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Courtney John Sounds Off on Rootstronic and Musical Evolution

Courtney John

"I make music for people who love music," says Courtney John speaking to the small gathering at the SO((u))L HQ in Stony Hill. The musician had been invited to the SO((u))L to talk about his recently released Courtney John Project. He also spoke about his musical influences, and how the project itself came about.

Despite displaying a penchant for being more than a little vague in his explanations, Courtney John had some interesting things to say about how music has and is changing. He argued that the  music on the Courtney John Project has tapped into that electronic sound that is reflective how digitally infused life is today.

He remarked that an important part of what’s changed about music is how is being marketed and where money is being made. Noting that the music business has indeed shrunk, John explained that whereas CD sales are significantly lower than previous figures, live performances is responsible for significant earnings.

Though the sound could easily be considered Dub Step, Courtney John explained that the three producers on the project, himself, Stephen ‘Lenky’ Marsden and Natassja ‘The Wizard’ Hammond, prefer to call it Rootstronic, which reflects its Jamaican foundations.  

So((u)) HQ is located in the hills surrounding Kingston“We call it Rootstronic because the foundation is rooted in Jamaican culture," John explained. "Its Rootstronic because ‘roots’ is the foundation and its Tronic because ‘tronic’ is the innovation." He explained however, that there had been other influences from across the world and that infusing and innovating on music from elsewhere has long been a defining element of Jamaican popular music. So for John, Rootstronic is merely another stage in the ongoing evolution of Jamaican music.

John explained that The Wizard’s skills as producer was one of major forces behind the project. The  sound originated with the single 'Soul of a Man' which came out of a request to produce music for an Oliver Stone film.

The writer and singer explained that the project was one of the most intense writing experiences of his life. Admitting that even though his career has seen him dabble in ‘fluffy music” when it comes to his own influences and what he loves to listen to, fluffiness is swept aside. He remarked that it is the nature of Reggae to reach out and be expansive.

“The beauty about Reggae is that we use so little to create something so big," he said. "When it comes to reggae you have to learn the art of being simple."

He explained that the Courtney John Project has always maintained a Jamaican identity.

“The beauty of this project is that we've never left Jamaica out of it, so people know that it's Jamaican,” John said. However, it seems that Jamaicans are not as aware of the music as others. When asked by a member of the audience why the Project is only slated for two performances on the island, he explained that they are merely responding to demand.

“We show up as long as people invite us. It's just that nobody don't invite us,” John said. “It's not that there is intention to sideline what's going on here," he said.

He noted that although the Project is making great inroads overseas, it continues to hit the sound barrier in Jamaica, where electronic music is making only small inroads, although Jamaican music is being greatly infused in the genre, producing styles such as Dub Step.

The conversation was hosted by DJ Iset and featured a brief opening performance by Alexandria Love. The night closed with music from the Courtney John Project.