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ForwardEver covers music and life in San Francisco with a heavy dose of reggae. Edited by DJ Tomas, there's links to freelance writing work past and present, plus news and views on culture and politics.

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    Watch Kabaka Pyramid's new video for "Never Be A Slave" on DJ Frass's Cane River riddim and grab a free tracks from Kabaka right here. 

    And catch Kabaka live at festivals this summer, including June 20 at Sierra Nevada World Music fest in Boonville, CA.

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    Watch rising roots reggae artist Protoje's new video for the track "Who Knows" (now up to 200K views!) Then watch him discus the track and his career with On Stage's Winford Williams.

    Video: Protoje "Who Knows (ft. Chronixx)"

    Video Interview: Protoje: On Stage

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  • 05/25/14--15:29: Roots Music on the Radar
  • New roots reggae music is coming by the bushel and the pound as summer kicks in. And it's a global effort, with great productions coming out of the Jamaica, UK, Africa, Virgin Islands, Hawaii and elsewhere. As IniKamoze sang, "World of reggae music on yah!"

    We'll discus a few releases in detail below, but start – look out for the following new titles soon in your record stores and digital retailers... New release albums: JUNE 3: Mungo's Hi-Fi Serious Time, JUNE 10: PopcaanWhere We Come From, Hollie Cook Twice, Maxi Priest Easy To Love, Rebelution Count Me In, JUNE 17: DJ Vadim Dubcatcher, Mato Homework: Dub, JUNE 24: Tessanne Chin Count On My Love, Specialist Presents: Alborosie & Friends,  also also soon: Bob Marley Legend: 30th Anniversary Edition and new albums from Jah Sun and Earl 16. Also out now

    Ethiopian musicians (now based in Tel Aviv, Israel), Zvuloon Dub Systemdon't have a date yet announced for their next album Anbessa Dub. But ForwardEver has heard previews, and it's their most solid effort yet. The band plays horn-infused roots reggae that sounds like the UKs Misty In Roots or Jamaica's Twinkle Brothers. Yet Ethiopian chords, rhythms and influences are also prominent, making this an authentic blend of reggae and dub inspired by Jamaica but grounded in Africa. Highlights include solid reggae tracks like "Tenesh Kelbe Lay" and "Sab Sam," while "Yene Almaz" is a traditional Ethiopian melody. Fans of Augustus Pablo take note, and look for this one to be out summer or fall via VP Records. The band tour across the US this summer.

    Sizzla has released a flurry of albums in recent months, including the XTM-produced Radical and the JohnJohn (King Jammy$ son) released Nuh Worry Unu Self. Next up is the Mr Savona creation Born A King(Muti Music), which features solid reggae one-drop arrangements and some innovative global beats, dancehall and hip-hop backing tracks. Savona, an Australian studio whiz, utilized a 10 piece band for the 15-song album.  Guests on the album include Errol Dubnkley, Turbulence and even the dear missed rocksteady legend Alton Ellis. Listen to the entire album on Muti's Soundcloud page. Or check the player below.

    We first reported on UK soulstress Hollie Cookin 2011 – and that post has become one of ForwardEver's most read! Ms. Cook is back in a big way with her new album Twice, out June 10 on Mr. Bongo Records. (Listen) With backing again by the supremely talented Prince Fatty, the album features odes to the Slits' Ari Up, and balances mature roots productions with fantastic throw-back UK lovers rock style tunes. Fans of Carol Thompson, Sandra Cross or Janet Kaye will adore this album. Seriously lush, dynamic tracks like "99" and first single "Looking For Real Love" [Watch official video] showcase Cook's smooth and relaxed yet fully realized R&B reggae delivery. She's a true gem.

    On his latest album The Sound, Pressure Bus Pipe extolls his birthplace on the song"Virgin Islands Nice," but doesn't shy from fiery political and social topics throughout the rest of the album, as on "Stand Firm," Run Away," and "Cry For Humanity." Produced by Zion I Kings (Zion I, Lustre Kings and I-Grade) the album features great guest stints from Volcano, Lutan Fyah, Midnite, Ras Batch and more.  Grab the excellent official Digital Ancient remix of "Run Away" right here. It's a dubbed-out and dub-stepped up blast that suits the original's vibes well. Pressure is definitely a leader of the modern roots army, and The Sound is a worthy example of his powerful vocals and conscious messages.

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    The new single from Dre Island, produced by JA's Natural High Productions, lives up to the promise that this singer has shown to date.

    Dre has been featured on the Militancy and Rough Road riddims, and alongside artists Kabaka Pyramid and Chronixx. He definitely deserves to be in that company, with a confident flow and clear vocal timber, Dre comes across with the fire of a Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley or Protoje.

    Preview the new track below and look out for more from this rising youth whose already been featured on a slew of mixtapes.

    Best part about the new track "Live Forever" ? The serious, serious, dub version! It's a true dub fan's treat. Make sure you grab the track at all digital retail outlets.

