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TOUGH MONEY: Entertainment | EXAMPLES FROM LIFE

It's the Music, Mahn

Judith Kalil, New Hartford, N.Y.

March 24, 1997

I've been many things in my life--academic, teacher, writer, wife, mother and now grandmother--and through it all, I've loved Jamaica. Everything about Jamaica speaks to me, especially the music. When I decided to write a children's book a few years ago, this love affair inspired me to set the story in Jamaica and include a reggae song. Little did I realize that this book would open up a new career and bind me even closer to this wonderful island.

It began in February 1994, while I was vacationing in Negril. I was sitting on the beach working on the song for the book, when a Rastaman walked by singing vintage Marley. I put down my book and listened. Then we started talking, and he told me that he composed original works as well. This conversation led us to perform a mixture of his songs, my songs and traditional songs in the local hotels. By the time I got back home in March, I'd already decided to create an organization to produce and promote Jamaican reggae music. At the same time, I was committed to accomplishing these goals in a way that was culturally in tune with both the artists and their message.

With the help and guidance of a Los Angeles friend in the music business, Joe Saraceno, I put together Irie Productions. We released our first 10-track CD in late 1994, "Forever You'll Be Mine," which includes "Jamaican People," the song originally written for my children's book. To date, Irie Productions has released 24 singles in Jamaica and a second CD, "Reggae Wrap." The music, performed by western Jamaican talent, is a buoyant celebration of life, love, unity and peace, and I'm proud of the part I've played in bringing it to the world.

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