Shalom has more ‘News For You’
It’s one of those songs that’s so familiar, it’s hard to ignore it when it starts playing, but outside of its impact, I’ve Got News For You may just be one of the most cherished songs of Stephen Harper’s solo career thus far.
Most roots-reggae lovers know Harper by the name Shalom, the man whose vocals lead the harmony for Jamaica’s popular reggae-gospel group, Katalys Crew.
A low-key charmer with a passion for reggae and ministering the gospel through the genre, Shalom says, musical genres aside, God remains the guiding force in his career.
“I serve God and every day that I live, it is for Him. I try to please him in walking, talking, singing and just by being around people, although it does not necessarily involve me preaching to them,” Shalom told The Gleaner.
Shalom has had his fair share of criticism for being a Christian who performs and records roots-reggae music, but he has no plans to quit now, having made a living from his music for the past 37 years.
It started from the earliest days as a protégé of Sugar Minott, whom he credits for introducing him to the music business and providing the opportunity to record his first track, Teenage Lover, in 1986 (known then by the artiste name Stevie Wonda). That song, he notes, was written with the help of classmates while attending the Pembroke Hall High School and became the pilot for his solo career. Another track, titled One Night of Touching introduced him to reggae music lovers in the UK, but I’ve Got News For You, recorded in the late ‘90s, got the attention of local and international industry players.
Prepared to ‘Go Hard’
After a few years solo, Shalom bounced around as a singer for local groups until finding a comfortable position as the lead singer for Katalys Crew. For the past five years, he has performed mostly in the religious space [for gospel shows], but he recently revealed that he is prepared to “go hard” with a solo career as a roots-reggae entertainer.
Sporadic hiatuses taken by Katalys Crew were one of the driving forces for this decision, but moving forward, he said, “My brand and stage name should be known as Shalom Katalys. I am not separating from the group; we are able to pull together if needs be.”
Regarding the type of music that he plans to record as Shalom Katalys, he explains, “Music is music. We have come to see it change from rocksteady and mento to reggae and dancehall as well as a fusion, but I believe it is important to keep it cultural – gospel or not. Artistes like myself get inspired to sing songs that may sound in that gospel vein, but the church still finds it a problem. My music is going to have a feel-good vibe and touch on social commentary and will take the form of roots-reggae. There will be no separation where that is concerned, because the reality is it that music is going to reach the lost and the lost are not in church.”
One of the benefits that the 50-year-old singer has reaped with this genre is the capacity of music to be oftentimes placed in a category that includes Morgan Heritage and Kabaka Pyramid, thus making him easily identified as a reggae artiste.
Criticisms are expected, but Shalom does not believe it will come as surprising news to fans. “I have been a solo artiste all my life and it was a great opportunity to work as a group. I am just moving forward now and there aren’t any fears about taking on this path. I am more enthusiastic about what God has planned for me,” Shalom shared.
Katalys Crew founder Paul Barclay is in support of the move. In fact, he remains one of the main figures in Shalom’s career, acting as manager and producer of the majority of newly recorded songs the public can expect from the singer. Barclay has recorded over 20 new songs with Shalom and is currently working to release a few later this year and eventually release an album.
According to Barclay, the aim in taking on a solo course “Is to re-establish his career in the roots-reggae music sphere at a global level, without compromising our message as Christians. Reggae, as we know it, is predominantly a Rastafarian space, and while we do not belong to that group, the genre is part of our culture and we are Jamaican.”
He continued, “The challenge does exist to be identified as a Christian roots-reggae entertainer, but at the same time, we will not water down the music or message to sound ‘churchy’. We have a very unique opportunity to create remarkable music in the category where Shalom Katalys had I’ve Got News For You, his first hit song,” he continued.
Performing as Shalom Katalys earlier this year, he gave the Rebel Salute audience a taste of what is in store for fans of roots-reggae when he performed his singles, Number One and Chant.