By Stephen Weir
Toronto’s all-time favourite reggae performer Jay Douglas has a new song out and a new “album” in the works. Still going strong after 45-years of performing, the Toronto singer has just “dropped” Jah Children, a single he has recorded with Jamaica’s Dancehall DJ General Trees.
Saying that Douglas is part of Toronto’s reggae scene, is unfair to the singer, better to say he started the reggae scene in Yorkville back in the seventies with the group The Cougars and continues to be the big draw for the sound.
While the Yorkville and Yonge Street scenes have long since disappeared, Douglas continues to soldier on. You have probably seen him on stage at Caribana and Carnival concerts, headlining at the CNE, on TV as he accepted his Junos, and performing at some of the GTA’s most popular watering holes.
“We have never stopped,” Jay Douglas told the Caribbean Camera. “I started as a kid in Montego Bay in the early 60s and we haven’t quit – the gigs continue to roll in.”
Douglas was born in Jamaica where he first performed as a child. He moved to Toronto to join his mother in 1963 when he was a teenage. He brought the Jamaica sound with him and quickly transformed from high school student to a performance star!
I last saw Douglas performing for a senior Jamaican politician at a private ballroom at the King Edward Hotel earlier this fall. The private party was for the visiting Minister’s birthday. When I talked to him late last this week just as he was heading out the door for a gig in Burlington. Next week, December 11th he is performing at the 200 seat Hugh’s Room on Dundas St West.
It was at a much larger venue than a hotel lounge or a downtown bar where Douglas caught up with the Jamaican DJ General Trees (Amos Edwards). Fifty-nine-year-old General Trees was one of the most popular Jamaican dancehall deejays of the 1980s and continues to play to a world audience.
“Three years ago, I performed at a Reggae festival here in Toronto with General Trees as the headliner,” Douglas recalls on how “Jah Children” and the collaboration came to be. “I was so impressed with his performance… He had the audience in his hands.”
“I invited the General to Side Door studio to put a rap on ‘Jah Children,’” he continues. “He accepted my invitation, and we played the track for him… He looked at me and smiled; it took him less than one hour to do his rap, he was so excited.”
Douglas didn’t do anything with their duet, at least not right away. Earlier this year he was going through his music and rediscovered Jah Children. He realized he had a hit on his hands. The song now is available from Slammin Media and distributed worldwide by Believe Distribution.
Douglas is most happy with the lyrics. “We live in a land, we got so much to give thanks for,” he says. “The track lands as an optimistic note, aiming to shine light thru the many social and political issues plaguing the world.”
Jay Douglas lives to work but also is dedicated to the community. “Often it is a young audience who want to know about the past, the scene here in Toronto. I try to pass along the message of Reggae!”
The singer has been volunteering of late with the Caribbean Community including taking part in walking tours along Eglinton Avenue West. His likeness is part of an outdoor wall mural about the history of Canadian Reggae and the inspiration for Reggae Lane – one of his current hits.
“That neighbourhood is in trouble man because of the Metrolinx construction (the big dig for a high speed streetcar along Eglinton). The Caribbean merchants are losing business because people can’t get to their stores (because of the construction). I do my part as best I can.”
His performance schedule and his community work isn’t stopping Douglas from getting into the studio. He is on track to have a new album out in the new year, and it will include “Jah Children”.
Douglas is talking to The Trees to join him in the studio, be it in person or by sending along tracks. Reggae fans won’t have to wait to hear the pair perform, Jah Children was just posted on You Tube YouTube (https://youtu.be/0CHxjSFQXZQ ) and is available on Spotify. It is about the best sampler to hear what it is like when Douglas sings with Trees!