Between the start of the millennium and today, pop seemed to lose a lot of the edgy rebelliousness that made rock, hip-hop and other styles so explosively popular and uniting in the preceding half century of music. It wasn’t clear where all of the bucolic energy seemed to go, much less when, if ever, it would return, and in its place we got this sort of faux angry electro pop that was supposedly inspired by punk rock, beat poetry and urban experimentalism of the early 1980s but failed on all counts to contain the same level of respect for DIY ethics.
It’s been a rough time, but there have been a couple of memorable moments and crucial developments that have kept us going, even if they have been dramatically overshadowed by the interests of the corporate establishment. But now I think we’re beginning to see a slight change in the tide. Artists are taking control over their careers and the role of labels and third party entities is being reduced and phased out in favor of more independent values. Along with all of these developments, we’re seeing a lot of bands that had previously gone silent return to the spotlight, now enjoying the freedoms that this new look industry is beginning to allow us.
I’ve got to say that among all of the phoenixes that are rising from the ashes at the moment, the group that I am the happiest to see return to the fold is Crack of Dawn, Canada’s vibrant, striding jazz/soul/R&B outfit that once upon a time was on the cusp of taking over the charts completely until industrial politics made their stately goal too complicated to reach. Showing us that they’re back and better than ever, Crack of Dawn dropped an all new full length album called Spotlight on international audiences last year and its finally beginning to get the respect and rotation that it’s worthy of here in the United States, a symbolic final frontier for these Canadian funk pioneers.
Messenjah was formed in 1980 in Kitchener, Ontario and released their first album Rock You High independently in 1982. They were the first Canadian reggae band to be picked up by a major label; Warner Music Canada (also known as WEA). After 1985 the band began working out of Toronto. In 1988 the band was featured in the U.S. feature film Cocktail as well as on the film's soundtrack. They were also featured on the soundtrack of the Canadian produced movie Milk and Honey (1989). Messenjah had toured all over North America as well as in Jamaica for over sixteen years and in 1989 won the Juno Award for Best Reggae Recording.
In 1991 they collaborated on the one-off single "Can't Repress the Cause", a plea for greater inclusion of hip hop music in the Canadian music scene, with Dance Appeal, a supergroup of Toronto-area musicians that included Devon, Maestro Fresh Wes, Dream Warriors, B-Kool, Lillian Allen, Michie Mee, Eria Fachin, HDV, Dionne, Thando Hyman, Carla Marshall, Jillian Mendez, Lorraine Scott, Lorraine Segato, Self Defense, Leroy Sibbles, Zama and Thyron Lee White
Messenjah has not released an album since the late 1990s, and it is assumed the group disbanded around that time.
Rupert Harvey became the head of the group, other original band members include Eric Walsh (guitar), Raymond Ruddock (drums), Hal Duggan (keyboard) and Tony King (percussion). Four new members joined in 1987; Roy Garrick (drums), Crash Morgan (drums), Charles Sinclair (bass guitar) and Haile Yeates (percussion). Finally, in 1990 Donovan Black (drums) replaced drummer Crash Morgan.
In February 2014, the band reunited for a Bob Marley tribute concert in Toronto. The band now consists of Rupert Harvey (lead vocals, guitar and founding member), Haile Yates (percussion), Robert Stephenson (drums), Carl Harvey
(lead guitar), Charles Sinclair (bass) and Orville Malcomb.