Don Minott and The High Voltage Band
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Don Minott and The High Voltage Band

Hartford, Connecticut, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2001 | SELF

Hartford, Connecticut, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2001
Band World Reggae




"A Beat Spreads From Hartford"

By Avi Salzman

Dec. 7, 2003

PHILIP E. MITCHELL, a disc jockey in Hartford, was standing near the stage before the beginning of a reggae concert earlier this month at the West Indian Social Club in Hartford drinking occasionally from a small bottle filled with a roots tonic. A multi-generational crowd lined the walls of the concert hall, some holding flags and chatting as they waited for Sizzla, an international reggae star, to perform. There was only one word to describe Mr. Mitchell's mood: irie, the Jamaican word for feeling all right. In Hartford, reggae has found a home and that makes him smile.

''Through the 70's it was a rough sell,'' Mr. Mitchell said. ''You would go down the street and people would say 'Turn that reggae music off.' But now, you go down the street and every car is playing reggae.''

It's not Kingston, Jamaica, nor is it New York or Miami, but Hartford is most definitely a reggae town. In the last three decades, Hartford has become one of the hubs of the country's reggae market as the West Indian population has increased, more clubs have concerts and more of the top performers make Hartford a must stop on their tours. In September, a reggae show for the first time got its own time slot on a local FM station. The music is even reaching beyond the city into suburban bars and restaurants where musicians said the white audience is stronger than ever.

''Whenever an artist goes on tour, there are certain spots where an artist goes to, and Hartford is one of them,'' said Kingsley Stewart, an anthropology professor at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, who specializes in dance hall culture. ''It is quite common for hundreds and even thousands of dance hall and reggae enthusiasts to make long trips from various East Coast cities to Hartford to attend a variety of reggae and dance hall events. It is unquestionable that for thousands of fans, Hartford figures prominently in the bloodstream of reggae and dance hall music and culture.''

Reggae's roots in Connecticut are in Hartford's West Indian population. As of 2000, 10,114 people in Hartford identified themselves as West Indian, up from 9,168 in 1990, according to the Census Bureau. In 2000, the vast majority of West Indians, 8,293, were Jamaican, and the balance was made up of people from virtually every other island in the Caribbean.

Much of the West Indian population lives in the northern part of the city. The community spreads north from Hartford to towns including Windsor and Bloomfield. Throughout Connecticut, 52,977 people identified themselves as West Indian, up from 32,083 in 1990.

There was a big influx of West Indians to the Hartford area during the 1940's, when companies encouraged West Indian workers, mainly from Jamaica, to come to the area to work in the tobacco fields north of the city.

That is how Sidney Barrett got to Hartford in 1944. Mr. Barrett, now 88, found out about the jobs after he finished a stint working at the Panama Canal from 1940 to 1944.
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''People told me the best place to come was Connecticut,'' he said.

Working in the tobacco fields was grueling, and Mr. Barrett remembered sleeping on a plastic bag filled with straw on his first night at the work site. But, he slowly accumulated money and friends, married an American and found a home in Hartford. In 1950, Mr. Barrett helped found the West Indian Social Club with 20 other men in the basement of a church. That club has grown in size and influence. The deputy mayor of Hartford, Veronica Airey Wilson, used to be president of the club. The current president, Andrew Lawrence, is a detective with the Hartford Police Department.

Mr. Barrett didn't just lay the groundwork for the social club. He was also a musician, playing old-time calypso in the band ''Sid Barrett's and His Caribbean Syncopateds.'' Then, as now, the music helped bring the community together.

''I saw there was a need for it,'' he said. ''We've got a lot of West Indians here. When we came here it was only jazz. I dance to jazz, but we needed something from our background.''

Donald Minott, a Hartford reggae musician, used to listen to calypso when he was growing up in Jamaica. But it didn't inspire him in the same way as reggae.

Mr. Minott, 50, was born in Kingston and moved to Hartford in 1986. He sings songs that often have political messages. Mr. Minott's musical inspirations include both Bob Marley and Phil Collins, attesting to the strong crossover appeal and diverse roots of reggae. Blues and bluegrass influenced Mr. Minott at least as much as calypso. In Connecticut, he said, his style often appeals more to white people than to West Indians.

