Fresh compilation showcases 16 slices of urban roots

artworks-000124230589-fxq11g-t200x200The debut album from Jamaican production duo Natural High Music is a sensational one. It’s a 16 track compilation that’s dread, dense and surprisingly cohesive.

Urban Roots features singers from the new and old generation. Most are actually more or less newcomers and the only veterans are Lutan Fyah and Mikey General. Some of the others have however already proven themselves prior to this lovely set, for example Dre Island, Stevie Lightning from Rootz Underground, Jahvinci, ChezidekKeida and the stylistically superior Jesse Royal.

It all starts off with Dre Island’s contemporary roots scorcher Live Forever and ends with an inspired dub version of the same track. In between these gems there are both dark and heavy and sweet and beautiful cuts. All are however influenced by dub mixing techniques and some explore booming hip-hop from the early 90s. The tempo is often slowly pulsating driven by rebellious bass lines and deadly drums.

An excellent compilation showcasing just how strong the reggae scene in Jamaica is at the moment.

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Goodbye SoundCloud

About ten years ago I got into podcasts and online-based reggae mixtapes, partly thanks to BMC and his excellent work. It was thanks to his mixes that I got interested in contemporary reggae. I listened to his mixtapes, sets that always credited artist, label and riddim when available. I later bought the cuts or the albums that I liked.

After a few years I decided to make my own mixtapes and I used his recipe – no full tracks and added audio effects. These mixtapes were not about making money or exploiting the artists, producers or labels. They were meant to promote the music that I love. I wanted other people to hear my current favorites and then buy what they liked. Just like I did and still do.

Mixtapes have been around for ages (remember cassettes?). But they have also always been something of a grey area. And now the people at SoundCloud – the largest online audio distribution service – have started to remove mixes from their site because of copyright violations.

SoundCloud’s policy is clear – uploading copyrighted material is not permitted. That’s fine and the way it should be. They have however been more tolerant about it when it comes to mixtapes and radio shows. But that’s in the past. They now have a more aggressive approach, maybe because of new agreements with major labels and copyright violation tracking services.

My mixes are among those that have been removed from SoundCloud. And just like many others I received no notification or warning.

The question is how this approach will effect SoundCloud in the long run. They have been enormously successful and have for years been the preferred choice for top DJ’s sharing their work to the world. Now I note that several DJs are turning to SoundCloud’s main competitor Mixcloud, a service that even has a SoundCloud Import function.

I enjoy being introduced to new music through listening to mixtapes and radio shows. Consequently, I will follow the DJs, their content and hang out more at Mixcloud. SoundCloud will probably still be the preferred choice for producers and labels for a while longer, but I have a feeling music lovers will follow the DJs. Where the consumers go, labels have to follow. And the circle is complete when Mixcloud has grown too big.

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New compilation spotlights the memory of the late J.O.E

b42f725aeaA number of years ago I discovered the talented Jamaican singer J.O.E (Jah Ova Evil), but he was soon tragically lost after suffering a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. He died in 2011 only 24 years old.

During his much too short lifetime he recorded several great songs and the brightest shining light being his Rasta Chant on Rashawn “Bassie” Clark’s melancholic Nyabinghi riddim. But he did other strong tracks as well, and some of them were featured on his posthumously released debut album Man From Judah.

Yet another superb track has now however surfaced. Belly of the Beast is opening track on a new compilation titled Forever Judah, a 14 track set produced by Slovakian label Batelier Records. This conscious and roots rocking set is dedicated to J.O.E and features six artists from a group that was formed around J.O.E.

None of these singers are particularly well-known, but they all shine on Forever Judah. His younger twin brothers – The Gideon and Selah – contributes and so does D’Excel, Jahwawah, Hempress Sativa and Nicole Miller. Best of the bunch is The Gideon’s pulsating Roots Rock, D’Excel’s tongue twisting Uncivil Unrest and Jahwawah’s beautiful and devout Your King is On the Way.

A ton of reggae and dancehall is issued every week and there’s hard to keep up with every release. And since there are almost only rising hopefuls on Forever Judah I would probably never have listened to it unless the talented J.O.E had been featured on the set. Now I’m glad I gave it a chance.

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Two outstanding one riddim EP’s from Rorystonelove

6zuzVeteran selector and producer Rorystonelove, who produced Jah9’s exceptional and acclaimed debut album New Name, has sneaked out two strong one riddim EP’s over the past months. Both Braveheart and Zeen are outstanding and superbly arranged.

