Bazil’s East to the West is a soundtrack for the summer

5926c398-4c9a-4011-9c77-378e243d7247French singjay Bazil released his debut album 2011 and put out his latest set East to the West earlier this year. This is an intense and eclectic affair showcasing musical influences from Europe, the U.S. and, of course, the Caribbean.

Bazil started recording at the age of 15 and is nowadays a seasoned performer and recording artist not shy to break musical boundaries.

East to the West is colorful and urban and stands firm in the reggae tradition, but it also incorporates hip-hop, tropical and electronica. Check for example the infectious Vision, the bouncy Love the Night, the fierce General or the summery Escape with a strong cross-over appeal.

This is an album for a late-night summer party.

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The 30 best reggae songs of 2018 so far

The midpoint of 2018 is behind us, and it’s time to sum up the first six months. Below is a list of 30 massive reggae and dancehall cuts released this year that I have been spinning quite frequently. Some have even been on repeat, like New Town Kings’ Borderline, Alborosie & Chronixx’ Contradiction and Micah Shemaiah’s Zion Trod.

The first six months have been very strong with a many contenders, but I need to draw the line somewhere. And 30 seemed about right this year.

The list is an eclectic one and is as usual presented in no particular order and the songs included are only singles or tracks taken from compilations. If you are curious about the songs you can download a Spotify playlist with all cuts. Download the Spotify playlist here and I hope you enjoy the music as much as I do.

Artist – song title (riddim)
Shenseea & Shatta Wale – The Way I Move
Soothsayers – Natural Mystic 7” Edit
Rudimental & Shungudzo & Protoje & Hak Baker – Toast To Our Differences
Slowly & Courtney John – The Rightway
New Town Kings – Borderline
Richie Loop & Tribal Kush – Way Up
Emeterians & The Island Defenders – Dub Master
Sean Paul & Major Lazer – Tip Pon It
Alaine – Lucky You (Destiny)
Rage – I’m Not A Lonely Girl (Episodes)
Lutan Fyah – Chant Down Babylon (Straight Step)
Kabaka Pyramid & Stonebwoy – Borders
TiMeka & Vershon – Live Life (Vibes Maker)
Naomi Cowan – Paradise Plum
Nico D – Money Come My Way (April)
Alborosie & Chronixx – Contradiction
Protoje & Chronixx – No Guarantee
Ginjah – Bring Heaven Down (Twilight)
Micah Shemaiah – Vibes Town (Good Balance)
Jahbar I – Friendly Foes (Pon Di Grind)
Keida – So Much More (Gems)
Jada Kingdom – Best You Ever Had
Racquel Jones – Take It Easy (Communion)
Soul Sugar & Leonardo Carmichael – I Want You (Discomix version)
Micah Shemaiah – Zion Trod (Extended mix)
Lutan Fyah – Where Is the Culture (Dinner Time)
Joe Pilgrim & The Ligerians – Migrants
Sara Lugo & Randy Valentine – Growing A Jungle (Nice & Easy)
Konshens – Tan Up (Bashment Time)
Kabaka Pyramid & Damian Marley – Kontraband

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A hard as concrete dub album

King-Tubby-Riley-Allstars-Concrete-Jungle-DubEarlier this year Japan’s Dub Store Records reissued the rare Concrete Jungle Dub originally released in 1976 in tiny quantities. The set is produced by Winston Riley and superbly mixed by King Tubby and collects versions of rhythms issued via Riley’s Techniques label.

The selection is a strictly dubwise effort with no vocals. Although several rhythms can be identified, for example Stepping Stone Dub, a version of Johnny Osbourne’s cover of Delfonics’ Ready or Not, and Staga Dub, a version of the immortal Stalag 17 rhythm, probably best known through Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam or Tenor Saw’s Ring the Alarm.

The original album came in a white plain sleeve, but the reissue comes with a shot of Winston and brother Buster in a recording studio. A long-overdue reissue showcasing two of pivotal figures in the history of reggae and dub.

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King Kong alongside Irie Ites on the pulsating Repatriation

unnamedBig and bad Jamaican dancehall giant King Kong broke big in 1986 with the superb Red Rose combination Two Big Bull In A One Pen for King Tubby. It was followed by several strong singles and albums, including Trouble Again for King Jammy. But from the late 80s King Kong kept a low musical profile for about two decades.

In past years he has however been productive. In 2013 he dropped the album Ethiopian Dream and last year the showcase set In the Old Capital Vol. 1 was released. And a few months ago he put out Repatriation, an album produced by France’s Irie Ites.

Repatriation is pulsating dancehall with a contemporary twist and musicians include giants like Sly & Robbie, Russ D and Bongo Herman along with guest artists such as the gravel-voiced Burro Banton on the soon to be classic Old School.

Irie Ites’ productions are always well above par and Repatriation is no exception. Another killer album.

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Kabaka Pyramid bridges reggae and hip-hop on Kontraband

unnamedOne of my most anticipated releases in recent years was put out in late May. I’m talking about Kabaka Pyramid’s debut album. He’s one of the strongest lyricists and performers of the younger generation of Jamaicans singers and deejays.

On Kontraband Damian Marley is heavily involved being executive producer. But a host of other notable performers also lend their talents to the set – Chronixx, Akon, Pressure Busspipe, Stonebwoy, Protoje, Damian Marley and Nattali Rize give several songs new dimensions.

Kontraband is hard-hitting and powerful roots reggae with strong influences from hip-hop. At times it’s reminiscent of Damian Marley’s and Nas’ collaborative effort Distant Relatives. Check the infectious title track with Damian Marley for example.

This album certainly lives up to high expectations with Kabaka Pyramid spitting cultural messages over tough beats. It’s potent, explosive and highly addictive.

