New York, NY (September 23, 2020)—A mainstay of Jamaica’s recording and live sound scene for decades, engineer Barry O’Hare died from COVID-19 on Saturday, September 19, at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. Over the years, O’Hare worked with the likes of Burning Spear, Third World, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Morgan Heritage, Sean Paul, Beres Hammond, Toots and the Maytals and Shaggy. O’Hare was 56.
A Kingston native, O’Hare became interested in music at an early age and played piano in his father’s church by age 9. In the late 1980s, he began working as an apprentice studio engineer at Grove Recording Studio, where in time he would become a full-fledged producer/engineer who also composed music and worked as an occasional background vocalist. As the studio was a subsidiary of Ocho Rios radio station IRIE FM, O’Hare eventually became an on-air DJ at the station as well.
O’Hare began producing for reggae act Morgan Heritage in 1992, contributing to albums like Don’t Haffi Dread, Caught Into A Trap and Reggae Road Block. Gramps Morgan, a member of the group, told the Jamaican Gleaner, “Barry was more than just a colleague in the music industry; to our family, he was a brother. After meeting him for the very first time in 1992, we realized how far and above he was at that time as an engineer. His personality was calm, and also his spirit and his professionalism were far and beyond. He will truly be missed. To his family and all who are left behind, this is another big loss for our genre.”
Among his career highlights was engineering Burning Spear’s 1999 album, Calling Rastafari, at Grove; the record won the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
As time went on, O’Hare added live sound engineering to his resume, engineering large-scale events such as the Jamaica International Kite Festival and Summer Sizzle. He eventually became a go-to FOH engineer for internationally touring reggae acts, including Sean Paul, Third World and Beres Hammond, though most notably, he worked as Shaggy’s touring engineer for a decade. The “It Wasn’t Me” singer noted on Instagram, “Lost our dear brother @barry_ohare_jamaica. Barry was my engineer and a great guy; he was instrumental in helping to establish Shaggy and Friends, especially on the technical side, and engineered a lot of the shows. We toured together for years; he made us sound great night after night. Thank you for your friendship, your talent and love! Rest well, my brother, R.I.P. – condolences to his family.”
The Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) recognized O’Hare for his contribution to the growth and development of reggae music in 2018.