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.
How about this for a dream collaboration? Roots reggae veteran Winston McAnuff in combination with original Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen. Sound too good to be true?
That's exactly what we get on the forthcoming album from Winston
McAnuff & Fixi titled A New Dayout October 21 on Parisian label Chapter Two.
Jamaican singer McAnuff is best known for his 1986 album Electric Dread. He returned to the music scene in 2005 and has been mostly collaborating with European producers.
A New Day features tracks like "I'm A Rebel," a nice roots reggae-meets-world music hybrid that calls to mind everything from Peter Tosh to Burning Spear, or even French reggae/funk band The Dynamics.
Allen's presence is best heard on "You And I," a fantastic traditional Afrobeat shaker featuring Jamaican singerMcAnuff's gentle voice, great brass arrangements and, of course, Tony's spectacular, one-of-a-kind rhythm. Fixi (a.k.a. Francois Xavier Bossard) contributes musette (French accordion) vibes that fit the track perfectly. Trust me, this is a rare meeting of artistic minds, and a must have album. Snap it up on October 21!
If you don't know about the Cabbie Chronicles Jamaican indie cartoon series, you need to. Imagine a Jamaican Southpark, with all the pointed social commentary, off-key humor and foul language, and you'll understand the appeal.
Much like Jamaican Observer newspaper's witty and scathing Clovis cartoons, Cabbie Chronicles are able to poke fun at everyday life and social conflict in Jamaica with an honest but humorous point of view.
The award-winning series follows Delly the Cabbie and his regular crew of passengers. In the clip below, a few flashy dancehall patrons, an uptight uptown woman and an old timer who yearns for a return to British rule share the cab on the way to a 50th Jamaican Independence celebration. Watch how the cartoon cleverly injects Jamaican historical segments and a frank discussion of class in contemporary Jamaican society.
Big Tune Alert! Nikesha Lindo, sister of singer Kashief Lindo, and part of the Heavybeat Records family, is back with one of her strongest tracks yet. "Talk of Town" showcases her confident vocals and harmonies over a wonderful throw-back rocksteady riddim. The song recalls Jamaican singers like Alaine or Nadine Sutherland, and the rhythm has the feel of British producers Peckings' revived Duke Reid sound.
Check out a video clip or for a limited time DJs can grab the tune here. More on Nikesha: http://www.nikeshalindo.com/
The latest episode of the Afropop podcast is an in-depth look at Jamaican music in New York. From the record shops and studios in Brooklyn, Queens and elsewhere, to dancehall shows at the Biltmore Ballroom and VP Records global headquarters, New York has made an indelible impact on the global reggae scene.
Noted author David Katz (People Funny Boy, Solid Foundation) outlines the history of Wackies studio and label in the Bronx where Horace Andy, Wayne Jarrett and Sugar Minott recorded classic albums. Then recording artist Carlton Livingstondiscusses how his career moved from Kinston to New York and beyond.
Italian-Jamaican singer and producer Alborosie will release Dub The System (VP/Greensleeves) on November 12, 2013, a vinyl-only set of dub versions to his recent Sound The System album. Alborosie's press team reveals that the 11-track instrumental set features select songs from Sound The System, showcasing the producer’s melodic hooks and impressive use of vintage recording equipment. Each dub selection takes a deeper look into the original song and bridges reggae's rich cultural history with a contemporary world view. Alborosie plans to tour North America in 2014.
UK site Dancecrasher gives the lowdown on a new compilation of rare Studio 1 music called Sugar & Spice. Previously unreleased sides from Soul Vendors, The Termites, Nora Dean and Jackie Mittoo all make an appearance on this Japanese -issued album. The collection is one of only a few licensed by Clement Sir Coxonne Dodd's son (Junior Doff), who is managing the Studio 1 estate after a court case in Jamaica restored some of his claim to the label legacy.
The voices and artwork of disabled Jamaicans are rarely heard. But this short documentary on the work of Astro Saulter – brother of filmmaker Storm Saulter, director of Better Must Come) – sheds light on the creative process of an artist who creates without hands. Astro, who was born with cerebral palsy, uses a head controlled computer program to generate his colorful work.
