By reggaewerxpr, Mar 13 2017 09:29PM

Interview by Jennifer Cheshire

Today I'm speaking with Shinado Chusney, CEO of Reggae Release, a company that handles artist management, digital music/video assets distribution and publicity and promotions strategy. On February 25th 2017, Reggae Release hosted their first annual reggae festival in Jamaica, the Jam Live Music Festival, a project I became involved with in a promotional capacity. I was interested to find out how the festival came about, the outcome and what lessons were learned in the process.

Jennifer: Tell me a little bit about your background.

Shinado: I've been involved in music for quite a number of years. I was a producer. I produced music in Jamaica and UK and I worked as a radio DJ in Canada; Winnipeg, Canada, for a short time. I came back to Jamaica, did some more producing and formed Reggae Release.

Jennifer: When did you get the idea for the festival?

Shinado: The intention of the festival was, number one, our company is about reggae music and bringing a platform for upcoming artists, especially upcoming artists, a platform where it's not easily accessible, in Jamaica. As you might know, there's not a lot of major festivals in Jamaica that cater to upcoming artists. We wanted to create a platform, plus we wanted to use that platform to be a vehicle for social change, whereby we can use music to impact society. We decided to find a charity to partner with so that we could raise awareness and raise funds for that particular charity. We partnered with the Diabetes Association of Jamaica to put on Jam Live Music Fest, which will be a year to year festival, so this year was the inaugural fest. The festival, however, didn't just cater to the upcoming artists, it was for upcoming artists and established artists because we wanted to create a balance whereby, you know, artists share a platform and share experience and bring a quality musical treat for anyone who came out to the festival. We wanted to create a balance and I think we achieved that balance. It was a joint venture between Reggae Release and the Diabetes Association of Jamaica.

Jennifer: Did you have a budget set aside for the festival or did you rely on pre-sale tickets?

Shinado: There was no budget. We had no budget because the time to put the festival together was a bit limited this year. For the next festival we will have more time to organize a bit better. So, we had no budget. We had a few sponsors came on board so, through ticket sales and sponsors, we were able to put it together.

Jennifer: Did you approach the artists for the show or did they approach you, as I was myself approached by a couple of artists wanting to get in on it?

Shinado: In terms of getting artists... based on the nature of our business, we are always in contact with artists and work with a lot of artists. Because of that fact, it was a simple case of reaching out to the ones we work with, and to artists we don't work with, and invite them to be part of the cause. Invite them to come and use music as a vehicle for social change. Most of the people we reached out to came on board because it was a good initiative. We also invited vendors,it was mainly food vendors that came but also some artists had their merchandise tables.

Jennifer: Did you have a team or did you do most of the organizing yourself?

Shinado: As for the organization of the festival, well we had a team comprised of staff from Reggae Release, staff from D.A.J and we also had volunteers from St. Patrick Rangers, which is a youth led organization here in Jamaica and a few other volunteers. So we had a team to basically maneuver and put things in place for the festival.

Jennifer: Did you make a profit or lose money on the venture.

Shinado: Well this year we didn't make a profit but we didn't incur any losses, so it was fairly even. The festival went smoothly. We could have had a bigger crowd if we had more machinery behind promotions so definitely for the coming next year festival, we will be going into planning very early and focusing a lot on promotion and getting the word out and getting as many people as possible.

Jennifer: What did you learn from this festival that will help you with future festivals?

Shinado: Well the main thing we learned from this year, from staging the festival this year, is early organization, that's really the key. When you have enough time where you're prepared early, things run a bit more smoothly, especially in terms of getting the promotional machinery going. So if you plan early and execute early, it will be a more successful event. but without a doubt it will be a year to year festival. It will be a Black History Month, Reggae Month event, every February of each year. All in all, by our estimation, it was a good event. The artists that participated shared that same stance about it, said it was a good event. There are always areas to improve, there's always areas to tighten up but we must thank the sponsors and everybody that shared time and energy to make it a reality. Hopefully we want it to grow from year to year and become an international festival but as you know it must start from somewhere.

I would like to recognize some very important people who helped make the festival a success: Nicole Bell of Reggae Release, Mrs. Lurine Less of the Diabetes Association of Jamaica, Mrs Pauline Blake of the Diabetes Association of Jamaica and Kemal McDonald of Remnant Praise. Without the vital help of these people the festival may not have taken place.

