Christopher Ellis

By :- Janette Brin

Industry

Some things are planned, some things just happen, and then there are those things that are simply meant to be. Such is the link between Christopher Ellis, the youngest son of legendary Jamaican vocalist Alton Ellis, and the Ghetto Youths International crew.

“It’s a lineage thing,” says Christopher Ellis, who is currently preparing his debut EP for release on the GYI label. “It stems back to when I met Stephen and Damian Marley. And more than that, it stems to our fathers and the whole Trenchtown thing.”

Trenchtown, of course, is the economically down pressed but musically blessed area of downtown Kingston that was immortalized by The Wailers in their song “Trenchtown Rock.” Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer all hailed from Trenchtown, as did many other Jamaican musical heroes including Delroy Wilson, Joe Higgs, guitarist Ernest Ranglin, saxophonist Dean Fraser, and the aforementioned Alton Ellis, a soulful vocalist who made his name with countless rock steady classics, including “Get Ready, Rock Steady,” “Girl I’ve Got A Date,“ “I’m Just A Guy,” and “Willow Tree.”

“When they made music, they would make songs religiously,” says Christopher Ellis, who touring extensively with his father and shared the stage with him since the age of 11, thrilling audiences around the world as he soaked up the finer points of life, music and the music business from the master himself. “When you have a father like that, greatness is passed down onto you.”

After his father passed away in 2008 Christopher Ellis was introduced to Stephen Marley by a mutual friend from Trenchtown. “He drove me to Hope Road one day,” Christopher recalls. “I sat down with Stephen Marley and the rest is history. Just like that it happened—just like that. Stephen said to me ‘It’s a family thing,’ and I really give thanks for that. I learned so much from him and Damian, just being in the studio—sounds and vibes, all kind of things I’m learning.”

The first fruit of that collaboration was “End of Time,” collaboration with Stephen Marley and Jah Cure based on Alton Ellis’s “You Make Me So Very Happy.” That was followed by a 2010 reworking of the Alton Ellis classic “Willow Tree” that showcases Christopher’s sensitive vocal interpretation over a state-of-the-art reggae track produced by Stephen Marley. More recently, Ellis released the fresh-sounding single “Don’t Change Your Number,” featuring hard-hitting rhymes from Bay-C of the dancehall super group T.O.K. that has enjoyed strong radio airplay in his native London.

“I’m so proud of that song, it’s a different mood—total niceness. I was in Tuff Gong studio with Jr. Gong and the vibes were just building. I hummed two things and Gong said ‘Yeah, keep that!’ So we took it back to Miami and Gong did that genius thing he does. When he goes behind that drum kit and orchestrates the thing—it’s crazy.”

The swinging, up-tempo track is a departure from the one-drop reggae fare Ellis is best known for, but he’s embracing the creative growth. “It’s always nice when people can’t predict what’s coming,” says Ellis, who recently shot a video for the tune in Jamaica. “Showing versatility is a great thing.”

For the future, Ellis advises fans to expect the unexpected. “If you don’t hear me singing reggae music, don’t worry ‘cause it’s still music. I love One Drop reggae so much, but we’ve been experimenting with different sounds and it’s really sounding good. I have some things to portray to the world. It’s all about fulfilling the mission of extending my father’s legacy. Anything I can add to that legacy is a blessing.”

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