Reggae - In - Motion : Beres ‘Cudjo’ Hammond: The Man, His Thoughts, and His MusicPublished May 1, 2008
Who is Beres ‘Cudjo’ Hammond? The “Reggae Role Model of The Year” in Jamaica according to the Excellence in Music and Entertainment Awards for 2008. Arguably, the most successful songwriter/composer/singer/performer in Reggae music’ since 1990, Hammond is the voice of Reggae soul power. Hammond’s effect on audiences often times defies description, but let me try. ‘Cudjo’ Hammond’ romantic rude boy love songs have women literally lose their minds, and their clothes. Males, watched with grateful anticipation awaiting the treats awaiting them at home, if they listen to him. are an exercise in liberation soul power. For women, his live concert is an ‘exercise orgasmic rapture. Hammond glides through the subtle nuances of love and romance with a sensitivity and insight rare for male reggae singers or men in general. His relationship with his audience could be described as a symbiotic synergistic electrical vibration flowing between Beres and his fans. His live shows take his audiences on journey to new heights
Hugh Beresford Hammond was born in the Parish of St. Mary in Jamaica. He grew up in a large family of mostly females. These females impacted his early development as a young male and their influence his sensibilities and are reflected in the way he writes his songs. A modest but confident artist/person, his musical odyssey takes his fans as close to him as he will allow them to get. On one album he invited them to come spend “A Day in the Life” of Beres “Cujo” Hammond.
In this interview with Jamaicans.com Senior music writer Stan Evan Smith he talk about his music, the state of reggae, his unique creative process, and offers solutions to some of the problems plaguing the industry.
SS: Do you have a philosophy you live by and would you like to share it?
BH: Love is the most important thing in life. It was here before me and it will be here after I am gone. I am not into publicly discussing politics, religion or philosophy. I realize that whatever your thoughts are about life, there are folks who will agree with you and then there are others who will be offended. Because I see no reason to offend anybody or let my beliefs be an offense, I keep my thoughts to myself.
SS: Do you realize how important you are to a lot of people?
BH: (laughing) when I am on stage and they ask for another song, I feel a sense of welcome. Being on stage I do get that sense.
SS: Does all the responsibility of touring and spreading reggae music get to you?
Beres & Buju Banton@ MSG in NYC Photo by Stan Evan Smith
BH: Sometimes peoples’ expectation and the burden seem like too much at times.
SS: While growing up did you ever feel that one day you would be traveling the world and bringing so much joy to so many people?
BH: I always wanted to do that. Every kid growing up wants to be president. To be honest with you I always waned to do that but never thought deep inside that it would manifest.
SS: Now that it has happen, how do you feel about it?
BH: It makes me feel great, but it feels normal now after doing it all these years. It has become like another day in the life of Beres.
SS: As one of the premier singer, producer and song writer in Reggae what do you think of the young singers coming out of Jamaica presently?
BH: To my surprise there are a whole lot of talented singers. What they need to do is to get the right songs. They need to get professional management, good songwriting to actually show the world the talent….
SS: Name some of your musical influences?
BH: Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Johnny Taylor, in the R&B genre. Locally Alton Ellis, Ken Booth, Leroy Sibbles of the Heptones, John Holt and Delroy Wilson. I started out with R&B as a singer. I practiced to be like these guys and when I was growing up I wanted to sound like them. They had fantastic talent that I always tried to measure up to, but could not. I then realized that I could only measure up to mine.
SS: Tell me about your have a record label?
BH: Yes, Harmony House. It was formed exclusively for Beres as an artist in 1981. Since 1997, it has grown and I have included others acts. I formed the label not to make money but to produce great music. It is for people who can appreciate good music and effort.
Beres @ Forrest Hills Stadium NYC Photo by Stan Evan Smith
SS: You love to record in the studio, why?
BH: I think it is my true calling. I have a passion for the studio more so than any other aspect of the business. I love writing songs whether for Beres or others.
SS: What do you think is the cause of the decline in the quality music in Reggae?
BH: Reggae, as a beat is out there more than it has ever been. In terms of music creativity and quality, simply nothing is really taking place. The many different sides of the music need to be presented to the international community in order to give them a choice and show the music’s diversity…
S.S: In my opinion, you are on of the best songwriters in Jamaica. How do you go about writing a song?
B.H. I have never thought about it.
S.S. That’s what they have people like us for; we try to get you to sit down and think about it.
B.H. A song to me is like an every day runnings, that’s what I'm saying now I really do not put pen to paper and sit down and write. Most of my writings go on in the studio. For some reason, anytime I enter the studio door a vibe always reach me, and I write about the things or I should say I sing about the things that I feel instantly, that writing feel now and it could be anything.
S.S. You seem to write a lot of love songs about women?
B.H. Yea, because women give me so much encouragement, and the strength to go on and love is a common thing with all of us, and it is about the most common thing with all of us that I can see that looks positive. Every other common thing about us is negative, and love as far as me concern; me born come see love; me live in love and when I gone I figure love will still be here as long as you have man and woman. So I'd prefer dealing with the love thing. In other words, them revolution song, that good, and me will deal with songs that deal with every day issues like pressure it nice too, but me realize that them songs don't reach too far cause what I feel is that people don't need a one to remind them of the hard situation, what them need is consolation that I can think of is love.
SS: You have always had female management throughout your career – is this by design or coincidence?
BH: No, it was not a deliberate choice. It just happened that way. I feel more comfortable working with women; because they tend to understand better how an artist feels.
SS: Do you have any kids?
BH: Yes, I have five kids and I love them.
SS: How do they fit in with you busy career?
BH: I function as a father. I try to not discuss my life in terms of music with them. I deal with what fathers do.
SS: Any of them interested in becoming an entertainer?
BH: They have never said it to me.
SS: Would you encourage it?
BH: Not necessarily, I would love for one of them to be doing what I am doing. The rewards today are far better than when I started. Until one of them says I want to do this, it would not be something that I would suggest to any of them.
SS: What do you do for recreation?
BH: I play dominoes and Ludo. It always goes back to some more songs. I am always preparing to go into the studio. I seldom find myself with the spare time to be able to do something else. My whole life is surrounded by music.
About the writer:
Stan Evan Smith is contributing Editor to Everybody’s Magazine, (NYC) Music critic for the Gleaner/Star NA. Staff writer, Jahwork.org, (California) Westindiantimes.net (Virginia) and senior music writer Jamaicans. Com (Florida) and, contributing writer to POSH Magazine (Maryland). He can be reached email@example.com. ww.myspace.com/stanwsmith