Reggae Release

Jam Live Music Festival

By reggaewerxpr, Feb 24 2017 06:32PM

Interview by Jennifer Cheshire 02/24/2017

Kristine Alicia burst onto the reggae scene with her new album Songs From Zion produced by Rory "Stone Love" Gilligan, released on February 17 and is set to take the world by storm. "Where did she come from? Isn't she a gospel singer?" you may ask. Kristine Alicia is a singer/songwriter who was born in Jamaica but moved to Florida while she was in High School, where she still resides. She comes from a musical background and like many singers her musical talent started in the church. She is a classically trained pianist and also a music teacher. Kristine Alicia 's first album "Get Ready" put her on the map within the gospel genre. She received 2 Marlin awards for Best New Artist and Best Vocal Performance for "Jehovah Jireh" Kristine has performed throughout the Caribbean and the US (which is where I first saw her) but her biggest performance to date was headlining the 2015 Groove Party in Nairobi, Kenya in front of a crowd of 30,000 people. The album "Songs from Zion" is a beautiful album with tracks that are totally authentic, highlighting Kristine's strong faith in a way that relates to all of us. I heard the 2 tracks released to the media, "Zion" and "Roll It", that are so totally different from each other that I couldn't wait to hear the rest of the album. Believe me you will not be disappointed, it's one of those albums where you can't make up your mind which track is your favorite. Enough from me, let's hear from the artist herself in a phone interview I did with her recently.

Jennifer: At what age did you become involved in music?

Kristine Alicia: Music has always been part of my family. My father is a classical musician and a pastor and he encouraged me to become involved in music. I actively became involved in Junior High and High School, taking part in musical performances with the choirs and in shows. My father wanted me to have voice lessons but I was reluctant as he wanted me to be trained in classical music. That wasn't my vision but I reluctantly took them and now I'm really glad I did. I attended college majoring in Mass Communications with a minor in music. I had ambitions of being an A&R person for a big record company but gradually the music took over. While in college I became a backup singer for gospel artist Papa San and this eventually led to the production of my first album, "Get Ready" in 2007.

Songs of Zion - Kristine Alicia- Island Stage Magazine

Jennifer: How did you become connected with Rory "Stone Love" Gilligan?

Kristine Alicia: I had talked to my long time friend and photographer, David Muir, about wanting to break out of the gospel "box" and record music that has more freedom. Sometimes the Gospel genre can be restrictive. I wanted to include love songs, songs to dance to. I wanted to be able to wear pants and kick up my heels on stage, which is something that doesn't reflect well with the gospel community. It doesn't mean I am moving away from my faith, my faith is still very strong, which is obvious in the album, but I think there is a place where the two can blend and reach more people. David suggested that I needed to connect with a good producer and while we were on a photo shoot in Jamaica he introduced me to his longtime friend Rory. Rory gave me a track to work with and that really became my audition. Well he liked what I did with that track and sent me 3 more tracks which were released as singles. From the reaction to those tracks he suggested we work on an E.P. (laugh) the E.P. grew and became this album. It has taken 2 years to develop.

Jennifer: You have some really iconic musicians playing on the album, Dean Fraser, Nambo Robinson, Aeion Hoilett, Denver Smith, Lamont Savory, Kirk Bennett and Kevon Webster. Were you at the studio the same time as the musicians?

Kristine Alicia: No, they recorded the basics and I recorded my vocals over the top and then after my final vocals went on, other instruments were added.

Jennifer: It must have been sad to hear that Nambo passed before the album release.

Kristine Alicia: I didn't get a chance to meet him but yes, when I heard it was very sad.

Jennifer: Was Rory a hard taskmaster?

Kristine Alicia: (laugh) I would say so. If I messed up it was pure cuss words but if he liked what I did he praised heavily too. That's just him and I understand it. It brought out the best in me I guess.

Jennifer: The album has a variety of styles and it's one of those rare albums that make it hard to have a favorite track. I know before hearing the complete album I was sure "Zion" would be my favorite track although I love "Roll It", definitely a DJ song. Since getting the album though, I think my favorite track changes day to day. That being said, which is your favorite track?

Kristine Alicia: Hmmm. I think I would have to say "Cry". When I wrote this track the lyrics came to me immediately. It's a very personal track for me and very honest. I would get quite emotional when working on it and people have told me it had that same emotional connection with them.

Photo by David I Muir

Jennifer: The album has received some very positive feedback and within the first 24 hrs of sale, went up to number 10 on the iTunes charts. Was this a surprise?

Kristine Alicia: I knew it was a good album from the reaction we got back from "Zion" and "Roll It" but the level of support from people I don't really know has been wonderful and it climbing that fast was exciting. "Roll It " was only intended to be a single but after David Rodigan played it on BBC 1Xtra the reaction was so big we included it on the album.

Jennifer: That track really shows your versatility. There's a little bit of a dancehall queen in Kristine Alicia.

So now the excitement of the album launch is over, what comes next?

Kristine Alicia: Well after the success of the album launch show we are looking to do more live performances and ultimately a tour. My manager David Muir is working hard on these things.

Jennifer: Yes, you said David was your photographer but I've only known him as your manager. I spoke to him about this and he said it took you a couple of years to get him to agree to be your manager.

Kristine Alicia: Yes. He is very good at it. It really helps to have someone who knows you well.

First published in Island Stage Magazine.

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