''They're scared to come into the inner cities, but if you take the reggae into their town, they support you,'' he said. ''I think you get better support among the white folks than among the West Indians. The West Indians only support you when you're a superstar.''

To gain credibility with the West Indian community in Hartford, artists generally have to make it in Jamaica first. That's the only way the one reggae star bred in the city, Chuck Fender, was able to succeed on a national scale.

But Connecticut's white community has no such litmus test. Since the days when Bob Marley hit the pop charts, reggae has appealed to all sorts of audiences, inspiring white college students to grow their hair into dreadlocks or hang Marley posters on their dorm room walls. That interest has only grown.

Smaller music clubs and restaurants in Connecticut have capitalized on reggae's growing popularity. Mr. Minott has played at numerous suburban clubs where the audience is primarily white, including at 41 Degrees North in Mystic.
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''There's a universal ear for it,'' said Jude Tostanoski, 26, a waiter, cook and bartender at 41 Degrees North, which presents reggae bands from Connecticut and elsewhere every Friday. He said the crowd at the bar/restaurant's reggae concerts is racially diverse and crosses generational lines.

''It makes for a great ambience down here,'' he said.

The Realto Cafe in Middletown, which has a similarly diverse clientele, recently decided to hire its first reggae band.

''We see that there's a lot of people out there who want to hear it,'' said Carlton McCalla, co-owner of the cafe.

D.J.'s are the messengers of the expanding reggae scene. College radio stations had virtually been the only outlet in the state for reggae D.J.'s. But now, two D.J.'s in Hartford have a new 50,000-watt forum. In September, Hot 93.7, a hip hop station in Hartford, decided to try a reggae show on Sunday nights from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., becoming the first FM radio station in Hartford to hire reggae D.J.'s. The station hired two young Hartford men, ''Lex and Trevor,'' who had learned their trade at their high school radio station.

Alex (Lex) Campbell, 24, born in Jamaica, comes across as self-assured and engaging in his glasses and leather jacket. When asked about his career, he said jokingly, ''What career?'' but quickly acknowledged the significance of his new job.

''We all knew it could happen, but I didn't think it would happen to this magnitude and this swiftness,'' Mr. Campbell said.

The music the duo plays is almost strictly ''dance hall,'' a bass-heavy double-time form of reggae that melds well with hip hop. At various times over the last two decades, reggae artists have made it to Top 40 radio, but the current wave of stars, including Sean Paul and Shaggy, has catapulted the genre to new heights.

Tim Collins, program director for Hot 93.7, said the station, which is owned by the Infinity Broadcasting Corporation, decided to capitalize on the growing reggae scene in the city and surrounding areas. The station reaches north as far as Massachusetts and south into Long Island. Since the show debuted, it has gotten rave reviews. Mr. Collins said advertisers have noticed the show and want spots during the reggae time slot.

''It was a success; the phones were crazy,'' he said. ''People reacted really well. It should've happened a long time ago. The majority of the phone calls are West Indians saying: 'We really needed this. It's about time.'''

Mr. Collins said the station recognized the strength of the local music community and the increasing crossover appeal of reggae music.

''Reggae is more mainstream than ever right now,'' he said.

It's a landmark that other D.J.'s see as especially significant. One popular local D.J., Rohan Long, even remembers the date Lex and Trevor went on the air, as if it were his daughter's birthday. But he is also worried about the implications of the music's newfound popularity.

''Once you try to change the 'naturality' of the music, then you lose something,'' Mr. Long said. ''You're trying to change to please someone else. To your culture, it's kind of selling out.''

Mr. Long is an accountant at the Hebrew Home and Hospital in West Hartford by day, but on Saturday nights on 91.3 WWUH, the University of Hartford's radio station, he's DJ Magnum. To the untrained ear, his patter between songs is virtually unintelligible. He speaks quickly and in a Jamaican patois, peppering his English phrases with homegrown dialect. One of his favorite terms is ''It gusso now,'' which essentially means, ''It goes like this.''

In some ways, he has fought for this dialect. ''I got jumped because I spoke the way I did,'' he said.

Despite his reservations, Mr. Long is excited about reggae's growth.

''The exposure alone has just been phenomenal,'' he said. ''Just basically the listenership and the responses that it's gotten from the white audience. A lot of different ethnic groups are playing it. It's getting to where we've been hoping it will go.''

