Several years ago I wrote a story on what I called the Jamaican band craze. The story was about the fact that many new bands had emerged in Jamaica over just a few years. Some of the bands mentioned in the piece was Dubtonic Kru, Uprising Roots Band and Raging Fyah.
These three outfits have since been followed by numerous other acts and one of the most recent ones is EarthKry, a quartet that dropped their debut EP Hard Road in 2015. And that promising set has now been followed by a full-length album.
Survival is its title and it’s just as solid as the debut EP. EarthKry shares stories of survival from daily life – personal struggles, financial hardship – as well as commenting the state of the world with topics such as war and health issues.
Just like fellow Jamaican band Third World EarthKry shares a potent blend of reggae, funk and soul. Check the pulsating Praise Jah, the funky Do What You Got To Do or Table Turn, which is powered by a ferocious bass line and high – almost angelic – backing vocals. It’s a real treat.
After the success of excellent Jamaican bands like Dubtonic Kru, Uprising Roots, Raging Fyah, C Sharp, No-Maddz, Mystikal Revolution and Pentateuch comes Earthkry. This fresh quartet formed – just like a host of the other bands – at the acclaimed Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston.
They have spent two years together writing songs, rehearsing and playing live in Jamaica. Their self-produced debut single 9 to 5 was released earlier this year, and it’s now followed by a five track EP. It showcases a classic roots rock reggae sound with live instrumentation, beautiful melodies and conscious lyrics echoing tribulations of everyday life and cries for social change.
When recording the superb Hard Road they have been working under the guidance of veteran reggae musicians like trombonist Ronald “Nambo” Robinson and former Third World keyboardist Michael “Ibo” Cooper along with producers Sam Clayton and Stephen Stewart, who currently runs the legendary Harry J studio.
Together they have crafted a solid and very promising debut set.
The Jamaican band revival continues. It started about four or five years ago with successful bands like Dubtonic Kru and has since continued with Raging Fyah, Uprising Roots Band and Mystikal Revolution. And now it’s time for No-Maddz’ debut set. They’ve been around for some time, but has until last year only released a few singles. The singles from last year – Romance and Shotta – were the band’s best yet, and it might have been because of their new producers – Sly & Robbie.
Most of the contemporary Jamaican reggae bands have their own sound – Dubtonic Kru leans against funk, Raging Fyah leans towards pop, Uprising Roots is more rootsy and Mystikal Revolution has a rock twist.
Few Jamaican producers have such a distinctive sound as Sly & Robbie and they have successfully managed to transfer it to No-Maddz. And their new album together is Sly & Robbie in their prime.
Sly & Robbie Presents No-Maddz has powerful, erratic beats and playful sound effects set to beautiful vocal harmonizing. Check for example Modern Love Affair, a cut that share harmonies with Color Me Badd’s hit song I Wanna Sex You Up, released in 1991.
No-Maddz also borrows unexpectedly from Spandau Ballet and their monster smash True, which has a similar angelic vocal hook as Love Story. They also play with the melody and discofied groove from The O’Jays’ Now That We Found Love – probably best known today for the versions by Third World and Heavy D & The Boyz – on Ganja Stain.
Sly & Robbie Presents No-Maddz is a joy from start to finish. It’s cleverly produced and tailored to No-Maddz with engineered perfection.
Late last year the talented and dynamic Jamaican reggae band Raging Fyah announced the follow-up to their successful debut album Judgment Day, released in 2011. Destiny is the title and it will drop this year.
But fans of Raging Fyah are now treated to four brand new tracks – one single and one EP. The uplifting and spiritual Jah Glory is taken from the album and Boarding Pass EP is produced by the legendary Bobby “Digital” Dixon and released via his Digital-B Records. All four tracks are excellent rootsy reggae and reminiscent of early Third World and Zap Pow.
This young group of Edna Manley College students have come a long way and over the course of only three years they have dropped a number of very potent tracks, including the brilliant Nah Look Back, a track included on David Rodigan’s Masterpiece compilation.
It’s almost impossible today to write a story about a Jamaican band without referring to the ongoing band and live music resurgence in Jamaica with outfits like Raging Fyah, Uprising Roots Band and Mystikal Revolution, one of the latest additions.
Five piece Dubtonic Kru is however far from newcomers. They’re more like pioneers on the contemporary Jamaican live band circuit. They won Global Battle of the Bands in 2011 and have toured U.S. and Europe many times. Their third and latest album Evolution is due tomorrow and showcases an inspired, talented and skanking band that is not afraid of mixing their favorite genres into a steaming melting pot of roots reggae, soul, funk, dub, pop, dancehall and rock.
Evolution collects 13 tracks and ranges from rock-tinged dancehall in the Kool Johnny Kool combination Rub a Dub Style to psychedelic, twisted dub on the appropriately titled Cloud 9 and hardcore nyabinghi on the magnificent Jah Works, a track that could easily be mistaken for something from the Ras Michael camp.
