New children’s short story series hits the ground running

A new Caribbean-infused take on short story-telling is here in the form of a series of audio stories produced by Rapper and record producer Mark Anthony aka Blak Prophetz.

Launched on December 24, ‘No Competition‘ is the first of the Pickney Dem series and an exciting new venture for the renowned artist, also known in the rap game as Sure Shot and for his works as an artist/producer under his Blak Prophetz moniker.

The audio-story, which offers a humorous take on a classic tale about an over-confident, fast-running hare, aims to encourage more youngsters to read books and enjoy audio stories. The episode enlists Anthony’s vocal talents, the versatile artist performing all of the character voiceovers, including the hare’s role, a character with a distinctly Caribbean personality.

“The Jamaican patois is very funny, and I have a very strong dislike to how they speak it on British TV.” He said.

Man of many voices – Blak Prophetz

“It seems like another dialect or an extremely watered-down version of something that was so originally pure. The nicest of phrases can be said in Jamaican patois, yet sound incredibly harsh, and it is this edge that makes the language so interesting to play with.”

“This is how we spoke at school and is a clear reflection of my upbringing. I’m very proud of the way we speak and would never not speak it for anything. It is our culture.” 

“Furthermore, there’s not enough of it,” he added. 

“I’m not saying that it’s a reason why black kids may have such a disinterest in books etc, but the western educational system is very biased and does not cater for black children enough.”

West Midlands based Mark Anthony is an original member of the booming 80s rap group Audio Kings and the even more successful band The Blak Prophetz which released tunes on the Kold Sweat and Fatt Jointz record labels. 

His forty years experience in the music industry includes a passion for creating cutting edge joints like his 2005 ‘The Second Coming,’ (also the name of the album), and a penchant for the ambience of the soul and funk flavours so solidly acquainted by his funk and soul-jazz outfit Funk Division.

He’s also worked with a wealth of recording artists including Joyce Simms, Justin Timberlake and reggae artist Dawn Penn to name but a few. 

Speaking about the colourful new audio story series, he said, “There are two reasons why I felt this was necessary. The first is that when I was about 11 years old, I discovered that I could record my voice on my father’s portable tape device. 

“Being young, energetic and creative this was a great opportunity for me to experiment. I would come home from school and re-enact situations that had occurred from that day onto tapes. You could call it my very own diary, only that it was in audio.”

It wasn’t long before he began to experiment with sound effects. He’d use slippers and shoes to make punching and slapping sounds and started including the atmospheric sounds of old records in his recordings. 

Like his father Levi Duffus, a soundman, DJ and vinyl collector, Mark Anthony also enjoyed buying music. 

“I would buy records that contained drums, percussion and or vocal speech, which helped build my stories on tape.”

Pursuing his passion, he eventually went to college to complete a Radio Studio & Broadcasting course and learnt new skills like reel-to-reel editing and gained technical knowledge, learning about signals, recording and compression.

“After the course, life and work took priority, and for many years my tapes sat in the loft.” 

His return to creating and editing audio stories seemed almost accidental. 

He was already heavily involved with the music industry, and he’d signed a publishing deal with BBC Worldwide, after providing voiceovers for Hasbro kids’ games. Then;

“On the 4th birthday of my niece’s child, she asked all his Godparents (which included me) to record a story and send it to him.” 

What began as simple recording soon developed into more as Mark Anthony’s old recording habits were reignited and resurfaced. 

“Before I knew it, I was back doing what I did when I was ten years old, only more full-on. When they heard it, my friends and family went crazy for it and demanded more. So as owner of a record label and having a direct distribution deal with Sony Music, it was clear what had to happen.”

What to expect from future episodes currently remains a closely guarded secret so listeners will have to await the surprises to arrive.

The talented artist and producer would only say that; “They are absolutely entertaining and even funnier. We have an entire series ready which shall be released approximately every 90 days.”

His daughter Alicia Duffus is also very involved in writing the new stories and part of the Pickney Dem production set-up, which her father describes as “growing to a full-on team of professional voice over actors and actresses.”

“We have a whole series already,” He said, “And as we have our own fully digital recording facilities these will all be released via Sony’s distribution, which means that it will now reach a wider global audience.”

Pickney Dem is available on Itunes, Amazon, EMusic, and Worldwide.

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