The promoter Ardie Wallace's cell phone bill was a good indicator of the burgeoning reggae scene. Until he signed onto a plan that allowed him unlimited minutes, he regularly paid at least $3,000 a month for his phone calls. It literally rings every 10 minutes, and the distraction has become a normal part of his conversations.

Mr. Wallace began his reggae career as a singer, and even opened for such reggae superstars as Peter Tosh. It was Mr. Tosh who first told him in the early 1980's that he should be a promoter.

Like many West Indians, Mr. Wallace's father, Ken, was a migrant worker, spending part of the year in Jamaica and part of the year in the United States. He first came here in 1953, and eventually brought his son back with him in the early 1980's. Ardie Wallace has since raised four children, all of whom are featured on his latest reggae album.

Mr. Wallace sees the shift in reggae's popularity in the kinds of places reggae promoters are now able to book. National acts generally play at Toad's Place in New Haven and the West Indian Social Club in Hartford, but have recently filled even bigger places.

''When reggae reaches into the Hartford Civic Center that's a blasting point right there,'' he said. ''Five years ago you couldn't see reggae there.''

He is convinced that Hartford is a vital center of the reggae world.

''Every day I meet a new artist, they want to play Hartford,'' he said. ''The Hartford scene is definitely the roots. It's the next New York City when it comes to reggae music.''
A version of this article appears in print on Dec. 7, 2003, Section CN, Page 14 of the National edition with the headline: A Beat Spreads From Hartford. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe - New York Times

"Pauze Radio Profile"

Don Minott has been delivering Roots Rocking Reggae Excellence for over two decades. He is well loved in Europe where one of his most successful recent tracks “Time & Space” took off by storm. The same track had been placed at the top of the charts in ST Louis in 2 of the first 3 months in 2016.

Don Minott is an exceptionally talented tri-fecta in the Indie Reggae/Dancehall scene: writing, composing, performing, the list goes on. Behind the scenes it is worthy of mentioning that he is also solo-preneuring his product globally like a professional. Making vital connections along the way and thereby securing a solid foundation for his career.

All this talent is born out of the heart of a true poet, who loves his people and is using his voice to reach out, edify, move and bless people with down to earth rich roots rockin’ Reggae vibes. Right down to the punchline. His writing skills are not only profound but also versatile. He covers many different subjects across many different riddims.

As example compare Reggae Boogaloo with Only 21. Both are massively powerful songs, well written and delivered excellently , but that’s where the similarities stop. Each have their very own distinctive moods one being somber and one so uptempo you couldn’t hold your feet still if you tried.

His voice is clear and crisp whether acapella, on stage performing live or laid down on track. He takes pride in his craft and it’s capacity to move and influence people is not taken lightly. Don’s performances capture his crowd’s heart, he has a strong fan base built up and reinforced over the years. He enjoys entertaining in both intimate settings as well as large venues and Festivals.

Local festival performances include: New England Reggae Fest, Ocean State Reggae Fest, Sober in the Sun Festival, Half Moon Festival, Celebrate Brooklyn Festival, Taste of the Caribbean Festival and the West Indian Independence Celebration. International festival performances include: Reggae by the River in Germany, Exit Festival in Serbia and Montenegro Reggae Fest in Montenegro to name a few.

Don’s talents have landed him performing on the same stage and warming up the crowd for legends like Morgan Heritage, Culture, Luciano, Third World, Yellowman, Beres Hammond, Burning Spear, Toots and Maytals, Israel Vibrations, Sizzla, Damian Marley and Maxi Priest.

Don Minott has been in several bands, including “the Lightning Reggae Band”, “Ruffneck Massive” and “Positive Vibrations”. His musical influences are Delroy Wilson, Bob Marley, the original Wailers, Mikey Spice, Don Henley, and Phil Collins. When not performing Don listens to the above people, all forms of reggae and continues to write poetry. - Pauze Radio


2020 HAS SEEN A LOT OF TURMOIL. A report early in the year announced that "40% OF THE COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD ARE EXPERIENCING CIVIL UNREST" and it warns that the social dissorder will only get more intense. (


Don Minott has picked up on this vibe and dropped a brand new track , a collaboration with DEEP FLO RECORDS that is running RED HOT with the NATION. It is a call to action against injustice and hatred aptly entitled "REVOLUTION" Here's DJ Fatta Icon dropping the track ... follow the NEWS REEL LINK >>>
or hit the >> GO BUTTON<< on this Youtube video:

For years we here at SHYRICK DANCEHALL RADIO have said REGGAE is going to again play a paramount role in carrying the message of PEACE, UNITY AND HUMANITY across the world. As more and more distress grips this planet, more and more people are turning to REGGAES VIBES to carry the voice of rationality and solution.

