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K-Note - The Right Note

Author: Fat Tony
Friday, 2 May 2008
Kwame Powell, aka K-Note, is the local producer behind Australia’s only reggae mix-CD series, Dutty Bass. 3D’s Fat Tony had a chat with Powell ahead of the series’ sophomore release.

It was the 2000 Olympics that led to Canadian born DJ/producer K-Note’s relocation to Sydney. His girlfriend was working for the Canadian Olympic Committee, so they both came out here for the duration of the event. “One thing led to another”, Powell) played a few gigs, threw a few parties, made a few alliances and the rest is history.

Although he keeps his nightclub sets varied in the city he now calls home, Powell’s Dutty Bass series on Hardwax focuses on the reggae/dancehall sound. He’s just mixed Volume Two to follow up on the success of the first instalment. Over 31 tracks it’s a serious ride through the sound’s many facets.

“Lets just say it’s more of a story, where you’re trying to show a market the different types of reggae, but also understand how beautiful and serious this music can be,” Powell says. “This time around you’re going to hear some classics, some old school mixed with some new school stuff. It’s definitely different to the first one, there’s a lot of up-tempo stuff on there too. There’s a remix on there that’s really hard to get and it’ll surprise a lot of people.”

He’s talking about the Sunshine Reggae mix of Nelly Furtado’s Turn Off The Light, it’s a great version that caught me by surprise, it shows the vocal in a whole new light. “Some people might not know people like Busy Signal or Movado, but they might know Nelly Furtado,” Powell says. “So they might want to see what it’s all about and catch the vibe.”

One of the local alliances that Powell’s forged has been with Nick Toth, and the two now run the monthly reggae party Make It Clap. The night began at Hermann’s Bar, with a couple being held at The Watershed, but they’re looking to move it again for the next event. “We’re just looking for the next party place to drop the next one on,” Powell says.

“We basically like to play what feels good. It could be a whole set of anthems, it could be some funk, it could be all sorts of different music. We’re just trying to bring a different vibe to what you’re normally going to hear.”

The types of sounds that Make It Clap are pushing seem to be having their day in the sun right now. Powell’s enjoying the way that people are catching on to a sound he holds close to his heart. “You know, with anything that you truly like, and you see other people appreciating it in the same way, it brings out that euphoric feeling, like you’re on that next level, that next high,” he says.

“We have definitely noticed a big shift in how the markets are moving from one genre to another, or what’s becoming more popular. It seems that dancehall is climbing up there, although it’s not growing as fast as some people would like it to. Dancehall has always been playing in the background wherever there’s hip hop culture, kind of like in the back passengers’ seat, kind of watching. So people know it’s there, but it’s never come up as strong as it should’ve. Now it’s surging up and going for that driver’s seat.”

The partnership with Toth has also resulted in the pair performing together under the Surgeon Generals tag. “We try and make it our mission to play something different,” Powell says, “whether it be funk, or dancehall or the Trojan [Records] sound, all the different type of things. Because we’re a sound crew, you know what I’m saying- I think people are dying to hear a different sound because the industry is so saturated right now – with good music, but at the same time a lot of it is similar, not to take anything away from other genres. We’re just getting a bit of freshness out there, a different sound.”

He’s also known to jump on the mic from time to time for a bit of old fashioned Jamaican style toasting. But he doesn’t push it too far, given what Aussie crowds are accustomed to. “If we were to try things like back home, some of the crowds wouldn’t understand,” Powell says. “Basically we give them a bit of what we do back home, but you can’t freak people out, so we do it in a smaller doses.”

The next big party is a night combined with another local promoter, Yagga Yow. “We haven’t locked in a venue 100 per cent but it’s looking to be 15 June at Equilibrium,” Powell says. “If people want to hear dancehall, some African, some hip hop, done in a manner where you’ll be like ‘OK, this is what I’m talking about’, definitely swing down. The last one we did was a sell-out and the vibe was really nice.”

Powell was dabbling in the production side of things in Canada, but since he’s moved here things have slowed a little. But he’ll be looking to change that soon.

“I have a past history of making music. I’ve done some production before, in Canada and in the States, but I haven’t done as much in Australia as I’d like to,” he says. “There was one point where people who were making music in the Australian industry weren’t really there yet. But now it’s changing. A lot of tracks coming out of Australia are there, and you’re getting more and more talent coming through. In the pipeline there’s definitely some projects coming up.”

And even though reggae is traditionally associated with sunshine and palm trees, the coming cold weather doesn’t mean an end to proceedings at all. At least not if K-Note and the Surgeon Generals have anything to do with it, as Powell says:

“We try to make the clubs so hot that the heat from the music keeps you warm!”

WHO: K-Note
WHAT: Dutty Bass Vol. 2 through Hardwax / Plays Greenwood Hotel
WHEN: Out now / every Thursday in May