Lenky goes instrumental

By Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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Commercial success is the last thing on the mind of super producer and musician Steven “Lenky” Marsden as it relates to his latest project, an instrumental album entitled Self Taught, which showcases his skills on the piano.

For the self-taught musician, hence the title of the album, who is creator of the now famous Diwali Riddim, this is more about building a brand and setting the stage for his music and musicianship rather than seeking instant gratification.

“I have always loved the music of the Jamaican greats such as Jackie Mittoo and Monty Alexander and been inspired by them. But I always want to do me. I don't play the organ like Mittoo and what I do is not jazz like Monty. So I play what I feel and have set the music on a reggae platform so that beat is there, but I involve various piano playing techniques.”

“The music is more the stuff that could be used as background music for a Netflix series or film. I am more going after publishing at this time. Not that I would not want something to go on the chart and mash up the place, but that is not where my head is at this time. I just want to push out real music at this time and look for the rewards in 50 years. I am taking my time,” said Marsden.

That said Marsden still battles the pressure which comes in wake of Diwali — the 2002 the rhythm which was featured on tracks such as Sufferer by Bounty Killer, Overcome by Wayne Marshall; Sean Paul's Get Busy, Pon De Replay by Rihanna and Wayne Wonder's No Letting Go.

“I am a musician and not a recording artiste so I don't allow the pressure to push out another hit immediately to get to me. For me music is more a vibe and felling and so you just can't manufacture that. But that pressure was there to repeat the success of Diwali — three big international hits and everyone wants that same thing to repeat. That's what leads people to no sleep, no eating just chasing that dream that might never come. I am from the Sly and Robbie School and Robbie describes their thing as a pipe dripping... it might take long to fill the bucket, but it must happen, so I am just doing it my way,” he explained.

On Self Taught shows Marsden explores Latin textures, contemporary jazz, hip hop, and of course, his native reggae and dancehall. The album's only features are rhythm section legends Sly & Robbie on Which Way Do We Drive, and his son, Diwali Records label-mate Q Marsden, who lends his vocals to Rapper in the Midst.

Of the album's title, Lenky said “the name comes from my natural ability to play the piano. I am a self-taught musician, having never attended a formal training school, but rather honing my skill through rigorous practice and help from those I've met along my journey. The album's title is solidified by all of the contributing musicians themselves being self-taught.”

In coming up with the music for Self Taught Marsden deliberately avoided common styles and characteristics associated with Jamaican music. He shared that the chord progressions are more complex and there is no banging — a trait from our ska heritage. He added that he just wanted to put out something that is different and moves the music forward.

“That is something that is missing from our music at this time. A lot of these youths just contented to go find a beat and loop it with Fruity Loop. They don't even know what key it is in. Unfortunately it is these beat players who are reaping success. I grew up on the music of Steelie and Cleevie in the 1980s, and Dave Kelly in the 90s and their rhythms made a difference and that's what I want. Whenever I put out something I want to create something different, leap forward and advance the music,” said Marsden.

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