An article floating around the web backs up this sentiment : Why Bob Marley Music Sales Surged In Pandemic & Racial Unrest, ‘Legend’ Album Back At No. 1

"...Many times in history, Bob Marleys songs are thematic to the uprising that we are currently witnessing. No matter the year, Marley’s music seems to have perpetual relevance, and even now, as we face these crucial times in the world, fighting for racial equality, his catalog, which champions for social justice has never been more entertained. "

We asked Don Minott what his thoughts were regarding his personal experiences with these issues.

DON MINOTT: I support what's happening worldwide with civil unrest minus the violence and looting . There are people in this world who want to hurt others just because of the color of their skin.


SHYRICK: Don what role or responsibility do you think the singers and musicians have in communications during civil unrest as we are currently witnessing?

DON MINOTT: Musicians/ Vocalists have an obligation to be the voice of the underprivileged , especially in this time of conflict. It's our job to point out the injustices , while at the same time making music that brings people together .

As we all know, social unrest is only one of the serious situations 2020 has dished out to the entire globe, the other being the COVId-19 situation which has literally destroyed prospects for large venues, as well as popular outdoor concerts which ultimately is causing much distress to the musician and artist around the world as they scramble to adjust to a new way of doing business.

We asked Don Monott how he is fairing during these trying times.

DON MINOTT: On a personal level I've been lucky, so far I've not been infected by Covid19, however 2 of my family members have recovered from it.

On a music level, my last live audience was way back in February . I just did a virtual show with my Band on July 25 , 2020 however.

In the meantime I've been writing and doing a lot of Studio Recordings. Because music was never my primary source of income financially I'm ok .

SHYRICK: What are the recommendations you have for your fellow artists to mitigate the damages from this pandemic?

DON MINOTT: I would suggest to my fellow Artists to find ways to stay relevant. for example do some virtual streaming and promote new music .

My own label VOLTAGE SOUNDS is continuing to make good music even as we collaborate with other labels and producers worldwide.

We did a bit of digging around to see what may be out there that will offer some degree of support to the music community, here's a link to some resources offered. We are not overly sure how much of a help these will be, but we are sure there will be someone to listen and offer advice so if you are an artist wondering what to do, check it out ...>>>

We have it on good authority via RIDDIM N NICE PRODUCTIONS that a new BANGER is expected in the very near future from DON MINOTT, who will be sitting on a 4 track EP ridding the UPFULL RIDDIM . Radio stations pleasse reach out to DON MINOTT for all of his recent releases and make sure to ask for this one coming very soon >>> Here's his FACEBOOK link :

For those of you who just cant wait a moment longer to have DON MINOTT vibes tucked in your music collection, we suggest you follow this link to his download page and tuck some wicked tracks into your music collection right now!!! >>> - Boss Magazine


Talk For Your Rights (Lightning Reggae Band) -
Must Be A Dream (Don Minott) -
Speak For The Poor (Don Minott) -



Donald Minott is a Jamaican-born reggae musician who was raised in Central Village, St. Catherine. His musical influences include legendary artists like Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Freddie McGregor, and Delroy Wilson. During his high school years, Donald began writing poetry, and he later attended a summer workshop for creative writing at the Creative Arts Center in Kingston.

In 1986, Donald migrated to Hartford, Connecticut, where he began performing at basement parties. He went on to sing with various bands in the Hartford area, including Rough Neck Massive and Positive Vibrations, before co-founding the Lightning Reggae Band. He later formed The High Voltage Reggae Band, with whom he has toured extensively throughout the Northeast United States and overseas.

Donald Minott is known for his strict adherence to roots reggae music. He has shared the stage with a number of notable reggae artists, including Toots Hibbert, Burning Spear, Beres Hammond, and Damian Marley. He has performed at festivals across the United States and internationally, including the Gamboa Music Festival in Cape Verde, Reggae by the River in Hamburg, Germany, and the Exit Festival in Serbia.

Band Members