From United Kingdom
Born in Hackney, East London to Jamaican parents, Cleveland Watkiss is one of nine children. His musical instincts kicked in fast: even as a baby, Cleveland would clap and play along to the radio. This love for music was quickly nurtured by his father a carpenter, DJ and frequent attendee to Ronnie Scotts who often played a range of music in the home: ska, blue beat, reggae, jazz, blues and calypso. As a young teenager, a friend dared Cleveland to enter a talent competition Unsurprisingly, he sang on the instrumental B-side of a record and won first prize. He left school at 16 and studied engineering, music and drama. But a talent of such scope doesnt go unnoticed: Cleveland became a central cog in the wheel of Lovers Rock which exploded during the late 70s. Soon enough, he was working with the likes of Carroll Thompson and Jamaican legendary vocalist, Sugar Minott. A true performer in all senses, Cleveland also took a keen interest in acting and took a lead role in the European production of the musical Hair. with his love for music he begun honing his talents and studying the voice, guitar, piano and composition. Jazz Warriors In 1985, alongside Courtney Pine, Cleveland was one of the co-founders of the vastly influential Jazz Warriors big band. His vocals can be heard on the Warriors debut album, Out of Many People which won a video award in Japan. Cleveland was then entered for the Wire/Guardian Jazz Awards and was voted best vocalist for three consecutive years. John Fordham, Guardian music journalist accurately describes Cleveland as arriving on the scene with a bang. Not withstanding his love for jazz, Cleveland also worked extensively with members of the outstanding UK based gospel outfit, the London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC). During his time performing with them, they recorded a track, Free which can be heard on Stevie Wonders album, Characters. LCGC also performed live at Wembley with Stevies Wonderlove band. Soon after, Cleveland featured on Pete Townsends (The Who) concept album, The Iron Man. Cleveland then joined Townsend and the rest of The Who in 1989 for their 25th Anniversary tour of the USA. Again, this year he performed alongside Townsend in his Life House Project at Sadlers Wells. Having engaged Cleveland for two concerts at Londons South Bank Centre, music promoter Biyi Adepegbe wrote Clevelands writing abilities bear testimony to the widely held belief that a singer must be a poet. This, coupled with his exploration and knowledge of modern technology, makes for a dynamic and innovative approach which will make the kind of in-roads that is often needed in the music world. 21st Century SoulSome time after the release of two critically acclaimed albums for Polydor Records, Green Chimneys and Blessing in Disguise, Cleveland began to explore modern technology. He formed the drum n bass trio, Project 23 with American drummer extraordinaire, Marque Gilmore and the UK Garage pioneer, DJ Le Rouge. Their album, 23 was released on the Dorado record label to critical acclaim. Shortly after this collaboration Cleveland was invited by Goldie of Metalheadz fame, to record vocals on the ballad, Adrift from the ground-breaking album, Timeless (CD version only). Cleveland then spent 2 years as the original vocalist/MC at the world famous Blue Note club. Around this time, he begun his long time collaboration with his friend, Talvin Singh multi-percussionist extraordinaire and Mercury Prize winner. Cleveland co-wrote the track Traveller which can be heard on Talvin Singhs album O.K. He then took part in yet another historical event at the Barbican, London which showcased a live concert for Talvin Singhs album. The band consisted of an all-star line up which included the likes of the USAs Bill Laswell, Karsh Hale and Ajay Naidu, Japans Ryuichi Sakamoto, Indias Rakesh Chaurasia, Ustad Sultan Khan and Shankar Mahadevan and the UKs Byron Wallen.