Natural Black

Natural Black

 Kingston, Kingston, JAM
BandPopSinger/Songwriter

Biography

Natural Black Biography
Situated between Spanish speaking Venezuela, Portuguese speaking Brazil and the former Dutch colony of Suriname on the northeastern shoulder of South America, Guyana is historically and culturally aligned to the Anglophile Caribbean. Approximately the size of Great Britain with a population of just 800,000 Guyana is known for its vast sugar and rice exports, an expansive forest that covers more than half of the country and, to a somewhat lesser extent, its homegrown musicians. Ken “Snakehips” Johnson, Britain's first black swing bandleader, seminal calypso/folk group the Tradewinds and the renowned Caribbean-pop-rock singer/songwriter/producer Eddy Grant are but three Guyanese artists working in diverse genres who have made their mark on the international music scene.
In recent years Guyana has become increasingly recognized for its wellspring of reggae talent; foremost among these acts is the uniquely gifted sing-jay Natural Black. Blessed with a soulfully resonant singing voice and razor sharp deejaying skills, which he often fuses to astonishing effect, Natural Black’s consistently positive lyrics derived from his life experiences and further influenced by the teachings of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I and the Rastafarian way of life, have reaped critical acclaim as well of legions of loyal fans. Natural Black’s dependably inspiring music has also merited diplomatic honors: on April 25, 2010, he was named a Musical Ambassador representing the youths of Guyana to the world at Guyana’s Accolade Music Awards. “Its nice to know that they recognize the work and reward me with something, it is a great joy,” says the artist born Mortimer Softley on March 16, 1975 in the city of Plaisance, Guyana. “The people in Guyana are glad to know there is someone in Jamaica keeping up the good work, pleasing a lot of souls and educating the youngsters at the same time.”

A resident of Kingston, Jamaica since 1995, Natural Black has overcome intense personal struggles and various professional challenges to obtain a prominent place in the fickle (reggae) music industry. A self described “street youth” Mortimer was just two years old when his mother died and he was sent to live with his aunt in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown. While still a teenager, he struck out on his own, selling clothes on the street as a means of supporting himself. He moved to neighboring Suriname before returning to Guyana where he served in the army for a short time and learned the welding trade. Irrespective of where he lived or the work he was doing, reggae music continually beckoned and Mortimer’s abundant musical gifts could not be restrained. He performed at parties, dances and with various bands in Georgetown but to succeed as a reggae artist, he knew he would have to leave his friends and family in Guyana and relocate to the music’s birthplace. “Realizing that I have this reggae talent, singing the music from Jamaica, I went into the countryside in Guyana and created my own music, singing the songs and grooming myself for reggae, trying to develop the skills more, to fit in with Jamaican artists so they can’t really identify me as a Guyanese artist,” he recalled. “It was a whole heap of in depth work and mind preparation; I gave myself 3-5 years before I come into Jamaica and start the work here.”
Natural Black made his first trip to Jamaica in 1995 to attend a function sponsored by the Twelve Tribes of Israel, a branch of Rastafari, commemorating the 65th anniversary of the coronation of Rastafarian deity His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I and his wife Empress Mennen, which was attended by Twelve Tribe members from around the world. Eager to build his reputation as a reggae artist, Mortimer decided to remain in Jamaica. He endured hunger, homelessness and displacement from his birthplace before settling into a section of the northeastern Kingston community of Bedward Gardens known as Dread Heights, which is predominantly occupied by Twelve Tribe members. Before long he was introduced to producer Philip Hudson of the Impact label, a cousin of Twelve Tribe member Binghi Lloyd. Hudson was the first producer to record a track, “Early This Morning”, with Natural Black or as he was then known, Black or White. “In the Bible they show you Joseph and Benjamin were from one mother and father, one’s color was white, one’s color was black so it is like a unity, a togetherness for the black and white race at the same time,” Natural Black explained. “But some people said they couldn’t see the significance of the name Black or White, they didn’t like it, so they said alright, you are Natural Black, so that is the name I use.”
At the outset of his career Natural Black supported himself by working part time as a welder while recording for various labels/producers including Freddie McGregor's Big Ship, Jack Scorpio's Black Scorpio, Sly and Robbie’s Taxi imprint and Beres Hammond’s Harmony House (Natural Black’s raspy s