Read great, in-depth reggae articles and biographies by one of the genre's best scribes, Harry Hawks, at ReggaeCollector.com. Shabba Ranks, Max Romeo, Cedric 'im Brooks, Big Youth, Derrick Morgan, Aquarius and Volcano record labels and many more crucial figures are profiled by this talented wordsmith, whose work has graced liner notes for Greeensleeves and other labels. Speaking of great labels, Donovan Germain's Penthouse Recordings is celebrating 25 years in the business. Germain's label scored hits with Buju Banton, Wayne Wonder, Beres Hammond and Tony Rebel to name just a few. Germain remains active in the music business working with artists such as Romain Virgo, Busy Signal, Sherieta and Exco Levi on new songs.
DJs are buzzing about the crisp new riddim from Philip Winta James' Overstand label. Titled the Militancy Riddim, the set includes a who's-who of breakthrough new artists: Jesse Royal, Kabaka Pyramid and Iba Mahr all contribute tracks, plus a big tune from Jah Cure ("Territory") make this one worth seeking out. Read an interview with James at Reggaeville. Preview the riddim on the Overstand Soundcloud page. On the subject of noteworthy new music, here's a batch of new singles and tracks that ForwardEver rate very highly:
A while back a colleague asked ForwardEver to recommend key dancehall tracks to play at a wedding gathering. The bride and groom both loved to party and dance to reggae, but didn't provide any suggestions to the wedding DJ. So we drew up this list of fundamental dancehall tracks that'll get most crowds moving.
Sometimes referred to as the "dancehall canon," or "Dancehall 101," there are many compilation albums that contain these songs, including VP Records' 6-album series of the same name.
Here's the list, including BPM tempos for each track.
Chakademus & Pliers "Murder She Wrote" (97BPM) Can be played to bridge a set of world music (African, bhangra, cumbia) or similar tempo tracks, one of the most recognizable dancehall tracks of all time (thank you Sly & Robbie!)
Wayne Wonder "No Letting Go" (100BPM) A pop dancehall number that briefly entered the American R&B charts, uptempo beat with R&B vocals.
Mr. Vegas "Pull Up" (120BPM) Energetic uptempo track with catchy chorus, about the DJ pulling back the track when the crowd demands it.
Gyptian "Hold Yuh" (play the clean version) (100BPM) It's a simple, catchy song, and one of the biggest dancehall/R&B crossover hits of the last 5 years.
Sean Paul "Temperature," (126BPM) "Get Busy," (100BPM) and "We Be Burning" (119BPM) Up-tempo tracks that can bridge to hi-NRG pop, EDM or house music.
Tanto Metro & Devonte "Every One Falls In Love" (96BPM) Catchy hook and the love theme will suit the wedding crowd.
Sister Nancy "Bam Bam" (82BPM) On the Stallag riddim, same riddim as Tenor Saw's "Ring The Alarm" this one is the second most popular girls anthem, and number one is…
Dawn Penn "No No No (You Don't Love Me)" (81 BPM) Play the modern remake version on Big Beat Records, not the classic Studio 1 version. It might not be the ideal wedding song due to the mournful chorus, but it's a sure-fire sing-a-long hit.
Popcaan "Party Shot" (100BPM) Super catchy tune that came out last year, really captures partying Jamaican-style perfectly.
Shaggy "It Wasn't Me" (96BPM) (play the clean version) The song is actually on a hip-hop beat, but its consistently one of the best selling, most recognizable dancehall cuts of the '90s.
Snoop Lion w/Mavado & Jr. Gong "Lighters Up" (74BPM) Snoop Lion's album has been one of the top-3 best selling albums of 2013, this track is a weed and party anthem.
Buju Banton "Champion" (90BPM) "Walk like a champion, talk like a champion"…one of Buju's biggest mid-career hits, and the beat just rolls and rolls.
Honorable mention: Ini Kamoze "Hot Stepper," Damian "Jr. Gon" Marley "Welcome To Jamrock," Beenie Man "Romie," Sean Paul & Sasha "I'm Still In Love."
In the following video, the legendary Jamaican DJSuper Cat speaks to noted journalist Rob Kenner from Boomshots before the Cat's appearance at Sting 2013 in Kingston. In the video Cat address his absence from the music scene and what fans can expect from his Jamaican appearance. It all sounds very encouraging! Welcome back Super Cat!