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    Gussie Clarke: A man and his hits
    Leroy Sibles, Augustus Pablo, The Mighty Diamonds and Jacob Miller. Some of the biggest names in foundation reggae music passed through his studio, and graced his hits. Pioneering producer Augustus "Gussie" Clarke, founder of Music Works studio, is being honored with several new digital and vinyl reissues this summer. 

    Clarke had been recording since the 1970s–including Big Youth's seminal album Screaming Target–when, in 1988, the song "Rumors" by Gregory Isaacs, and the subsequent versions by JCLodge ("Telephone Love") and Shabba Ranks ("Telephone Love Deh Pon Mi Mind") took the world by storm. 

    His success following was nearly unparalleled in reggae at the time, charting with Shabba, CocoaTea, DeboraheGlasgow ("Champion Lover"), Home T ("Pirates") Lady G, Maxi Priest and Brian &Tony Gold. He even recorded one of the few duet albums by Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown (No Contest). Wikipedia lists his exhaustive discography, but for collectors and fans of '70s and '80s reggae, some new reissues should reveal more about Clarke's early work, much of which is totally out of print on vinyl or unavailable digitally.

    During his peak in the late-80s and early-90s, Clarke's crisp, digital reggae sound was cleaner and more modern sounding than even dancehall pioneer KingJammy's output at the time. It was also the era of hitmakers like Donovan Germain at Penthouse Studio, and Bobby Digital at Digital B, but Clarke's Music Works songs stood out for their rich, melodic production and fresh, talented singers. To this day, Music Works studio is an in-demand facility for both Jamaican and international acts.

    Gussie Clarke Presents The Right Tracks, a compilation album from 1976, will be reissued digitally, on LA and in a 7" single box set format in coming months. The set features rare productions with melodica master Augustus Pablo, crooners Horace Andy and Heptones' Leroy Sibles, plus classic DJs I-Roy and Trinity. The double CD set drops July 22, while the vinyl box set hits the streets in August.

    Best of all, an album of rare August Pablo dubs produced by Clarke  (titled Born To Dub You) is slated for an August 25 release. If that weren't enough, a collection of Music Works hits from the late-80s and '90s are slated for issue this fall.

    Gussie Presenting The Right Sevens (out August 5)

    Disc 1
    A. Leroy Smart – Pride And Ambition
    B. Old Boys Inc. – Pride Version

    Disc 2
    A. Leroy Sibbles – No, No, No
    B. The Society Squad – The Killer Version

    Disc 3
    A. Roman Stewart – Try Me
    B. Simplicity People featuring Big Youth

    Disc 4
    A. Leroy Sibbles – Guiding Star
    B. Augustus Pablo – Classical Illusion

    Disc 5
    A. Gregory Isaacs – Oh No I Can’t Believe
    B. Augustus Pablo – Believe A Dub

    Disc 6
    A. The Mighty Diamonds – Danger In Your Eyes
    B. Tommy McCook – Danger In Your Dub

    Disc 7
    A. Mikey Dread – Proud To Be Black
    B. Augustus ‘Gussie’ Clarke – Black Foundation

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    Duane Stephenson previews his new album Dangerously Roots (out Sept 23 on VP Records) with a cover of Bunny Wailer's anthemic number "Cool Runnings."

    The song was on Wailer's 1981 album Rock and Groove, and was an important bridge between the Bob Marley-roots era of the '70s into the early dancehall and run-a-dub era of the early '80s.

    Stephenson, who has two highly regarded previous albums (From August Town andBlack Gold), does a fantastic job with the tune, and shows his reverence for times "when music was nice," in Jamaica. Watch a video for the track below and look out for his new album.

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  • 09/07/14--11:23: Riddim Reviews
  • ForwardEver recently published some new riddim compilation reviews over at United Reggae site.

    Jump For Joy riddim review
    Maxfield Avenue riddim review

    Both collections feature excellent line-ups and production. Read a little more below or follow the links for a full report!

    Jump For Joy riddim
    As if we didn’t need more evidence that reggae from the Virgin Islands is every bit as accomplished and well-produced as its Jamaican equivalent, Splatterhouse Productions brings for Jump For Joy, a 15-tracks riddim excursion of the highest caliber.

    With an experienced Jamaican music team on board, including master drummer Sly Dunbar, keys-man Donald Dennis and guitar legend Earl “Chinna” Smith, this project already had an advantage. They conjure a honeyed mid-tempo one-drop rhythm that has all the vital elements: tasteful guitar accents, bright and colorful keys and piano, and Dunbar’s heavyweight thump.

    Producer J. Carrington and mixing engineer Dean Pond didn’t skimp on talent, bringing in VI talents Pressure, Ras Batch, Danny I and Army, American singer Notch, as well as Jamaican greats Junior Reid, Sizzla and Lutan Fyah. For most riddim juggling fans that would seal it. But the surprise on this set are the strong performances from the newer talent.

    On “Smile” crooner Maurice’s voice has a touch of Da’Ville’s delicate, soulful delivery. Paired with some delicious backing singers and overdubs, it’s a solid lovers rock track. Likewise, Rema impresses with her crisp and present singing, while singjay Mada Nile has the confidence and strength of an artist like Queen Ifrica on the message-imbued “Bended Knees.”

