The independent producers still held their own in Jamaica during the mid-1980s when Earl Messam got involved in the music business. He was from Clarendon and knew about the exploits of his colleagues from that parish, located in central Jamaica.
Based in Philadelphia since the late 1980s, Messam is the head of Wildfire Records which has increased its production activity in the last two years, releasing songs by veteran singers Ian Sweetness, Roland Burrell and Doniki.
Messam boasts that he was instrtumental in launching the careers of deejays Daddy Screw and Mad Cobra, and also had a hand in the production of ‘Golden Hen’, a big hit for Tenor Saw almost 40 years ago.
“Mi have a passion for music, it run inna mi family. It flow from di blood,” he said.
Wildfire Records’ latest releases include Ian Sweetness’ cover of ‘Ain’t That Loving You’ and the Yuletide classic, ‘Merry Christmas’. Burrell, a Clarendon native and Messam’s cousin, does a rendition of Alton Ellis’ ‘Breaking up is Hard to Do’ while Doniki’s songs for the label are a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s ‘For The Good Times’ and ‘Put Me in The Mood’, an original song.
Doniki, a talented artiste from Trench Town, died in 2016 at age 49. Many believed the highly-thought-of vocalist passed away without realising his full potential.
Messam is among that group, describing the Rastafarian as a, “Top man, a righteous person.”
Burrell is the elder of the Wildfire Records camp. Recording since the early 1970s, his hit songs include ‘Johnny Dollar’ and ‘Stormy Night’, both recorded at Channel One later that decade.
Possessing a powerful baritone, Ian Sweetness has been recording music since the mid-1980s. Over the years, he has done songs for producers including Lloyd “King Jammy” James and a number of ‘indie’ labels.
Messam points out that his company is not limited to veterans. He has a new single and album by singer Tia, scheduled for release soon.
He is confident of making a mark with Wildfire Records, which would see him joining the ranks of other Clarendon natives on the hit parade. They include Derrick Morgan, Toots Hibbert, Millie Small, The Clarendonians, Freddie McGregor, and Barrington Levy.