Two Jamaican reggae legends will grace the stage at Brixton Academy in July; Beres Hammond and Bunny Wailer. Arts editor Barney spoke to Beres, the ‘Otis Redding of Reggae’, as he rested at his hotel after a long flight in from Jamaica.
At 59, Beres Hammond is still going strong, following up on the success of Grammy-nominated One Love, One Life (2012) with another album, as yet nameless, due out later this year. His plans to release it in summer were delayed by the tour with Bunny.
Famed for his distinctive lovers rock sound, Beres claims he is a “person of the heart” and says that through his new record he will continue his mission to empower people and bring them together through music. “There is no different direction for me,” he says when I ask what the new album has in store, “it’s just one love I try to preach all the time.”
Looking back at his last album, One Love, One Life, it’s that classic Beres feel – the warm vocals of Can’t Waste No Time and romantic lovers rock lyrics of Keep Me Warm – that earned the singer his second Grammy nomination of his four-decade-long career in 2014. With 26 albums under his belt, what is it that inspires him to keep creating music?
“People,” he responds simply, “it’s about trying to teach a new generation the right thing – as far you know what that is. I keep singing because I want people to get close together.” Beres’ music often features social commentary, and he sings about the importance of community, family solidarity, and better black rights. He laughs as we speak, adding “you could say I’m an all-purpose singer!”
He’ll be joined at Brixton Academy by another huge reggae name; Bunny Wailer, who founded the Wailers along with Bob Marley back in the early ‘60s. Playing with Bunny is “beautiful” says Beres, and importantly: “it’s the only way to judge myself”.
Beres has played in Brixton before, and he loves to perform to the enthusiastic audiences here. He wishes he could spend more time in our town, but if he could only say one thing to young people in SW9, it’s that violence gets you nowhere: “You only have your youth for a moment,” he says poignantly.
When I ask him what Brixton fans can expect at his Academy gig he doesn’t want to give too much away: “If I told you that people wouldn’t need to come! One thing is for sure, it’s gonna be a good time.”
You can still grab tickets to see Bunny and Beres perform at Brixton Academy on 17 July.