Washington D.C. skanked along to the drum and bass rhythms of Grammy-nominated Reggae diva Sheila Hylton this past weekend as she joined Reggae legend Bob Andy and Billboard topping Reggae artist Shaggy in Washington DC to celebrate Jamaica’s 45th year of independence. With show-stopping performances at Jamaica Night at Zanzibar on the Waterfront and at the Independence Sunday Market at the Gardens of the Organization of American States, Sheila Hylton brought down the nation’s capital with brand new material from her latest album, Steppin.
Best known for the cross-over smash hit ‘The Bed’s Too Big Without You,’ a funk-tinged Reggae cover of Sting & The Police’s pop hit, and for her part of the Grammy nominated Reggae Sunsplash ’81: A Tribute to Bob Marley, Sheila released Steppin, featuring the dynamic production duo Sly & Robbie, Paris-based original Wailer keyboardist Tyrone Downie, Dean Fraser, Wayne Armond, Robby Lyn, and Michael “Mickey” Wallace, and musical arranger Ervin Lloyd of the legendary Chalice Band earlier this year.
Backed by the Bare Essentials Band, she brought the crowd of nearly 1,000 at Zanzibar to their knees Friday. A young couple almost glued to each other by the skirt of the stage, unabashedly rub-a-dubbed just about flat on the floor to the sultry soulful “Our Love.” She paid special tribute to Bob Marley for paving the way with her own brand of “Crazy Baldhead” much to the crowd’s approval.
On Saturday afternoon, for three hours, Sheila served as co-host to popular radio personality Papa Wabe of WEAA FM 88.9 out of Baltimore, where she was able to talk about her latest album Steppin, her first release in well over a decade.
Fans called in from as far as Jamaica to hail up Sheila and voice their endorsement of Steppin, which includes the track ‘We Are in Love,’ a romantic duet with, and the last known recording of Reggae’s late great crown prince Dennis Brown. Radio personality Jason Walker, out of Atlanta, who got an opportunity to talk with Sheila on-air for WRFG 89.3 FM on Friday afternoon, says that the duet is a favorite request for his listeners in Atlanta.
“The tune is surprising, creative, and historic,” states Jason “Skywalker” Walker. “I am surprised that Dennis had a tune with a woman. It is creative because it’s not his usual singing style, and historic because it is his last recording and the only recording he has done with a woman. I am glad he chose to do this song with Sheila Hylton, her voice and style is the perfect complement to Dennis.”
“Dennis has been my friend for many years and we both talked about collaborating on a project for a long time, “states Sheila. “But we were always too busy to make it happen. We finally got into the studio and recorded ‘We’re in Love,’ and two months later my producer Ervin Lloyd told me that the Crown Prince had transitioned. My heart was broken but I resolved that in this his 50th year anniversary, the song would hit the airwaves in his honor.”
The Independence Sunday Market all day festival attracted over 5,000 people to celebrate the sounds, tastes, and fashions native to Jamaica. ‘Our Love,’ the album’s first single, currently in video rotation on BETJ, CBTV1, and recently approved for airing on MTV Tempo, won over the crowd, which included State officials, foreign dignitaries, and community leaders from around the world.
“I was received with open arms, love and affection from the audience, press and crew,” states Sheila. “I felt privileged to be chosen to participate with the legendary Errol Lee and Bare Essentials at this grand celebration of our rich heritage. This was really a wonderful event that brought the community together and I thank Ambassador Gordon Shirley and his administration, and Janet Madden in particular, whom I have known for many years but we have not been in touch for a while. We just picked up where we left off.”
“It was a pleasure to have Sheila Hylton perform,” states Dr. Gordon Shirley, Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States. “In 45 short years, our entertainers and musicians have spread Jamaica’s culture around the globe and shown the world some of the wonderful things that Jamaica has to offer.”
“She sounded good,” states Dermott Hussey, Programming Director of XM Radio’s popular program The Joint, of her Sunday performance. “When I look through music catalogues and I come across her name, I only see ‘The Bed’s Too Big Without You,’ and I always ask myself ‘where is the rest?’ She had so much potential when she first came on the scene, and it’s good to see that she is still here.” Lady T of Jamaica’s Hot 102 FM in a live interview from the venue gave the crowning endorsement that Sheila’s performance was simply “electrifying.”