance in 1992 at the Palomino in North Hollywood as the support act for the Itals. The core of the band in addition to Jahmark at that time was Zebbie on drums, Subadread on lead guitar, John DeSurra on keyboards, Gary Stevenson on bass, Chris Samuels on percussion, Glen Marhevka on trumpet, Jeff Harris on trombone, etc.
Since then they have played alongside the likes of Pato Banton, Jimmy Cliff, Third World, The Wailers, Lucky Dube, Eek-A-Mouse, Wailing Souls, the Skatalites, etc. Zebbie went on to form the LA based dancehall outfit, Detour Posse (around ’95) and was replaced by Casey Jones on drums. Glen and Jeff moved on to perform with the internationally known swing-band, the Big Bad Voodoo Daddys.
Jahmark also performed on and off during the 90s as lead vocalist for LA based reggae band, Urban Dread, whose bandleader is vocalist/saxophonist, Jason Bourne. It was in the early 90s that Jahmark met Peter Wolf with whom he wrote a song entitled OCEAN BLUE which appeared in the movie soundtrack for the film WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S II. Peter also wrote such mega-hits as WE BUILT THIS CITY ON ROCK AND ROLL for Jefferson Starship and EVERYBODY LET’S DANCE TONIGHT for Wang Chung. Jahmark also collaborated with Calvin Banks (ex lead guitarist of Urban Dread) on a song called I WANNA ROCK U BABY which appeared in the movie soundtrack for another film entitled MIAMI RHAPSODY. Jahmark also appeared in an episode of the 80s TV show, MIAMI VICE.
Around ’98 Jahmark had the opportunity to perform with the legendary Jerry Garcia’s band, the Grateful Dead. He was on the road at the time with his good brethrens Ronnie “Stepper” McQueen (original Steel Pulse bassist), Antoine Richardson (drums) and Subadread (guitarist). They were slated to play at the Grand Emporium in Kansas City on a Saturday night and they arrived in town a day before their show (after their performance at the Bob Marley Reggae Fest in Des Moines, Iowa). They stopped by the club and there was the Dead sound-checking.
After sound-check the musicians from both bands got to talking and acquainting themselves with one another. The Shakers stuck around for the Dead’s show and next thing you know during the middle of their performance Jahmark and his brethren were invited on stage. Needless to say, what started out as a Grateful Dead show without Jerry ended as a Soulshakin’ experience that brought the house down…’nuff respect to the Grateful Dead!
His long-awaited CD release for 2003 was entitled LIFE, following his release a few years earlier entitled LOVE POWER. While in Japan he released VIVA MANDELA, along with some compilation CDs UNITY and JUS’ PASSIN’ THRU. He has also appeared on compilation CDs since settling in the LA area, THUMPN’ REGGAE JAMZ and REGGAE WORSHIP (a reggae gospel project).
Also released on the Internet only are five CDs under the title of BANANA-BOAT ARCHIVES, vols. 1-5 available exclusively from E-music. these five CDs comprise of songs recorded both live and in the studio originally for demo purposes from ’89-’94. They were never intended to be released but was to act as a collective repertoire of songs from which to draw from when needed. Due to the high demand from enthusiastic fans for “new music” Jahmark decided to master them with the newly updated digital technology. These CDs are titled 1) FREEDOM FIGHTERS, 2) SOULSHAKIN’, 3) NEVER TOO LATE, 4) STOP THE WAR and 5) SAVE THE EARTH, and are intended for the true Soulshaker fans who just can’t get enough.
Last year ’04 Jahmark was approached by independent film-maker, George Tait (a.k.a. Jungle George) of Roots Rasta Communications / Woodstock Audio which is based in Ontario, Canada. “Jungle” has spent many years in Jamaica soaking up the good Rasta vibes and culture and has been blessed to be able to put his unforgettably uplifting experiences on film. The result is a “terrible and dreadful” piece entitled RASTAFARIAN DREAMS, available in both VHS and DVD form, and is also currently being broadcast on Canadian TV.
Jahmark was so impressed by Jungle’s work that he contributed his smash hit song, LOVE POWER, to the film’s outstanding soundtrack. Other conscious artists appearing on the soundtrack are the likes of Daddy Roots, Henry Turner Jr., the Reggaelution Band, etc. These are just some of the fresh, new artists who are continuing to keep the original roots aspect of reggae music alive today in this new millennium!
Jahmark’s journeys have taken him from Jamaica to Tampa and Miami, Florida to New York, back to Jamaica (ten years after the initial exodus), to Japan, Guam and Korea, then to Los Angeles. All of these experiences are reflected in his music. You can definitely feel American pop/rock/R&B influences, slight Asian nuances, and yet through it all you can feel a fierce tenacity of never letting go of his roots background he acquired from growing up in sweet Jamaica, little Africa.
Throughout the years the artist’s songwriting and vocal abilities only continue to grow that much closer and closer to perfection, and you can witness for yourself firsthand the progress and growth from his earlier CDs FREEDOM FIGHTERS, STOP THE WAR, etc through LOVE POWER and his latest release, LIFE.
Jahmark sums it up by saying, “I consider anyone involved in any aspect of this music over the years as a Soulshaker, whether as musicians, singers, songwriters, arrangers, producers, engineers, fans, etc. One man alone cannot do it, and as a Soulshaker we prefer our souls SHAKEN NOT STIRRED”.
Let the journey continue for we have only just begun …JAH live!!!