    Overall, Jump For Joy is another solid and sweet set from the Vis, proving that the wider Caribbean holds much promise for the reggae’s future. 

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    Check out the video for Chronixx's "Capture Land," the latest feature track from his Billboard-topping album Dread & Terrible.

    Large Up has a nice review and profile of the video shoot, mentioning that the video was shot by Jerome D of Top Dawg Entertainment, the same director responsible for Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools" video.

    Overall, Chronixx's auspicious rise reminds ForwardEver of 80/90s roots singer, Ini Kamoze, who, like Chronixx broke through via his Sly & Robbie-produced mini-album. Kamoze's "World A Music" was later sampled for Damian Marley's smash "Welcome To Jamrock." Chronixx's looks to have the same poise, songcraft and message-driven lyrics as Kamoze at his peak.

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    Red Bull's latest Culture Clash event in San Fran was an unqualified success. Despite some issues with muddy sound quality, the night delivered on the promise of exclusive live appearances (from Too $hort, Mr. Vegas and more) and heated dubplate-laden battles between four supremely talented DJ crews. (More on the four crew's in Magnetic's preview). 

    Each of the four crews performed 15 minute sets. After each complete round in which the various crews DJ'd, the crowd was asked to asked to cheer for their favorite and the noise level was recorded by a decibel meter. The loudest crowd response would determine the winner.

    Here's an abbreviated recap of the four rounds. Any gaps in coverage are due to yours truly taking time to snap photos and enjoy the proceedings. 

    Dub Mission

    Round 1: Temperature's Rising
    After doors opened at 9 p.m., crowds are still filling the venue at 10. Tormenta Tropical (DJ Oro11, Bersa Discos, DJ Theory) and Dirtybird (Claude Von Stroke, Justin Martin) have done their opening sets.

    Triple Threat (DJ Apollo, Shortkut, Fran Boogie) play a batch of sing-a-long hip-hop anthems and get the first real crowd reaction, as the DMC-champ DJs flex some of their patented scratch prowess.

    Dub Mission (DJ Sep, Maneesh The Twister, Kush Arora, J-Boogie) bring out live horns (trumpet, sax, trombone) to play over Dawn Penn's "No No No" instrumental. MC Zulu is the hosting the stage along with emcee Deuce Eclipse. DJ Sep spins the opening set. They get a strong reaction from their supporters.

    Pretty standard sets from the other competitors: Tropical bass from Tormenta Tropical, and house and club beats from Dirtybird.

    Round 2: The Selector
    Dirtybird brings out DJ Craze (video) from Miami, the first big guest of the evening. They end their set with full-sized costumed bird mascots on stage dancing to a dubplate of house classic "Beat That Bitch" changed to "Beat That Bird (With A Bat)."

    Triple Threat start their set with a selection of all-Bay Area hip-hop, then they bring on Lyrics Born who sings "Calling Out" live. Then Zumbi from Zion-I performs live, and the climax is a appearance by the entire Souls of Mischief. (video) They deliver their hit "That's When You Lost" live. The song's lyrics are, of course, directed as a diss at the other sound competitors.

    Dub Mission's Maneesh The Twister hypes the crowd with his reggae-remix and drum & bass blends.

    Los Rakas
    Tormenta Tropical start round two with a dancehall set, then they bring out Bay Area bilingual hip-hop/reggarton crew Los Rakas live. (video)

    At this stage of competition, Triple Threat is the running favorite, with Dirtybird second, Dub Mission third.

    Round 3: Sleeping With The Enemy
    Each crew takes on another's style of music. 

    Triple Threat play reggae against Dub Mission dropping Major Lazer,  J-Boog and Junior Gong dub plates. Then they announce they're going after all the crews and cleverly drop some tropical bass and house dubplates.

    Dub Mission's J-Boogie (Om Records) plays electronic beats against Dirtybird, including a different dubplate version of "Beat That Bird (With A  Bat)". The Dub Mission crew proceed to pantomime beating down one of the bird mascots on their stage.

    Dirtybird bring out Diplo from Major Lazer to a very noticeable crowd reaction.

    It is announced that Tormenta Tropical wins Round 3. Crowd is booing. 

    Round 4: The Decider
    Dub MIssion opens with J-Boog "Nice To Know You" dub plate. They bring Mega Banton on stage for "Never Heard A Sound" hip-hop remix, then bring out Timex Social Club's Michael Marshall live to sing hook of "I Got Five on It" (the Luniz hit), and also his own hit "Rumors." (video

    Tormenta Tropical follow with heated dancehall and tropical bangers, then up the ante by bringing out Jamaican performer Mr. Vegas, who sings "Heads High" and "I Am Blessed."

    Dirtybird open their set with two robot-clad figures dressed like Daft Punk (unconfirmed) behind the decks. 

    They they amp the crowd up considerably by bringing up Pharoahe Monch who performs "Simon Says," immediately followed by Bay Area legend Too $hort.  It looks like game-over at this point.

