The most impressive and best received act that performed at the 25th anniversary edition of Reggae Geel was a group of four talented singers/deejays, whose tantalizing sound has been echoing throughout the dancehall in recent years. Enough reason to catch up with a group that seems to be ready to cross over and break big internationally, just like Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder did recently. But first here's a brief history to introduce the group.

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TOK, as these fun lovin' youngsters call themselves, are a Jamaican vocal quartet consisting of Alex McCalla, Roshaun Clarke, Xavier Davidson and Craig Thompson. The group was formed in 1993, having nurtured their vocal prowess in school and church choirs. On leaving school Thompson resumed his studies at the Jamaican School Of Music and achieved notable commendations. The crew were considered the Jamaican equivalent of Boyz II Men who inspired the group when they performed to an ecstatic crowd at the 1998 Reggae Sumfest Festival. The group was initially employed to provide backing vocals on sessions with various Jamaican deejays, including Lady Saw and Mr. Vegas. With the latter they performed "Miss Tracy", a seething comment about the increase in the number of transvestites inhabiting the Jamaican capital. While with Lady Saw the quartet performed a variation on Stevie Wonder's "Part Time Lover" entitled "Hardcore Lover". The group were also featured on Freddie McGregor's "Ol Fung Reggae Ska" performing "Dance With Me" in combination with Winston Wheeler.

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In 1999 TOK recorded with the Xtra Large posse, releasing the haunting "Eagles Cry" (a version of Prince's "When Doves Cry"), which became an international success without the support of a big name deejay. "Eagles Cry" was followed closely by the "monster" that won't go away, "Chi Chi Man," produced by LOY for the eponymous label and riding the Sashi riddim created by Dave Kelly's equally bombastic older brother, Tony Kelly. Another chart-topper, "Hold On", a cover version of the En Vogue favourite, swiftly followed. The hit was produced by Mo Music's Flabba Malcolm who enrolled Major Christie to embellish the song with his chant, "Come Gi Me Your Lovin'". The success of this release led to a session with Chico performing "Pavarotti" and "Grab It Up". Accolades followed and the posse affirmed their position in the Jamaican music business with the favoured "Hot Gal Crew". The song featured the group emulating Beenie Man in the introduction while drawing inspiration from Red Rat and Goofy's "Bad Man Crew". An abundance of hits followed, including "Na Na Na", "All I Really Want", "Good Ride" and a remarkable rendition of "Curfew". Their debut album "My Crew, My Dawgs" was well received and fully showcased the group's writing and performing talents. TOK stands for killer harmonies, soaring leads, sinewy deejaying, and tunes that hit.

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After their energetic and staggering performance we were able to talk to them. As time was limited - a lot of people were already queueing in front of their "dressroom" in order to meet and greet - we suggested that they provide an instant reaction to ten topics we had gathered for them. It soon turned out that it wasn't that easy to write down their comments as they regularly held side conversations, made fun and interjected their own comments. But anyway, here's the final result.

  • Anything For You.
    "Big Tune!! Debut tune produced by Steven Gregory our first manager. Cover of a 3T song."

  • Baddis riddim.
    "Combination tune with Lady Saw called "Hardcore Lover". Introducing TOK and producer (now also manager) Richard "Shams" Browne" to the audience. Beginning of a good partnership."

  • Boys II Men.
    "Big group. Together with Shy our main inspiration. We are often compared with Boys II Men, but we're not bringing R&B music. We are Jamaicans, that's why we have experimented with reggae and dancehall, 'cause we wanted to keep it hardcore."

  • Girls.
    "They love TOK, and TOK loves them. Fat! Sexy! Beautiful! They made TOK what they are today. It all started for the girls. In the beginning we used to sing to impress them."

  • Shams.
    "Big producer. Manager, boss and friend. Chemistry with TOK. One of the best producers we've worked with so far, although others such as Tony Kelly and his brother Dave are also very good in their own way. "

  • Campion College, Kingston JA.
    "Three quarters of TOK. At that school we got our musical background."

  • Slackness.
    "In the bedroom!! Jamaica is a hardcore society. Our music is a reflection of that society. We're talking about reality. That's why we deal with slackness." Craigy-T then states "Pussy is the spice of life!!", which is rewarded with a full round of laughter.

  • My Crew, My Dawgs.
    "Debut album. Introduced TOK to the world. No looking back. The second album will come out soon. Will be released on VP/Atlantic. We have no title for it yet."

  • Hype.
    "We don't need the hype!! Our music speaks for itself. Yes, we record a lot of tunes, but we're always going for quality, not quantity. That's why we are TOK... Touch Of Klass."

  • No Way Jose.
    "Brand new TOK song. Big tune across the "Grinding" riddim, which Tony Kelly specially built for us. It will be featured on our second album." Then they spontaneously started singing a part of the song.

Then we felt that time was up. After having taken a picture with the TOK crew in full pose - with Alex viewing the picture for approval - we left it at that, making way for those who were waiting to take over.

Article : Teacher & Mr. T   Photos : Teacher

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