It was Jamaican singer Eric Donaldson’s 1978 winning Festival Song, Land of My Birth, which inspired Nigerian Reggae-Afrobeats artist Prince Maxee to not only pursue music but to make Jamaica his second home.
As a child, Prince Maxee was captivated by the rhythmic beats and soulful melodies of Donaldson’s anthem, which had taken Nigeria and other parts of West Africa by storm. The song not only celebrated Jamaica’s rich cultural heritage but also extended an open invitation to foreigners, encouraging them to visit Jamaica, explore its beauty, and even consider making the island their home for a life filled with happiness.
“At the time I was a kid growing up, that music was blowing up on radio and he (Eric Donaldson) was the first person that made me say ‘one day I will visit that country’. It (the song) brings out the positive image of Jamaica that makes Jamaica look like a paradise,” Prince Maxee told DancehallMag.
“That word; ‘you will be a happy one in the land of the rising sun’. So, if I see him today, I would shake his hand. Eric Donaldson, I listened to your invitation, and I honored it. And now I am a ‘happy one in the land of the rising sun’,” he added gleefully, quoting the line from the song which compelled him to come to Jamaica.
Donaldson, 76, is also known for his songs Cinderalla, More Love, and Cherry Oh Baby (his winning 1971 Festival Song Competition entry, later covered by The Rolling Stones and UB40).
In 2020, the seven-time Jamaica Festival Song Competition winner was appointed to the Order of Distinction, in the rank of officer.
Prince Maxee added that while his peers dreamt of London and other European cities, he was unwavering in his determination to set foot in Jamaica. “As a kid, when others are dreaming of England – Nigeria is an old English colony – everybody talking about going to London one day; I am thinking of going to Jamaica one day,” he recounted.
Fast forward to today, and Prince Maxee has turned his childhood dream into reality by making the bold decision to not only visit Jamaica, but to live, work, and create music in the very place that had sparked his imagination as a young boy.
Maxee said he has immersed himself in the local music scene, infusing his Nigerian Afrobeats sounds, with the authentic sounds of Reggae and Dancehall.
His first Reggae recording, he said, is a yet-to-be-released collab with the late Godfather of Dancehall, Sugar Minott, which was voiced years ago, while his most recent recording was the Reggae-Afrobeat infused Celebrate featuring Chicago-based Afrobeat singer, Ogochi who also co-wrote the track.
However, there are other Reggae songs in his repertoire, including Sunshine Girl, Better Than Ever with Ogochi, and More and More Love.
“I do Reggae fusion. I call my music Reggae fusion, so I try to fuse Afrobeat into Reggae. And that’s why in some of my music I have collaborations with Reggae artistes. The very first person I collaborated with was Sugar Minott. I had the opportunity to meet with Sugar Minott before he died. So, I have a song with his voice on it collaborating with me in his studio. A song called Run Come, that was recorded in the studio,” he said.
“I have 20 finished songs right now and I have others that I have done that I am not satisfied with, that I have to go back to the studio to redo. I call them demos. So, for the finished ones I have 20…. The last two that I released recently, one of them is Rise and Shine featuring Chino McGregor. He did his deejay thing to the song,” he added.
Giving the lowdown on his latest single Celebrate, Prince Maxee said that it was the catalyst that made him take music more seriously.
“The last song I released was Celebrate… That is a song I was just doing it for pleasure, as a hobby. Since that song, there is a call for me to take the music thing more seriously. People want to hear me; people want to hear more from me. This song is an Afrobeat and Afrobeat is getting a lot of listening right now,” he said.
As for his style of music and what messages he wishes to send, Prince Maxee says it will always remain on the wholesome side. “I represent positivity and I write positive music and do positive music,” he said.
According to Prince Maxee, Reggae and Dancehall remains popular in Nigeria, just as it did in the 1980s and 1990s, where artists like Shabba Ranks, Buju Banton, and King Yellowman were dominant.
“When I was growing up, I would say it was Buju and King Yellowman. And then we have later on Beenie Man and Capleton, Bounty Killer, and Sizzla. All these people are very famous in Nigeria and people gravitate to them… That was a big era,” he said.
“Even Toots and the Maytals. He (Toots) would come to Nigeria and have concerts… And now, the names are very numerous and now there are a lot of people streaming… when you go there now you hear them talking about Popcaan and the younger ones; people are talking about Chris Martin,” Prince Maxee said.
As for Jamaica and Nigeria, he said the similarities are many, and he sees very little contrast between the two nations.
“There are a lot of similarities; the differences are few. The weather is similar; the people are warm alike… people look alike. Most African Jamaicans are just like Nigerians. When I came here, the first thing I said is that ‘this place is so much like Nigeria and the people are just like Nigeria’. And I came to find out that the cuisine is very similar. Only some of them are done differently,” he explained.
“It is home away from home. I have been to 20 countries outside Nigeria, but the kind of love I got in Jamaica, I didn’t get it nowhere else. So, Jamaica is home away from home for me, and I think the few other Nigerians that I know here, living here should feel the same,” Prince Maxee said.