Bunji Garlin’s bona fide party-starter

BUNJI-GARLIN-DIFFERENT109FSoca – the fast-paced descendant of calypso – has been at the forefront of Caribbean music in recent years, and the genre has successfully embraced expressions from other styles outside the West Indies, especially electronic dance music, hip-hop and R&B.

And one of soca’s most acknowledged artists is the robust and rapid-firing lyricist Bunji Garlin, aka the Viking of Soca. He has been making dancehall-fused soca for the past 15 years and last year he scored a huge hit with the infectious Differentology, a song originally put out in late 2012 in anticipation of the 2013 carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. With that track he won a 2013 Soul Train Award for Best International Performance, and a Battle of the Beats competition on influential New York hip-hop station Hot 97.

His new album bears the same title as his smash hit, and on album opener Red Light District he sets the tone immediately – “Somebody give me a rhythm to activate the waistline on the feminine gender, Now”. From there on it’s more or less a party from start to finish, even though the set also allows for a few darker moments, for example the anthemic hip-hop scorcher West Indian Jungle and the electric A$AP Ferg combination Truck On Di Road (remix).

Differentology also manages to bridge old and new sonic identities thanks to the vintage-flavored All O’Dem and a version of Trinidadian calypsonian Maestro’s Savage, originally released in 1976.

On the uplifting Over the Hills Bunji Garlin sings “I wanna see this music rise, see soca fly high with the eagles in the skies… I wanna see my music over the hills”. And with this album Bunji Garlin takes soca over the hills, out of the West Indies and into clubs all over the world. With its percussion-driven riddims, Bunji Garlin’s eclectic vocal style and its lively and euphoric sound, Differentology is dance music at its best.

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Another set of remixes from Sizzla’s Born a King

unnamedFollowing Sizzla’s fresh and critically acclaimed album Born a King comes the fourth instalment of remix EP’s from that particular set.

Champion Sound was one of many highlights on Born a King. The original tune is recorded over Mista Savona’s brutal Soundclash riddim and features Sizzla at his finest along with veteran singer Errol Dunkley.

Champion Sound EP, which drops on September 9, comes stacked with classic roots reworks on the original Soundclash riddim, with vocals provided by Burro Banton, Iyashanti and Johnny Clarke & Determine. The Johnny Clarke and Determine combination is a roaring version of Clarke’s legendary African Roots.

The riddim also gets a remix treatment from a variety of producers working in several different genres, including drum & bass, jungle, dubstep, R&B and electro-oriented funk.

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Mind-bending Augustus Pablo compilation

itemReggae powerhouse VP and its vintage imprint 17 North Parade continue their excellent Augustus “Gussie” Clarke reissue program. After the powerful 40 track compilation Gussie Presenting the Right Tracks came a 7” collection titled Gussie Presenting the Right Sevens. Now comes another album with Clarke productions.

Born to Dub You collects ten rare and in-demand instrumental cuts from melodica maestro Augustus Pablo. Eight of the ten tracks were recently made available on the aforementioned Gussie Presenting the Right Tracks, but No Entry and Classical Illusion (Micron 7”) are fresh additions.

Some of songs on this superb collection might sound odd to an untrained reggae ear, especially the interplay between a screeching and metallic violin and Pablo’s dreamy melodica on Classical Illusion (Dub Vendor 12″), which comes with an extra haunting dub version by Prince Jammy.

Augustus Pablo’s melodica snakes in and out of the mix and this set offers the usual dark and meditative ambiance found on many of Pablo’s songs and productions. Please note though that the title of this set might be misleading, since it collects instrumentals rather than dub versions.

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Clay unveils his first chapter

CS2515263-02A-BIGClay – a producer and songwriter that has now also turned to singing – has just released his solid debut EP 1st Chapter, a seven track set with traces of nyabinghi, contemporary roots and R&B.

Clay is a classically trained pianist with drums as his second instrument and guitar his third. He has previously established himself as a powerful source in the music industry with productions for successful urban artists like dancehall superstar Sean Paul, rapper Chipmunk and R&B singer Starboy Nathan.

