Tag Archives: German reggae

Dr. Ring Ding & Dreadsquad dig the 80s

unnamedGerman singer and trombone player Dr Ring Ding has played a key part on the German ska and reggae scene since the late 80s. He took his name in tribute of The Skatalites – who has released a single with the same name – and formed Dr. Ring Ding & The Senior Allstars in the 90s and went solo in the early 2000s.

He has worked with most subgenres within reggae, including, ska, roots, dancehall and dub and now he has joined forces with Polish Dreadsquad for an album dedicated to the pioneers of the early computerized dancehall scene, including innovative producers and musicians like King Jammy, Bobby Digital, Augustus “Gussie” Clarke and Steely & Clevie.

The title of this 14 track set – Dig it All – is a clever one and catches the sound and atmosphere very well. Dr. Ring Ding might be dismissed as a mere novelty act, but he has a free flow, entertaining lyrics and a feel for catchy melodies and hooks.

Dig it All is a playful album from start to finish and the riddims created using loads of classic gear from the old days, for example Yamaha CS-01, Casio MT41 and MT100, Roland Space Echo, Fisher SpaceXpander and the Coron DS-08 drum synth, catch the sound of mid-80s both successfully and respectfully.


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A seductive and addictive second album from Sara Lugo

Cover1024It seems that crowd-funding in the reggae industry actually works. There has been a few gems in recent years coming from that particular way of financing parts of a recording.

Sara Lugo and her label Oneness Records used Startnext to raise 4,000 euros to finish Hit Me with Music. I didn’t take part of the financing, but all of you who did – give yourselves an applause. Because Hit Me with Music is an excellent album, probably even better than her debut released more than three years ago.

Sara Lugo has an addictive and seductive voice, and she has been in the music business for more than ten years. Her biggest hit yet is probably the Kabaka Pyramid combination High & Windy, on the moody Reggaeville riddim, which is a relick of The Paragons’ Riding on a High and Windy Day. This combination was released in 2012 and is of course included on the new album.

Hit Me with Music is produced by a variety of different talents, for example Anthony “Altafaan” Senior, Umberto Echo, Giuseppe Coppola, Lionel Wharton and Moritz von Korff, and includes guest performances from Protoje, Ras Muhamad and the aforementioned Kabaka Pyramid.

It’s bright and positive from start to finish. Sara Lugo explores the gentle side of reggae with influences from soul, jazz and light electronic pop. Soldiers of Love could have been included on one of Hotel Costes lounge compilations and a singer like Lily Allen could probably have murdered for the breezy I Wish.

The harmonies are beautiful throughout the set and Sara Lugo has made yet another album custom-made for sitting on a Caribbean beach watching the waves gently break.


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Gentleman has come a long way

Successful German singjay Gentleman has gone from dropping hip-hop and conscious roots via eclectic dancehall to reggae-tinged electronic dance music. Over the years he has toured the world and recorded extensively in Jamaica and Europe. Reggaemani caught up with him while he was in Jamaica making music videos and promoting his latest album New Day Dawn.

Gentleman is probably the most successful European reggae artist today, even though the European reggae scene is strong at the moment with several artists making a name for themselves in the Caribbean and the U.S. Gappy Ranks, Million Stylez, Randy Valentine, Patrice, Jahcoustix and Lion D are some of the singers and deejays that come to mind.


But the reasons behind his own global success isn’t something Gentleman thinks about on a daily basis.

“Otto Tilmann is my real name and I don’t play a role. I have a passion for music and a hunger and strive to develop myself. And one of the key things is the right surroundings. No man is an island and I have a sense for good people, people that give me energy and people that I can learn from,” says Gentleman, and continues:

“I don’t know where I’m going and I’m surprised to have come this far. I’m not the best song writer and not the best singer. I just love music. I make music for myself.”

Gentleman’s success earned him a contract with a major label in 2010 and last year he dropped his sixth album New Day Dawn, his second on Universal. Being signed to a major label has given him a lot of muscles in terms of marketing and promotion – very important these days when anyone can start a label and distribute and sell music via the Internet.

Working with the right people
I reach Gentleman on his mobile phone, while he’s on a break from shooting a music video in Kingston, Jamaica.

“This is where it’s happening. It’s the motherland of the music I do. It’s good for the motivation to be here and I also get some great feedback here. Music is very important in Jamaica and it’s on a natural level,” explains Gentleman.

For a European – or anyone not from the Caribbean – it’s hard to get attention on Jamaican radio, something that UK-based producer Frenchie talked about in a recent interview with United Reggae. This has not been a big issue for Gentleman though.

“I receive some radio play, but I’ve never really worked hard to get it. I’m just glad my music gets played sometimes. If you want to be accepted, if that’s your goal, it will be hard. I never strived for it and I’ve never aimed to be successful in Jamaica. I’ve spent a lot of time in the studios here, and with the right people. But music comes first and people second,” he states.

Gentleman has previously worked with several big producers, both within reggae and from other industries as well, for example Benny Blanco, who has worked with superstars such as Britney Spears, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.

New formula
On New Day Dawn he has tried a new formula – doing most of the production himself.