Zeen comes with seven cuts and includes strong cuts from and number of up and coming singers, including Jesse Royal, Skygrass and Samory I, who’s Take Me Oh Jah was listed on Reggaemani’s best tunes in 2015 so far.

Braveheart comes with a statement. It includes six songs. All sung by female vocalists and no one is particularly well-known. But all cuts are minor masterpieces, especially Mamad’s Do Your Best, Racquel Jones’ Inna Di Giddeon and Kristine Alicia’s Freedom Fighter.artwork

These sets have been released with virtually no marketing or promotion, so don’t worry if you haven’t heard about them.

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A heavy hitter from Nattali Rize & Notis

MI0003897616Nattali Rize – the dynamic frontwoman of Australian reggae band Blue King Brown – moved to Kingston, Jamaica, in 2014 and during her stay she teamed up with acclaimed drum and bass duo Notis. Their collaboration initially rendered the single Rebel Love, a cut followed by the Kabaka Pyramid combination Generations Will Rize. And now an EP has been put out.

New Era Frequency hosts nine tracks – four slices of powerful and pulsating contemporary reggae, two dancehall-oriented cuts and three dread and ethereal dub versions.

Nattali Rize is a fresh voice. She sings from her heart. Often touching tough and urgent issues. She’s not afraid of politics or calls to action, as shown on album opener Generations Will Rize with lyrics like “staring down their lie of democracy will you fight on your feet or live pon your knees, this is not the way that life’s supposed to be, I’m calling, calling, yeah”.

This set contains heavy hitting tracks, both musically and lyrically, and brims with rebelliousness and emotion.

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New compilation charts the links between Rastafari and reggae

Layout 1Rastafari – a religion or maybe more a way of living – emerged in Jamaica in the 30s, a time of political and social change. But the pivotal catalyst for the Rastafari movement was the crowning of a black king in 1930 – Haile Selassie I or Ras Tafari. Followers of the movement see him as Jah, an incarnation of God.

A new compilation from Soul Jazz Records charts the many links between reggae and Rastafari. The album, which carry a hefty 20 tracks, spans nearly 30 years of revolutionary and exceptional music influenced by mento, jazz, nyabinghi drumming, anti-colonialism, equal rights and worldwide love.

Rastafari – The Dreads Enter Babylon 1955-83 is an in-depth look at reggae and Rastafari and includes righteous and conscious cuts from the likes of Counts Ossie, Johnny Clarke, Ras Michael, Rod Taylor and Mutabaruka.

According to the a press release from Soul Jazz, one of the earliest mentions of Ethiopia in Jamaican music can be found on mento singer Lord Lebby & The Jamaican Calypsonians’ 1955 recording Etheopia (included on the set), a cut where they sing about Ethiopianism, the political movement that calls for a return to Africa for black people.

But it was in the 1960s that Rastafarian music started to grow, particularly thanks to Count Ossie and his drummers. The visit of Haile Selassie to Kingston in 1966 was of course also instrumental and in the following decade Rastafarian reggae went global with Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear and a host of more underground artists and musicians. Rastafarianism was now synonymous with reggae. It was spiritual with a political and cultural context.

But most of the cuts on this set are not for the faint-hearted. Crowd-pleasers are few and far between. Several of the songs are percussion-driven instrumentals or instrumentals heavily influenced by avant-garde jazz. A bunch of the tracks also includes chanting rather than singing.

This compilation is however a solid overview of a groundbreaking genre that became a rebel sound.

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Superb second album from Micah Shemaiah

unnamedJamaican roots rocking reggae artist and producer Micah Shemaiah dropped his debut album Rastaman Meditation in 2009, but it didn’t receive too much attention at the time. Now he has dropped his second album and the times have changed. There’s currently a powerful force on the Jamaican music scene called the reggae revival – or Rastafari revival – with frontrunners like Protoje, Chronixx and Jah9.

In 2013 Micah Shemaiah dropped the excellent and dubby single Dread at the Control, which a year later was followed by the equally brilliant Reggae Rockit. Both singles were featured on the recently released compilation Shalalak.

His brand new album Original Dread collects however mostly previously unreleased material and features several guest artists – Exile di Brave, Addis Pablo, Jahkime, Nicole Miller and TJ, son of legendary dancehall deejay Brigadier Jerry. Four of the cuts also come with their dub counterpart mixed by Will Tee, who along with Micah Shemaiah himself serves as producer for the twelve track set.

