November 1, 2011
Tommy Cowan has been actively involved in the history and development of Jamaican music for over forty years. He started out as a singer at Treasure Isle in the rocksteady vocal group, The Jamaicans, who had massive local hits with “Things You Say You Love” and the 1967 Festival Song winner “Ba Ba Boom“.
After The Jamaicans’ hit-making heyday, Tommy began working with Byron Lee at Dynamic Sounds where, as Sales & Marketing Manager, he was in charge of releasing music in Jamaica from the U.S.A. on the Atlantic, Motown and Columbia labels. Tommy felt that the music of Jamaica was seen as secondary to that coming from overseas, but it was his belief that it was every bit as important and so, in 1975, he founded the organization known as The Talent Corporation with Warwick Lyn and Gayman Alberga. The Talent Corporation gave the same type of promotion and exposure to local music that had previously only been given to foreign product and it became a focal point, catalyst and facilitator in the Jamaican music business for the remainder of the seventies.
At Talent, Tommy would sometimes be writing songs or producing, hands on, in the studio for the Arab, Starapple and Talent labels while, at other times, he would be pressing and distributing records for a host of top artists and producers. In 1979, he produced the first Israel Vibration album The Same Song, one of the most important long playing sets in the history of Jamaican music, and he would go on to establish the Reggae Sunsplash concerts for whom he coined the catchphrase “Uniting the world through music”. That same year he was approached by Bob Marley to help set up Tuff Gong at 56 Hope Road and he accompanied Bob Marley & The Wailers on their 1979 European tour. Tommy then travelled with them to Africa which he described as a “a learning experience – now it’s historical!”
Pressure Sounds has gathered together a unique collection of music dating from 1974 to 1979 that demonstrates the range and brilliance of Talent Corporation’s output from this incredibly creative period with innovative artists such as Jacob Miller, Dennis Brown, Devon Irons and the utterly compelling Abyssinians. Ironically enough, and typically enough too, this remarkably modest and self-effacing man felt that he was “just dabbling” in record production, but with this Pressure Sounds release Tommy stated “it’s all coming together now to make sense.”
For forty years, Tommy Cowan has never stopped making and promoting the music and the culture that he loves. Talent Corporation managed to bridge the gap between ‘uptown’ and ‘downtown’ and were instrumental in helping to cross the music of Jamaica over to the rest of the world in the seventies. He has always worked tirelessly to promote the music but has preferred to stay in the background, but perhaps the sounds on this set will work to expose his brilliance to the world.