    Triple Threat open with more dubplates but play back a Cutty Ranks dub that Dub Mission had already spun. *(Almost every crew re-played something another crew had previously spun, a major foul in traditional dancehall sound clash rules.

    Triple Threat playa Snoop Dogg dub plate, then bring out house singer Crystal Waters who performs "Gypsy Woman (Homeless)". 

    The final voting:
    The clash was decided by which crew received the loudest crowd-noise reading on the decibel meter. After each round, each crew's name was announced and a decibel reading was taken. No winner was announced for Round 1. Round Two was won by Triple Threat,  and Round 3 was won by Tormenta Tropical (under protest by Dirtybird's supporters). 

    After the final round of crowd cheering, it was determined there was a tie between Dirtybird and Triple Threat. Equal amounts of the crowd began chanting in unison for their preferred crew, either Dir-ty-bird" or "Tri-ple Threat."

    The judges announced that another crowd vote would be taken to break the tie. After the crowd cheer was recorded on the Db meter, Triple Threat was announced as winner. However, it seemed the crowd consensus that after all the big guests that Dirtybird had brought up, they deserved the win. But Triple Threat impressed with quality mixing throughout, big guests in the second and fourth rounds and original dubplates. Each of the crews deserve credit for the countless hours of practice, phone calls and organizing it took to get their special sets together.

    Selected tweets:
    "No matter the victor, this is the craziest thing I've ever been to."

    "Jamaica's best performer of this generation @MrVegasMusic just showed San Fran how it's done #redbullcultureclash"

    D-Sharp @djDSharp "This #redbullcultureclash event in SF is probably the best show I've been to in a minute!! #hellafresh"

    Tormenta stage with emcee, dancers and diss signs

    Mega Banton (left) and Timex Social Club's Michael Marshall

    Apollo & Shortkut of Triple Threat

    Lights and crowds at Red Bull Culture Clash SF

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    Check out an excerpt from my article on Tokyo's Dub Store Records below, and read the full piece over at Bandcamp.

    Dub Store has really changed the game for collectors and Jamaican music enthusiasts alike by forging deals with institutions like Federal Recording Company, home to the Kentone, Federal and Merritone imprints, which delivered countless hits in the ska and rocksteady era. Then there’s Dub Store’s collection of hard-to-find titles on King Tubby’s Firehouse label, deep cuts from Bunny Wailer’s Solomonic label, sublime roots by Kiddus I and Glen Brown, and the list goes on.

    So how did this obsession with releasing rare reggae music from respected Jamaican imprints like Studio One, Merritone, and Redman International arise? We chatted via email with a very busy Mr. Ienaga on Dub Store’s origins and motivations, and their experiences in Jamaica unearthing the island’s finest recordings. [Read more here...]
    Speaking of Bandcamp, Kabaka Pyramid associate Koro Fyah is offering a free track on the site. More excellent roots revival reggae, with the same flavor as Chronixx, Dre Island or Protoje. Download it here.

    Keep an eye out for a few big new releases for November: Silly Walks Discotheque Presents Clock Tower Riddim and sing-jay Cali P's latest album Healing of the Nation (Hemp Higher Productions). Clock Tower features production from Jr Blender, who's currently co-producing the upcoming Major Lazer album. Featured artists on the riddim set include Gentleman, Queen Ifrica, Esco LeviMorgan Heritage and more.

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    Pressure Sounds, England's foremost vintage reggae reissue label, issues their latest collection, Full Up, highlighting the career of the prolific Bunny "Striker" Lee.

    These "early reggae productions" harken from a time when Jamaican music was still transitioning from genteel and soulful rocksteady sounds into faster, more insistent uptempo reggae.

    The slower "one-drop" reggae beat was still a few years off, but tracks like Stranger Cole's "When I Get My Freedom" convey a roots-era conviction. In contrast, other tracks simply play on the television and movie interests of the day ("Payton Place," Death Rides A Horse.")

    The Independent newspaper recently ran an excellent profile of the producer. This excerpt, chock-full of facts, give you a taste:

    He created the “flying cymbal”, or “flyers”, the stripped-down crash of a high hat, first played by drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis on Johnny Clarke’s 1974 hit “None Shall Escape the Judgement”. “Flyers”, one of reggae’s most distinctive sounds, was inspired by Lee’s love of fried chicken wings. The famous one-drop snare drum stroke made famous by Bob Marley’s 1979 cry “Feel it in the one drop” was invented much earlier, claims Bunny. It exists on Bunny’s late-Sixties hit for Max Romeo, “People Get Ready”.

    And some words from the the Pressure Sounds press release:
    Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee ‘Mrs Pottinger used to call me “the ghost that haunts the studio”. Man would say “how come you have so many baby mothers? Where you get the time?” Because I was always in the studio.’

    It is July 2006 and I am working on a recording session for Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee for the first time. Bunny has arranged for 5 different singers to come round to my tiny bedroom studio in Dalston to voice some tunes, and as he is running late we have started without him. The first singer up is struggling to nail the tune after five or six takes, when Bunny and his entourage arrive in a flurry of laughter and multiple ringtones. Immediately the level of energy and excitement in the studio is ramped up. Bunny shouts a few words of encouragement and the singer nails his performance in the next take. From then on the session moves quickly, with Striker offering gentle guidance, the occasional suggestion for lyrics, and frequent cries of support: ‘G’wan, you great!’ 