Original Dread is a celebration of reggae and particularly rub a dub from the early 80s. It’s superb from start to finish with heavy and uncompromising riddims along with infectious melodies and catchy hooks. Check for example the beautiful and uplifting Eezy Breezy – with lyrics like “ain’t no rhythm like reggae when it’s playing dub” – or the eerie and melancholic If I Could with its memorable chorus and melodica courtesy of Addis Pablo.

Micah Shemaiah has just like fellow Jamaican singer Chronixx not flooded the market with singles or cuts on one riddim albums. He has from early on controlled and charted his own destiny. And that usually means high quality, which Original Dread certainly is great proof of.

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Blend Mishkin & Roots Evolution nod to both past and present on Survival of the Fittest

unnamedBlend Mishkin – an Athens-based producer and label head honcho – has dropped his eighth album, this time working with six piece band Roots Evolution. Invited on the eleven track set is also no less than twelve vocalists from Europe and Jamaica, and several of the cuts are done in combination style.

Blend Mishkin has been making music since the 90s, mostly working with computers and turntables, but this time he decided to employ live musicians instead. And the result is an organic and pulsating effort with strong melodies and catchy hooks.

Survival of the Fittest follows the success of lead single Settle Down – with Exco Levi on the microphone. On the album the bouncy vocal version is followed by a devastating dub cut.

Blend Mishkin & Roots Evolution deliver a cocktail of past and present and included are both originals and relicks. Jammaroots & BNC make a funky version of Dawn Penn’s mighty You Don’t Love Me (No,No, No) and Georges Perin graces Headz Together and Daddy Let’s Slide with a soulful falsetto.

Survival of the Fittest is a solid and summery set firmly anchored in the soulful and funky side of reggae.

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An excellent overview of King Jammy and his music

unnamedReggae and dancehall powerhouse VP Records continue their Reggae Anthology series with an excellent overview of King Jammy and his productions.

King Jammy – initially Prince Jammy but crowned after a sound system dance in 1985 – is one of Jamaica’s most successful and influential producers and mixing engineers responsible for several game-changers, including Wayne Smith’s massive hit Under Me Sleng Teng, which has since its release in 1985 been versioned a thousand times.

The new compilation Roots, Reality and Sleng Teng collects both culture and entertainment and is a comprehensive collection covering King Jammy’s productions throughout the various styles and eras of reggae, including the biblical messages of dread 70s roots to boastful early dancehall and ragga.

Collected are several well-known cuts, for example Johnny Osbourne’s Water Pumping, Junior Reid’s Boom-Shack-a-Lack, Half Pint’s Money Man Skank, Chaka Demus’ Original Kuff and Pinchers’ Bandelero.

But there are also a number of rare items to found. Check for example the 12” mix of Black Uhuru’s Bad Girl with deejaying from Scorcher & Nicodemus or The Fantells’ – previously known as Beltones – eerie, yet beautiful, Where You Gonna Run. Several of these rare cuts are also available on the vinyl release of this crucial anthology.

The three discs – including the DVD documentary King at the Controls – shows King Jammy’s range and diversity as a producer as well as his unique talent for keeping up with the times and driving the music forward.

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Reggae Roast and Brother Culture got the flava

a1970370828_16In June 2015 Brother Culture and Nick Manasseh released the excellent showcase album All a We and now it’s time for another rough and tough set from one of UK’s most consistent deejays.

Brother Culture has this time teamed up with Reggae Roast for the seriously weighty EP The Flava. It comes with five deadly tracks, including the anthemic Soundsystem. It kicks off with bouncy 80s vibes on The Flava followed by the uncompromising Bring di Weed with its earth-shaking bass line.

On Same Ol’ Story Brother Culture takes the role of a history lecturer with lyrics like “then World War Two led to Hiroshima when everything in the world get nuclear, the nuclear bomb led to the cold war, the East Germans build the Berlin Wall…” and “the invasion of Kuwait, it was the first Gulf war, Saddam Hussein against Bush Senior, the first Gulf war led to 9/11, when the place came down with flames and destruction, 9/11 led to Afghanistan, America went to wipe out the Taliban, but wars don’t finish, the wars don’t end, it’s the same ol’ story all over again…”.

Reggae Roast has over the past seven years brought forward several earth rocking singles and riddims and this compilation with material recorded with Brother Culture hits hard.

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