By the time Ripton Joseph Hylton strode out on stage at Reggae Sunsplash in 1982 he hadn't even released his breakout Assassinatoralbum yet. That wouldn't come for almost a year later. What Hylton – better known as improvisational yodeling singer* Eek-A-Mouse– had done was cause a stir in reggae circles, second only perhaps, to the dancehall frenzy surrounding albino DJ Yellowman.
Like Yellowman, Michigan & Smiley, Josey Wales, and others, Eek-A-Mouse brought a radical vocal and lyrical originality to reggae music at a time when it needed something fresh amidst the shocking grief following Bob Marley's death in May of 1981. That same year, following a number of singles on producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes Volcano label, Mouse dropped Wa Do Dem, an album as rich, humorous and thorough as they come in reggae. Songs like "Ganja Smuggling" and "Operation Eradication" addressed Jamaica's social and political climate, title track covered his romantic side, and "Noah's Ark" anotated Biblical history. It was a transitional album, one that pre-dated dancehall's slackness era, and it reflected Mouse's narrative versatility.
But by the time Skidip! was released in 1982, Mouse had discarded both politics and the Bible in favor of carnal commodities ("Looking Sexy, "Modeling Queen,""Fat and Slim"). Perhaps it was a reaction to the disastrous political warfare during the 1980 general elections, or perhaps Eek-A-Mouse, like his slacker brethren Yellowman, just wanted a piece of the action. It proved a short-lived mode, as 1983's phenomenal Assassinator proved the Mouse's most forthright and revealing album, dealing out meditations on inner city violence, ghetto conditions and the developing drug posse wars.
What was the difference between Mouse and other Jamaican DJs at the time who covered the same topics? Well, simply stature and delivery. Mouse would often jokingly refer to his "6-foot-6" height, contrasting it to the diminutive damsels he would date. Then there was Eek-A-Mouse's one-of-a-kind squeaky, falsetto scat-yodeling. The first time you hear him utter an "Een-a-moy-na-moy," or "biddie-biddie-bong-bong-bong-biddie-ben," or any of his other trademark improvisations, the listener can't help but smile and concentrate harder on what the Mouse was talking about.
There's plenty of these unique moments captured on VP Records' new 2-CD + DVD set Eek-Ology. Featuring 34 tracks, including three never-before-available songs and many never released on CD, the anthology covers the Mouse's vast repertoire. There's Joe Gibbs ("Once A Virgin") and Linval Thompson (Modelling Bevahior") produced tracks, extended 12" mixes and Peel Session outtakes. No stone (or is that slice of cheese?) is left unturned. Paired with excellent liner notes by Harry Wise and DVD footage from Reggae Sunsplash 1982, there is listening, learning and watching to be done.
The triumph of this collection, however, is that Eek-A-Mouse is never portrayed as a gimmick. And his serious songs such as "Fallen Heroes," "Neutron Bomb," "For Hire and Removal,""Do You Remember" and others reveal a reflective observer of the Jamaican landscape. Mouse never sugarcoated his commentaries either. Sure, he flavored his rhetoric with eccentric shrieks, squeals. yowls and yelps, but that only added to their exotic charm. Eek-Ology delivers everything we know and love about Eek-A-Mouse's music along with plenty we didn't know and need to hear again to truly appreciate.
*Eek-A-Mouse always refers to himself as a singer, although he's largely been lumped with dancehall's toasters and emcees.
Reggae artist Chronixx with his band. (Image courtesy of ChonixxMusic.com)
Roots revival artists Chronixx, Protoje and Raging Fyah were profiled on National Public Radio (NPR)'s Weekend Edition Sunday. The piece described how the current generation of roots artists, which includes Chronixx, Protoje, Kabaka Pyramid, Iba Mahr, Dre Island and more, are collaborating with each other, recording and performing with live bands and also expanding the roots sound beyond its one-drop blueprint. Read and listen to this wonderful story that finally puts conscious and contemporary Jamaican music in front a national US radio audience.
Live bands. Soulful music. Substantive lyrics. I could be describing the Jamaican music scene circa 1976, the heyday of Bob Marley. But I'm talking about a sound that dominated at this year's Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica's biggest annual music festival.
