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Morgan Heritage back to basics
As sincere as the lyrics are in their songs, so, too, are brothers Roy “Gramps” Morgan and Peter Morgan of the Morgan Heritage clan. Their cool, calm and down-to-earth nature was quickly recognised during a recent interview with the T&T Guardian at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain. The group, often described as reggae royalty, was in T&T for the weekend’s LIV concert at the O2 Amphitheater in Chaguaramas, an event geared towards raising funds for the fight against cancer. They were one of the featured acts among other local and regional artistes, including soca star Machel Montano.
Roy, the eldest in the five-member band, said he jumped at the opportunity when Montano contacted him about the concert. “I lost my mother to cancer in 1998 so I am really passionate about doing whatever it takes to fight this disease,” he said. As a result of his mother’s death, Roy said he even started his own organic supplement and vitamin line, Pearl Health Systems, in her memory. The line is made up of natural alternatives designed to combat lifestyle diseases. Roy said participating in the concert was so important to him that the group dropped everything it was doing to attend.
“We’ve been touring the US performing so our schedule was tight and when Machel called me and told me what day the concert was, I only realised after we spoke that the band had a concert that same day in Albany. It was real mad yo, because we were dealing with a real short space and time,” he said. As it played out, they were eventually able to keep their commitment in Albany and still make it to the LIV concert just in time. “It was literally stage to JFK to Port-of-Spain to stage. We had no rehearsals nothing. The full band didn’t even perform, it was just me and Peter,” said Roy.
He added: “It was amazing to hear the people singing along to every song, even the ones that we have never performed here before. It was truly like the return of Morgan Heritage.” Speaking of return, they say strength is in numbers and Morgan Heritage is about to prove that with their first full studio album in five years. Together, the group gave us songs like Saddle Up, Jah Jah City, Tell Me How Come and the rastaman in heart anthem, Don’t Haffi Dread. Now that they have reunited after a six-year sabbatical and doing solo projects, Morgan Heritage is about to drop a tenth album on June 4, titled Here Come the Kings. The brothers said the album, which has 12 tracks, is really a reflection of their growth both individually and as a band.
“Here Come the Kings is really the best of Morgan Heritage,” said Peter in his Jamaican twang. “We have found an updated way to incorporate all genres of music into this album. All music has evolved from its original state. We keep the foundation with a reggae vibe, must have that, reggae ah d roots…cyah step away from that, but we also acknowledge other genres.” “You will find a bit of everything on this album, from social commentary to love songs,” added Roy. He spoke mainly of the tracks Perfect Love Song, which will be released as a single this month, Free, Man has Forgotten and Holla, a song calling for a unified approach against crime, racism, police brutality, bullying, domestic violence and all other social ills.
“As Rastafarians we always sing about what’s going on in society,” Roy said.
Asked if there were any collaborations with other artistes on the album, Peter said they have been working with a couple of people but nothing was in stone yet. They admitted, however, that they would like to collaborate with soca queen Destra Garcia and Montano. Other artistes like rapper Jay-Z and R&B songstress Rihanna are also on their collaboration list. They have also formed a movement called CTBC (Cool To Be Conscious), which tells people, especially the youths, you don’t need to become involved in negative things to be cool. The all-sibling group, which is made up of the brothers, Nakhamyah, Memo and the only female member, Una, split in 2007 to launch their solo careers on the advice of their father, reggae artiste Denroy Morgan.
“We been singing with daddy for years, at one time we were his backing band, the Twelve Tribes of Israel, which has a headquarters in Trinidad,” Roy said. “He see us perform in Paris in 1998 and when we came off stage he expressed how amazed he was by the different dimensions of the group. None of us sound like our father or each other. You know how all the Marleys sound a bit like Bob, we don’t.” Daddy Morgan was adamant they should do solo projects and eventually after fighting the idea, the group decided to do just that. “After putting out album after album and tour after tour, we were really asking what’s next, so we decided to challenge ourselves and each go solo. We did it, it has been successful, but in 2012 we said it’s time to get back into the studio together,” Roy explained.
He said because of their individual careers as musicians, each member could now be booked separately from the group and it’s still all in the family. During their near two-decade career, the group has been nominated for numerous awards. Among them were the IRAWMA Awards, South Florida Awards, multiple Grammy Awards, while Roy was nominated for a Soul Train Music Award in 2009. Currently the two are finishing up their solo tours. Roy is touring the south pacific while Peter is going to Japan where the single Perfect Love Song was the number one hit on iTunes in the first week of its release. Will T&T see Morgan Heritage again in a hurry? “When T&T wants us again we will be here,” they said. In the meantime, they sent a message to all the youths: “You can be conscious and cool…it’s the way to go.”
Band name: Morgan Heritage
Members: Una, Roy, Peter, Nakhamyah and Memo
Album No: Ten
Children of: Reggae artiste Denroy Morgan
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