Niyorah tells stories from the streets and from the heart

niyorah-rising_sunWith producers from about eight countries Niyorah’s fourth album Rising Sun would be destined to being a much varied and erratic set. But it’s actually not. And somehow it all balances very well.

The album collects 13 tracks with production credits from acclaimed producers like France’s Bost & Bim, Austria’s Irievibrations, Zion I Kings from the U.S and DJ Frass and George “Dusty” Miller from Jamaica. And it presents some of Niyorah’s best material to date.

Apart from Midnite and Pressure he’s probably one of the most prominent artists from the Virgin Islands. He has for many years dropped conscious and spiritual music telling stories from the streets and from the heart.

Rising Sun is no exception. Rain Forrest is a beautiful environmental prayer, Media Portray is an unforgiving attack on popular culture, War is Not the Answer is a plea for equality on Zion I Kings’ gorgeous Song Bird riddim and Medicinal Ganja is an angelic marijuana anthem.

But the best cut is the infectious and pulsating Let Love Flow, a track that might be a highlight of Niyorah’s career. He is a talented performer and has a slick way of mixing sweet singing with fierce deejaying. And it might just be his captivating flow that keeps the set together.

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Many friends on new Peter Tosh compilation

2237_PeterTosh_CoverListening to the latest Peter Tosh compilation Peter Tosh & Friends – An Upsetters Showcase. This 15 track set is described as a Peter Tosh compilation, but there are a lot of friends and only five of the 15 songs are by the man himself. The other ten tracks are singles from the likes of pioneering deejays U Roy and Big Youth along with the gritty Carl Dawkins and the soulful, and underrated, Dave Barker.

All tracks are however produced by the Upsetter himself and during the period covered on this album Lee Perry recorded some of his best work, including Bob Marley & The Wailers’ post-Studio One and pre-Island days.

All songs on this compilation has been reissued before and several are available on Trojan’s six disc compilation Bob Marley & The Wailers Complete Upsetter Collection. Nothing wrong with reissuing these fine tracks again and making them easily available, but the title could be more accurate.

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Christopher Martin shows great confidence on new EP

unnamedHoney-voiced Jamaican singer Christopher Martin inked a deal with reggae powerhouse VP Records almost two years ago and finally a result of this collaboration has been put out.

Steppin Razor is a five-track, digital only, release that balances sweetness with sex and showcases this reggae loverman at the top of his game.

Christopher Martin is versatile singer that won Jamaica’s televised talent show Digicel Rising Star in 2005. He has since build a strong fan base around the world and on this set he shows great confidence, especially when it comes to ladies.

Just listen to the title track – which isn’t a cover of the Peter Tosh cut, even though it borrows from it – and lines like “Now ladies love to be next to me, if they are down and am around, I am the remedy” and “they get addicted to my vibe, a make dem feel so good inside, intoxicated by my smile, these girls fall in no time”. Or the swaggering I’m a Big Deal with its introduction “#I’m a big deal”.

Christopher Martin is a certified reggae crooner with a passionate and urgent voice. Lyrically he might be a bit self-centred, but ladies might fall for his confidence and high self-esteem.

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First-rate roots on I Kong’s new album

10834976-1392224681083706-3011736967505512658-o_300x300Veteran Jamaican singer I Kong aka Ricky Storm started his career in the 60s as part of vocal harmony group The Jamaicans. He left and started recording with Yabby You’s harmony group The Prophets, followed by sessions with Lee Perry and future Third World singer Bunny Rugs under the name Ricky & Bunny.

His first album The Way It Is dropped in 1979, a set that included the title track, which was an underground hit at the time. Since the release of his debut album I Kong has only recorded sporadically and his new showcase album A Little Walk is his sixth set and his first in eight years.

The effort collects ten tracks, of which four are dub versions and two are extended mixes. It was recorded in Kingston with Swiss band Najavibes accompanied by percussionist Scully Simms and guitarist Dalton Browne. The riddims are powerful and the backing has a sweet and melodic richness. This is effective roots mixed by Spanish maestro Roberto Sanchéz.

I Kong’s voice may be a little thin, but it’s emotional and original, yet sounding a lot like one of his contemporaries – the late Prince Lincoln Thompson of The Royal Rasses.