Jamaican artist Chronixx, 20, performed live before nearly 10,000 fans at the yearly event. He's Jamaica's most buzzed-about artist right now, and he's leading the way in a rich musical movement: new-school roots. It's a bit of Rasta meets hipster. Chronixx says it's a repackaging of what came before.
"We are not going to do it like Bob Marley did or like Burning Spear did," Chronixx says. "We are using their blueprint to bring on a new generation of works."
It's a sound that's been in his ears since he was a kid. His father was a successful musician who went by the name Chronicle. Chronixx began writing songs at age 6 and started producing as a teenager. He says he went to "reggae school," which he compares to the rigorous demands of medical school.
"It's just like, before you go out there and do a surgery on a human being, you have to learn medicine, biology, chemistry — all the things you need to be a doctor," Chronixx says. "And in reality, artists don't do much different from doctors; they heal people. So you have to learn your craft good. It's a science. You have to learn the history."
While "Know Thy History" is an unspoken commandment of the new roots movement, it's not just about creating a musical carbon copy of the past — though the fashion sense of these artists definitely screams 1970s. Take new roots artist Protoje: He describes the style of his 2013 sophomore album, The 8 Year Affair, as a blend of traditional roots-reggae, modern-day rock and hip-hop.
"The first song I ever knew word-for-word was Slick Rick, 'Children's Story.' When I heard Slick Rick — that type of flow — I was like, 'Yo, it's so cool!' I didn't hear stuff like that. So I kind of started to pattern my style."
The sheer amount of music that producer Donovan Germain has gifted to the world in the past 25 years is daunting. From his days behind the controls at the Revolutionary Sounds label, where he produced deep reggae music for Cultural Roots, Trinity, The Tamlins and more, to his Germain label, which birthed massive dancehall hits for Audrey Hall and Beres Hammond in the form of the "What One Dance Can Do" riddim, through his years dominating the charts with songs on hisPenthouse Records label, Germain has been steadfast in both quality and consistency.
Producers come and go, but Germain has kept his finger on the pulse, as illustrated by his recent top-flight signings Romain Virgo, Dalton Harris and Exco Levi. They're all young talents for sure, but each has a genuine buzz and a track record of excellent live performances or albums to their credit. These acts, as well as some household names fill a recently issued overview compilation. Penthouse 25: The Journey Continues (out now, VP Records), a two-disc set, and 47-song digital release, covers the depth and breadth of Germain's Penthouse Records years. Included are his name-brand danchall and reggae artists, Buju Banton, Wayne Wonder, Marcia Griffith, Tony Rebel and Sanchez, plus a plethora of superb newer Jamaican names like Sherieta, D-Major and RC.
The collection features long-standing anthems like Capleton's "Prophet" or Buju Banton's "Who Say"–the type of tracks that, until now, serious selectors have preciously guarded on vinyl.
Again, Germain has always put a premium on top-notch instrumentation and arrangements. It's that type of aesthetic that helped propel Beres Hammond's Germain-produced One Love One Heart album to a 2014 Grammy-nomination. And he's still at it, as the Souncloud clips below of his latest riddim can attest. Germain is still producing, recording and finding the sweet spots in music.
Want a more extensive tour of the Penthouse? This excellent French site (in English) covers just about any thing you need to know about the label and its catalog. Then, listen to the new material below, and pick up the new comp. This is timeless reggae music.
Hawaii's The Green find success by crossing oceans and borders. Gathering Storm:
When a storm kicks up in the Pacific, it’s an awesome force. 20-foot waves crash on beaches and palms bend low in the wind. It’s the kind of weather that has made Pacific Islanders strong and resilient. More often, though, the sea breeze blows warmly and calmly through the volcanic atolls, stoking a serene lifestyle of music and communal social gatherings. It’s at these family-style gatherings that a tight-knit cadre of Hawaiian musicians began playing reggae music, blending it with Polynesian traditions, acoustic guitars, meditative vocals and an irie disposition.
