Tony Cummings spoke to a co-writer and producer of a Platinum reggae hit now a R&B gospel singer, MARANTO
An unexpected visitor to Britain recently was Maranto. The singer, songwriter and producer came to the Cross Rhythms studio to talk about his life in music. Best known as the co-writer and producer of one of the biggest reggae hits of the post-Marley years, the international chart topper "Cheerleader" by Omi, Maranto has now re-emerged as an artist singing classy soul gospel as well as reggae, and his EP, 'Faith Through The Fire', has received enthusiastic reviews while his performance of the project's songs at a London church recently also received a warm response.
'Faith Through The Fire' very much communicates Maranto's spiritual journey as, at age 31, after achieving success in Jamaica, he lost his sight but now sings of the strong faith he has found. With the help of his wife Shirann, Maranto made the long haul to Stoke to speak about his life and music.
Tony: Let's start with some general stuff. Tell me a bit about your background.
Maranto: "I was born in Jamaica, in a place called Manchester, don't be confused, and I grew up in a place called Clarendon. I spent most of my childhood years there then shifted to the more popular Kingston in my college years. I was always a lover of music but my interest really peaked when I was in high school. At about age 14, I started singing with a gospel group and I've never looked back since."
Tony: Did you have real faith back at the age of 14?
Maranto: "Honestly, it was more on the shaky side because I was more of a child in my mind. Yes, I was baptised but I wouldn't say that I fully understood this mantle I was picking up. As the years went by and I got a clearer understanding of just what this Christian faith is all about, I started to curb myself to the right ways."
Tony: After college, you really got into reggae music. Did you become a Rasta?
Maranto: "Well, it's kind of strange because right now my hair is in what people would call dreadlock fashion but I've never really gone down the road of Rastafarianism. I was raised in a Christian family, grew up with Christianity my entire life. My father was a pastor. So that's always been my spiritual background."
Tony: But you were a reggae artist. You must have smoked a few spliffs down the years.
Maranto: "I tried it once and it was not a very good experience for me."
Tony: Did your music career develop while you were in Jamaica?
Maranto: "Around about 2012 I started to record some of my own music. I was doing roots reggae music back then. In my college years I linked up with this guy who's a good friend of mine now, Richard Spencer, we call him Droopy; he really helped me in producing my early reggae tracks because he is a much better instrumentalist than I am. And a much better arranger too. So I took his advice heavily on the songs that I did. I wrote everything and he helped me to arrange and produce all of that. That's where this whole Maranto persona came about. I got some songs recorded and actually started touring with one of the popular reggae artists in Jamaica, a gentleman by the name of Alborosie. I toured with him for two years and then I went solo. I went to Europe, France and Italy mostly. But then I started to become ill.
"Round about 2014, I'd just come back from a tour and I was starting to do some promotion in Jamaica and my father passed away. In Jamaica, whenever someone passes on and you're having lots of events surrounding the burial and stuff like that, with all of that happening and some family issues coming up, the stress of all of that took a toll on my body. The first thing that happened was that my kidneys started failing and with that my body started to retain fluids and all my other organs took on fluids so everything was enlarged - heart, spleen, liver. It kept getting progressively worse throughout that year. We were trying to get the best medical help that we could while we were there in Jamaica but there are certain things, as much as I love my country, I can't say that it was the top quality."
Tony: Now in 2014, with all this bad stuff happening, something good did happen when a song which you co-wrote and co-produced, "Cheerleader", with a singer called Omi in 2008 got taken up by a German DJ, Felix Jaehn. He remixed it into a whole new version which ended up being a number one hit in lots of countries - USA, UK, Australia, France, Germany, etc. I understand that the royalties from that were sufficient for you and your dear wife to visit the USA.
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