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Soul Sugar drops reggae version of Marvin Gaye’s I Want You

GEED006-2500pxFrench outfit Soul Sugar – the brainchild of Guillaume “Gee” Metenier – drops another soulful reggae 12”, this time a version of Marvin Gaye’s classic I Want You, originally released in 1976. Jamaican vocalist Leonardo Carmichael sings lead and legendary drum and bass duo Sly & Robbie add their flavor on two versions on the B side.

Marvin Gaye’s single I Want You is taken from the album of the same name released in 1976. The album was a big step forward for Marvin Gaye and marked a change in direction – from hip Motown soul to sultry and elegant soulful disco with intimate and explicit lyrics.

I Want You is one of the great classics of the sophisticated, yet intense and provocative, soul sound of the 70s. It has that unique and sincere combination of great harmony, groove and sexiness. It’s one of the hottest tracks of its era,” says producer and musician Guillaume Metenier, who runs Gee Recordings.

The A side is a discomix version with a more modern flair and the B side showcases a traditional reggae mix with Sly & Robbie on drum and bass. The backing was recorded in France, while the vocals and Sly & Robbie’s parts were recorded in Jamaica. The discomix was mixed by Guillaume Metenier, while the vocal version on the B side was mixed by him along with Jahno. The dub mix on the B side was mixed live and direct by Jahno himself.

I Want You is the follow-up to Why Can’t We Live Together, which also had Leonardo Carmichael on lead vocals. It was an easy decision to work with him again since he already knew this song and does it really well. He has got enough talent to come in after Marvin Gaye,” says Guillaume Metenier, and continues:

“Our version is different from the lush and orchestrated original, and it combines elements of funk and reggae as well as drum machines and vintage instrumentation combined with modern production techniques. I think we’re bringing a fresh and up to date take on this timeless classic while remaining true to the original sound of Leon Ware and Marvin Gaye.”

A version of I Want You was recorded together with legendary Jamaican rhythm machine Sly & Robbie, known for playing on countless of songs from the 60s up until today. The connection with Sly & Robbie came from French horn man Guillaume “Stepper” Briard, who has played with Sly & Robbie for many years.

“It was a real honor working with Sly & Robbie since they have recorded so many great tunes over the years. They have also made a heap of solid soul covers in reggae style and they are heroes of mine since the 80s,” concludes Guillaume Metenier.

I Want You 12” is now available on 12″ and will hit digital outlets on June 15th.

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Solid 80s vibes on Micah Shemaiah’s Roots I Vision

unnamedJamaican singer and producer Micah Shemaiah rose to prominence a few years ago after dropping excellent cuts like Reggae Rockit and Dread at the Control.

His debut album was the combination album Shalalak and it was followed by the superb Original Dread. In February this year his third album was put out.

Roots I Vision was recorded in Switzerland with Mathias Liengme and Nicolas Meury at the controls and it has a solid 80s vibe throughout, mainly due to the use of Simmons drums, which gives a nice early Black Uhuru feel to the sound.

This set is the strongest reggae album of 2018 so far, though in fierce competition with Hollie Cook’s Vessel of Love. Check the title track, Throw No Stone or the militant single Zion Trod to catch a feel of the album.

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Danakil breaks new ground with Ondubground

3013940In November last year French band Danakil teamed up with Ondubground to re-record their album La Rue Raisonne. And the result is a powerful and modern album with a broad variety of artists lending their talents to the project.

This is forward-thinking bass music influenced by reggae, trap, hip-hop, dub, dubstep and electronica. Extraordinary cuts include Jamalski’s fast-chatting Tell Dem, the melancholic Dub of the Nation and the pulsating J’attends la nuit.

This album explores new musical horizons and might not please the usual Danakil crowd. This one is aimed at sound systems worldwide.

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Dub Store Records reissues the superb Africa Iron Gate Showcase

various-artists-africa-iron-gate-showcaseJamaican deejay and producer Prince Hammer is behind the superb singer and deejay showcase Africa Iron Gate Showcase, originally released in 1982 and reissued by Dub Store Records a few months ago.

This is a crucial album that has been unavailable for a criminally long time. Roots Radics provide the sparse and heavyweight rhythms and talented deejays like Trinity, Lee Can Cliff and Prince Hammer chat powerful words and lyrics.

And as usual with Dub Store Records – the sonic quality is excellent. Highly recommended.

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Long overdue Bobby Digital compilations released

unnamedDuring the late 80s and throughout the 90s Bobby “Digital” Dixon produced a truckload of superb singles and albums, of which several are today hailed as some of the greatest reggae and dancehall ever released.

Bobby Digital grew up in the 70s listening to roots acts such as Black Uhuru and Wailing Souls and his journey in the music industry began when he from an early age attended sound system dances. He was an apprentice of King Jammy and he later branched out on his own creating a musical revolution that took Jamaica by storm.

He started out producing lethal dancehall and later helped the roots reggae resurgence in Jamaica with artists such as Garnett Silk, Jahmali, Sizzla, Capleton and Buju Banton.

And VP Records has through its subsidiary 17 North Parade now released two compilations dedicated to Bobby Digital’s productions. The first anthology X-tra Wicked covers his dancehall catalog, while the second anthology, Serious Times, showcases his rootsy side. These two albums cover a neat 80 tracks, including many classics, for example Shabba Ranks’ Peenie Peenie, Mad Cobra’s Tek Him, Morgan Heritage’s Don’t Haffi Dread and Buju Banton’s Til I’m Laid To Rest.unnamed_1

This double anthology showcases a musical genius and a game-changing producer. Now I’m waiting for an anthology dedicated to the works of Richard “Bello” Bell, another producer responsible for some of the greatest reggae released in the 90s.

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