Reggae music came to Hawaii in the 1970s via Bob Marley’s tours and the spread of Jamaican roots music around the globe. Residents of the 808 State embraced sound wholeheartedly, recognizing a shared legacy and folk tradition with the Caribbean island nation. But reggae in Hawaii, like much of the wider Pacific Rim, was quickly infused with indigenous instrumentation, pastoral arrangements and local traditions. For a time, this was represented poorly by the watered-down and New Age-y “Jawaiian” reggae strain. The Jawaiian sound faded in the ‘00s as a new crop of deep roots and reggae-rock warriors emerged. Now Anuhea, Fiji, J Boog, Pepper, Iration, Hot Rain and others represent an established Pacific Islander reggae community that is taking on the world.
The six members of Hawaii’s The Green all did their time in various small groups, singing at local gatherings and clubs, sitting in on each other’s sessions, setting up studios, and, importantly, backing touring Jamaican artists for their Hawaiian shows. By the time The Green had solidified as its own unit, the members were both educated and passionate about authentic Jamaican music but still employed homegrown creativity. That’s lead to three albums and several singles, which, thanks to relentless touring and key festival appearances landed The Green at the top of the Billboard Reggae charts and made them top sellers on iTunes and other music services.
The band won over legions of new fans on the past two years via their live shows that carry all the strength and power of a typhoon, as well as their thoughtful romantic and conscious roots songs that stream along as warmly and soothing as a tropical breeze. They’ve been ubiquitous on the road and in the charts since their most recent albumHawai'i '13 dropped in August 2013. Signed by Easy Star Records, home to other modern and progressive reggae acts like John Brown’s Body, theBlack Seeds and Passafire, The Green look to continue to expand their following, and bring a new audience to reggae music.
ForwardEver spoke with singer and guitarist Zion Thompson during a tour stop in San Francisco.
How has your latest US tour gone so far?
It’s gone really well. It’s been exciting to cover so much ground in so much time. We started in the south, and have traveled up north and east and all over. One week we’re in Florida, the next week we’re in Chicago.
How has your extensive touring contributed to the band’s success?
[Touring] has helped expose fans to our music, and also exposed our music to other touring bands and music companies. It’s important for us as Hawaiians to come out here [to the US Mainland] and spread our music, hit the road hard, and with play bigger bands. We’ve been doing that game plan for pretty much the last four years and it’s helped out a lot.
Your latest album has been in the Billboard Top 5 and a strong seller on iTunes and elsewhere since it came out. How have you dealt with the success of this new release, and all this attention for your music?
Well, we’re honored and humbled for any success that we’ve accomplished. It’s really hard though to step outside of the box and look at what’s going on, and what people think, because we’re just so completely saturated with the music we’re doing. The record came out in August and we started tour in October; we were so focused on so many things it was hard to know if [the album was] doing good or bad. By the time other people hear the music [we’re] already working on the next release.
But it’s a blessing to be busy and make the music that we love. But we really don’t know how the album is doing until we go out [on tour] and talk to people and hear how they like it, or if it has affected their lives in a positive way. That’s another benefit of touring for us, we actually get to see the benefit of what we do, and it’s rewarding because we work hard, and that keeps us going.
It’s an interesting time for reggae music with a lot of music from outside of Jamaica being popular. But it still seems like there’s some synergy and cooperation going on between artists from Jamaica and elsewhere. What’s your take?
I agree. I think the connection is becoming much closer between artists in reggae. There’s so many different ways to play reggae, and it’s coming from all over the world. There’s the Hawaiian or California type of sound–which is also always changing over time–then there’s the East Coast American sound, Virgin Islands sound and the South American styles, it’s a beautiful thing.
I think it’s cool that Jamaican artists especially are opening up to collaborating with artists outside of Jamaica because I understand the roots of the music where they come from, and to see other people [playing reggae], it’s a complement, but it’s also makes you think even more about [the music’s] roots and origins.
What you think the connections are between the islands Jamaica and Hawaii?
It’s a lifestyle, you know? It’s a pace, an attitude, and a sense of community; that’s what you grow up in an island environment. Reggae hit so strongly in the 1970s and ‘80s. Bob Marley and the Wailers came to Hawaii back then and they were huge. People from Hawaii love reggae; I think it is the island connection. We have a lot of the same plants, the same trees, and the same foods. We share a culture, and [like Jamaica] there people who’ve been there forever and maintained the land, and live in the mountains. These days, Hawaii and Jamaica have similar social issues, like tourism, overcrowding in cities and whatever. There are so many similarities. The beat of reggae music, the whole push and pull of the music, it makes sense to Hawaiians.
