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Richie Stephens breathing new life into ska music

CELEBRATIONS: Richie Stephens

FOLLOWING AN explosive performance at the recently concluded Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, singer Richie Stephens and the Ska Nation Band are now in Europe for a six-week tour.

The group will make stops in Germany; Milan, Rome and Salento in Italy and will perform at the four-day Untold Music Festival - the largest annual electronic music festival in Romania. Stephens will join Lee Scratch Perry and Mad Professor as the only Jamaican acts that will perform at the festival that last year, attracted more than 500,000 concertgoers on several stages in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Stephens, who is over the moon following the fantastic reception he and the band received at Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, gave the chairman of the festival Joe Bogdonavich high praises for believing in his band.

“Ska is big internationally but we don’t celebrate it in Jamaica anymore so I am amazed that we ended up on a Sumfest stage. It’s sad that we treat our own music like this but I am extremely happy that Joe really believed in us and had the audacity to give us the opportunity and the platform to showcase our talents. Given the feedback we have been getting, seems like we delivered in a big way,” he said.

During his performance, the Live Your Life singer diverted from his regular catalogue of songs, instead performing songs from his debut Ska Nation album titled Internationally.

“Seeing a story and a photo of me and the Ska Nation band on the front page of the newspaper is something that I am extremely proud of. It is proof we are on the right track” said an elated Stephens.

He said his passion for ska was not developed overnight. He admits to growing up loving it, saying his father was one of the ‘baddest’ ska dancers in town.

“For years I have dabbled into ska but it was not until recently that I took it on full time,” he confessed.

That decision didn’t come without negative feedback from some music insiders but he is moving on and breathing new life into the genre. Looking ahead he feels he is in a better place where the genre is concerned and said everybody is now catching on.

“Joe was the one with the vision who booked us, promoted us and gave us the opportunity to shine at Sumfest. Howard McIntosh and executives of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) who attended the festival this year loves what we are doing and lauded our outstanding performance.

"I also saw Stephen Marley backstage and he confessed that he loved our performance and indicated he is a big fan. He said Ska is the music that launched his father's career, so he has a special love for the genre. He personally thanked us for putting back the roots in our music. I am just busting with excitement right now with all the wonderful accolades we are getting and doors that are opening," the singer exclaimed.

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