In between these are a number of jovial one drops, a great version of The Ethiopians’ rocksteady classic Train to Skaville and the honest and heartfelt reggae love story Reggae Vibez, a track featuring Shabba Ranks sing-a-like Jamar “Ratigan” Kelly, who puts it very eloquently “Well, I’ve been around the world, listened to a lot of hits, ain’t no music like this, some say reggae was a accident, but I say it was a gift…”.
Dubtonic Kru is a Third World for the 21th century and Evolution is a great leap forward for the Kru who has presented their best set yet.
If you’ve followed this blog for a while you probably know that I’m not a huge fan of combining rock guitar and rock arrangements with reggae. It’s often – not always – a poor combination that should be avoided.
Luckily enough there are times when it works pretty well. This is the case with Jamaican six piece band Mystikal Revolution’s debut album Divide and Rule. They’re part of the ongoing Jamaican resurgence of live bands that have going on for a while now.
Divide and Rule was exclusively released in Jamaica more than a month ago and it didn’t hit the world market until April 9. It collects 13 tracks with fierce social commentaries and sweet romancing as well as the upbeat sing-along friendly Reggae Skanking, where strained, gruff and passionate lead singer Sanjay Barrett shares vocal duties with slick veteran Bunny Rugs and the always reliable Tarrus Riley.
Other reggae royalty that turns up to pay respect to this talented band are Sizzla and Queen Ifrica.
The set is self-produced and their take on reggae is raw with a straightforward rock twist. The lead guitar is prominent and there are several rock-flavored solos throughout the album, particularly in the title track and the excellent Sizzla combination Gangster Story.
There are also more traditional sounds on Divide and Rule, for example classic Marley reggae in the dramatic Revolution with a melody that sounds custom-made for a Broadway musical.
Mystikal Revolution manages to get away with their homage to guitar heroes like Slash and Yngwie Malmsteen. Their grooves, their passion and their integrity to go their own way can’t be ignored.
P-E-N-T-A-T-E-U-C-H, Pentateuch. Try to spell this band name quick. I have, and I wasn’t too successful. Fortunately though, Pentateuch’s music is easier to get acquainted with.
This hard-spelled band has taken their name from the first five books of the Old Testament and is one of the latest additions in the recent Jamaican band craze fueled by veterans such as Dubtonic Kru.
They formed in 2009 at the legendary Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston and their debut single Black Face led to a collaboration with producer Paul “Computer Paul” Blake, who has helmed production on their debut album The Genesis, which also happens to be the name of the first book in the Old Testament.
This 14 track set with a distinct 70’s UK feel to it features mostly roots reggae with lyrics dealing with familiar themes such as emancipation, equality and repatriation.
But it also boasts smooth lovers cuts like Changed Girl and the acoustic Unwritten. Most surprising is however the closing tune Nothing But Love, a track with a clear 80’s soul vibe with its pulsating bass lines, pounding drums, rock guitar and a memorable keyboard hook.
Kevor Williams’ fragile and gentle singing is at its best in the up-tempo tunes, especially the Bunny Wailer cover Armagideon and Kingston, which is very similar to early Black Uhuru with its haunting backing vocals.
The Genesis bodes well for future releases and shows that there is still an interest for Jamaican bands and live recorded music.
The Uprising Roots Band is one of several bands that have emerged in Jamaica in recent years. They’ve played together since 2006, and earlier this year they dropped their debut album Skyfiya.
This album is an independent effort. It’s recorded in the band’s own studio by themselves and released through their own label TruMusik Records.
Skyfiya is built on live instrumentation and the sound on the 13 songs is organic and vital. The riddims are beautifully crafted with well-thought arrangements, especially the horns and the angelic harmonies.
Just listen to the herb tune Steamers, the uplifting Marcus Garvey or the woman tribute Most Royal. This is reggae firmly rooted in the 70’s, but with a more energetic twist to it.
Drummer and lead singer Rashaun “Kush” McAnuff is son of recording artist Winston McAnuff. His voice is deeper, darker and more rugged compared to his father.
Skyfiya is a superb album that should appeal to most people with the slightest interest in roots reggae.
In mid July singer Ray Darwin dropped his debut album People’s Choice. Almost at the same time his former band Raging Fyah also put out their debut album titled Judgement Day.
Raging Fyah is a six piece outfit that consists of former students at the acclaimed Edna Manley College in Kingston. Their new lead singer Kumar Bent has a voice similar to a more restrained Tarrus Riley and a tone that make him sound a bit like Konshens. And he’s a great singer that clearly fills the shoes of Ray Darwin.
Judgement Day is produced by the band themselves and lists eleven roots rock reggae tunes, often with high quality. The only tunes that don’t measure up are the marijuana tribute Ganja or the too mellow ballad Cyaan Cool.
Highlights include World Crisis with its well-orchestrated harmonies, the uplifting Karma and the skanking R.A.S (I&I) with a frenetic dub-infused workout in the latter part of the song.
Judgement Day is a promising debut album and I certainly look forward to hear more from these talented musicians in the near future.