“It is a musical circus.” – Roy “Gramps” Morgan
Earlier in the cold and chilly spring, I saw Morgan Heritage perform at the Highline Ballroom and they blew me away. They provided a show that was unforgettable. You can read about it here via my show review of that night! Unfortunately, I was not able to meet up with the musicians that spring to learn more about their musical journey. After a quick tour abroad, the crew eventually returned to NYC and sat down with me at the Apple Store in SOHO.
The last time I was at this special Apple Store, which has a full theater and stage included, was to hear Ziggy Marley back in the summer of 2009! I truly loved that experience and was excited to hear that every event in the space is recorded for future listening! NYC was an intimidating place during that summer as was a young intern exploring the vastness of the urban space. Now, in 2015, as a regular NYC resident, I was brought back to meet with fellow stars of the genre that make up Morgan Heritage AKA, The Royal Family of Reggae. After snagging a beer before the event to escape the rain, I entered the Apple Store eagerly ready to meet the Morgan family.
Morgan Heritage is one big funk family that consists of the family mob: Peetah Morgan (vocals), Una Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Roy “Gramps” Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan (rhythm guitar) and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan (percussion/vocals). That night the hip Peetah, the lovely Una and the happiest cat that I have ever met, Gramps Morgan were kind enough to chat with me before they did their public interview followed by an intimate performance.
We got into what they like best about returning to NYC as a starter to our conversation. “Every time we come back we always go to Ray’s Pizza,” Gramps proudly states, “it has been an iconic Morgan family tradition here in New York.” Morgan Heritage actually has just returned from a tour in Europe that Gramps was very happy about. “We were finally able to explore a bit this time around. Back in the day, we were always so busy on the road that we never got the chance to see the great things in the countries we were in. Once we got to Italy, we were able to explore Rome and see the Colosseum. We even finally took a day off in France to visit the Eiffel Tower.” As a past visitor of Italy, I was glad to hear that were able to sightsee such a well-designed city. Peetah even chuckled and talked about their funniest moment while abroad. “On our way out of Prague we ran into these college kids who wanted a ride to Birmingham. So, we took ‘em! Then, once we arrived at our next show, we look out in the front of the audience and we saw them all there! We were so surprised and were laughing like crazy.” This prompted the family to chuckle even more in the room after remembering this fun story. It sounds like something from one of those teen movies. Morgan Heritage are hard workers when on tour and never fail to impress. Their live performances surpass their studio work filled with vast entertainment and enjoyment.
The Morgan family have been in music all of their lives. “We grew up in the business thanks to our father (Denroy Morgan),” Uma remarks, “we were all taught and worked in music, even working on things like choreography along the way.” That prompted me to ask if they fought, similar to the antics of Oasis, onstage. Uma immediately smiled and said, “well, we never fight onstage if that is what you mean!” That being said, the family is always learning. Uma states, “our father introduced us to all of the legends like James Brown, Aretha Franklin and so many others. We loved it and try to adopt some of those sounds into our music. We really enjoy what we do.”
After our quick discussion, I departed and took a seat in the theater to await the Q & A and performance. Pat McKay, the Director of Programming for Reggae & Gospel at Sirius XM Satellite Radio, was the moderator that evening. Many fans were in attendance and enjoyed learning more about the musical family as well as having their own questions answered along the way. Once the Q & A was complete, the band performed a short acoustic set and proved yet again that they are the best.
Key tracks of Morgan Heritage’s songbook include; She’s Still Loving Me, Tell Me How Come and Down By The River. Give them a listen and you will be able to gather a bit of what goodness they offer. Their new album, their tenth to be exact, aptly titled, Strictly Roots, offers a wider breadth of even more hits with, Keep On Jammin, Child of Jah and Sunday Morning. “With Strictly Roots, it is not just a label, but a movement with a new cool and a sense of consciousness,” Shares Gramps.
All of their music comes alive; they do not waste a moment on their records. With rocking keys and full percussion flowing with hot beats, Morgan Heritage are obviously the coolest musicians ever. Each member of the male entourage, save for Peetah, rock sunglasses in their live shows. The Morgan family is all smiles when they perform and it is plain that they have a blast doing their job. Morgan Heritage are conductors in the purest form who are absolutely into the core their music. All their songs have a strong chorus from the members of the reggae roots crew that adds a sense of authority to their tunes. It feels like a preaching reggae choir in their music. Morgan Heritage provides seamless movement. Instrumentally, the musicians convey wholesome soul sounds in their music that is supported by their united voices. Their voices are strong. Listeners can tell that the band has a robust sense of harmony with one another as they play. Every now and then a big band 80s reggae feel is unveiled. I love those parts especially with the horns blowing. All the Morgans have their solo singing moments that usually involve intense rap or R & B.
I really am happy to have met these great musicians. From the first time I saw them live, I was always curious on what they were like as people. Their happy and free feeling on stage is equally felt in their personal demeanor. Filled with talent, passion and a special kindness, Morgan Heritage are excellent musicians to add to music collections worldwide.