When you were growing up and learning about reggae, did you gravitate more to the music aspects or the spiritual or political aspects of it?
For me it was the music itself, the feel and sound of it. It attracted me because it is so different from rock music or R&B and soul. I always loved soul music though. R&B and reggae also works really well together, so that’s another attraction. [Reggae] is just something that connects with people from Hawaii. When you come from a similar place and a similar environment, there’s a natural recognition; it’s a mystical thing I guess.
Your new album seems to make a statement of your identity as Hawaiians, both with the title, and the traditional introduction and closing song; the album is bookended by traditional Hawaiian chants. Was that an intentional decision on the band’s part?
Sure, that’s what we wanted to get across. It’s about having love for our homeland. We were totally trying to portray ‘this is us, this is Hawaii, this is right now’. We wouldn’t be touring the mainland or doing anything that we’re able to do without such a solid base back in Hawaii of family, friends and fans. Right from the beginning Hawaii has had our back. In our way, we’re trying to give back and show love for where we come from, and show the world that what we do comes from Hawaii. And that’s the cool thing about reggae too–you could listen to the first and last tracks on our album, the chants at the beginning and end, and you could look at the cover and never know that it’s a reggae music album, which is kind of what we wanted to go for.
Do you as a band discus what it means to be a reggae band in 2013
We don’t really discuss it specifically. The music we make just kind of naturally happens. Touring and being exposed to other kinds of music for sure has shaped our sound and the growth of the band. But the original sound or our formula will always be the same: it’ll be vocals from four different singers, a lot of harmonies, laid back stuff and some lovers stuff but also some rock and in-your-face things, especially [when we play] live. More than changing our persona or sound, we’ve tried to define it. Right now we probably feel the strongest about who we are as a band.
How did you come to doing the harmonies? Did you practice a lot, or did it just come about on its own?
A lot of us grew up in families that played music. So music was everywhere in the family, for birthdays, graduation, after a canoe race, whatever; it was always there. So at every party there was someone singing or playing ukulele, that’s just a part of the normal culture. So with it comes everyone singing, everyone harmonizing. I think that’s been a part of what we’ve been into all along.
We also all grew up listening [Jamaican groups like] The Gladiators, Israel Vibration and more; so many male groups singing harmonies–lots of women too. On top of that, a lot of reggae singers will come to Hawaii and they won’t bring a band, they use local musicians. So they need harmonies to add to their songs and we just learned all that. It made it more fun for us to learn all that, and incorporate it with the music we grew up with. And also having four guys who can sing harmony and also takes some leads really helps us. It’s just a by-product of the environment we grew up in, and we love to sing.
Does the band operate more like a collaborative creative unit?
Yes, I would say that’s true. As far as the creative process is concerned, all of us who sing bring songs to the table, whether they’re finished, half-finished or not even close, and we’ll work on those together. We’ll go through all our potential songs and ideas and weed the best ones out. We butt heads sometimes, but we have so much respect for each other as musicians and as brothers that if someone has a strong feeling about the way something should be done, the rest of us will work with it. We have that respect for each other, which makes everything so much easier.
Some of my favorite songs on the album are the roots tracks like “Stand and Rise” or “Something About It.” What are some of your personal favorites?
“Something About It” is one of my favorites too. I love the dancehall and reggae vibe [it has], and it has a little bit of rock edge, and the other guys all sing on it. That song is so fun to play live too. Another favorite is “Good Vibe Killah,” I’ve always loved that song, from the original scratch track GarageBand acoustic version to how it came out on the album. Personally, I’m happy with the way a song I came up with, “Power in the Words,” worked out. The vision I had and the way we all brought it together and everyone added to it is more than I could have ever wanted.
It’s a super-cohesive album. The lovers rock tunes sit really well along side the roots songs. There are a nice variety of styles on the album.
Prior to hearing your music as The Green I had heard Brad Watanabe’s recordings under the name Bw, which have this meditative, spiritual style to them. How did Brad come to join the band?
