THEN and NOW: Pheno Ranks, whose real name is Mark Thomas, has been doing music since childhood

The years that Pheno Ranks spent trying to find a firm footing in the music industry have prepared him for a grand take-off.

“People can expect a string of conscious songs and entertainment from me… I am currently having my own beats being built,” he said.

According to the artiste, whose given name is Mark Thomas, his latest single titled ‘You Don’t See’, which is available on YouTube, “has been getting good reviews so far”.

He also told The Beacon that he intends to tap into his repertoire, comprising “tonnes of songs”.

“Most of those songs are in demo form, but I could safely say I have two or three albums [worth of them],” added Pheno Ranks, who focuses mainly on the Reggae genre.

“I am versed in all different areas, but I try to focus on the cultural side of things, sending a positive message. I do love songs as well,” he explained. “I write about things that people can relate to… If people listen to my music most of the times, they basically can tell my life story.”

Pheno Ranks became fascinated with music during childhood when he, along with his grandmother Ida Brown, attended St. John’s Baptist Church in his rural community of St. John, Clarendon.

“That’s where the interest started, singing at concerts and rallies,” he commented. “From back in the days with cassette and tape, I was always taping my voice. I wasn’t privy to studio and all those things, but I was always making songs of my own and even singing songs of other people.”

The graduate of Top Hill Primary School and Kellits High, over the years, did various odd jobs while trying to make his name in music.

He worked on a coffee farm in Portland, at Trade Winds Citrus Limited (Tru-Juice) in three different capacities, at Caymanas Estate as a welder, in St. Andrew as a live-in helper, and as a contract worker at Worthy Park Sugar Estate where he learned welding.

He was employed mainly as a security guard, working in St. Ann, St. Catherine, Trelawny, and Hanover.

Pheno Ranks stated that, on one occasion while he was undergoing security guard training in Ocho Rios, he met another trainee who also was a music lover.

That other trainee, Richard ‘Birdy’ Wilson, informed Pheno Ranks about a makeshift recording studio he had at his home in Islington, St. Mary. Pheno Ranks eventually went there and did some recordings, and was able to hear himself on a CD for the first time.

“That’s basically where the recording part of my thing started [in late 2004],” he said.

Since then, Pheno Ranks, while in Jamaica, did recordings at Fire Star Records in St. Mary and at African Tradition in St. James.

He also worked closely with a group, Simply Music, which originated in the United Kingdom, but spent some time in Jamaica.

“I was involved with that group for some time where I happened to have the luxury of working [as an opening act] for the likes of I-Octaine and Ken Booth and a few other famous Jamaican artistes,” he commented.

Pheno Ranks also recalled that, in 2011, he made his debut appearance on national television (TVJ) during the “Roll Out” singing competition on the station’s morning magazine programme – Smile Jamaica. He finished second out of three artistes.

Prior to that, he made a big change in his personal life. He wedded a Jamaican native living in America, Marjorie Thomas, and migrated five years later in 2015.

“Since I have been here [in the United States], my career [as an artiste] has slowed,” Pheno Ranks said, adding that he opted to put music on the back-burner while he focused on earning a living as a security officer.

But the Jamaican native could not escape music for long.

He started recording again, and is now bent on making a bigger impact this time round.

“When I was much younger in the music, there were so many things that I didn’t know. If I knew those things, I already would have gone much further [in the music],” Pheno Ranks told The Beacon.

He said he is establishing a company in Jamaica to help aspiring artistes, whom he encouraged to conduct research even on the internet in relation to the music industry.

“You don’t have to wait on anyone to do your research about music, and seek out the right way of doing stuff,” he advised. “Go to the proper people that can help you to be better at your craft. Just go out there and do it.”

In addition, Pheno Ranks appealed for up and coming artistes to stick to positive music though it may be more difficult to market at times.

“Don’t be daunted by the fact that everybody is not dancing after your music,” he said. “There are always people out there who will appreciate and love what you do. Try and do music that will last a lifetime instead of commercial music that has a very short life span.”


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By Mills