March 6, 2023
In March 1993 singer Garnet Silk scored one of the biggest hit songs of his career with Hello, Mama Africa. The song spent four weeks at number one on the JBC-Radio One Top 30 chart and also topped the RJR Top 40 chart.
Hello, Mama Africa is featured on the Smile rhythm, which drove other hits such as Beres Hammond’s Come Back Home, Bionic Steve’s Fly di Gate and Yami Bolo’s Non Stop Loving.
Richard “Bello” Bell produced the project which was released on his Startrail label.
He recalled the recording session: “Hello Mama Africa was recorded at Black Scorpio studio in Kingston, and I believe that Culture Lee was the engineer on that track. It was a nice vibe in the studio and the song was done in multiple takes. I recall it being a smooth recording session.
“The inspiration really came from Garnet. Him always used to sing to whichever area or town that he was performing in. So he decided to write the song and call it Hello, Mama Africa,” Bell disclosed in an interview with the Jamaica Observer on Friday.
He said the success of the Smile rhythm did a lot for his career.
“It gave me a lot of confidence in what I was doing; it also gave me recognition outside of Jamaica. It helped my life as far as my growth in the music industry. As for Garnet, Hello, Mama Africa helped in his rise to fame as a well-acclaimed and loved singer,” he said.
Bell, who is originally from Mandeville, started Startrail Records in the late 1980s, working with Beres Hammond and Derrick Lara on the album Just A Vibe.
The label erupted in the early 1990s when there was a roots-reggae revival in Jamaica. Bell produced Anthony B’s Fire pon Rome and Raid The Barn, Lift up Your Head, as well as Create A Sound by Everton Blender and Holding Firm by Sizzla.
Garnet Silk, who was also from Manchester, died there in an explosion at his mother’s house in December 1994. He was 28.
Thirty years later, Hello, Mama Africa and other songs from the Smile project continue to enjoy radio rotation on the local airwaves and at retro parties.
“It’s a good feeling hearing your songs played after 30 years and you know how these songs came about. It feels good knowing that, after all these years, people are still appreciating it. When you make good music, people are going to listen to it generation after generation,” said Bell, who operates Pon Top Seafood Grill and Bar Restaurant at Westminster Road in the Corporate Area.
He is still into music production and is currently working with artistes such as Uton Green, Lymie Murray, Jigsy King, and Shanty B.
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