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John Holt: ‘I still go to dancehall nightclubs!’


THE ONE-time lead singer of reggae group The Paragons, John Holt went on to find solo fame with hits including The Tide Is High and Help Me Make It Through The Night.

Famed for incorporating orchestras in his live shows, his romantic love songs, and his iconic album 1,000 Volts of Holt, the Jamaican singer has found favour with his powerful live performances, and is widely considered reggae royalty amongst the genre’s aficionados.

With no plans to slow down, the 64-year-old says that he still keeps up to date with dancehall’s current trends, and even makes an appearance at dancehall nightclubs in Jamaica every now and again.

Gearing up for a Valentine’s show in London on February 12, Holt talks about changes in dancehall, being a romantic, and strutting his best moves at Weddy Weddy Wednesday!

Mr Holt, how are you doing?
Mrs Davina, I’m not bad at all. What’s going on?

All is well, sir. I trust you’re looking forward to your upcoming London show?
Oh yes, I always enjoy coming to the UK. After Jamaica, England was the first place I became popular. So I love being there. Performing there, the audience is always so happy and lively; it’s like we become one.

How does your UK fanbase compare to that in Jamaica?
They’re both the same. Both audiences have always been very supportive.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?
The highlight of my career was when we were promoting the 1,000 Volts of Holt album and we did a few concerts in the UK. I worked with the Brian Rogers Orchestra. That was a real highlight... but I’m looking forward to higher lights!

You’re famed for your love songs. Would you say you’re a romantic?
Yes, of course. I’m a very passionate person; very emotional and soft-hearted.

Where do you think that romantic streak comes from?
[Laughs]: I wish I knew!

What do you think of reggae’s current output?
I enjoy it. It’s been through changes and we have to accept those changes. So I’m not against what’s coming out today. I like Tarrus Riley’s voice. And Romain Virgo, I like his voice too. I’ve heard better voices but those people aren’t popular.

Nowadays, you can’t really get the chance to choose a favourite singer, because the way they play songs on the radio, you can’t really settle down to listen to one song. You start liking a song and suddenly, you don’t hear it anymore because there are so many other songs being released. So one song doesn’t get its full airplay.

It makes it hard for new singers to break out because you’ll hear their song one minute and within the next two days, you don’t hear that song again.

Some feel that dancehall has become increasingly violent over the years…
Dancehall has always carried that swag. I’m in it you know, because I still go to places where they play that music. I go there to see what’s going on and hear what riddims the people are into. Just the other day, I was at [Jamaican dancehall club night] Weddy Weddy [Wednesday].

Oh yeah! That’s the only way to stay in the limelight and keep on top of what’s going on. [Laughs] I can’t stay home and know what’s going on!

So when you go to these club nights, do you stand and observe or shake a leg on the dancefloor?
I mostly stand and watch but sometimes I make a move or two! I’m not really a dancer; I don’t really do the pattern thing [the choreographed routines]. Sometimes I do the pattern thing but I mostly do my own thing!

So what’s the future for you? What more would you like to achieve?
I’d like to achieve greatness.

You don’t think you’ve done that already?
I don’t think so. There’s still a lot more to come... and it will hit you like a bomb!

John Holt will perform alongside Freddie McGregor, Lukie D and Singing Melody at the O2 Academy Brixton, Stockwell Road, London SW9 on February 12. For tickets, visit:

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