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Ramon’s rising reggae career

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Melody maker: 36-year-old Ramon Clarke is opening for Jah Cure and Collie Buddz on Saturday night (Photograph by Fotogenik Photography)

Ramon Clarke grew up “spitting verse” outside City Hall.

He and his friends would gather at lunch and after, having “sparred” through high school.

The 36-year-old started singing in his primary school choir. At 19 he started recording after his producer cousin, the late Matthew Clarke, encouraged him to write.

The reggae and R&B singer is opening for Jah Cure and Collie Buddz on Saturday night.

“It’s more rootsy, lover’s rock reggae” he explained of his sound, which has supported acts such as Beenie Man, Morgan Heritage, Barrington Levy and Warrior King.

The renowned selectors his cousin brought to the island often suggested he should be promoting his kin as a vocalist.

“This is when people used to ‘loiter’ at City Hall,” he said.

“At that time I was playing with trying to write some hooks and melodies. We would sit off at City Hall at lunchtime; a few of us would get around and guys would throw out styles. Guys would come up and say, ‘I’ve got this chat to style’.

“That’s pretty much all I had, but he drove me to take it seriously. That encouraged me to get going, or get started really. We did some recording in New York and Jamaica and since then I‘ve been a recording artist.”

He released his first EP in 2003, “an unmixed rough cut” featuring tracks Sally Ann, No Habla Espanol and Soul Mate.

“Mix 106 and Power 95 really spun it,” he remembers. He credits Power 95’s “Local Licks” for driving local talent.

However he’s perhaps best known for his 2008 hit, That Thing You Have. His gospel roots translate to his present sound and he cites reggae artists Luciano and Garnet Silk as influences. “I love that praise music. It’s definitely had strong influence,” he said.

The beloved Bermudian pastime “micing”, brings him his best inspiration.

“When you get a chance to shut the world out. It’s work, home, work, home. I work 50, 60 hours a week, home, family.” Last year, as a tribute to his cousin, he released Days and Times with Luciano. They had been working on it before his cousin was killed in 2008. A new rhythm and added orchestra brought it up-to-date.

He’s been working in electrical and construction since his “daddy threw [him] in at 15”, he laughed.

“Music to me is something I can do because I love it. I can make music that I love because I don’t have to focus on selling it.

“Having the foundation of my trade allowed me to fund recording and fund life, but at the same time I’ve lost the time I could have spent on it. It’s a balance, but I definitely see me taking more sabbaticals, or taking a year or two to do music when the finances look right. At least I know that I can build my house and provide for my child through my trade.”

As for Saturday’s show, he’s focused on the audience’s energy.

“I’ve got a nice 15-minute segment so I’m going to sample songs I’ve sung through the years,” he said. “I’m gonna keep it vocally interesting, keep it moving and try to get the crowd involved; see if I can get the crowd singing along with me.

“I try to have as much fun as I can so people pick up on that energy.

“I’ve always rated Jah Cure. And I remember when Collie Buddz started out. To me, it’s an honour to open up for both of them.

“A lot of Bermudians are taking control now because of the access to home studios.

“I’m definitely seeing the quality of the music as a whole is growing. I would like to see us get to a point where, like Trinidad and Jamaica, we’re sending out more of our artists.”

One Love One Life, Part 1 of Cup Match Summer Splash, Saturday, July 23, 8.30pm. GA: $85, VIP: $200 www.cupmatchsummersplash.com

(Photograph supplied)
(Photograph supplied)