Born in 1980 as Michael Williams, the youngest of six children in a humble, church-going family from Carenage, Trinidad, JAMELODY got his start as so many greats have before him, by honing his chops singing in church choir.
As everyone knows, Trinidad/Tobago is birthplace to soca/calypso—the music that motors the twin islands’ Carnival, the most spectacular party on earth. Yet young Michael wasn’t feeling his native sounds. As a young teen, he and a few friends formed acapella group Brothers with Voices. Michael took the leads and arranged their covers of R&B favorites like Boys II Men, Take 6, Brian McKnight, and older groups like the Temptations.
The group was building a name in local clubs, but Michael was searching for something more than just a means of survival. Then he met Nera Griffith, the Rasta woman with whom he now shares his life, and he found inspiration.
“She showed me a picture of Selassie I,” recalls JAMELODY. “At first, I didn’t accept it, and we had an argument. She said if I didn’t accept His Majesty our relationship could end. I opened up and learned a lot from her. Then she started writing words, and I took the words and I created melodies with reggae instrumentals. A lot of people experienced the vibes, but I told them, ‘It’s not my melody; it’s Jah melody and from there I got my name (Jamelody) and started writing with her. She’s an inspiration to me, and I have to give thanks. She helped steer my career in the right direction—where it was always supposed to go.”
Nera’s cousin “Pine” booked JAMELODY into Club Prosperity, a revival reggae spot in Port of Spain, for one of his first reggae performances.
“The experience was surprisingly great and wonderful,” says JAMELODY. “The people accepted my style even though they knew me as an R&B artist, a member of Brothers with Voices. They gave me support and said to keep on doing it because it was more original.”
Opening for a big reggae show won him his first break, in the person of his manager, Zakri Esau, who took him to Jamaica to record “Jah Jah Never Let Us Down” and another track for Brit-based Jet Star’s Greenhouse label. Things didn’t fire up, though, until Esau contacted Jamaica’s Bobby Digital, who instantly recognized JAMELODY’s perfect pitch, kamikaze energy, and golden boy appeal. VP signed JAMELODY and put the beguiling Digital-B-produced “Give Thanks” on their Strictly the Best 38 compilation CD.
That tune, along with BE PREPARED’s title track, a roots-rocking hit-in-the-making that vibrates with JAMELODY’s serpentine vocal, announces to listeners exactly what this breakout talent is all about—a New Roots messenger blending classic reggae with contemporary R&B, rock, and pop in order to reinvigorate reggae’s vintage call for “truth, rights, justice, and One Love.
“Growing up, my mom taught me about keeping the Sabbath and reading the Bible, which taught me a lot of life and the wonders and signs that will come to pass,” JAMELODY explains. “I see these things come to pass in this age, so I know it’s basically true. The Bible told us that He will come again as a conquering lion, with fire and brimstone, not water, this time. That gave me the inspiration to write “Be Prepared,” because a whole lot of people are going astray and when He come it won’t be nice. You have to be prepared.”
Other classic reggae tunes like “Ithiopia” and “Pressure” mine rich Jamaican reggae themes about the sufferah’s plight and the yearning to leave island exile for return to Mother Africa. For those who believe that the people of Trinidad/Tobago, which is known for its oil reserves, don’t know the struggle of poverty, JAMELODY explains; “Trinidad is wealthy, but what is the government doing for the people? It’s making life harder, so what are they doing with the money? There are a lot of people going through hard times today, going into 2008, and it even get worse, the money is weak, prices of food are higher, and crime is rising. We feel it.”
On the New Roots tip, JAMELODY flexes on Carl James-produced tunes like “All that I Pray For”; the rock-infused “Since You’ve been Away”; the uptempo “Joy”; and an original traditional gospel penned by Donald Lawrence, “When the Saints Go to Worship.” “Want to be There,” written by JAMELODY, is a straight-no chaser R&B cut that bears a quintessentially JAMELODY reminder that each of us has our God-given place in life. And just to show he can do it, the CD contains a gorgeous Bobby Ditigal-produced cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Living in the Sky” and a stunning revamp of Boys II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye.”
As Bob sang, “Who feels it knows it.” JAMELODY’s passion and knowledge clearly run deep and true.