Inside you can find the latest reggae album, single, and riddim charts based on votes by radio DJs and music directors from around the world.
BUSINESS INSIGHT global reggae charts insight INTERVIEW Some insights on the reggae business and artist management coming this month from Gary “Riga” Burke, who managed artists like Randy Valentine and Cali P and helped them to establish their careers. Felix Rühling: Hi Riga. You are a busy man, and for many years you have worked behind the scenes within reggae. You work as a label, producer, and booker, but maybe the biggest impact you have had on the reggae scene so far was as the manager of Randy Valentine and Cali P. This aspect of your work will be the focus of this reasoning, but before we start to talk about how the magic is done, maybe you can give a little insight into your background and what you are doing. Gary “Riga” Burke: Hi Felix. Wow, insight into my background… I’ve been traveling a lot over the past 20 years so it’s hard to keep that short (laughs). I’m 35 years old, my parents are Irish - but I grew up in Switzerland before moving to London and then back to Europe. I’ve been recording, producing, and working with reggae and dancehall artists for 17 years now - mostly in Europe and the Caribbean, and I’m currently working between Barcelona (where our booking agency is based) and Geneva (where my studio is based - it’s great because it’s only like 30 Euros with easyJet and 1 hour on the plane to fly from one place to the next). Basically, I started off in 1998 as a 16-year-old DJ, we had a sound called Hemp Higher Crew and used to mix in parties in Geneva and Lausanne - I mixed in clubs before I was legally allowed to go in (laughs). We released a bunch of mixtapes, which did quite well back then between 2001 and 2006, and the concept was then even developed into a party brand in Hamburg by Kingsley Addo (with whom I used to work within the street markets in London, I was hustling CDs in the market and he was hustling clothes - so we started hustling together). My DJ career was short-lived, as I wanted to participate more in the actual creation of the music (production & engineering). I moved to London in 2001 to study Audio Engineering and went on to work for several labels (EMI & Virgin Records) in the finance and marketing departments as a junior assistant. While in London, I developed my network in the reggae business by organizing dubplate sessions with Jamaican artists (recording artists such as Buju Banton, Capleton, Alton Ellis, General Levy and more). At the same time, I started producing and got signed to a Swiss company that placed some of my instrumentals on major projects in Germany and France (Sony BMG, Warner): at that time I was producing hip-hop (the first major track I produced was a single for the German rapper Massiv in 2006 - “Einer aus dem Volk”). In 2007, I moved back to Switzerland where I met Cali P. He gave me the strength and motivation to start my own label Hemp Higher Productions in 2010. We released several riddims featuring Jamaican artists (T.O.K, Bugle, Serani, Masicka, Jahmiel, etc.), before realizing that a label would only survive if it was also managing the artist. I started then to focus on Cali P’s career and we ended up joining forces with seven-time X Games gold medalist and freeski legend Tanner Hall, who allowed us to set up a base in Jamaica for Cali P to start pushing his music in the Caribbean. At the same time I met Randy Valentine (I remember his talent blew me away the first time I heard him), and I felt I could quite easily use the network I had built with Cali P to introduce Randy, so working together with my UK business partner Kevin “Blemish” Ababio we went real hard as a trio (it’s all about the teamwork) and managed to develop Randy’s career on an international level. I spent the next five years (2012-2017) focusing exclusively on artist and label management. I really enjoyed working on both Cali P’s and Randy’s careers global reggae charts | issue 13 / june 2018 8
global reggae charts insight as I am personally a fan of both artists, so it was also a privilege for me to be able to contribute in that way. On the label side, we had six number-one reggae albums on the charts and released a number of projects: from 2010 to 2018 we released 230 songs from various artists - it’s been a fun ride. On the production side, I’ve been building a few riddims on the side for DJs like Walshy Fire (Major Lazer) and Vincz Lee (Switzerland’s top urban music DJ), and I have a few singles which have been sleeping on the side as I’ve been really busy and want to set up proper strategies for each release - but am getting ready to drop some new songs soon. unnoticed. So the first challenge is establishing the core fan base, which will help support the songs and the movement and give it its “own life.” Creating a network: this is something that unfortunately cannot be done overnight and is to a certain extent a reflection of your curriculum vitae. Basically, your personal network will be a sum of all the human interactions you’ve had over your life. Coming from Europe, one of the hardest parts was For 2018 my main focus is expanding the booking network. At the end of last year, we merged companies with the agency we were working with (Rhythm and Flow) and we decided that we were ready to step up the game to set up a larger company with bigger resources, focusing on developing the reggae and dancehall scene in Europe. We have set up offices in Barcelona and have made the team a bit bigger; we are currently five people working in the company in an effort to bring as many show opportunities as possible to our various clients. FR: You have been involved with the careers of Randy Valentine and Cali P from the very early days. When you look back at it - what do you see as the major challenges to establish a new, unknown artist in the reggae market? GB: From my point of view, there are several challenges: Establishing a core fan base: the beginning will always be the slowest part as generally the artist is still searching for their artistic direction, and has no pulling power… so at first, the exposure has to be CREATED through sweat and tears. As there is no demand at first, the main challenge is to get the music noticed “out there.” It can be the best song in the world, but if it isn’t brought to the right people and pushed the right way, a potential hit can go perfectly creating a network and getting my artists noticed in the US and the Caribbean. That took a lot of unanswered emails and phone calls before I managed to get stuff moving on other continents. However, in a place like Switzerland, it was very easy for me as I grew up there and have been working alongside most players in the industry over the past 15 years. So, creating a business network is definitely one of the big challenges as it can take years before having the type of network that would allow you to establish a new and unknown reggae artist. It’s hours of waiting at concerts backstage to meet a specific promoter, or at a radio building in order to meet the right 9 global reggae charts | issue 13 / june 2018