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by Dan Grunebaum

Maxi Priest & Shaggy
Shaggy
Maxi Priest

Reggae Japansplash may have come and gone, but the season still holds out one last opportunity to sway to the heartbeat rhythms of Jamaica's musical contribution to the world, long an essential ingredient to Tokyo's torrid summers.

As a fitting conclusion to its annual Roots Music Festival, the posh Blue Note Tokyo has concocted a special program that once again matches regular visitor Maxi Priest with a fellow reggae great. Last year saw the smooth British singer paired with Southern California roots revivalists Big Mountain, while this year sees him matched with Jamaican dancehall growler Shaggy.

Maxi Priest's entry into the music business is the stuff of legend: a carpenter who was asked to build speaker boxes for local reggae sound system Saxon, Priest's honey-toned voice caught their attention, and he wound up singing for them in the early '80s.

In 1987, Priest (b. Maxi Elliot) hooked up with crucial Jamaican rhythm section Sly & Robbie for Maxi, an album that catapulted him to worldwide fame, due largely to the massive success of a cover of folkie Cat Stevens' song "Wild World."

The singer then sank into relative obscurity until the release of the single "Housecall," in collaboration with the gruff-voiced MC Shabba Ranks. A similar type of pairing, this time contrasting Priest's slick lovers-rock sound and soft-sell sex appeal with Shaggy's earthshaking rumble and pheromones, put the pair on top of the charts with "That Girl" in 1996.

Although born in the rough-and-tumble Jamaican capital of Kingston, Shaggy, like Priest, is part of the Jamaican diaspora, making his career in the US after moving to Brooklyn when he was 18. Seeking a way off the mean streets of New York, Shaggy (b. Orville Richard Burrell) joined the Marines, winding up on the front lines of Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Returning from the Gulf, Shaggy was stationed in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. On weekend leave back home in Brooklyn in 1993, he recorded a "boombastic" remake of the old Prince Buster classic, "Oh Carolina." Much to his surprise, the single became a smash, selling 600,000 copies and catching the eye of Virgin Records, who went on to sign him to a multi-album deal.

Shaggy has gone on to prove himself more than a one-hit wonder. Pure Pleasure (1993), Original Doberman (1994) and Midnite Lover (1997) all performed fairly well, but it was the 10-million selling Hot Shot (2000) that catapulted the singer to superstardom on the strengths of the No. 1 singles "It Wasn't Me" and "Angel."

Shaggy's latest, meanwhile, was last fall's Lucky Day, while Priest has a greatest hits collection, Combination, in the stores.

Maxi Priest & Shaggy play the Blue Note Tokyo August 11-16. See concert listings for details.

credits: Blue Note Tokyo

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