by Howard Campbell
SOUTH FLORIDA – As a fledgling gospel artist 30 years ago, Ewart “2nd Chance” Blake wanted to express the gospel through the sounds his generation favored. That was reggae and dancehall, but this did not go down well with traditionalists.
“When I started singing reggae gospel back then it was not readily accepted. My first song Mission Fi God did not fit into the normal category of gospel songs,” he recalled. “However, there were radical Christians who embraced it. I believe spreading a positive message is the most important thing.”
The singer has never faltered. His latest song, The Getaway, stays true to form with an uptempo reggae beat that appeals to secular fans as well as lovers of contemporary gospel music.
2nd Chance was born in May Pen, a bustling town in rural Clarendon parish, Jamaica. Based in South Florida, he co-produced The Getaway with Realest Writerz Productions.
To date, he has released eleven albums which include songs like May Pen Medley, I’m Royal, Blessing Blessings and Young Companion.
While he is at home recording to a rocking reggae beat, 2nd Chance is strongly influenced by conservative American Christian music groups such as the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Mississippi Mass Choir, singer Joe Ligon from The Mighty Clouds of Joy and veteran Jamaican group, The Grace Thrillers.
“The clapping of hands, along with the sounds of the organ created what was considered church music. The style of the rhythms primarily is what has certainly changed from song service to what we now call ‘praise and worship’…nowadays, the music takes on more of a contemporary feel compared to what we use to know as a traditional sound,” 2nd Chance explained.
He recorded Mission Fi God in 1995 when Jamaican gospel music was evolving. The conversion of dancehall acts Junior Tucker, Papa San and Stitchie inspired a new wave of progressive Christian artists including Prodigal Son, Jermaine Edwards and Kevin Downswell.
Like 2nd Chance, their reggae-driven songs have won them secular fans.