Arts

Music star Shaggy prepares for blast off in Ireland – and not just because he loves curry

With a career spanning more than two decades and known for hits like It Wasn't Me, Boombastic and Oh Carolina, dancehall pop sensation Shaggy is still a musical force to be reckoned with. As his latest tour kicks off in Dublin tonight, we found out how working with Police man Sting transformed the Jamaica-born US star's life and why he'll never stop making music

Shaggy plays Dublin's 3Arena tonight as part of his Blast Off! Tour
Kerri-Ann Roper

IF YOU'RE hoping to bump into US star Shaggy while he's in Dublin for the start of the Blast Off! Tour tonight, you're likely to find him tucking into what he says is one of his favourite cuisines – a good Indian. Or he'll be hanging out at a pub, catching up with friends.

The 51-year-old hitmaker, famous for 90s hits like Oh Carolina, Boombastic and It Wasn't Me, is a longtime fan and friend of Ireland and Britain.

"I think England has some of the best Indian restaurants," the singer, whose real name is Orville Richard Burrell, says over the phone.

He's speaking ahead of taking to the stage as part of The Blast Off! Tour which will also feature performances from other US artists like Nelly, Salt-N-Pepa, Blu Cantrell and Mya.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Shaggy emerged as the biggest success story and trailblazer of what would become known as the dancehall reggae genre.

"I've had a long history with the UK, you know my first major hit record was Oh Carolina, that broke out in the UK, we followed it up with another number one [Boombastic] and then, of course, Angel – these are just massive, massive songs that not only broke out of the UK, but shaped what is now dancehall.

"At that time, dancehall was not very well known and wasn't played on any type of mainstream radio. I was one of the few who was able to break the barriers down to become mainstream," he says, reflecting on a career which has spanned nearly three decades.

"Of course, dancehall has gone on to become a major part of popular culture, and as also has been responsible for spin-off genres, such as Afrobeat and reggae pop, and that happened throughout England. So, those relationships have been very deep rooted for me, and to come to Ireland and through England to rock these tunes that so many fans have embraced as the soundtrack of their lives, is part of the job – it's what I'm supposed to do."

After tonight's show in Dublin, The Blast Off! Tour will move on to Cardiff, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester, London and elsewhere, something the Grammy-nominated artist says "made sense".

"And it was an opportunity to come with a group of people and play in front of a big audience and just rock... Nelly, I'm friends with Nelly... you know, and all these people that are on the bill are people that I've worked with, at some point throughout my career, so the timing of it all, just made sense."

His American musician friends and collaborators aside, what does he make of the music scene here at the moment?

"To be honest with you, I'm really more focused on the reggae scene, I like what Stylo G and a couple of these guys are doing.

"The British scene has been very popular and the first to really embrace the Afrobeats sound and bring it to the forefront, even more so than the US. I also love the fact that people like Ed Sheeran has made an impact with songs that are dancehall infused – and I like that.

"And I think the British scene is definitely cutting edge in leading the way, I'm just waiting for Adele to do a dancehall record, then we good," he says, chuckling over the line.

There is another British musician, though, who he says had a life-changing impact on him – Sting.

The pair recorded the 2018 album 44/876, with the numbers referencing the dialling codes for the UK and Jamaica, a nod to both artists' home countries.

Despite having racked up an impressive record of chart-topping hits and albums, he says the collaboration with former Police frontman is a stand-out career moment.

"Another highlight of my life has been this union with me and Sting, because it wasn't just a collaboration, it's a friendship," he says earnestly.

"It was a life-changing moment for me with Sting, because he showed me so many different levels of the game and of music, and how to make music and instrumentation.I brought a lot to him and he brought a lot to me."

Shaggy's Blast Off! Tour will also feature performances from other US artists like Nelly, Salt-N-Pepa, Blu Cantrell and Mya.

One look at his repertoire and it's clear Shaggy has no intention of slowing down or stopping with the hits, as his 12th studio album Wah Gwaan?! – released last year – bears testament to.

"I don't think you can excel at anything unless you're passionate about it, and I really love what I do," he explains.

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world to be doing this type of music – and just doing music in general... it has allowed me to uplift my lifestyle, to uplift my family, to support the needs of other people... all I would love to do is to have new artists coming up."

And after nearly 30 years of paving the way for others, topping charts and touring, for Shaggy, it's still all about the music, and not the fame.

"I keep it to the music, I never forget what it is, everything around you revolves around it. I love to collaborate – not like 'Oh, I've got to get a big artist', I like to collaborate with great musicians, great writers and new artists, and come up with sounds that fascinate me, and try things with my vocals that I've never tried before. It's fascinating, it never changes. Music always changes, but the feeling never changes for me.

"Because I keep it to the music, the rest doesn't really compute. I don't enjoy the fame... it has its perks, I'm not lying about that, but it can get overwhelming. I don't do tabloids a lot, I don't do red carpets, [if] you've seen me at an awards show or on the red carpet, it's because I'm involved in it.

"I'm not big into networking, especially today, because there's a lot of people who are not very genuine. And at this age, I don't really want to expand my circle, I would prefer to keep my circle pretty tight."

He's also resolute about what's in store down the line.

"I will never follow what's trendy. I will create trends. I might go away for a long time – if you look at my career and the patterns of it, I've gone away for sometimes five years, eight years – but then I come back with a monster."

:: Shaggy: The Blast Off! Tour, tonight, 3Arena, Dublin. Tickets via Ticketmaster.ie

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