    After 3 hours all the tunes and a version are recorded and mixed, and two weeks later the songs are out in the shops on seven inch vinyl. It has been an archetypal Bunny Lee session, quick and spontaneous, getting the best out of all involved. No one leaves with money in their pockets, but some have been given rhythm tracks for their own productions, and all are walking just a bit taller than when they came in.

    Rewinding to February 1968, a slim and dapper young Jamaican touched down for the first time in an icy, snowbound Britain. Bunny Lee had achieved instant success at home with his first releases the year before, but did not have the funds to compete for airtime with the established Jamaican producers. He had now come to London to do business with Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, and immediately saw that the rewards from the English market would be key to his success in Jamaica. By building business relationships abroad, Bunny could gain a competitive edge over his rivals that made up for his lack of finances. And so began an intricate process of international networking that continues to this day.

    Errol Dunkley ‘Bunny Lee come from England with that word “reggae”. Him say the record companies in England would like the beat to be a little faster.’

    Full Up is available now as a digital or vinyl release.

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  • 06/30/14--19:02: SNWMF In Pictures
  • Sierra Nevada World Music Festival 2014 in Pictures.
    The 2014 Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in Boonville, CA (Mendocino) was truly memorable, bringing together legends from all eras of reggae music, including ska pioneer Derrick Morgan, rocksteady legends Bob Andy, Carlton & His Shoes and the Tamlins, the godfather of DJ style toasting U-Roy and modern masters such as Michael Rose, Morgan Heritage, Tarrus Riley and more. The event featured an after hours dancehall where On-U Sound producer Adrian Sherwood dropped dub rarities and the vendors, food and camping areas all bubbled with the sounds of happiness and sweet reggae music. A family friendly event, the festival is past the 20 year mark now and looking to continue its irie vibes well into the future. Here are a few snapshots from this year's event.

    Bob Andy - He wrote the reggae songbook.

    Carlton & The Shoes – Rocking steady!

    The "Poor People Defenda" – Chuck Fenda

    Derrick Morgan – ska legend!

    The "Outlaw" Josey Wales - a dancehall king!

    The godfather of DJ style toasting - Daddy U-Roy

    U-Roy on stage at SNWMF

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    New Kingston
    2014 was dominated by US and Pacific Rim-based reggae-rock artists. The Green, Rebelution, SOJA and the Dirty Heads were the among the groups that outpaced strong releases from Jamaican acts like Sly & Robbie, Shaggy, Chronixx, and DuaneStephenson. Meanwhile, international artists like London's Hollie Cook and Canada's Esco Levi and Magic also made significant inroads with global reggae audiences.

    2015 may see more of the same but perhaps it will be tempered by stronger output from higher profile Jamaican talents. Time will tell. In the meantime, here's a peak at notable new titles coming soon or ready for your listening enjoyment now.

    Out now:Dub Syndicate'sHard Food, from the UK/Jamaica outfit founded by On-U Sound producer Adrian Sherwood and the tragically murdered Style Scott, former drummer with the Roots Radics band. The album features heavy cameos from Bunny Wailer, U-Roy and Lee Scratch Perry. Reggaeville has a heartfelt review, aptly placing the release into the important context it deserves. For more on Style Scott's legacy, view The Guardian's respectful obit.

    Also out nowMarlon AsherIllusions, the latest album from the popular Trinidadian singer, famous for his hit "Ganja Farmer." British lovers rock singer Lady Lex has teamed up with rocksteady-influenced producer Peckings for Is This Love, a genuine set of songs built from original Treasure Isle and other rocksteady riddims. Canada's excellent dub-electronica producer Dubmatix is offering a free download from his latest release Mysterium Dub. And if a quality one-drop riddim juggling is your thing, grab the new Reggae Island Riddim that features Serani, Khago, Bugle, Nature and Dexta Daps among others.

    Singles-wise, there's some strong offerings out now, including Sevana Siren's sweet lovers rock track "A Bit Too Shy," produced by Winta James & Protoje for In.Digg.Nation Collective/Overstand Entertainment. On a similar tip is Germany's Sara Lugo featuring Protoje on "Really Like You," feel good reggae at it's best. Lugo's Hit Me With Music album is out now.

    Phil Watkis has a sincere one-drop track in "Falling For You." His voice recalls smooth '90s/00s romantic crooners like Beres Hammond, LloydBrown, Sanchez or Tony Curtis. For something a little bit rougher, yet still harkening back to classic digital dancehall, Serocee's "Rude Boy Selection" has it all: A Tenor Saw sample, rude low-end bass and gruff, baritone-timbre lyrics.

    January 20
    Northern California's Jah Sun  has linked with top-flight Austrian band and production team House of Riddim for New Paradigm. You can hear a killer album preview on Soundcloud. The album features solidly build modern roots reggae and conscious lyrics from this rising young sing-jay. 

