Ardie "Cuban Cohiba" Wallace
Musically a “late bloomer” by industry standards, the Montego Bay in St. James parish of Jamaica-born “Cuban” waited until he was in his high school band before he found his true love was music.
But right after high school, he met reggae icon Toots and the Maytals and was hypnotized by the way they played. He soon met another reggae immortal, Peter Tosh, who would become his best friend and mentor. Tosh not only taught Cuban how to hold a note and how to harmonize with it, but also how to promote a show and the “business of the business.”
By the late 80s, Cuban had formed his own band as the lead singer of Rhythm Force, touring with Horace Andy, Josey Wales and others. In the early 90s, though, Cuban decided he wanted to try his hand at promoting live concerts, so he put both his band and singing on hold, working instead with every major reggae artist out of Jamaica.
Cuban single-handedly put Connecticut on the reggae concert tour map, so much so that the Mayor of Hartford proclaimed every August 15th from 2008 on to be Ardie Cuban Wallace Day and presented him with a key to the city. He’s been the subject of two major NY Times interviews, and concert promotion is what he’s been doing exclusively.
Cuban has made up his mind to return to the studio and stage. Socially aware and politically astute, he’s in the process of recording an album of original songs, some of them funny enough to rival the best stand-up
routines in comedy clubs, some sad enough to break your heart in four bars, all of them a part of daily life on the streets of every urban center.
He also loves a challenge. We think he rose to it particularly well in his recording of “Born on Third Base” a puncturing look at how wealth perpetuates itself in the U.S. and around the world with social capital, and ridiculing its self-aggrandizing notions of inherent superiority in a funky patois fusion of reggae and Mark Twain humor in the vein of American folk music icon Arlo Guthrie, penned by R. Meltzer and S. Anthony.
"A lot of reggae artists turned down this song because of its baseball metaphor," says Capsicum CEO and A&R Director Roger Meltzer. "They just felt their fanbase would not get it in places where soccer and cricket are the favorite sports. What I love most about Cuban is that he's fearless. I played the track for him, handed him the lyric sheet and ran down the song for him one time. He said, 'This is wicked, man. Brutal. If they don't get it in Jamaica, they'll get in NY and Tokyo. Give me the mic.' He nailed it in one take."
Finally, Cuban reflects his community’s helpless frustration and anguish over the senseless gun violence that plagues its streets, capturing its repetitive and numbing impact in his original fusion of dancehall reggae with an A-Kon-influenced r&b/hip-hop ballad feel in the midst of a New Orleans jazz funeral processsion in “Enuf Is Enough,” its beat punctuated by bursts of automatic weapons, squealing tires,
condolence calls and its all too timely message reinforced by the commentary of the inimitable Shabba Ranks.