Upcoming: Irie Music Festival, Ontario Place
Reggae fans and musicians, don't be surprised if you see a familiar face at a show in the next few days. Brinsley Forde , ex-frontman of seminal Brit reggae group Aswad (Arabic for "black," so get your mind out of the gutter), is in town. He'll be performing Sunday with locally baked raggamuffins (and future studio pals, he says) Jason Wilson and Tabarruk , performing Aswad songs with jazz-polynated twists as part of the Irie Music Festival , which kicks off Friday (July 29) and runs to Monday (August 1) at Ontario Place .
But Forde's here on business, too. As the host of BBC 6 international reggae show Lively Up Yourself, he's working on a profile of the Toronto reggae scene and wants to get a feel for the local bands. Sounds like the show will focus more on roots reggae than dancehall. Forde doesn't seem as stoked by more modern stuff.
"I'm not seeing the great writing that we saw in the 70s and 80s, when writing was a lot more constructive," he says. "I wish there was a resurgence of more positive lyrics in Jamaica. The songs of Bob and Burning Spear seem to go on forever and ever - it'd be nice to see some of that coming back. The beats are incredible, but it would be nice to see a little more time taken on the content."
The times, they have a-changed for ATG ( Against the Grain ) Concerts Ltd. , the promotion/booking company behind Lee's Palace and the Horseshoe . After spending eight years with the company organizing some of Toronto's most memorable shows, Ewan Exall has left ATG to focus on management and form his own independent concert promotion biz. But all's well between Exall and ATG.
"I've left Against the Grain, but the split is totally amicable," he told us earlier this week. "I'll be opening my own office in the next month or so and continuing on my career path, which is promoting concerts and managing Closet Mo Brinsley Forde, who plays this weekend's Irie fest, isn't a fan of modern reggae. nster. I will continue to work with those guys [ATG], just not from that office."
According to ATG's press release, that work will include co-promoting upcoming shows by Death Cab , the New Pornographers and Saves the Day , to name three.... Wait, Exall left ATG, but they're still working together?
"Yeah, it's a really, really amicable split," he stresses. "Like, we're still doing all the stuff that we have in the books together, and it's great for me because it allows me to take the time to make the choices I need to make properly. I'm quite happy with the way it's gone."
Exall's exit is part of an entire shareholder-based ATG turnover. Former director/owner Jeff Cohen is now the president of Lee's Palace and the Horseshoe, Amy Hersenhoren is now senior talent buyer at Lee's, and Craig Laskey and Naomi Montpetit have become director/owners at the Horseshoe. Cohen could not be reached for comment.