    More established but always innovative, Italian/Jamaican artist Alborosie releases Sound The System Showcase, a dubby discomix rework of his most recent album. The new version features extended mixes and dubs.

    January 27
    Easy Star Records had a lot of big records and success in 2014, releasing new titles from Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and Backbeat Soundsystem. Now the label has signed Brooklyn's New Kingston and will release Kingston City. This brother-led group bring an innovative new school approach to live roots reggae – a little like Morgan Heritage or Steel Pulse but definitely pushing their own aesthetic.

    While he had a long and prolific comedy and movie career, Eddie Murphy is evolving into quite a legitimate reggae singer. "Oh Jah Jah" is his best song to date, a slow one-drop roots track that would sound right at home on a Midnite album. The single is out digitally January 27.

    Premier UK label Pressure Sounds reissues a heavy album, Consider Yourself, by The Inturns on vinyl and digital formats. This vocal trio, produced by the great Phil Pratt, featured Viceroy's cofounder Wesley Tinglin on lead vocal. His passionate delivery was probably only bested at the time by Dennis Brown.

    February 3
    February 6 marks the celebration of what would have been Bob Marley's 70th birthday. The Marley Estate and Universal Music plan special releases throughout the year, commencing with Bob Marley & The WailersEasy Skanking in Boston '78 (Tuff Gong/Universal), a previously unreleased live set with accompanying Blu-Ray DVD. The show includes classics like "The Heathen" and "War" with the Barrett brothers rhythm section and I-Threes on backing vocals. Classically Wailers, at their prime. 

    African reggae has a long and fertile history with stars like Alpha Blondy and Lucky Dube garnering global acclaim. To this fold comes Ghana's Selasee Atiase & Fafa Family and their new release Time For Peace. My friend Garrett Baker summed it up nicely like this: "Ghana. A proud kingdom that’s flourished in the decades since independence. It’s the home of highlife, the musical style that spread all across Anglophone West Africa before taking a turn for the global. And highlife, sweetly blended with reggae and soul, is the root of Time for Peace, the new album by Selasee & Fafa Family."

    February 17
    Later in February Bay Area rocksteady soul crooner Rusty Zinn releases The Reggae Soul of Rusty Zinn. Zinn is a talented and experienced live musician and reggae fan to the core. The album should introduce his talents to many new ears. 

    Turning back the clock to Jamaica's most fertile era of roots reggae, the Yabby You's retrospectiveDread Prophecy is released on Shanachie. For those unfamiliar with Yabby You's legacy, he was a hugely influential singer and producer in the '70s who worked alongside King Tubby and produced great tracks by Big Youth, Trinity and Michael Prophet. Get to know this roots icon!

    And speaking of rare roots music, a real gem drops on the 17th with the ultra-rare reissueRed by Bunny Lion (a alias of the DJPuddy Roots of Killamanjaro& King Jammy$ sound systems. Produced by the great Linval Thompson (Johnny Clarke, Rod Taylor, Mystic Eyes) the album charts a crucial moment as roots reggae was transitioning to what would become rub-a-dub style dancehall. Check a preview below.

    March 10
    East London band The Skints mix reggae with other urban styles on their new album for Easy Star produced by Prince Fatty (Hollie Cook, Horseman etc). Infused with a punk and hip-hop attitude but solid reggae chops, the Skints unite myriad British sound system culture elements in a vibrant live presentation. Think The Clash mixed with Dizzy Rascal. Also in March Konshens' brother Delus releases a new album Public Relations.

    Coming soon: A reissue of Black Symbol's absolutely killer self-titled Black Symbol on Reggae Archive Records, a division of the ever-active Bristol Archive label. Like fellow Brits Misty In Roots or Jamaica's Twinkle Brothers this band specialized in truly "dread" heavy roots reggae. The singer has just a touch of Burning Spear's inflection, while the band fills in the spaces with superb guitar, organ and percussion-driven reggae. Each track on the album features a dub version.

    PS: For more news, check outClash Magazine's latest reggae round-up featuring new releases, videos and Jamaican event reviews.

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    Below is an excerpt from my Yabby You Dread Prophecy review for Pitchfork. A new 3-disc box set is out now on Shanachie Records, the first US label to release Yabby You's music.

    The new collection of Yabby You's great work during the 1970s and early 80s in Jamaica will hopefully shed more light on a cornerstone artist who has been vastly under-appreciated.

    Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You 

    Jamaican reggae artist Yabby You’s epic new three-disc box set opens with "Deliver Me From My Enemies", a song where his vocals ache with conviction as he interprets verses from the Book of Psalms. It’s the sound of an artist who had suffered and was suffering still, physically and economically, but not spiritually. This disposition endeared him to his ghetto peers even as he faced rejection from wider society. Though Sly & Robbie, the Clash and the Wailers bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett revered his music, Yabby You remained obscure to most reggae fans.

