Meet the man of the reggae music moment. Serani is a hit-making producer turned chart-topping performer. The Jamaican-born musician catapulted onto the international music scene with his single “No Games”.
Well, Billboard may have just started to pay attention, but this rising dancehall star has been roaming the halls of the music game, for a minute. Serani’s street cred includes co-producing the first two singles on Sean Paul’s platinum selling album Trinity. His production crew DASECA has been working with reggae industry heavyweights since 2001. He can get ladies swooning and the club jumping. He’s dancehall, he’s conscious, he’s lovers rock, and he’s just getting started.
“Singing is new to me. I’m so overwhelmed by it. But at the same time, I cannot sing without production. I can’t sing without producing, cause I know how to produce. If I’m singing, I’m going to feel kind of naked if I leave the production behind.”
Format: So, for those of us who may not know… who is Serani, the musician?
Serani: I’m a singer and songwriter, with a musical background. I’ve been playing the keyboard since, I can’t remember myself. That’s where it all started from, before I started singing or anything. I started producing in 2001 in Jamaica, making dancehall reggae music. Things started to pop off for me in 2004 when I started working with Sean Paul, I co-produced “We Be Burnin’”. I guess that’s really where it all started for me.
Format: So, you started in the music game as a producer, at what point did you realize that you wanted to make that transition from being backstage as a producer to being a performer on stage?
Serani: 2007 really. That’s when I actually started singing.
Format: What led to that transition – was it one moment? Is this something you always wanted to do?
Serani: Well, I guess it was something that I thought about, but never really took seriously. I guess it really just happened through God. I didn’t really know I could do it, but then I was making a beat and something just made me stop making the beat and just get up, literally stand up, and start singing. Then out comes something that sounds like a hit. Like I said, it’s not like I used to sing, I really and truly started singing in 2007 so I didn’t have any kind of training. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just trying, you know? But the melodies were sounding good and I basically kept singing in the booth until I got it right. I kept practicing until I just started sounding better.
Format: What musicians have guided you or inspired you over the years?
Serani: I wouldn’t say that anybody really guided me, any guidance that I got was indirect. I’ve been listening to Tracy Chapman since I was a kid. Michael Jackson, R. Kelly people like that.
Format: What really stood out for me about your music is how versatile it is. You’ve got soulful melodies, bumping dancehall tunes and even some conscious stuff. What inspires the music that you make?
Serani: It’s based on my experience and also experiences that are close to me. Things that I have seen since I’ve been alive.
Format: You’re one song, “Mama Still Hungry”, is about the quest to be successful. Is that a reflection of your own life experiences?
Serani: Definitely. I wasn’t born wealthy. But one thing I know for sure is that my mom and my family, they wanted the best for me, and they took care of me the best way possible. Basically, I dedicate my life to making sure that I get the best for them. I definitely want to be successful so I could take care of my mom and just my family really. I mean even for myself, you know like, the world. It’s not an easy road, so if you want to be successful you’ve got to work hard.
Format: How would describe your sound?
Serani: I don’t limit myself. I always try to be creative. It’s definitely Jamaican sort of. I don’t know. I call it smooth and groovy [laughs] Riddim and dancehall.
Format: Alright I’ll take that. You collaborated with Drake on his “Best I Ever Had” single. Tell me about that.
Serani: Well basically, I heard his song and I loved it. I knew I could do a flick to it, like a dancehall version. So I just did it. We cool, Drake and I. He has a strong Jamaican background. I’m not sure if he has Jamaican family but living in Canada there are so many Jamaicans it’s almost like you’re Jamaican yourself. When I speak to Drake, he speaks to me like he’s a Jamaican. We have a good vibe, so it’s cool.
“I want to be right up there with Sean Paul and Shaggy. Definitely, that’s where I want to be. But still maintain that Jamaican presence.”
Format: What was it like working with other heavyweights in the industry like Sean Paul, Mavado?
Serani: Sean Paul is very talented, Mavado likewise. I actually was the first producer to give Mavado a hit song. I started his career really, I was definitely one of the first people to bring him out there. Sean Paul had a successful album before I even worked with him so it was a pleasure. It was very fun working with someone so talented. He is actually someone that I actually looked up to for a long time due to the fact that I love singers and artists that carry a lot of melody. He did a lot of that. I used to listen to Sean Paul and Wayne Marshall, Jamaican artists that did a lot of songs for ladies. Carrying those nice melodies. And Mavado, when I first heard him, he had a sound like Tracy Chapman and, like I said before, I’m a huge Tracy Chapman fan.
Format: Now, there’s people like Sean Paul and other reggae artists who have made it on the billboard charts and on the international scene. Then there are others who are just as happy being in the underground reggae scene. Where do you see yourself fitting in — in the reggae dancehall scene — in the years to come?
Serani: I’m always going to try and maintain an international presence. And at the same time I’m still going to be doing songs for my Jamaican market. So, yeah, I’m a Jamaican trying to do it big. I want to be right up there with Sean Paul and Shaggy. Definitely, that’s where I want to be. But still maintain that Jamaican presence.
Format: You have your own production company. Do you plan on still working that side of things, as doing the performing side, recording and releasing your album?
Serani: Well I wanted to tell you that. I have not made a transition like you said earlier. I have just broadened my horizons. Most of the songs that I sing, I produce myself but I also have new artists that I work with. The hottest dancehall beat for the year in Jamaica – I am the one that made it. I made the beat. It’s called the ‘Goodlife’ riddim. Yea 2009. It’s the hottest beat, definitely.
Format: So is there one you enjoy doing more, producing or performing?
Serani: Well, I don’t think I could answer that question too well. I used to get so excited over playing the keyboard and producing, and then all of sudden in 2007 I found this new love — singing. I got more excited over that so I’m not even sure. Singing is new to me. I’m so overwhelmed by it. But at the same time, I cannot sing without production. I can’t sing without producing, cause I know how to produce. If I’m singing, I’m going feel kind of naked if I leave the production behind, because I know what I want. I can’t do one without the other.
Format: You’re album is coming out soon. What can we look forward to?
Serani: In making that album I tried really hard to make singles, I wanted it to be a problem finding just one single. I’ve got four or five songs that could be in the running to be a single. The album is nice.
Here is the extended entry, where I prattle on about things.
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