Zumjay is a street legend in the ghettos of Jamaica. He has built his name and street rap one stage show at a time to the extent were he is a household name in dancehall circles even though he does not have a string of commercial hits behind his name.
“People need more Zumjay in their lives. Slowly but surely, I..ll never do it poorly,” he promised.
Born, Rohan Alphanso Stephens, this Waterhouse-reared deejay attended Kingston College and then Hydel High School where he raised the eyebrows of his fellow students with his artfully conceptualized rhymes. One day, Michael Rutherford, a parent impressed by the young talent..s vocal abilities, arranged a studio cameo for him.
“I used to deejay all the time during lunch break, and Rutherford, a parent at KC [Kingston College], heard about me and invited me to Dynamics Recording Studio. So I did my first recording in 1994. I still remember having on my school uniform. The song was not released but gave me a studio experience,” he said.
It was another ..high school link.. that landed him his first job after graduating. Corey Bennett, the son of Hyacinth Bennett, then the principal of Hydel High School, arranged for him to meet Penthouse manager/producer, Donovan Germain. Soon after, Zumjay began to work at Penthouse as an apprentice studio engineer.
“I never wanted to learn an ordinary trade. So I asked Germain if I could learn engineering at the studio,” he explained.
He began working at Penthouse at age 18, and four years later, he had become proficient enough at it to work professionally with artistes such as Beres Hammond, Buju Banton, Morgan Heritage, Beenie Man, and the duo Tanto Metro and Devonte.
Zumjay was the studio engineer who worked on the Beres Hammond/Buju Banton ..Pull Up the Vibes.. remix, as well as Beenie Man..s smash hit, ..Crazy Notion.. for Mo Music Production.
Then in the year 2000, a sudden burst of inspiration would change Zumjay..s life forever, when he recorded ..Courtney.., a tribute to international cricketer Courtney Walsh, as Courtney closed in on the highest individual record for highest wicket-taker in test cricket history.
“I recorded the song using an engineering trick I learned from Stephen Stanley, who mixed songs for Penthouse every Wednesday and Thursday. He taught me the trick and I did the Courtney song after my mom told me that Richie B (a disc jockey) wanted someone to do a song for Courtney. After recording it that night, I carried it to him the next morning,” he explained.
The song blew up big time, becoming almost like an anthem, as national pride spiked following Walsh..s remarkable achievement. Zumjay performed at the Prime Minister..s residence and later on national television during the parade held in the cricketer..s honor in the streets of Kingston. The song eventually peaked at number 4 on the reggae charts in California and dominated local charts for several weeks after it was released.
“It did very well for me, especially when I toured Europe and seh who a deh big man inna cricket? The place lift up,” he said.
Zumjay seized the opportunity to start his recording career and eventually left Penthouse to pursue his dream. In February, 2002, his manager and friend, Steve ..Lenky.. Marsden, produced the Diwali Riddim. Zumjay scored another major hit on the Diwali with the ultra-popular ..Zumjay News.. and later that year, he performed at major events such as Sashi, Sting, and Stone Love Anniversary. Then he did ..Shake It.. on the Masterpiece Riddim for ..Lenky..s.. 40/40 Production in late 2002 and his career continued to blossom. Zumjay has continued to record, scoring major video hits with ..Dancing Team.. in late 2004 and ..Sticky.. in early 2005.
He has also performed at the legendary Reggae Sumfest held in Montego Bay and at Beenie Man..s annual birthday celebration stage show, Summer Sizzle.
“I am a force to be reckoned with in the music industry and you can look out for me. I am working on hit singles and then moving on to albums in the future,” he said. “I am focusing on the dancehall arena mainly. I am loved in the streets. I can go to any garrison area and deal wid it. Some artistes get crazy airplay on the radio but when it comes to dancehall on the streets, it is a different matter,” he said.
Zumjay has also toured Europe for two consecutive years, 2003 and 2004; the latter, alongside deejay Alozade who played the packed venues.
“I am going to continue to work hard until I get my chance to shine.”