We’ve been playing music with him for years. BW was in band called Ookla The Mok, who is still one of the best reggae bands in Hawaii. He was keyboard player with those guys, and he had also played in Melodious Solutions, which was formed with this guy Mike Love, who toured recently with Groundation. The musical community in Hawaii is small, and we’ve known each other for years before we ever formed.
The first time I ever met him, he was playing at a house party up in Manoa [O‘ahu, HI], and they needed a drummer, so they borrowed the drummer from my band. So I went there and saw them and Brad was the bass player, and he could just really layin to that bass. After that we just got to know each other through the music community. Before we knew it we were playing music together, backing up artist coming through Hawaii, and doing our own shows. That went on for a few years; so when The Green formed, Brad was right there already. So it’s been a family thing for a long time and he’s one of the key ingredients in everything we do. He’s definitely got an ear for the roots.
On the liner notes of your latest album you give greetings to many fellow artists you have toured or played with. Do you feel a kinship with the new West Coast and Pacific Island scene of bands?
We’re stoked on it. We’re lucky that we were able to come on the scene at such a great time for the spreading of reggae. The Cali Roots Festival is really taking off, especially last year (2013), and this year is going to be even bigger. We’re proud to call ourselves friends of some of these groups too because when we first started touring a lot of the bigger bands–Iration, SOJA and Rebelution–they took us under their wing and brought us on the road with them. We couldn’t even afford to bring gear, and they let use their (instruments).
For us, we’re like the little brothers to all these successful bands on the road, and to develop a relationship from there and see it grow for everybody has been just awesome. The timing has been so perfect all around, from when we released our first album and the four years that have gone by since then, the Cali Roots festival is just a sign of how successful this whole scene is and how much it’s growing. We’re honored, we’re humbled and we’re stoked.
We consider ourselves a little different style than the Cali reggae, but that’s what’s so great about it, everybody from all over knows each other and supports each other. It’s really all about the fans who love the music.
Reggae vocalist Tarrus Riley, son of classic Jamaican singer Jimmy Riley, drops his latest album Love Situation, Tuesday February 4 (VP Records). The highly anticipated full length sees the Tarrus exploring rocksteady-inspired ballads, including adapting The Gaylads "ABC Rocksteady" as "1-2-3 I Love You," and sampling familiar Treasure Isle Records melodies.
Guest artists include both legends and newer names: U Roy, Konshens, Big Youth, Dean Fraser (on saxophone) and Whippa Demus.
The rich, melodic production was overseen by Fraser of Cannon Productions and Shane Brown of Jukeboxx principally.
In many ways Tarrus is continuing the traditions set down by timeless Jamaican vocalists like Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, Freddie McGregor, Beres Hammond who've managed to bring a classy soulful and lasting quality to their songs. This is a very good situation!
Jah Cure latest video is an inspiring look at how Rastafarian culture can positively impact Jamaica. The song calls on Jah children to "Wake Up" while showing the journey through the city of a conscious youth. The video is expertly shot and features different communities throughout Kingston.
Cure also recently covered John Legend's "All of Me" in an impeccable soulful reggae style. The single and video will be out soon.
Prolific St. Croix, Virgin Islands reggae band Midnite is back with their latest release, Beauty For Ashes, produced by Laurent "Tippy" Alfred of I-Grade Records. The arrangements and recording are crisp and melodic, featuring live horn sections, heavy riddims and guest vocal appearances from fellow VI artists Lutan Fyah, Pressure Buss Pipe and Ras Batch.
Highlight tracks include "A Remninder," "When Jah Arise," and the album's title track, and several songs include extended dub mixes. The album's overall timber is reminiscent of UK greats Aswad in their prime–in other words classic roots reggae structures with bubbling organs, round, warm bass tones and well-constructed song arrangements. Get a taste and check Walshy Fire's (Major Lazer) Beauty For Ashes promo mix.
