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Young Pow is the new artist to watch, says Seani B

LIVING LEGENDS: Young Pow with Damian Marley, right, and bassist Shiah Coore

I‘M STILL on a musical high from the Welcome To JAMROCK cruise, and I thought I would bring to your attention one of the producers whose production style is really making waves at the moment.

Young Pow has been a fixture in Damian Marley’s touring band for a number of years, and has now started to release his own productions on his own label. “I’m from St Ann’s,” he tells me down the phone live and direct from Kingston, Jamaica.

“I’m from a musical family – my brother plays for the British Army, and I followed in his footsteps.” He went on to explain how the hook up with Damian came about. “His brother saw my brother play and they wanted him to play for Damian. However, my brother went into the army, but he told Damian’s camp about me, so Damian called me.

“It was one year after I left high school – I did the audition aged 18, just before the Welcome to Jamrock album came out.” It’s quite a jump from being a school kid to hitting the road with a man who had just won a Grammy for the album Halfway Tree – but Young Pow took it all in his stride.

“I have been working in bands since I was 11 and I used to play a lot of Damian’s songs, so I think that was why I got through the audition successfully. I performed with bands that played the hotel circuit, even though I was just a kid, and sometimes I would leave school on a Friday and go across the Caribbean to perform over the weekend then come back for school on a Monday.

“It’s a usual thing for musicians to start playing early in their life – if you check some of the top musicians, they all started when they were young, especially in Jamaica.”

It’s a journey that has seen him circle the world many times. Being part of a band can sometimes bring a sense of safety in numbers, and many budding producers don’t make the transition to being front and centre with the spotlight on you.

Pow isn’t concerned about this. “I think I did the right thing by learning my craft alongside top musicians, I have paid my dues, and I’m ready to do more work now,” he said.

“Most of my productions have meant I have been behind the scenes – now I am ready to step forward. I wrote the strings section for Damian’s There For You on the Wecome to Jamrock album and also worked on the track that Ziggy Marley has on the soundtrack for the movie A Shark’s Tale.

“For the past five years I have been working in the studio with Damian for the new album, Stony Hill. Most of these songs started as a jam session, just throwing ideas about. For Roar we were coming on the ferry to England from Europe, and the rest of the band were asleep, but I was working on my computer and built the riddim.

Young Pow, right, with fellow producer Baby G

“It was actually meant for Mavado, as I work with him too, but Damian heard it and loved it. I also worked on Autumn Leaves, Time Travel, Everybody Wants to Be Somebody and The Struggle Discontinues – it’s been a fruitful period.”

All the tracks he references from Stony Hill bear the hallmark of strong musicality and distinction in the current market – from thumping and driving drum and bass riddims of Roar to the subtlety of Autumn Leaves – quality is clearly more important than quantity for Pow, and it seems his inspirations are drawn from a wide range of places.

“When I was younger I used to mostly listen to gospel until I left high school. Then I started to explore dancehall and reggae,” he said. “From then until now, my main inspiration has been super producer Dave Kelly.”

This made me smile, as I also salute Dave ‘Madhouse’ Kelly, and actually met him on the cruise for the first time, which was a seminal moment for me as a dancehall producer and fan. Pow goes one step further. “A lot of people don’t get to speak to him – he is a bit of a mystery. Without doubt, I class him as a genius. The way he thinks about music is something different,” he added.

“He just knows stuff – it’s all about sound for him. If you check the influence he has had and how humble he is, it’s pretty amazing.” Humility seems to be a trait Pow has in abundance. “I’m always willing to learn. I like to listen, watch and learn. I like to think I’m not hype and I am a low key person generally.”

One of the new projects he has is a remix of a Popcaan track. “It is one of my favourite Popcaan tunes and I listened to it on a flight from Florida to Spain on repeat for about eight hours. When I came back I called fellow producer Baby G (King Jammy’s son) and he reached out to the original producer Andrew Blaxx. We got the acapella and mixed it to the beat we had.”

Next year is shaping up to be a very good one for Pow. “I’m so ready for the next run of work! I’m working with a new artist – Swele – who is from Trelawney. He is 20 years old and a special talent. I am also working with Sheireta Lewis, who is well- known in Reggae circles. She is an incredible vocalist and writer. We actually wrote the Caribbean Love theme tune which was used for the recent fundraiser in Jamaica.”

Remember where you heard about him first.

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