    The searing work on Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You showcases an artist who deserves recognition on par with Bob Marley, Augustus Pablo or Burning Spear and hopefully elevates his legacy from its outsider status. Sadly, during his life, Yabby You (born Vivian Jackson) was doubly shunned: For being a dreadlocked youth who lived among Rastafarians at a time when they were despised by middle class Jamaicans, and also as an ardent Christian who rejected his Rasta brethren’s veneration of Haile Selassie as God.

    Jackson’s story is one of a poor and sickly man who recorded with legends like the Skatalites’ Tommy McCook and iconic dub engineer King Tubby. He also produced brilliant music by Big Youth, Wayne Wade and Michael Prophet, all while marginally employed and restricted to crutches from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis.

    In a way, Jackson’s physical suffering echoed his music’s serious content. Songs like "Anti-Christ", "Warn the Nation" and "Jah Vengeance" are rife with apocalyptic references from the Book of Revelations and Jamaican proverbs, chastisements and moral teachings. Similarly, his vocal harmony group the Prophets embodied their name. They sermonized against lasciviousness ("Carnal Mind") and warned of the end days ("Babylon a Fall").

    Read the rest on Pitchfork.

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    5 New Must-Hear Reggae Tracks.Bubbling under but worth repeat listens!

    Ginjah "Africa Calling"Ginjah is probably the best vocalist taking inspiration from (and sounding more than a touch like) the late Garnett Silk. Others, including Singer Jah and I-Wayne, have their own takes and distinctions, but Ginjah embodies Silk's gentle vocal presence and soaring consciousness. Taken from the sunny riddim collection  Planet Reggae Rock Vol 1: Holiday Riddim "Africa Calling" features an inspired ode to the Motherland's glories over production that recalls Phillip "Fat Eyes" Burrell or Shane "Juke Boxx" Brown's best riddims. The vibe is joyful, and will definitely have you singing the chorus: "Calling, calling, I can hear Mama Africa calling for me..."

    Mel Dubé "Extra Side" (video) This heartfelt lovers rock cut on JohnJohn's remake of the Water Pumping" riddim shows this Canadian singer's sassy R&B-influenced approach. You can hear everything from Mary J Blige to Tessanne Chin in her delivery–its earthy and powerful. And you can't go wrong singing over a classic Channel One-era rhythm; "Water Pumping" was the pinnacle rub-a-dub dancehall reggae, and works its magic again via Dubé's confident track.

    Protoje "Answer To Your Name" (Listen) Taken from Protoje's new album Ancient Future, this absolutely brilliant ska number is the versatile neo-roots artist's tribute to the great proto-reggae beat that Jamaica exported around the world. The song, through clever wordplay, describes a relationship set in early-70s Brixton, England, and the Prince Buster sample in the chorus seals the mood perfectly. Watch him perform it live on BBC 1Xtra!

    Exco Levi "Country Man" (Watch) This is the title track from Exco's autobiographical new album. It serves a fitting introduction to the tour-de-force music that comes after. This track chronicles the differences between life in rural Jamaica, with abundant fruit trees and clean rivers to wash in, and city life in Kingston with its attendant perils. This album further chronicles Levi's country life via the songs "One Shirt," "One Room Shack" and "Suffering Man." Levi covers the Twinkle Brothers "Since I Throw The Comb Away"–a Rasta anthem long overdue for a tribute. The crisp production from Penthouse Studios' Donovan Germain couldn't be better. But really, Exco shows why he's won three consecutive Canadian Juno awards and quickly becoming roots reggae's most important breakout artist.

    Through The Roots "Bear With Me" A hybrid roots reggae and EDM track, San Diego's Through The Roots show why they're one of the West Coast's most promising up and coming bands. The catchy track conveys a hopeful, positive spirit through times of adversity. And, actually, the band experienced just that recently when their tour bus caught fire and burned, destroying much of their music gear, laptops and more. But they are a band with a bright future, and keeping true to the "Cali Roots" vibe the "Bear With me" video (see below) was filmed in Santa Cruz, California, with great shots of the beach and coastline.

    Video: Through The Roots "Bear With Me"

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    How do you make a big, big sound in reggae music?

    Simple: take an Irish production crew, a legendary Brooklyn MC and a Jamaican dancehall veteran and you get the new single from Dublin's Dirty Dubsters crew.

    "Big Sound," out now on Irish Moss Records, sees the Fu-Shickens' Chip Fu paired with Shaggy-collaborator Screechy Dan on a EP with remixes from eclectic beat genius DJ Vadim and jungle heavy Marcus Visionary.

    The original mix rides a fat 90s-style dancehall hip-hop lick of Studio One's crucial "Far East" riddim; the Vadim mix is a steady bubbling downtempo track and Visionary's mix is punchy, peak-time drum & bass. The whole set is a DJ and dancer's delight–a positive party rocker. Have a listen below, crack a Guinness and say "cheers" to this cool collabo.

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  • 06/01/15--21:28: Noisy Goes 2Tone
  • Are you ready to skank again? Do you remember The Specials, The (English) Beat, The Selector or Madness? No? Don't worry, VICE Magazine music affiliate Noisy has rolled out their latest historical music documentary: Under The Influence: 2 Tone Ska.

