Described as ‘Jamaican reggae royalty,’ Norman and Ralston Grant of the one-of-a-kind outfit Twinkle Brothers, have spent more than fifty years in the music industry. Hailing from Falmouth on Jamaica’s northern coast, they began entering competitions in a newly independent Jamaica as early as 1962. They hustled for recording opportunities, meeting with the producers who ran the island’s big studios, before eventually getting breaks courtesy of Duke Reid, Bunny Lee and Leslie Kong. Throughout the decades, they’ve taken their sound around the world, working with artists in different countries, as well as playing festivals and touring internationally. Ahead of their appearance at Don Letts Carnival Sound next month, here is a five track introduction to the men who have enjoyed five decades of success in music.
Beat them Jah Jah wasn’t released as a 7” single until approximately 1974, but it had featured on the Reggae Hit The Town compilation released slightly earlier. It captures both a confidence and youthful excitement within the group: the song’s lyrics confidently calling for action, while their harmonies, still approaching their absolute best, encapsulate the emotion of a young group gaining their confidence in the studio. It’s a heart-warming, motivational record, which also reflects the influence US soul music had on them during their formative years.
By the late seventies, Twinkle Brothers had solidified their place within Jamaica’s reggae scene. When Frontline, a new subdivision of Island records, was looking to sign artists around that time, they were amongst the first to ink a deal. They released Love with the label in 1979, led by this roots reggae single, which implores black listeners of the African diaspora to understand their history.
It was during their time with Virgin in the late seventies and early eighties that many feel Twinkle Brothers produced their strongest and most consistent albums. Never Get Burn is a prime example of their purpose at this time: a powerful, emotive track with wicked dub production, giving the riddim a hypnotising quality and the harmony vocals a spiritual might.
Released on the album of the same name in 1984, Enter Zion builds upon a steady rhythm, powerful horn lines and reverb-soaked percussion. Its message is a simple affirmation of their Rasta faith and their vocal harmonies are as sweet as can be.
In the early nineties, Twinkle Brothers made a decision which is testament to their appreciation of global culture and their deep musical understanding. They headed to Poland and began working with Trebunie-Tutki on a bold new fusion music, which placed the strings, vocals and tales of traditional Polish music within a reggae song structure and rhythmic frame. It was a risk that ultimately paid off, introducing Twinkle Brothers to a new audience and broadening the musical repertoire further. One of the finest songs the two acts cut together was Pierso Godzina, a song where elements collide in a truly unexpected way, drawing links between disparate styles that may otherwise have gone unrecognised.