Friday, May 19, 2017

Legendary Jamaican Casanova Singer, Frankie Paul, Dies at 52

In March 2014, Frankie Paul was forced to step into a Jamaican debate that suggests "dancehall music promotes crime." (Photo taken from St. Lucia News Online)
Frankie Paul, a legendary Jamaican reggae singer who lived in The Gambia since 1994, has died at age 52, local media in Jamaica report.

The Cassanova singer died at the University Hospital of West Indies (UHWI) in Kingston on the night of May 18, 2017. According to reports, Paul's "heart stopped beating for seven minutes earlier this week."

He has been admitted at that hospital since April and had up to a $1.5 million medical bill of which friends have been assisting to finance.

The Jamaican Observer reported that Mr. Paul "had been suffering from kidney problems and was on dialysis two days per week."

Gambian ties

Born on 19 October, 1965 as Paul Blake, the veteran singer was popular not only in his home country. He was also very popular in other parts of the world, including The Gambia. He made the small West African nation his second home. 

While there, Paul made several performances including one in 2012 at Batokunku village in western part of The Gambia during the first Back to Africa Festival, organised by the UK-based ARIWA Records owned by Guyana-born Neil Fraser, also known as Mad Professor. 

That festival, now an annual event, is meant to promote Africa’s cultural norms and values and to bring the Diaspora back to their cultural heritage.

Paul produced several albums including Give The Youth A Chance (1982), Money Talk (1991), I Be Hold (2001), and Most Wanted (2011).

In defence of dancehall

For more than 10 years, from the 1980s to the 1990s, Paul was one of Jamaica's top and biggest dancehall singers.

In March 2014, he was forced to step into a Jamaican debate that suggests "dancehall music promotes crime."

He dismissed this notion in a single It's Not Dancehall (Causing Crime). "I don't know where they got the idea that dancehall music promotes crime. Dancehall has always been about life and fun," Frankie Paul told the Jamaica Observer.

Paul's intervention was warranted by critics of dancehall music associating the genre with the jailing and prosecution of high profile singers in and outside Kingston, Jamaica. 

For instance, Vybz Kartel was convicted of murder, Buju Banton was convicted on drug charges in the United States, and both Tommy Lee Sparta and Popcaan had been charged to court.

While Paul is said to have admitted some dancehall "songs overstep moral and social boundaries", he believes censorship should be left to a regulatory body, the Broadcasting Commission, and not the police or courts.

And he did

Paul, who was vision impaired from birth, had his vision partly restored after an operation. 

While at the Salvation Army School for the Blind, young Paul sang for, and impressed Stevie Wonder, an American RnB singer, who is said to have encouraged him to take music as a professional career. And he did. 

From the 1980s to the 1990s, Paul made his mark in global music and became one of Jamaica's top dancehall singers.

In 1985, the New Music Express, a British music journalism magazine which began publishing 13 years before Paul was born, said of the singer: 

"Frankie Paul has a voice that improves with each release and, although initially compared with Dennis Brown, he has evolved a strange nasal, throaty style that makes him sound much older. It's the sheer exuberance of his best performances that give away his youthfulness, and his two London appearances have been joyous occasions."

Over the years, he recorded several hits, one of which, Casanova, has been very popular in The Gambia.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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