“I was ready for it and wanted to do it different this time. Different compared to previous albums. I knew exactly how I wanted it to sound and with a vibe like that you can’t compromise,” he explains, and continues:

“This time every riddim was suited for me and I didn’t have to compromise or anything. I worked with different musicians, like the drummer of my band, and together we finished the ideas I came up with. It was all natural and I knew where I wanted to go. If I would make an album with different producers again, it has to be right.”gentleman_newdaydawn

The end result is a slick and clean album with weeping acoustic ballads and house-inspired dancehall. But one drop reggae is not completely left out of this contemporary cocktail. Another Drama, with its dub mixing and crying saxophones, or Road of Life, with its catchy na-na-na, are two fine slices of modern reggae. New Day Dawn certainly stands out compared to his previous albums, partly thanks to its more mature approach.

“The album is versatile. On one hand you have handmade roots reggae, and on the other hand you have dancehall and an electronic sound. It’s a lot of passion and love in the project. I love it and a lot of the songs also work well on stage. I had imagined how I could deliver on stage and the result is very alive,” he explains, and continues:

“I grow with the times. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over. Roots is my first love and probably my last, but I don’t like categories. Roots reggae is at the center of everything.”

Follows his inner voice
For Gentleman New Day Dawn stands for a new beginning and a new opportunity, it’s just a matter of attitude.

“There is a revolutionary dynamic in this world. Just look at Cairo. There was a revolution in Egypt and this has been a significant experience for me. Young people striving for change, striving for a new episode. It’s very positive, even though there still is a lot of darkness out there,” he says.

Gentleman strives to do good and is a very positive person, something that’s also reflected in his lyrics.

“Every feeling I have flows through my music. There are days when I go through life reaching nowhere. It can be depressive, but two days later it’s a new vibe. It’s just a matter of decision and perspective, what you see and what you feel,” he says, and adds:

“I follow my inner voice and I’m not thinking about what I’m doing, I just do it. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s not.”

Pure Gentleman
Gentleman has a history of voicing a lot of combinations with other artists. On Diversity, for example, he shared vocal duties with Christopher Martin, Tanya Stephens, Red Rose, Million Stylez, Patrice and Sugar Minott. He has also dropped an album together with Richie Stephens. But on New Day Dawn it’s just Gentleman.

“My first album had no combinations either. This time I didn’t have a plan, it just happened. I just loved the songs and loved the idea more and more without any features. I didn’t need it this time,” he says, and adds:

“I love to work with other people, but it was time for a pure Gentleman album.”

“A change is in the making”
15 years have passed since Gentleman put out his debut album Troddin’ On, a set that offered a potent mix of hip-hop and dancehall. In 2002 his perspectives had changed and his breakthrough album Journey to Jah was released. This album showcased a new and rootsier side of Gentleman with guest performers such as Luciano and Capleton.

Now, twelve years after his breakthrough, things are different. The music industry has undergone huge changes and Gentleman is a superstar in his native Germany.

“I’m still the same and I have the same direction, but the world is much more complex and things are not black or white. It’s not as easy today as it used to be. I didn’t think too much in the beginning. Today, I know what people want, I’m a better song writer and I have process. Some lyrics from back in the day would not do it today,” he explains and adds:

“The whole music business and how we consume music has changed. It’s not better or worse today, it’s just different. Good or bad, I don’t know. But the morality is gone. People don’t spend money on music anymore which makes it difficult for newcomers. There is a lot of talent, but no opportunities. Labels don’t work the way they used to. They are looking for that one hit and it’s not easy. But I think a change is in the making. It’s moving in cycles.”

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Dreamy and atmospheric on Razoof’s Jahliya Sound

artworks-000058252688-3y5sy2-cropGerman reggae producer Ras Uwe aka Razoof turned his musical skills toward electronica in the early 2000s and together with Solar Moon he managed to create dancefloor heat around the globe. But now he has found his way back to the reggae scene.

On his latest album Jahliya Sound this drummer and DJ, who has previously worked with German superstar Gentleman, blends reggae, dub and deep house creating a dreamy, atmospheric and relaxed sonic landscape.

The album was recorded in Germany, Gambia and Jamaica and collects 16 tracks, of which four are instrumental versions, and features a diverse set of artists, including Cornel Campbell, Lone Ranger, Luciano, Mykal Rose, Lutan Fyah, Jaqee, Don Abi, Sebastian Sturm, Naptali and Pa Bobo Jobarteh.

Jahliya Sound is a smooth and ambient journey with plenty of laid-back vibes. It’s odd though to hear vintage artists like Cornel Campbell and Lone Ranger interact with the ethereal grooves. But it works, and especially well on Mykal Rose’s Birdsong, Lutan Fyah’s You Say This, Naptali’s Keep the Faith and Cornel Campbell’s Free Up Di People.

Definately an unusal and unconvential album.

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Lightweight and catchy from Sebastian Sturm

Sebastian Sturm A Grand Day Out - 2013The German reggae scene has been thriving for years, owing much the success of global reggae/pop phenomenon Gentleman, but also thanks to artists such as Jahcoustix, Patrice and Sebastian Sturm. The two former dropped albums in June and September respectively and now it’s time for Sebastian Sturm and his band Exile Airline to unleash the Jamaican produced set A Grand Day Out.

This 13 track set was recorded in Germany together with Stephen Stewart and Sam Clayton Jr and then mixed in Kingston by the same duo. The result shows a more reggae-oriented Sturm. The rock influences on Get Up & Going from 2011 are traded for a more pop-concerned approach with traces of both ska and soul. His love for Bob Marley-styled tonality and phrasing is however intact.

This is not a roots reggae album. Not by a far. It’s actually rather lightweight, but the melodies are infectiously catchy and I find myself both nodding my head and stomping my feet, especially to the rocking and well-arranged Sand in Their Machinery.

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