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Winston Riley invests $50m in studio, museum project

Veteran producer, Winston Riley, is investing just over $50 million in a studio and museum he intends to open before year-end on Orange Street, downtown Kingston.

The building is being constructed on the same site that housed Riley’s record label, Techniques Records, which he said was burnt down by arsonists last month. The new property, Riley told Splash, will be rebranded Techniques Records and Museum, which, in addition to producing songs, will be a depository showcasing the history of reggae and dancehall music.

“We’re going to teach everybody the history of reggae music, from when it started, come right up,” said Riley. “Nothing will be like this in Jamaica.”

Riley, who was founder of rocksteady vocal group The Techniques before he became a successful producer, is funding the venture out of pocket. He said the aim is to turn the location into a tourist attraction and help re-establish downtown Kingston, the once vibrant commercial district which attracted many overseas vistors, as part of the island’s tourism product.

“All type of persons come (to Jamaica) and ask questions – white, black, brown etc. We are going to have books, displays, graffiti etc outlining to them all the top musicians who built this thing,” said Riley, adding that locals are being targeted as well.

The successful musician, who was born and bred in downtown Kingston, said he is unphased by the negative perception of the crime-torn district, dismissing suggestions that his multimillion dollar investment may be too risky for that part of town.

“This is my place,” he said of downtown. “It can go back to where it once was…it starts here.”

Indeed, a few decades ago, along the same road on Orange Street where Riley’s new studio and museum is being built, used to be a corridor of record shops and studios. The ‘beat-street’, as it was known, was home to Studio One, Rockers International, Niney the Observer and Joe Gibbs to name a few.

Riley is originally from neigbouring West Street, where he formed The Techniques in 1962. The group left the Treasure Isle label in the late 1960’s, after which Riley set up his own Techniques Label – originally based on West Street but relocated to Orange Street in 1991. He went on to become one of the most successful Jamaican producers of all time, producing a string of hits in the 1980’s. The producer said it was always his intention to remain in downtown and invest in the area through reggae music.

“This is my dream,” he said to Splash, while watching labourers do work on his new site.

By Julian Richardson

source : jamaicaobserver.com

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