    The presentation covers British 2Tone ska music's broad impact on the wider world, from skinheads in China and stadium-bands in Mexico to America's "Thirds Wave" ska bands and today's practitioners. Rancid's Tim Armstrong narrates the proceedings, an apt choice given his front-row seat in 2Tone's evolution as a member of influential Berkeley ska-punk band Operation Ivy.

    Punk vet Don Letts, The Beat's Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger and other seminal figures reflect on the music that would bring the races together via 2Tone's emphatic, political upbeat rhythm.

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    Jamaica's Kabaka Pyramid and Iba Mahr embark on the "Young Lions" tour, taking their conscious revolutionary messages across the US from June 11 to July 13 2015. Backed by Kabaka's band "The Bebble Rockers," each artist heartically represents the roots revival movement with conscious lyrics and crucial music that echoes foundation reggae artists like Burning Spear, Don Carlos or Black Uhuru.

    Hear a clip from Kabaka's latest single "Well Done" below, and check Iba's great "Haile" and "Great Is HIM" tracks out now.

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    Gulls Rhythm Force
    Here's an excerpt from my Bandcamp profile of Portland, Oregon's Boomarm Nation label, which delves into the City of Roses' thriving indie dub and electronic bass movement. Read the full piece over on Bandcamp.

    The stereotype is that on a visit to Portland, Oregon, you can expect to drink robust coffee, experience drizzly weather, and see a city teaming with single-gear bikes. But you can add another, perhaps unexpected, distinction to the City of Roses: dub capital of the United States. That’s right, the sound of Portland ripples with echo, and hefty bass loops emanate from studios, music venues, and living rooms all over town.

    How did a musical style that originated in Jamaica gain a zealous following in the Pacific Northwest? Like London, Paris, and a few other locales, Portland has gradually developed a tight-knit community of dub and sound system culture-influenced labels, producers, and club nights. Portland natives have also embraced Jamaica’s DIY approach to studios, distribution, and dubplates. Visit PDXInDub, curated by Portland DJ Craig “Monkeytek” Morton, to find a cadre of imprints, podcasters, graphic designers, mastering engineers, and craftspeople, all making the dub heartbeat pump.

    It’s also fitting that the city, which has a thriving, grassroots, indie/punk scene (think house shows, alternative venues, collaborative artist projects), would adopt an avant-garde approach to the genre. Theirs is dub music on the razor’s edge: a confluence of styles affected as much by Adrian Sherwood’s post-punk-influenced On-U Sounds or London dubstep crew Digital Mystikz, as it is by African music and the legendary Jamaican producer King Tubby. These sounds, along with drum & bass, UK steppers dub, garage house and other hybrid bass-driven musics, are unified under the international umbrella of “sound system culture,” a movement that galvanizes Portland’s disparate dub practitioners. Along with eclectic global influences, PDX producers embrace old and new technology, and formats, too—releasing tracks digitally, as well as on 7″ vinyl and cassette.

    This expansive environment proved the ideal space for multi-instrumentalist/producer and Portland native Jesse Munro Johnson (a.k.a. Gulls) to launch the Boomarm Nationlabel in 2010. Founded as a blog two years prior, Johnson drew inspiration from similar sites devoted to exotic, worldly sounds like Awesome Tapes From Africa and Glowing Raw, along with emerging labels trading in global dance beats, such as Bersa Discos,ZZK, and Dutty Artz. Johnson juggles running the label with raising two sons, working his day job as freelance mixing engineer, performing live, and working for a friend’s food truck.

    “I started the label as a means to release some of my own music in a series of 12″ records,” says Johnson. “Our first official release in 2010 was Gulls’ Mean Sound 12″, and as a label we very quickly grew into a more collaborative international affair.” Back in 2011, Boomarm collaborated with Portland’s Sahel Sounds and brought together a crew of producers to remix the Music For Saharan Cellphones compilation. Some of those producers, like Turkey-based El Mahdy Jr. and iSKELETOR, would later release solo projects on the label.

    Continuing their international outlook, Boomarm Nation’s latest release,Her.Imperial.Majesty, is by mysterious Filipino collective Seekersinternational (SKRS), and exemplifies Johnson’s knack for finding subversive talent from anywhere in the world. Her.Imperial.Majesty is chock-full of arresting sound-clash samples, tape snippets, and skittering electronic beats—anchored by errant bass programming that somehow keeps the whole swerving concoction on the rails. Even the album’s title is subversive, taking a reverential reference to Ethiopian king and Rastafarian patriarch Haile Selassie and transforming it into what Johnson calls “a respectful nod to the power of the feminine energy and its root within us all.” Continue reading on Bandcamp

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    Watch the new video by rising singjay Kabaka Pyramid for "Well Done," produced by Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley. The tune is on Ghetto Youth International's On The Cornerriddim.

    In the song, Kabaka calls out careless, corrupt politicians and leaders who've ruined the world for personal gain.

    While the track has a serious message the rhythm track is bubbling and danceable, a potent combination from an artist who is setting a high bar for conscious, thoughtful reggae. Check the video below.

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