Tag Archives: Benaïssa

New, shelved and forgotten gems on new Benaïssa EP

cover170x170For a few years around 2010 Dutch production duo Not Easy At All – Marc Baronner and Manu Genius – made a number of ultra-solid albums, singles and compilations, including masterpieces by Chezidek, Earl 16 and Brinsley Forde. Unfortunately the duo went separate ways about three years ago.

Now a few more recordings from Not Easy At All have fortunately surfaced. Benaïssa’s EP African Blood collects four cuts produced by Not Easy At All and two produced by Manu Genius, who today runs his own Dubshelter Recordings.

The set collects versions of some of Not Easy At All’s best riddims and only one has been previously released – the title track, which appeared on the flip to Chezidek’s Walk With Jah 7”.

The powerful, yet insanely sweet, Rock It is probably the strongest cut and is voiced over the One Blood riddim. But tracks like the aforementioned African Blood and Jealous are almost equally strong. The solo additions from Dubshelter is in the same smooth and earthy vein and could have been recorded during the same sessions.

Break-ups happen all the time and since Not Easy At All probably is history it’s nice to have a few “new” recordings from one of contemporary European reggae’s finest production teams.

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JahSolidRock takes reggae back to the roots

Dutch-based label JahSolidRock is behind one of this year’s best releases – Judgement Time by Jamaican singer Chezidek. The album has an air of reggae from the 70’s and 80’s. And that’s what this label is all about according to the CEO.

As many other reggae labels, the story behind JahSolidRock started with a sound system and two friends with a passion for music.

Ras Denco – now CEO of the label – and singer Benaïssa Linger had a sound system in the late 80’s and early 90’s, named Umojah Ashanti. But something went wrong. Not between the friends but the music was changing, and not in a good way. At least according to Ras Denco.

− We did the sound system thing for a couple of years with great fun and a lot of devotion, until the interest in roots music was changing toward dancehall and slackness. We could not find ourselves in that vibe of reggae, so we decided to put the sound system thing at a lower speed.

The label starts
It seems however that they couldn’t keep their hands off the reggae business. About three years ago they decided to start the JahSolidRock label and used their contacts with several of the Jamaican artists they had met during the sound system days. One of the first releases was Benaïssa’s sun drenched EP Voodoo/Coconut Water.

− We hooked up with Silver Kamel records in New York and released Benaïssa’s debut album Tables Turn, which did pretty good worldwide. The album was a collection of songs that all had a positive message; some roots, some crossover. From that moment we continued recording and have done some more releases over the last years, writes Ras Denco in an e-mail to Reggaemani.

The label’s biggest record so far is Chezidek’s acclaimed album Judgement Time that reached the streets earlier this year. Ras Denco explains some of the ingredients behind the success.

− We put a lot of time and love in the album, and during the recordings in the studio with Chezidek there were also nice and positive vibes. We tried to keep that authentic roots reggae vibe from back in the days on the album; by using real musicians, real horns, real drums etc. And it’s a real album, a studio album, not a collection of lost songs from different producers.

Taking it back to the roots
And that’s the mission for the label – taking reggae back to its roots in the 70’s and 80’s. Ras Denco believes the greatest and most creative reggae was produced during that period.

− It was handmade music. Music came from the heart in those days and had a positive message, he writes and concludes:

− Musicians were important, and the artwork made in those days had something mystical about them. It’s exactly as David Rodigan said in an interview with you a few weeks ago – music coming from Jamaica does not make any sense anymore. It’s all hip-hop influenced, dancehall orientated and there is no more praising Jah. We try to go back to that foundation reggae sound, by working with great musicians, and people who still have love for reggae music.

Value for the money
But producing roots reggae is often expensive, something that the producer Frenchie pointed out a few weeks back in an interview with Reggaemani.

− It’s difficult to pay all musicians and production costs to make a great album, and still try to make profit out of it. But still we think that people will pay money for great productions. We prefer to make a ten tune showcase album with all ten tunes solid, than a 23 track album, where only two tracks will stand the test. I also believe the buying public want some value for a CD, Ras Denco explains.

Several albums ahead
He writes that the label has some interesting albums lined up. All of them made with real musicians and with a great deal of love.

− We’ve a compilation titled Cultural Vibes coming out in October. It collects all releases we’ve done last year and this year on 7” and digital releases. We want to showcase our tunes on this album, and we hope to get some positive reactions, he writes and continues:

− We’ve also just finished recording the new album from Apple Gabriel titled Teach Them Right, which will also hit the streets in October. It’s a special album, since it has been eleven years since Apple Gabriel did a solo album. We’ve also recorded a new album with Earl 16, and as we speak we are working on future projects with Chezidek, Brinsley Forde, and one of the most promising artists out of Jamaica – Zamunda.

If all these releases are any way near the high standard of Judgment Time by Chezidek, I’m confident that my record collection and JahSolidRock will have a long and fruitful relationship.

Favourite artist?
Don Carlos, David Hinds and Dennis Brown

Favourite label?
Island, Negus Roots, Live and Learn and Bullwackies

Favourite album?
Ijahman Levi – Haile I Hymn

Favourite tune?
Ijahman Levi – Moulding 12” version

Favourite producer?
Errol Brown and Chris Blackwell

Favourite riddim?
All Roots Radics riddims will do

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Chezidek lyckas igen

I höstas släppte Chezidek I Grade. En skiva som tog sig in på min topp tio lista över årets bästa plattor. Sju månader senare slår han till igen. Nu ännu starkare.

Nya Judgement Time – den åttonde i ordningen – har spelats in tillsammans med holländska Not Easy At All Productions och skivbolaget JahSolidRock, som drivs av sångaren Benaïssa. Och de har gjort ett fantastiskt jobb med både Chezideks sköra röst och arrangemangen. Framför allt är många av blåsarrangemangen brutalt bra.

Judgement Time är inspelad med live instrument och bygger på nya, fräscha rytmer. Här finns inga relicks, något ganska ovanligt i dag.

Ett av Chezideks starkaste kort är gräshyllningar. Hans Leave the Trees är en av de bästa låtarna från 2000-talets första tio år. Ganja Tree från nya plattan är också en välskriven och välsjungen hyllning. Men Judgement Time innehåller mer än så. Mycket mer. Exempelvis följs sex av låtarna av instrumentala versioner. Och de låtarna byggs in i varandra, så att lyssnaren inte tappar fokus.

Bäst blir det i Live & Learn och i Walk With JahCollie Weed riddim, som släpptes innan plattan. Redan då kunde man ana att det var något stort på gång. Burning Fire, vars gitarrslinga för tankarna till Dennis Browns Westbound Train, är också ett av de starkaste korten.

Det här är reggae från den gamla skolan, men utan att någonsin låta tråkigt eller mossigt. Precis så här låter modern roots när den är som allra bäst. Judgement Time är utan tvekan årets bästa platta så här långt.


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