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After ten years, Tempo still boosting Caribbean artistes

Published: 
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Ziggy Ranking and V Bozeman perform at Queen's Hall, Port-of-Spain during the media launch of the What is Love remix. PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES

Almost ten years ago, MTV’s parent company launched Tempo—a 24-hour channel specialising in Caribbean music and culture—with a string of concerts throughout the Caribbean, including one at Mobs 2 in Chaguaramas featuring some T&T’s biggest stars, Machel Montano, Kes, Destra and Bunji Garlin among them.

“We told the world that we were going to elevate Caribbean talent right there in Mobs 2 that night,” Tempo CEO Frederick Morton Jr reminisced recently.

The move was an unprecedented step for the pop culture powerhouse, providing a platform, like MTV did in the 80s for American acts, for emerging music and talk-show talent from the Caribbean. 

“I challenge anyone to challenge me that we didn’t contribute, even if it was just a drop in the bucket, to the elevation of Caribbean music and talent,” Morton said, speaking to guests in the lobby of Queen’s Hall, where Tempo recently launched a collaboration between local act Ziggy Ranking and V Bozeman, one of the stars of the music-based soap opera Empire. 

“We’ve brought local talent to regional stature and then international stature. We certainly had a role to play in the beginning of Rihanna’s career,” Morton said. “We certainly had a role to play in Tessanne Chin’s [career]. In fact, we knew she was ‘the voice’ before The Voice.”

Dressed sharply in a white blazer, dark blue slacks and a white shirt with blue and red stripes, Morton enthusiastically introduced a pair of up-and-coming acts, showing his considerable skill in promoting Caribbean artistes, which may have led MTV to take a chance on Tempo when he presented the idea as an attorney in the company’s legal department. 

“I believe it is an appropriate name for this band,” he said of the R&B/pop act The Gifted.

Singer Arita Edmund, he said, “will be one of [T&T’s] greatest musical exports at some point”.

He saved his greatest praise for Ranking, who he met ten years ago, when he came to T&T for the Tempo launch. It was his first visit.

He organised for Ranking to duet with Bozeman on a remix of her hit What is Love. A video for the remix is also being filmed in T&T. Bozeman and Ranking gave a live performance of their duet for the Queen’s Hall audience.

The collaboration was six months in the making. A record executive friend reached out to Morton to help put together the remix. Morton brought on a producer, Ruben Camacho, who’s worked with Tempo.

Of enlisting Ranking, Morton said: “He was the only one to do it.

“To match an international recording artist whose voice is so amazingly powerful,” he said, referring to Bozeman, “it was important to find a talent that was equal in power.”

Morton recalled what happened after he first heard Ranking’s Miserable Life.

“It became very clear that this was a song that needed exposure,” he said. “I pushed it, and the region embraced it fully. Ziggy was on a plane practically every week. In the Bahamas, a particular party got into power on Miserable Life. They told everyone that if they’re tired of the miserable life vote for us.

“They brought Ziggy up [to the Bahamas],” Morton recalled. Morton talked about how Tempo exposed countries of the Caribbean to each other’s music.

“I remember Machel [Montano] telling me that before Tempo he wasn’t moving around the region,” Morton said. “He was moving more to North America and to Europe, but the region wasn’t fully aware of who Machel Montano was, and then Tempo came along. And, of course, in the earlier parts of Tempo Machel was all over it.” 

Morton, who was born and grew up in St Croix but resides in New Jersey, acquired Tempo from MTV in 2007.

According to its website, the channel reaches “3.5 million viewers across the Caribbean and the US”. 

Ranking and Bozeman praised each other and the remix during a press conference.

“It’s a pleasure and honour to work with an artist of this calibre and such quality music,” said Ranking.

Bozeman called Ranking “an amazing talent”. 

“His voice is so strong and anointed. I’m happy that we can come together and do this incredible remix. I’m very pleased with the remix and the video too,” she said.

Morton said the project shows that Tempo is continuing what it started ten years ago. 

“We are particularly proud of the work we do to elevate Caribbean talent,” he said. “We’ve done really well at that over the last decade and we want to do more, and this particular collaboration is a step in that direction.”

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