Making his third appearance on our Valley Stage, SNWMF once again welcomes the smooth and deadly vocals of one of Jamaica's long time superstars, Cocoa Tea. A hit-maker almost right from the beginning, Cocoa Tea remains one of the most sought after artists on the west coast, not to mention the entire world, and always puts in one of the best performances of the night anywhere he appears.
Cocoa Tea earned his stage name, through his love for ...?... you guessed it, hot cocoa (cocoa tea, as it is called in rural Jamaica). Attributing his inspiration to Jah, he has said his aim was to become a role model, a source of learning and inspiration, like the great Bob Marley, whom he so admires. As he put it, "There is a lack of consciousness...it (the music) is becoming what it has not been." In response, Cocoa Tea has tried his best to remedy that situation.
Cocoa Tea began his adult life working as a jockey (a calling he has kept his hand in, becoming an owner of thoroughbred horses later in life), and then as a fisherman. It was during this time as a fisherman that he began structuring his music career by performing in local dancehalls, where he would test his lyrics on the various sound systems that came to play in his area.
His success at the sound system dances strengthened his purpose and encouraged him to continue in the music business, so he began writing songs and training his voice. The final push came when his first child, Rashane, was born, and the need for a steady income plunged him into music full time.
Two months after a particularly impressive performance at a dance in 1983, he journeyed to Kingston where he met Henry "Junjo" Lawes, owner of the Volcano sound system and record label. "Who's The Champion" and his first big hit, "Rocking Dolly," were the first products from what was to be a successful union. These songs along with "Christmas Is Coming," and "On Top Of The World," were all compiled with his next big hit, "I Lost My Sonia" to comprise his first album,
I Lost My Sonia, released soon afterward.
In 1985 Cocoa Tea became a Rastafarian, and that conversion was reflected in his music, with songs like "Settle Down," "Too Much Fussing And Fighting," "86 Flood," "Highest Mountain," "Tune In," "Must Unite" being included on a subsequent LP,
Settle Down, for then ruling producer King Jammy's. Also included on that hit album was his reprise song "(Cocoa Tea) Come Again", in which he reminds the massive that he is on the scene and not planning on leaving anytime soon!
As if to prove the point, in the 1990s, when most Jamaican producers were cranking out (often very forgettable) computer riddims, and then seemingly getting every artist on the island to cut a track over them, one could always count on Cocoa Tea to provide the very best vocals over even the most lukewarm riddims.
His inflections, flow and smooth vocal sound made up for any mediocrity in the underlying musical accompaniment, whether they be cultural-themed or lovers rock, a genre he excels at.
He even brought a subtle sense of humor to his songs; a great example would be his take on Krystal and Shabba Ranks' "Twice My Age", entitled "Exactly My Age", where he insisted any woman he would be involved with be "exactly his age", right down to the very day! This proclamation was of course followed by him lamenting that he is cutting the field down so much he is liable to never find her!
Often topical in his lyrical subjects, when the first Iraq war began in the early 1990s, we heard Cocoa Tea sing "Oil Ting" and he followed that hit up with "No Blood For Oil". When the subject turned to American politics, first he hit with "Ruling Cowboy", which could be aimed at any number of American presidents; later he came with his hit "Barack Obama", which celebrated the euphoria associated with the election of the first black president of the United States.
When the crack epidemic was ravaging the world, he used the evergreen riddim that backed the classic "Up Park Camp" to update the subject in his "Rikers Island", a plea to the youth to cool out, get themselves educated and not get involved in crime that will end them up in the notorious New York prison of that name.
Cocoa Tea has been performing all over the world since 1984, with extensive tours to the USA, Canada, the Caribbean and Japan. Even while being an international attraction, he has stayed loyal to his home base. He appears regularly at all major concerts in Jamaica, and has appeared on reggae's premiere event, Reggae Sunsplash, nearly every year since 1987. He recently noted his three most memorable performances to date: his first performance at Sunsplash in 1987, a show in Canada where he performed for two hours non-stop, and his performance in St. Croix, VI, where he appeared before 10,000 people in the pouring rain.
Always the humble superstar, when asked what he hoped his legacy would be, he answered "If one of my songs can be remembered and/or quoted, and be of inspiration or guidance to anyone, then I shall be forever happy with my contribution musically." There is no doubt that legacy has been fulfilled.
SNWMF is especially proud to be presenting this musical giant to our stage one more time; no one should pass up a chance to get themselves some sweet, sweet Cocoa Tea!