Gabriel Calcott mixing it with the Jamaicans

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Gabriel “Messenjah” Calcott barely needs to leave his front room in Christchurch to conjure up the authentic sound of sun-kissed Jamaica. 

The DJ/producer is best known in New Zealand for his reggae collective Dubwize. 

Since 2001, the band has released a handful of well-received albums and toured with the likes of The Black Seeds, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Cornerstone Roots. 

Calcott is now back on the road with Dubwize to showcase music from a new 16-track compilation album Kings Highway that he’s released on his own Reality Chant label. 

The CD features well-known Jamaican reggae singers such as Natty King, Lutan Fyah and Ginjah. 

Recorded in instalments, the project involved musicians and singers laying down tracks in places as far flung as Jamaica, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

They then sent the results to Calcott in Christchurch via the internet for him to add the final touches. 

“I’ve had situations where literally an hour after something has been recorded in Jamaica, I’m having a few instruments and backing vocals added to the songs in NZ,” Calcott explains. 

“High quality music files are transferred to me online to work on and mix which is pretty cool. 

“The technology means I get to work with some of my favourite overseas artists, which otherwise would have been just about impossible as I couldn’t afford to fly all over the world and record the sessions myself.” 

He goes on: “Skype has also been an invaluable tool for me because it means I can also have face-to-face talks with people on the other side of the planet during sessions and almost feel like I’m there in the studio with them.” 

To do the Kings Highway songs justice, Calcott and his longtime collaborator Paul “Confucius” Bilmer have roped in Australia-based vocalists Raz Bin Sam and Hua for a string of live dates, including a free gig at Queenstown’s Dux de Lux tonight. 

“As well as the singers, we have live percussion so we try and make what we are doing as much of a live show as we possibly can – it’s not just a couple of DJs playing tracks from an album,” Calcott adds.

Catch Dubwize at Dux de Lux tonight from 9pm