Morgan Heritage - The Royal Family of
By Hortense Fuller
Although Reggae Music has endured a roller coaster ride over the
past couple of years, a telling sign of the musics strength has been the
recent efforts by such promising groups as Morgan Heritage. The year
1997 has proven to be very exciting for Morgan Heritage and their fans,
beginning with the release of the powerful new album, Protect Us Jah, on
VP Records. The band has been stripped down from seven family members to
a core of five. According to Peter Morgan, the groups lead vocalist,
this new configuration "still has the same family focus - perhaps a more
unified and divine focus than before - but also a tighter sound." The
resulting album has a deeper Reggae vibe and is thus more satisfying to
the strict Reggae fan than their previous album on MCA, Miracle.
By going back to their roots, Morgan Heritage has invariably
established a solid identity and benchmark for future works with their
powerful new recording Protect Us Jah. With this release, Morgan
Heritage has shifted from Major label support to that of the Independent
VP Records. According to Peter, the move to VP "has been a very a
positive development for the group and its identity." Peter stressed
that working with VP Records "keeps Morgan Heritage true to the music."
Commenting on the now infamous early-nineties trend of Majors signing on
Reggae artists and then unceremoniously dropping them, Peter stressed
that "Reggae and the Majors do not go together. This is because the
Majors do not want to accept the music for what it is." Peter continued
by explaining that initially, the Majors "signed the acts because they
liked the sound."
This was indeed the case with Morgan Heritages
immediate signing after their stellar performance at the 1992 Reggae
Sunsplash. However, with the subsequent Major label release, the company
"changed the sound" trying to appeal to cross-over audiences. In some
cases, the Majors "turned the artists into tax write-offs, [and] only
marketed the music to the [chain] stores like Tower Records or The Wiz."
But with VP records, Peter explains, everything has changed. "We give
thanks to VP, RAS, Heartbeat records... all the companies that are true
to the music. They are better companies to work with, [and] they can
market the music to the small communities that have always supported
Reggae music." Summing it all up, Peter stressed that "Reggae music is
slow growing - but ever growing - and the Majors lack time or patience"
to work with the artists or the music.
The results of the Morgan Heritage and VP Records collaboration
are beginning to pay off, as various members of the band commented that
the public response has so far been "tremendous" and continues to grow
day by day. Even in Europe, where the album has not yet been officially
released, several songs that have crossed the Atlantic are receiving
tremendous airplay and very positive feedback. Peter, taking on role of
spokesman for the family, says that the group is "happily surprised by
Right after the 1992 Sunsplash performance, "there was
much media hype surrounding Morgan Heritage - there was literally a buzz
- but now, with the new album, people are finally really listening and
getting into the music." The reasons for this appear to be two-fold.
First, VP Records has a marketing and distribution network that reaches
Reggae fans throughout America and the Caribbean. Second, Protect Us Jah
is a solid and roots- heavy release with heartfelt vocals, which thus
strikes a chord with many Reggae fans. Now that the initial media hype
is gone, Morgan Heritage can successfully showcase their groups talents
(ability to combine Jamaican roots with R&B tinged vocals) and thus be
accepted at face value for their quality work.
Protect Us Jah is presently having its share of success via
several singles that are receiving favorable radio airplay. The official
single, "Lets Make Up," is doing well, along with the hit "People Are
Fighting," the roots anthem "Set Yourself Free" and the family values
song "Mama & Papa". While each single covers a different topic in a
polished yet provocative fashion, the essentials of the Morgan family
heritage is evident throughout. The album, produced with Bobby Digital,
came about after the 1995 Reggae Sunsplash performance when "Papa" Denroy
Morgan made the necessary introductions and the two parties hit it off
I was surprised to learn through Peter that two separate
albums were actually recorded in Jamaica at the same time, the first
containing 15 songs for Bobby Digital while another set of 18 songs were
recorded for Jammys Productions. Several of these Jammys singles, such
as "Ladies" (a duet between Una and Lady Saw) and "Gimme A License"
been released in Jamaica. As is presently planned, the complete album of
the 18 Jammys singles will be released sometime in the near future.
The band has likewise been keeping very busy performing, both at
a series of local New York club engagements and at various Jamaican
Reggae festivals. Peter stressed that recent Jamaican performances have
been very positive for the band and their growing reputation.
the significant gigs, Sunsplash 96, the Rockers TV Jam in November, and
Tony Rebels "Solution" Event in January are highlights in the groups
recent memory. Subsequently, there are big plans for the Summer months,
including a North / West Africa tour, beginning at the Celebration for
the King of Morocco in July. From there, the group plans to continue
down the West African coast, stopping in Dakar, Senegal as well as
Abidjan, Côte dIvoire. Along the way, the possibilities are endless for
other appearances and Peter stressed that the group wants to seriously
consider Africa seriously as a part of their agenda and potential fan
base. After the African tour, Morgan Heritage will continue on to Europe
for a series of concerts and festival performances, finally ending up
their tour back at home in the United States during the Fall.
Concluding the interview, Peter stressed that the family hopes
that Protect Us Jah will "inspire people to live more lovingly with one
another on this earth." The group, realizing that this is no easy task,
further stresses that unity and family values are essential to a
successful and meaningful existence on this planet. This is ideally
illustrated by the fact that the band members all grew up together in a
solid family environment. Morgan Heritage is representative of the unity
that can exist between American and West Indian cultures. "We were born
in America, but we grew up surrounded by constant Jamaican roots. We can
speak both languages fluently, and our Mama and Papa did not let the
elements of the street come into our family structure." The result is a
direct testimony to the musics plead for unity. Through their recent
efforts, Morgan Heritage hopes that "people will see that we have been
blessed through the line of our father in music," and are ready to share
this with the world.