The highlight of the award-winning Jamaican reggae festival, the 2016 Rebel Salute was a 4:30 am performance by Beres Hammond. Music lovers were mesmerized in what the Jamaica Gleaner described as a magical 90-minute performance.
This is what has come to be expected of the internationally adored singer, songwriter. Born Hugh Beresford Hammond, this reggae crooner is known for his romantic lovers rock and soul-drenched songs.
With a career that began in the 70s and exploded in the 90s, Beres was awarded the Order of Jamaica by the Jamaican government in recognition of his “exceptional and dedicated contribution to the Jamaican music industry.”
Beres’ easily recognized voice is the surest bet that its yet another hit song for fans around the world. To understand the man and his music, Lynden Vassell, music writer for WORD Mag caught up with Beres for this interview from the WORD vaults. Enjoy!
Over the course of a 40 year plus career, very few reggae artists have enjoyed the success of this Jamaican gem. One look at his impressive musical resume as a singer/songwriter and you will see that his status in the reggae music industry is nothing short of legendary. With an uncanny ability to capture audiences which spans — easily, three generations, Beres Hammond continues to provide listeners worldwide with music for the soul. His unmistakably soulful, smoky-sweet voice has drawn comparisons with the likes of Otis Redding and Teddy Pendergrass.
Hammond’s relentless drive to make a difference with his music has resulted in hit after hit. On the eve of the release of his latest album, Music is Life, wherein he pleads, “Father bless me with a song to make the whole world sing along,” one senses that the possibility may not be far off at all.
WORD recently caught up with Hammond on a promotional tour in New York City that easily confirms that, just like the sweet harmonies over which he pours out music from his soul, he is the genuine article.
WORD: What are your goals or aspirations for this album?
BERES: I just want everybody to hear it. That’s what I’ve always wanted for all of my albums. I have already made the songs and I think they are worthy of people hearing them. We are trying to target audiences everywhere. I would love for them (the marketing team) to push it all the way.
WORD: What is the source of inspiration for your songs?
BERES: From people. The people around me, supporters, and people I meet in my everyday life. People are beautiful and people are crazy. So I don’t need to go far for inspiration.
WORD: It seems your music is always positive. Is there ever a time you get discouraged in the music?
BERES: Yes, but you can’t even use that, you can’t pay attention because life is of such. You just have to try to mend your fences and hope that people will follow if they see it as something positive. Even though lots of things around me are negative, I have to think of ways for people to see a positive move because if they emulate you, they will probably follow you with that positive move. A just so mi deal with my ting, you know?
WORD: Your album is titled Music is Life. Can you explain a little bit of that for me?
<blockquote>”Music can change the course of life. Music does what politicians cannot do, and the pastor in the church is soft when it comes to what music can do to you. You have to have the sound of music to make things happen. Music is life itself.”</blockquote>
BERES: Music IS life. Music can change the course of life. Music does what politicians cannot do, and the pastor in the church is soft when it comes to what music can do to you. You have to have the sound of music to make things happen. Music is life itself.
WORD: So music breeds life?
BERES: Breathes life son! Sounds funny but it’s the real thing. And I don’t think they found a better title for it.
WORD: How do you feel about the direction that reggae music is taking in terms of cross-over to the mainstream?
BERES: Reggae is presently enjoying good popularity but we need to make use of the popularity by making songs that everybody can understand. The thing that I come across in the foreign countries is that they want to enjoy the music but they would much prefer it if they could understand what you are saying. So, even though I don’t want to stray too far from my dialect, you have to give and take and you have to understand that we are not dealing just with Jamaican people. This is why when a foreigner takes up the music and do it, they always tend to sell more because people understand them better.
WORD: Wyclef Jean, one of the guest stars on your album and who in one of this songs, says it seems as though you need a soft porn video to sell a song these days. How do you feel about that?
BERES: We need to lock those things away. We are getting too perverted. Some of the things that used to be sacred, we are bringing them too much into the open. Things like sex, things you’re supposed to share behind closed doors, we’re bringing them too much into the open and putting them onto the screen and to me that’s perverted. That means we don’t have secrets anymore. What is life without little secrets? If this is what I have to do to survive in the music business, then I don’t need it… I am forced to leave it. I’m not thinking of the music now, I am thinking of myself as a man — a man who detests certain things. I don’t think you are doing to find that much in any of my stuff; I have positive things to say and I have my little youths.
WORD: A track called “Rock Away” speaks of those days when love use to reign. Is there a conscious movement on your part to bring love back to into the music?
BERES: Well, I have been doing this all my life. With the number of singers and deejays and musicians out there, I personally feel it would be better if more artists picked it up.
It would make the music better and more appealing internationally. Me, in my own little way, I am getting attention. Can you imagine if a dozen of us were doing what I am doing? But I am not stopping.
WORD: Are there any artists out there whom you’d like to collaborate with?
BERES: Not immediately, although I would like to do some collaboration with some of the 1970’s artists like sister Patti Labelle. I want to sings a song with her and show here how the reggae business goes. I want to hear her on a lover’s rock(tune).
WORD: If you could sum up where does Beres want to take the music?
BERES: It’s not where I want to take the music, it’s where I want to take the message — everywhere! I would love the opportunity for my songs to be heard everywhere. Let people refuse it, but don’t deny them of hearing it.