GUYANA-BORN roots singer Natural Black is slated, on May 24, to perform at the James R Hallford Stadium in Georgia, USA, at an event to be hosted by the Guyana Association of Georgia, Inc.
“It is always an honour to represent my birth country. I am proud to be regarded as a music ambassador,” the 40-year-old Natural Black declared.
Natural Black will, this summer, embark on a series of shows in the United States of America to promote his album, ‘No Prejudice’, which was released last year.
He has fans in the Caribbean, Europe, the United States and Latin America, and is currently signed to Vision Sound Studios of Guyana.
He possesses a distinctively smooth and mellow voice, and parlays a style of his own. He is solidly in the forefront of the new roots and culture movement, and is a regular among the top record producers and show promoters. Over the years, he has recorded with Organic, King Jammys, 5th Element, Rootsdown, In The Streetz, Lustre Kings, Addis, 321 Strong, Firehouse, Harmony House, Digital B, Lion Paw, Big Yard, Kickin’, Young Blood, No Doubt, and Maximum Sound, amongst others.
He is closely associated with fellow deejays Norris Man and Perfect, and often voices tunes in joint sessions over the same riddims with them.
Natural Black tours extensively, and has performed to sold-out audiences in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Austria, France, Italy and Slovenia. He has performed on most of the major Reggae shows and festivals, such as Uppsala Reggae Festival, Reggae Sumfest, Sting, Rebel Salute, East Fest and others.
Born Mortimer Softleigh in the mining town of Linden, he was nicknamed ‘Black and White’ in the depressed Georgetown community of Albouystown because of his love for dressing in those colours.
He moved to Jamaica in 1995 to pursue his dream of becoming a reggae singer. On his arrival on that island, he worked as a welder and coffee picker while recording in his spare time for various producers. He made the rounds voicing for the likes of Anthony Red Rose, Gordon Lee, Jack Scorpio, Freddie McGregor and Beres Hammond.
Some producers released material and others didn’t, but of the singles that came out, all suffered for lack of promotion.
P.G. Music’s Marlon McCubbin produced his 1995 album, ‘Far From Reality’ (Greensleeves) – easily Natural’s biggest success thus far.
The Jamaican musicians he hung around renamed him Natural Black, and his fortunes began to change when, in 2000, he met Roger Grant, a young producer just starting his label, Organic Records. This association resulted in two singles, “With Feeling” and “Bad Mind”, which captured the audiences’ attention and brought him his first taste of success.
Both songs charted, and they were followed by ‘In The Streetz’, and ‘Never Leave You Lonely’, which peaked at number three on the Star Charts.
Grant became his manager, and capitalised on the popularity of the singles by booking him on major shows like Sting, Reggae Sumfest, and Rebel Salute.
His promising career was further bolstered with frequent tours in France, Switzerland, and Sweden, among other territories. Around this fertile period, he also saw the release of his first album, ‘Spiritual Food’ on French label Patate, followed by ‘World War’ on Lionroots.
His manager migrated to the USA in 2004, and Natural Black scored in 2006 for producer Don Corleon with the chart topping song ‘Far From Reality’.
The artist continues to record prolifically, but has not been able to consistently maintain a high public profile. His career is seemingly stuck in the stages of potential, and the Guyanese hope is yet to truly conquer his adopted homeland.
He has since recorded for several producers, and his releases include ‘Wanna Tell You I Love You’, ‘Don’t Play With My Heart’, and ‘Far From Reality’ — his biggest hit to date.
Natural Black caused a stir in May 2012 when he cut his locks, saying he was no longer living a Rastafarian lifestyle. “I am not my locks, therefore it cannot slow me down,” he said, when asked if his career was affected by that decision.
Natural Black has reportedly not lived up to the expectations some in the local music circles have had for him; but he is satisfied with his growth. “I am happy with where I am, because I have peace of mind; but, of course, there is always room for improvement. Whoever doesn’t think they can keep growing is egotistical,” he said.
In 2007, he was arrested at the Norman Manley International Airport in Jamaica, and was fined $2000 and sentenced to 120 hours of community service after pleading guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, indecent language, resisting arrest, and being armed with an offensive weapon (a ratchet knife).
He was arrested again in October that year on suspicion of stealing a car, although he was released after spending seven days in custody.
Pic saved as Natural, captioned as:
By Alex Wayne