A Little Walk collects highlights like the up-tempo Groovy Feeling, with a dub version including razor-sharp guitar, album opener Guiding Light with a fanfare-like horns and the uplifting Live as One.

I haven’t heard much that I Kong has recorded previously, but it’s nonetheless great to have him back on the scene. There is certainly something special with vintage Jamaican singers.

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Inspired re-recordings on Sebastian Sturm’s The Kingston Session

Sturm_Cover-Layout_TKS_01-1-kleinOn his brand new album The Kingston Session German singer Sebastian Sturm, together with his band Exile Airline, headed to the Jamaican capital and the legendary Harry J studio for its recording sessions.

They locked themselves in the studio for two days and came out with an inspired nine track album recorded live in the studio using only the bare essentials – guitar, bass, drums and keys. The set collects easy-going, organic and stripped-down versions of mostly previously released material, and the only new cut is a version of Freddie McKay’s Free Man.

Sebastian Sturm has a raspy voice and a dramatic, almost theatrical, style with a bit of vibrato. The raspiness is a bit similar to Bob Marley and the drama is reminiscent to how Groundation’s lead vocalist Professor sounds. It works well with the jazzy arrangements and the jam-oriented grooves that the band present on several tracks, especially on the almost nine minute long Free Man.

This is Sebastian Sturm’s fifth album and it was successfully financed via crowdfunding, and I have a feeling his fans and investors will love what they hear.

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A warm dub album from Mad Professor and Prince Fatty

38dc21220cTwo pivotal producers and mixing engineers on the UK reggae scene have teamed up for a brand new dub album titled The Clone Theory.

Mad Professor and Prince Fatty met on the UK sound system circuit and discovered that they shared a mutual love of analogue sound and tape machines. But they also have a common friend – deejay and drummer Horseman. Today a Prince Fatty regular and formerly a drummer for Mad Professor while still at school.

On Mad Professor Meets Prince Fatty in the Clone Theory two musical heavyweights mix five tracks each and the result is a soulful and warm dub album complete with blazing horns, rolling drums and pulsating bass lines.

Mad Professor has selected five explosive cuts from his generous vaults and they are backed by a stellar team of musical legends, including Sly & Robbie, Leroy Mafia, Sky Juice, Dean Fraser, Earl 16 and Michael Prophet.

Prince Fatty draws tracks from up and coming albums along personal recordings. The dubs of Winston Francis’ dread I Kill the Devil Last Night, militant Johnny Osbourne’s Back Off and Prince Buster’s dark Idi Amin are among the many highlights on this warm and organic dub album.

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A historic dubsummit on Dub of Thrones

unnamedTonight the first episode of the the fifth season the popular HBO drama Game of Thrones will be aired in the U.S. And two days ago Alborosie and King Jammy’s new dub album Dub of Thrones was put out on CD and vinyl.

On this 13 track set – eleven on the LP – dreadlocked reggae rebel Alborosie clashes legendary game-changing producer King Jammy for an analogue dubwise extravaganza around the theme of Game of Thrones.

The duo takes turn on the mixing desk – Alborosie at his Shengen studio and King Jammy at his studio in the Waterhouse district in Kingston, Jamaica. Dub of Thrones is a classic clash album, where the fully armoured combatants clashes head to head on six tracks each.

The set collects head-nodding and speaker-shaking dubs of several familiar riddims, including Tongue Shall Tell and Hypocrites. It’s a mostly instrumental set and the only vocals to be heard is on the more contemporary-sounding Dub Cinderella – a version of Errol Dunkley’s Black Cinderella – on which Errol Dunkley himself along with Alborosie take turns on the microphone.

This monumental dubsummit comes complete withGame of Thrones-inspired iconic cartoon artwork courtesy of original Greensleeves Records‘ artist Tony McDermott, who has for close to four decades been depicting Jamaican music for Greensleeves Records.

Dub of Thrones is a historic pairing of two pivotal dub masters – one with more than 40 years of experience and one that has quickly made a name for himself as one of the key proponents of classic Jamaican roots reggae.

