‘The Night Nurse’ gets honoured

March 21, 2024

article reposted by Chelsea

via jamaicaobserver.com

Amy Wachtel was finding her musical feet in 1976 when two of her high school friends took her to see The Harder They Come, a Jamaican movie that had been released four years earlier to critical acclaim.

She remembers that crossroads in her life as if it were yesterday.

“It was at the Uniondale Mini Cinema on Long Island, a local cinema that was known for showing cult classics, revivals, and midnight shows. While I didn’t understand much of what was said in the film, the music blew my head off,” she recalled.

Wachtel, known in music circles as The Night Nurse, is one of reggae’s best known soldiers in the United States.

For 45 years she has helped expose the music as a journalist, publicist, booking agent, and advisor to record companies such as Virgin Records, Mango/Island Records, and RAS Records.

For her committed service, Wachtel is one of the honorees at the March 22 International Reggae And World Music Awards (IRAWMA), scheduled for Lauderhill Performing Arts Center in Lauderhill, Florida.

“I’m thrilled, flattered, and filled with gratitude to be honoured by the IRAWMAs. To be honoured by an organisation of such prestige and esteem has given me a moment to pause and reflect on the road which led me to this occasion. I’ve been working in the reggae music industry in one capacity or another for over 40 years,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

Through her many roles Wachtel has promoted reggae at venues such as SOB’s in New York City; covered artistes and shows for publications including Billboard magazine
, The Beat, Reggae Report, and Black Echoes. She was also publicist for Burning Spear.

Wachtel is from Hempstead, Long Island. Currently, Wachtel hosts Rockers Arena, on WPKN-FM, a non-commercial, community supported radio station in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Because of her religious background, she has always felt a kinship with reggae and Jamaicans.

“As a Jew, so much of the Rastafarian way of life is rife with the symbolism, imagery, and tenets I’ve grown up with, and had been taught. I’d feel like I was walking amongst Old Testament prophets when reasoning with Rasta people. It was comforting and ‘upfull’ and encouraging and positive… and wise,” she said.

While The Harder They Come peaked her interest in reggae, she discovered Jamaican music 10 years earlier when hearing Desmond Dekker and The Aces’ Israelites on her local radio station.

During the 1980s, while at college, she made her mark on the airwaves.

“I did a few fill-in shows on WERS (Emerson College) and had a regular slot WZBC (Boston College) that were mostly modern rock. When I got hired at WCAS-AM in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was brought in as the traffic manager but was soon given a weekly radio show called The Homegrown Music Hour, showcasing all the amazing local talent in Boston and New England area,” she recalled.

Rockers Arena is a mixed bag. There is something for classic reggae buffs as well as fans of new wave acts like Chronixx, Protoje, Mellow Mood, and Paolo Baldini out of Italy, Hempress Sativa, Aza Lineage, Kumar, Mortimer, Samory I, Lila Ikè, and Hollie Cook.

For Wachtel, reggae’s most heralded period is her favourite.

“Nothing beats the original roots and culture songs and groups from the 70s and 80s, and parts of the 90s, that originally lifted my spirit and drew me in. The message and music of Rastafari from that time are the foundation artistes,” she said. “The great thing is that enough time has passed, and there are whole new generations who did not know this music, so I can play it as like 95 per cent of my radio show’s playlist. What’s old is new. And for those who thirst for these sounds, it’s like ‘the oldies’ station, or programme of that time.”

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