Born in Jamaica some 30 years ago he now lives in the UK. His debut set doesn’t sound like UK reggae in general. No dubstep, no aggressive bass lines and no bashment. 1st Chapter leans more towards sounds coming from Germany, France and Italy. It’s well-produced  and slicka contemporary one drop, with especially well-crafted vocal arrangements and infectious choruses.

It’s easy to fall in love with parts of this set, particularly the melancholy and darkness that is expressed in the more conscious cuts. Haunting album opener Shadow After Dark sticks like glue, and so does evocative and up-tempo tracks like Exodus and Fire.

Clay has stepped out of the shadows and is now an artist in his own right showcasing his passionate and vibrating vocal style. He has so far only put out the first chapter in his story and I’m certainly keen to hear more.

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A mash-up monster for free download

a3322063923_2UK’s DJ Shepdog has released an album with some of his finest reggae mash-ups for free download.

The set covers most corners of dance music with a distinct reggae flavour, and one can hear hip-hop, dub, dancehall, dubstep and drum & bass on this clever effort.

Greatest Licks Vol. 1 comes with ten tracks, including versions of fan favourites like Cutty Ranks’ Limb By Limb, Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock and Alborosie’s Mama She Don’t Like You, on which Puppa Albo rides Steely & Clevie’s popular cut of the You Don’t Love Me (No No No) riddim.

Listen below and head over to Bandcamp and grab a free copy today, and stay tuned for volume 2. It’s already planned.


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Gentle vibrations on SOJA’s Amid the Noise and Haste

UMG_cvrart_00880882205058_01_RGB72_1500x1500_14UMGIM22532.170x170-75The U.S. reggae scene has never been really thriving, and most reggae coming from the States is usually pretty lightweight and often heavily inspired by rock and punk. It has changed a bit though, much thanks to the prospering VI reggae scene and bands and artists like Midnite, Pressure, Niyorah and Bambú Station.

And the U.S. reggae scene is also much of a domestic scene and local acts tour North America like crazy. One of those acts is the immensely popular Soldiers of Jah Army (SOJA), an eight piece band that has been together for 17 years.

Their fifth album Amid the Noise and Haste is as radio-friendly as their previous sets with influences from pop, rock, latin and hip-hop. And its title nails the sound, because this album certainly doesn’t run towards a red light and singer and fan favorite Jacob Hemphill barely raises his frail and nasal voice. It’s full of slow jams and laid-back grooves with a more buoyant cut here and a muscular guitar solo there.

Amid the Noise and Haste is partly produced by Jamaican-born super producer Supa Dups, known as a founding member and owner of the Miami-based Black Chiney sound system. But he is also known for working with several reggae, dancehall and hip-hop heavyweights, and he has managed to win no less than three producer’s Grammys for his work with Drake, Bruno Mars and Eminem.

Several guest artists are featured on the album – Damian Marley, Collie Buddz, Michael Franti, J Boog, Anuhea, Nahko, Trevor Young, Alfred the MC, Bobby Lee and Mala Rodriguez. According to SOJA these performers help to demonstrate each song and either relate or convey messages of social resistance, environmental consciousness and personal reflection.

They want the listener to connect with his or hers inner self and take control over one’s own destiny while listening to gently vibrating reggae music.

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Five Steez sets date for new EP and drops first single as free download

0003286951_10Jamaican hip-hop artist Five Steez follows up on his debut album War For Peace, released in 2012. His new project is an EP titled These Kingston Times. With its eight tracks it’s said in a press release to capture the modern tale of the Jamaican capital.

“I wanted to paint my city the way I see it, and in a way I’ve never heard the story told before in music,” says Five Steez in a press release and continues:

“Since hip-hop’s genesis with DJ Kool Herc, there has always been a Jamaican influence and involvement in the genre, but you’ve never heard about actual life here in ‘yard’, as we affectionately call it. It’s a new perspective in hip-hop, but parallel to that of urban environments worldwide.”

Jamaica is often recognized worldwide for its music, athletes and beautiful beaches, but the country has also developed a reputation of having one of the highest rates of murder and questionable killings by police as well as widespread government corruption. Much of this has historically taken place in Kingston. And these two sides – paradise and slum – are portrayed by Five Steez on These Kingston Times.

