Rupert Harvey rejoins Messenjah to cut new album
One of Canada’s contributions to the international reggae scene, Messenjah, is cutting its first album in almost 20 years, and midtowner Rupert Harvey is spearheading its return.
The Bathurst and Eglinton area ex-pat, who now calls the Beach home, shared his excitement with refilling the hole, he says Messenjah left when they disbanded after their 1997 album, Catch De Vibe.
That album earned them a Juno in 1998 for best reggae recording.
“In our day, we were probably the most well-known reggae band in Canada, and since we stepped back we didn’t see anyone really step in to fill that space until recently,” Harvey says. “There’s a Canadian band named Magic! but they’re really not a traditional reggae band.
“So, we decided, hey, we’re going to get back out there and show these young guys how this thing is done.”
Harvey, who is joined by guitarist brother Carl (known for his work with Toots and the Maytals), Haile Yates on percussion, Robert Stephenson on drums, bassist Charles Sinclair and keyboardist Orville Malcomb, is well aware of the changing landscape of the music industry.
With downloads and single sales a priority for consumers, Messenjah is focusing on releasing four or five singles before launching a full album.
“We’ve surrounded ourselves with a lot of young blood, people who know what’s going on, to advise us of how best to get this stuff out there,” Harvey says, with a laugh. “The dinosaurs need the guidance of the youth.”
Their first single We’ve Had It was released in March with a clear message.
“We wanted to come back not with a la-di-da type song. We wanted a message,” he shares. “We were looking at some of the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, and Canada is realizing after all this time that a lot of people are homeless, suffering.
“A lot of the money that was collected wasn’t distributed.”
So, We’ve Had It carves a broad swath through social and environmental issues afflicting the world today, including those who are still struggling post Haitian earthquake in January, 2010.
Harvey says he’s happy to be back with his Messenjah bandmates after 18 years, and it’s not a moment too soon either:
“Reggae is generally very happy, and with the long winters, we definitely need some sunshine in our lives,” he admits. “We bring the reggae music.”
Expect Messenjah’s full album out by the end of June.