From age six Collie Buddz 'a come around'

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Photography By: Marie Mendoza

collie_BUDDZ.jpgColin Harper, also known as Collie Buddz has a rock-solid foundation in reggae - and its power to connect ghetto reality with the highest heights of human aspiration.

Born in 1981, Collie was immersed in the sound system culture since the age of 6. "I used to come home from primary school and my brother would always be on the turntables, playing his new 45's an' I'd just be there vibesin," he revealed.

The evolution of dancehall and the sound-clash culture, into a movement of it's own in the late 1980s and early 1990s set the backdrop for young Collie's discovery of his own identity; and the dancehall kings of that generation, Buju Banton, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man, served as his primary influences. "Back when Beenie and Bounty used to war lyrically, seeing clashes wit' Kilimanjaro an all the sound-man an' everything...the whole music scene for me took on a new meaning. Clash thing an' lyrical war became a part of my daily life from early out."

The daily operation of trading lyrics in schoolyard clashes quickly gave way to more serious combat as, "...people started sayin 'Ay, Buddz got some lyrics!" From an early age, some of the local sounds on the island wanted to get me on dub plate," says Collie, who stepped into the first of many vocal booths at age 16 to voice customized dubs for some Bermudian sounds. "Sounds was always trying to buss local artists in Bermuda." Consistent encouragement from the various sound men and engineers he encountered on those dub excursions led Collie to maintain a musical focus and eventually trek to Florida for a degree in audio engineering, a path that ended behind the boards of his own Bermudian studio, jointly run with his older brother (Smokey) and Sneek Success from one of Bermuda's founding sounds, 'Newclear Weapon.'

Building riddims for other artists only expanded his love for writing and voicing his own lyrics however. "I used to make these beats an none of the tunes came out how I pictured an artist sittin on de riddim, so I decided to start to get in the booth myself again and spit some lyrics. Unless my brother engineerin' for me, I'm runnin from the board to the booth, back to the board!" Like boot camp for a one-man army, that experience molded the signature vocal style that defines Collie Buddz – a songwriter who can lay his own riddim, sing the hook and chat on the verse.

"I build de riddim first and while I'm building it I don't try an' think about lyrics 'cause I'm trying to focus on the riddim, yunno? I make it sound as best I can and then for a day or two I rest my ears then start de writing process. I come up with a melody firs' and get that down, then start with the lyrics." The skill with which he compartmentalizes multiple roles in the studio also extends to his
easy movement between styles.

A falsetto that combines the singsong lover's rock appeal of a carnival crooner like Rupee with the deeper emotional catch of Bob Marley or Sizzla, Collie's voice sits with equal comfort over the jump-up pace of ragga-soca, 4/4 hip-hop beats or an achingly slow one drop. Most strikingly on tunes like "My Everything" he finds both the drive of dancehall and the bluesy edge of roots in a frenetic polyrhythm built around the Latin horns of David Bowie's "Let's Dance" an up-tempo track that could be just as at home in a Trinidad carnival as in a UK discothèque. "Some tunes I create are just to show that I could do anything I put my mind to," he explains "to show the versatility of my style."

"Nowadays when I go to put on a CD, its old tune: Alton Ellis, The Meditations, The Heptones, Skatalites, Jacob Miller, Eric Monty Morris; love the rockers music. From that I start to teach myself some of the history of this music, that's where I started to come a little more versatile with the singin'...the foundation just straight reality, yunno. I like dancehall, but de foundation and conscious tune really what me love."

Born in New Orleans but raised in Bermuda, dancehall singer Collie Buddz was entranced by the urban music of his island home. He favored dancehall the most, but soca and hip-hop were important too, all of which exploded out the speakers of his DJ brother. His brother was also involved in recording Collie's demo track, "Come Around", an infectious song that blew up in Europe and topped the charts in the U.K. before it came to Jamaica.

As the marijuana anthem was climbing the JA charts all the way up to number one, rapper Busta Rhymes cut his own, unauthorized remix, which increased the track's presence on urban American radio. Guest vocals on a remix of Beyonce's "Ring the Alarm" began his relationship with the Sony label. A guest appearance on an American rappers Lil' Flip latest album kept spreading the Collie Buddz name on the streets. Everything was in place as his second single, "Mamacita," and his self-titled debut album were both released by Sony in the summer of 2007.

 

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