The EP drops on October 14, but the first single Deadly off the set is already available, and it’s ready for free download on Bandcamp until the project hits the streets.

Deadly is produced by DJ Crooks, and features a classic hip-hop beat mixed with a vintage reggae sound, a Dennis Brown sample and a signature dancehall chant.

“I had fun with this song because it’s so hip-hop, and it fuses elements from different Jamaican genres so well. I just went in with the flow and, of course, I had to big up people like Heavy D and Chubb Rock, who were also born in Jamaica,” explains Five Steez.

“I’m glad that Five Steez rocked it like he did,” says California-based, Jamaica-born DJ Crooks, and adds:

“It’s hip-hop at its purest, really. This is how we can honour the dynamic nature of the Jamaican music culture, paying respect to reggae and hip-hop at the same time.”


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Catch Soja’s album release show live on Reggaemani

UMG_cvrart_00880882205058_01_RGB72_1500x1500_14UMGIM22532.170x170-75Today popular U.S. reggae band Soja released their fifth studio album Amid the Noise and Haste, a set featuring guest performances from Damian Marley, Collie Buddz and Michael Franti. It has been produced by multiple Grammy award winning Jamaican producer Supa Dups, who has previously worked with Bruno Mars, Rihanna and John Legend.

Soja will have an album release show in Washington DC, and that show can be seen below. The show starts at 8.30 PM EST.

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Skatisfaction guaranteed on Phoenix City All-Stars’ new album

971992_559612860744514_1639699597_nOn Phoenix City All-Stars‘ debut album Two Tone Gone Ska they did blazing ska versions of material by The Specials, The Selecter, The Beat and Madness. Now they have another cover album out, but this time they have taken on a giant of rock music – Rolling Stones.

Phoenix City All-Stars are far from newcomers and they know their ska and their Rolling Stones. The band comprises members of Pama International, The Sidewalk Doctors, Kasabian, Intensified, Dub Vendor All-Stars, The Loafers, Big Boss Man, The Bongolian and The Delegators. On vocals they are also supported by the deejay Oxman and the singer Freddie Notes, known for the smooth Montego Bay released in 1970.

Skatisfaction collects ten tracks, including hits and lesser known tracks from the mighty Rolling Stones vaults. Phoenix City All-Stars have treated them with respect and revitalized them in scorching ska and rocksteady versions.

And these frantic and storming cuts hold up well against the popular originals, especially the instrumental cut to Under My Thumb, where a haunting organ provides the original vocal line, and the honeyed Sweet Virgina, also an instrumental, and with a smooth saxophone replacing the singing.

This album has loads of raw attitude and collects driving ska and killer early reggae. Rolling Stones should be satisfied with such a well-crafted tribute set.

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Cool and colourful disco reggae on new compilation

STIX037LP-FRONT-300x300After last year’s release of Disco Reggae Vol. 1 comes the second edition titled – yes, you guessed it – Disco Reggae Vol. 2. And this new set offers more of the same successful recipe – reggae with a funky disco twist. Sometimes it sounds like a reggaefied version of Daft Punk.

This nine track compilation includes eight new and exclusive cuts from producers like Taggy Matcher, 7 Samuraï, John Milk and Mato. From Grandmagneto comes an already available version of Gloria Jones’ northern soul classic Tainted Love, covered successfully by UK synthpop duo Soft Cell in the early 80s.

All tracks are reggae refixes. Some are versions of smash hit songs, while others are renditions of lesser known tracks. The former includes swaying versions of Herbie Hancock’s jazz instrumental Watermelon Man and Pharrell Williams’ uplifting Happy.

The latter comprises The Joubert Singers gospel-fused funk tune Stand On the Word, this version comes with a dubby electro twist, and Lee McDonald’s soul banger I’ll Do Anything For You, and Mato’s version lies close to the floor-filling original.

This album is definitely not disco, but it’s not straight reggae either. It’s a selection of dance floor anthems carefully crafted with a new vision. The result is a rocking and swinging album with a cool edge.

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