Allawe Magazine

Milton Blake: Son of Zion Vol.1|1

by Joseph Daly

In scene one of the DVD Black History part 1 (2006), a must have for any lover of conscious, roots reggae, the Jamaican interviewer asks the organizers of this historic concert to address Bob Marley’s influence. All three men bust out into beautiful harmony singing Marley’s classic, Soul Rebel:
I’m a rebel, soul rebel
I’m a capturer, soul adventurer

Two of the men are easily recognizable to reggae fans worldwide – Luciano and Mikey General, legendary singers, songwriters, and founders of Jah Messenjah productions. The third is less recognizable but has an equally strong presence. With a commanding authority and a very melodic voice he sings,
Stop your fussin’ and fighting brother…

His sequence is short but it is instantly apparent that he is not a newcomer to the profession but a seasoned professional, and shame on us for not knowing him. His name is Milton Blake and his soon-to-be-released debut album should assuage questions of “Who’s that?” from international reggae fans.

Much of Blake’s lyrics focus on spiritual upliftment, black consciousness, “economic sufferation,” and having respect for humanity with the guidance of God (Jah). He affirms, “The process of my songwriting is to elevate others positively.” In fact, positivity is a theme that Blake expresses continuously in song and speech.

In contrast to the über-bravado of most reggae artists young and old, Blake seems more comfortable in humility both with how he conducts his inner and outer lives. “On a regular day,” he explains, “I get up and give praise to the Most High first, then in the kitchen to make breakfast, get my children off to school. Then it’s time for me to ready myself to go to the studio where I spend all my day.”

His raw, melodic voice follows in the footsteps of Bob Marley, Luciano, and Mikey General as well as Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown and Maxi Priest, all of whom Blake considers major influences on his career. His voice could be described as a mixture between Jah Cure’s sincerity and Dennis Brown’s clarity.

Born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, Blake grew up in the parish of St. Catherine. It was there that he started singing on the local sound system, Stereo Tone Hi-Fi, on weekends, while working as a carpenter the remainder of the week. He held his first audition at the legendary King Jammy’s studio in 1988. Although Blake was well-received, nothing became of the audition. It was around this time that he first met Luciano.

“I met Luciano when he came to live in my community, Central Village,” says Blake. “We used to attend the same church, Seventh Day Adventist, and his brother was the pastor [in 1990]. I was the one who told him to sing his first number one song ‘Shake It Up Tonight’ (adopted). We were at Castro Brown’s studio in Kingstown, Jamaica and Freddy McGregor gave him a rhythm on cassette. We both went home. I stopped by his house for a moment. There we were listening to the rhythm. We’ve tried a lot of songs on the rhythm, then the song came across my mind and I said Luci, ‘sing this’ and that was it.”

While hanging out at the Mixing Lab some four or five years later, Blake met pioneering dancehall producers Steely and Clevie and auditioned a song for them. He gradually gained more recognition and started recording with different producers/labels. Some of the songs he recorded included “Thank You Jah” and “Government” for Henfield Records and “He Lives” for Dwight Pickney of Roots Radics Band, which was released on the “Ketty Vibration” compilation.

Blake is now affiliated with the aforementioned Jah Messenjah Crew. In fact, it was through Mikey General that Blake was influenced to complete his debut album. “After doing so many singles, [Mikey General] told me to put them together and make a compilation.” Laura Gardner of the online magazine, Jahworks.org, is working on his booking and publicity, and his management team is based in St. Catherine, Jamaica.

So it is with unmistakable talent, a large catalogue of songs, and good people backing him up that Milton Blake is poised to make some noise! But it is his spiritual foundation and guidance through Jah that illuminates this talent. As he states in his aptly titled song Let Your Light Shine:
Remember you are gone
to a spiritual warfare
Not against one another
but deeper forces are there
So don’t you ever take off your armor
Just let your light shine before man
That they may see Jah
and glorify the father in Zion.