Rising roots artist Chronixxwill release a debut "mini-album," titled Dread & Terrible on April 1. The album features previously released singles, new material and dub versions of several songs. Other notable upcoming album new releases: Horace AndyGet Wise (April 1), Ziggy MarleyFly Rasta (April 15), Ernest Ranglin (May 20). Dancehall upstart Popcaan will release his debut Dre Skull-produced album on the US label Mixpak this summer. In addition, Sizzla (Nuh Worry Unu Self) and Mykal Rose (Crucial World) each have new releases on John John's Records. John John is son of famous dancehall producer King Jammy.
More father's and sons: British dub master Jah Shaka's son Young Warrior has released three albums of new material, including Dub Box, and albums by artists Principal and Sister Beloved. Fans of UK digital steppers-style dub and reggae will enjoy these collections, which carry on the Shaka tradition of militant, conscious sounds and lyrics.
During his lifetime, Roland "Fatis" Burrell of Xterminator Productions and label made a huge impact on reggae by bringing artists including Garnett Silk, Sizzla,Luciano and Beres Hammond to new audiences and greater acclaim. His unfortunate passing in 2011 left a void in conscious roots music. However, his son has stepped in, relaunching his father's business as XTM Nation, and producing hits for Kayla Bliss and Jesse Royal. A new compilation presents an excellent overview of the younger Burrell's new endeavors. From the album's press materials: "Living Heart, Vol. 1 (hear preview) is an album shared by father and son, and symbolizes a passing of the baton from one generation to the next. Kareem Burrell’s XTM Nation is part of a new wave of Jamaican music that represents the same cultural values that have made reggae the most powerful and relevant of all genres, stretching back to the days of Bob Marley and beyond…"
Los Angeles club goers are mourning the loss of Nemencio Jose Andujar, better known asReggae Popsto cancer. Pops, age 70, was a LA nightclub fixture whose nickname was derived from his frequency at reggae and soul music club nights, his natty dress style, and his elegant dancing. Memorials are planned at Dub Club LA and other venues this week.
Alpha Boys Radio is now available 24-7 streaming on iTunes Internet Radio channel under Reggae. The station features an incredible mix of original Jamaican sounds, from ska, rocksteady and roots to modern reggae, from many of the veteran Alpha Boys artists and musicians such as The Skatalites and Yellowman. Tune in and hear how you can help this historic orphanage and music training institution. More artists have been added to Northern California's Sierra Nevada World Musicconcert, held the weekend of June 20 in Boonville, CA (Mendicino County). The heavy line up now includes Barrington Levy, Clinton Fearon, Chuck Fenda and Hollie Cook. This is addition to Bitty McLean, Morgan Heritage, John Holt, U-Roy, Sly & Robbie, The Tamlins and Horace Andy. The serious line up also includes a DJ set from On-U Sounds dub producer Adrian Sherwood (Dub Syndicate) and Nigerian singer, and son of Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti. Dancehall artist Vybz Kartel has been found guilty of murder along with three associates. The Kartel trial was the longest criminal proceeding in Jamaica's history. The verdict, based almost entirely on circumstantial and forensic evidence, was controversial among the artists' many fans, some of whom protested in front of the court leading up to the verdict's announcement. However, the result was also widely embraced by Jamaicans exasperated by the level of crime, as evidenced by comments in the Jamaican Observer. One jury member was arrested for attempting to bribe the jury foreman, add a sinister wrinkle to the events.
With it's classic dancehall poster artwork, Mr. Vegas's new two-riddim showcase is a brilliantly marketed and presented set of music. The compilation features two riddims, one roots and culture, the other bashment dancehall.
The cover art depicts comically accurate images of a dread with his staff of judgement to represent the roots riddim ("Protector"), and a "shotta" with his gold chain and "gun finger" pose to represent the dancehall riddim, titled "Outta Road."
There has been a renewed appreciation for dancehall posters and reggae folk art, as evidenced by the use of cartoon artist Clovis for several recent album and single covers and LA's Sonos Art Gallery's "Ring Di Alarm" sound system culture art show.
Now watch Mr. Vegas and crew tear up the road with this clever medley video.
It's a the new video from Chronixx, taken from his debut mini-album Dread & Terrible, out now. The video features extended dramatic scenes, with Chronixx playing the lead role of a humble rasta from the hills going about his business only to be harassed by babylon (police). The video itself harkens back to classic Jamaican films like Harder They Come or Rockers. Check it!