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Dynamic dub reworking of John Brown’s Body’s Kings and Queens

john-browns-body-kings-and-queens-in-dub-thumbU.S. pioneering reggae band John Brown’s Body have had their latest album Kings and Queens, released in 2013, turned into an anthemic dub set titled Kings and Queens in Dub.

All of the original album’s twelve tracks have been reworked, mainly by North American producers and engineers, including Dubfader, Jay “Double Tiger” Spaker, Michael Goldwasser, Dubmatix, Ticklah and Nate Silas Richardson. But on board is also Yesking from Wales, Lord Echo from New Zealand and UK reggae legend Dennis Bovell.

The result is a mesmerising and swirling set with echo-laid grooves and a dense sound complete with infectious vocal hooks, courtesy of new lead singer Elliot Martin, floating in and out of the mix.

The original King and Queens is a progressive and innovative reggae effort and the dub version expands the sound with new audio effects and heavier bass lines. Highlights include album opener People in the Light Dub with its slow groove and hypnotic bass lines, the thumping Sound and Fury Dub and the dark Fracture Dub with its fanfare-like horns and aggressive drums.

Kings and Queens in Dub is an another vital addition to John Brown Body’s expanding catalogue of dynamic reggae.

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Nneka takes a reggae direction on new album

Nneka_MyFairyTales_CoverOn Nigerian-born and Germany-based singer, rapper and political activist Nneka’s fifth full-length album My Fairy Tales she explores the reggae genre more than ever before. Often described as a neo-soul singer in the same vein as Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, Nneka takes a new direction, and a great leap forward, on this brand new album.

My Fairy Tales is a genre-spanning set with nine tracks rooted in reggae, funk and R&B flavoured with electronica, UK dub and afro-beat.

Nneka has a slightly thin voice, but it has a beautiful, delicate and slightly raspy tone. And even though several of the songs come with deep and loud bass lines as well as dense arrangements, Nneka manages to come across with her singing.

My Love, My Love and Book of Job are two deep and straight-up reggae gems with thunderous bass lines, while Local Champion is urban and electronic with dubby audio effects. Pray for You is jaunty ska, yet with a radical edge, and In Me nods towards stepping UK dub.

Most of the cuts on My Fairy Tales will probably work very well on several dance floors over the world, but the upbeat Babylon, with its manic drums, is a journey into funkified territory with its militant groove.

Haven’t heard much from Nneka prior to this album, but I certainly hope she’ll continue to explore the reggae genre since this album whets the appetite.

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Rocky Dawuni connects dots between Africa, the Caribbean and the U.S. on new album

413d7f11-797b-4b1f-a361-0f502888f3b9The African reggae scene is more or less synonymous with three artists – Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly from Côte d’Ivoire and the late Lucky Dube from South Africa. But the African continent is huge and there are of course other well-known singers like Majek Fashek from Nigeria and newcomers like Takana Zion from Guinea and Selasee from Ghana.

Another reggae artist hailing from Ghana is Rocky Dawuni and just like Selasee he today lives in the U.S. On his sixth and latest album Branches of the Same Tree this humanitarian activist straddles the musical dots connecting Africa, the Caribbean and the U.S. to create a tasty set filled with positive vibes, infectious melodies and catchy grooves.

Included are mainly elements of afrobeat, roots and global pop with sing-along choruses along with influences from funk and samba. The eleven track set features a line-up collecting acclaimed musicians like Michael Franti & Spearhead, Steel Pulse, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals and Ziggy Marley.

The album title reflects global unity and Rocky Dawuni recognizes mankind’s common roots and that we are all branches of the same tree. His inspirational messages of harmony and solidarity are set to solid rhythm tracks and several of the cuts are dance-inducing anthems, for example the irresistible first single African Thriller, the radio-friendly album opener Shine a Light with its syncopated rhythm and a devastatingly funky cover of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh’s iconic Get Up, Stand Up.

But Branches of the Same Tree is not all about fun and dance. It also collects a few more melancholic moments like the acoustic Butterfly and Island Girl, which is a tropical version of song written by Bob Marley, but never formally recorded by the legend.

With Branches of the Same Tree Rocky Dawuni showcases a fresh and varied sound that is easy to fall in love with.

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