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This is Brukout! Seani B talks to Jeremy Harding

RICH HISTORY: Jeremy Harding (left) has worked with some of the biggest names over a long career in the music industry and spoke to Seani about his experiences

SO THERE I was in sunny Jamaica – 76 degrees on a sultry evening in Kingston and I had just finished talking to the irrepressible diva Nikki Z and we were putting the world to rights, as we always do when we meet up. Through the courtyard walked a man who I hadn’t seen for absolutely ages – Jeremy Harding!

The name may not be instantly recognisable to you, but I can almost guarantee that the indelible musical mark he created on the reggae and dancehall music industry won’t be too far from your brain. One of the quiet men of the business, Jeremy gave me some background to his journey.

“I left Jamaica as a teenager and moved to Canada, then came back and had a trail of success by producing tracks like Who Am I by Beenie Man, Give It To Her by Tanto Metro & Devonte, as well as Log On by Elephant Man."

“I enjoyed a large amount of success in that '90s era, alongside the likes of Dave and Tony Kelly amongst others, and I went into artist management and met this kid named Sean Henriques, and the world got to know him as Sean Paul. I managed him for around 13 years and also had management stints with Konshens, the producer Stephen McGregor and a couple more artists,” he tells me, very matter of factly.

The dancehall scene of 2017 is very different to that of the late '90s and 20 years ago, Harding was at the cutting edge of the changing sound and working practices.

“I owned one of the first all-digital studios, and it was very popular with sound men who wanted to come and cut dubs and put them on to CD,” he explained.

“That gave me a great advantage as I was working with the likes of Adonai, Stone Love, BabyFace and many more. It meant I managed to build the relationship with the artists, as they knew that working at my place in Jack’s Hill was quick, solid and reliable.”

REUNITED: Seani B, right, catching up with Jeremy Harding and Nikki Z in Kingston, Jamaica

This proved to be a significant time in the development of the 'uptown' involvement in dancehall. Sounds such as Renaissance and Syndicate started to work alongside the established more core sounds like Stone Love, and were being accepted as they were.

It also gave a platform to some of the artists from that side of town to be part of the business. Matching an undoubted skill in the studio with his business acumen, Harding began to use the success of Beenie Man’s Who Am I (can you believe that was produced 20 years ago?) and this allowed him to work with other people on an already successful riddim.

One of those artists was Sean Paul and a mutual friendship turned into a management situation which lasted more than 15 years.

“We were learning as we were going along – the phone would ring and it would be a promoter wanting to book Sean and I just handled things – the relationship grew from there. We were in that journey together.”

A journey that sold millions of units, but had humble beginnings, as he recalled.

“When we began we just wanted to make the album – Stage One – and get signed to VP Records. At that time, VP was the home of artists like Capleton and Buju Banton, and they were shifted some excellent numbers. The goals then were different to those of artists today.

“Nowadays, you can meet an artist who has one song in the market and they are already wanting to sign to a foreign company. Back then, we just wanted to make big tracks consistently.”

The calls from abroad and the love from outside of the core market started to follow – New York, Miami and London were three centres that resonated with Sean in a big way. I can remember him being part of the launch of BBC 1Xtra back in 2002, and he has stayed friends with the network ever since.

MASTERMIND: Jeremy Harding

Fast forward to Jeremy Harding circa 2017. He has a brand new project on the bubble, entitled the Afterglow riddim.

“It’s six tracks – Shaggy & Golden Child, Bugle, Jahmiel, Masicka, Christopher Martin and Beenie Man. It’s a mixture of people I know and love their work, like Shaggy and Beenie, along with an introduction to artists like Masicka and Jahmiel that I have not worked with previously.

“I was very impressed with the younger artists – Masicka is someone who is keen to develop and bring something extra to what he is doing, and Jahmiel took feedback on board very well – he’s a very humble young man who has a bright future ahead of him. There are artists that we didn’t manage to get it together for this run, but I am looking at working on them for the next project."

“People like Version and Ishawna, not forgetting the likes of Sasco, who I recorded when he was still at school! So there’s a lot still to be done.”

For a man who has done so much already, we should all take that as a cue to up our game.

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