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LE Newsletter - October 23, 2003

  Interview with Al-Beeno

"Music is love," said Al-Beeno (Jamaica Records) in his rhythmic and lilting Jamaican accent.  He was responding to a question I asked about whether there are great comparisons between the reggae coming out of Jamaica versus Canada.  I interviewed Al-Beeno at Irie Food Joint to follow up the previous article I had featured on him. 

He went on to say that the artists in Jamaica breathe, eat and sleep reggae.  Reggae hits you straight from the root.  He thinks that Canadian reggae artists may sometimes emulate the sounds of reggae, which he admits is not necessarily a bad thing.  In Jamaica, they are creating it right from the root – their life experience.  Jamaican reggae artists respect that each project is unique unto itself and that everyone comes from a "hood" of some kind – perhaps Canadian ghetto
experiences are similar to ghetto experiences in Jamaica.  Commenting on the global appeal of reggae and the diversification in the artists who perform reggae, Al-Beeno said, "If an individual can take music that's totally different from their race and culture and love it for what it is, then it's all love.  Colour is not an issue in that case.  Canadian is not an issue in that case.  It's just music," says Al-Beeno passionately.   "For [non-Jamaicans] to be inspired, to take the heritage and capture it - this was what Bob Marley was talking about.  It's about us feeling the music and it's all love.  Once you can feel that love and the energy, you can translate it and do whatever you want with it."  For people to judge performers this way, it's hating without doing the research."

I first saw Al-Beeno (
aka Corie Moodie) perform at Bambu by the Lake when Chris Smith Management held a reggae showcase to highlight the reggae artists on his roster.  Named for the congenital absence of pigmentation in his skin, hair and eyes i.e. albino or ‘dundas’ in Jamaican, Al-Beeno came out and right away got the crowd's attention.  Whether attributed to his atypical looks or his magnetic stage presence, Al-Beeno had the typically subdued Toronto audience jumpin' with their hands in the air at his command.  I knew right then that he was a unique talent. 

Al-Beeno moved to the countryside of St-Anne where time stood still from his place of birth, Kingston.  He said that having to find ways to entertain yourself as a kid was the main impetus for pursuing music.  As soon as 6:00 pm came, all the kids from the area would get together, put on a show and mimic artists they admired.  From mimicking other artists as a kid, came a love of performing, whether it was dancing or rhyming. 

As we sat in the coziness of Irie Food Joint, Al-Beeno fondly recounted his first performance at the age of 6 when he was asked to come forward in church at the request of the Minister to sing something.  He accepted the challenge and performed a song on cue to a congregation of dropped jaws, including his mother.  Up until then, they didn't even know that he could sing!

And then there was the constant barrage of people calling him out because of the unusual phenomenon - a Black child with white skin, freckles, blonde hair and blue eyes.  "Yellow, you do music or someting'?"  While some kids may have taken this as a handicap and become more introverted, Al-Beeno
used this and says that subconsciously, these people planted the seed to pursue music seriously.

His family then migrated to Toronto in the late eighties and he had to adjust, once again, to kids calling him cruel names for looking "different".  He wasn't as confident and comfortable in his skin as a kid as he is now and I could tell during our conversation that this sort of teasing affected him.  But he has found the determination to turn those taunts around to make him a stronger individual.  He realizes now that you cannot change what people think about you so you can just be proud of who you are and not let them change you. 

Al-Beeno became actively involved in the arts and studied piano throughout his schooling. The hip hop era was well underway when Al-Beeno began to flourish. While continuing to develop his skills as a dancehall deejay, Al-Beeno was break dancing, choreographing and step dancing in competitions throughout what has come to be known today as the T-dot.   And during one of these performances is where one of his most significant pivotal points in his life transpired - meeting Chris Smith.  He met him in Woodbridge in the early 90's and Chris approached him and asked if Al-Beeno did any music.  Al-Beeno figured that he would answer "yes" just for the hell of it.  Chris asked him to do something for him right on the spot and Al-Beeno obliged by making up some lyrics and performed for Chris, who was noticeably impressed.  This led to Al-Beeno being added to the Chris Smith Management roster – an accomplishment that many would envy. 

Al-Beeno says that he gets a great response from Canadian audiences so he's not complaining at all about the Canadian reggae scene!  He's unsure whether it's because of his looks or what, but he is grateful and acknowledges that he is not as accomplished as many of the other reggae artists in Canada.  Inspired by reggae and hip hop, with a hint of rhythm and blues, Al-Beeno’s style is unlike any other. His distinct sense of creativity and his eclectic appetite for music fused a sexy-loverman-style-with-a-twist and soon Al-Beeno’s dreams of grander performances would come to fruition. To date, Al-Beeno has shared the stage with the some of dancehall’s finest including: Bounty Killer, Buju Banton and Coco Tea to name a few.   Al-Beeno accredits having met artists like Bounty Killer and Guru for their encouragement.  When asked about musical influences, Al-Beeno answered in his smooth and unassuming manner that there are several influences, ranging from Bob Marley to Yellow Man to Admiral Bailey.

Commenting on what he would like people to say after witnessing a performance, he responded with hunger in his eyes, "I would like people to respect what I do.  I want them to know who I am and just like what I bring – the real deal."

Certainly with Al-Beeno's unique talent, strong determination to succeed, undeniable work ethic and ability to defeat any stereotypical adversities, he will make an indelible mark in the global reggae scene.  This humble man will continue to deliver the goods – you HAVE to check him out - "trust me".  I will keep you posted on upcoming performances.    In the meantime, listen here for a sample - Audio Sample:  Al-Beeno - Albeeno mi Name MP3

It was a pleasure speaking with Al-Beeno and I appreciate the time he took to be interviewed.  Thank you also to Ray Hammond of Fiwi Music for hooking up the interview.