HOVE-LIVE FESTIVAL-BELGIUM. SEPTEMBER 3, 2005
If you could remember the nice old tunes from artists like Ken Boothe, Desmond Dekker, John Holt, Jimmy Cliff and so on, then you might as well remember tunes from Alton Ellis. He is one of Jamaica’s first artists who stormed the charts with “Muriel” in 1961, as a part of duo with Eddie Perkins.
He later recorded tunes like “Dance Crasher” “Cry Tough” and “Girl I’ve got a date” After a long silence, I was surprised to see him among the artists of this year’s performers, including (U-Brown, another old talented reggae artist who made “Train to Zion” album) at Hove-Live Festival in Hove, Belgium. After performing, I contacted him and this is what he has to say.
Joel: Mr Ellis, you started strongly those years with artists like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, John Holt etc. Then you suddenly disappeard. What has kept you away for so long?
Alton: Ya! that’s a good question. I was in London and I don’t have any documents in that country. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t travel. I couldn’t do anything. I was stuck for a couple years in that situation. The moment I had my documents I started travelling. Since then I’m active.
Joel: So when did you come back actively in music after the long silence?
Alton: I came back in 1985 and slowly building up. I have been to Jamaica and did a couple of shows and records.
Joel: Do you have anything coming out soon for your fans to know that you are really back on the music scene?
Alton: Yes I have new materials. The problem is the people are really zooming in. The younger boys like Beenie, Bunju and so on are breaking through in terms of new songs and all the people want to hear new songs. Artists like Ken Boothe John Holt etc all have new songs but the radio station don’t play them.
Joel: Which music station are you talking about. Is it in Jamaica and what is the reason they don’t play the old artists music?
Alton: The artists you hear their music now on the air in Jamaica, pay a lot of money for the promotion. I refuse to do so, because I spent my whole life making reggae music for the people to enjoy. I don’t mind paying a reasonable fee, you know. But the amount of money they take is too much.
Joel: At the moment you are on tour in Europe and you just played in Belgium. Where is your next destination?
Alton: The next place is America. I’m on tour in America next week and then back to Jamaica.
Joel: Many Jamaican musicians such as Joseph Hill of Culture has visited Africa many times. Have you ever visited Africa?
Alton: No I haven’t.
Joel: Then when do you plan to visit Africa?
Alton: Well as soon as I’m invited. Just to go to Africa on my own is impossible. But when any recognised organization invites me, I would honour the invitation. Africa is my mother land.
Joel: Mr Ellis, thank you very much.
Alton: You are welcome.