About a year ago VI reggae trailblazers Midnite suddenly cancelled a U.S. tour and stated the reason being “a life changing medical emergency, convictions and revelations”.
Somewhat cryptic, but then again Midnite and their front man and vocalist Vaughn Benjamin have never been interested in the spotlight unless being on stage. He rarely gives interviews and rather study or writes and records music.
Later a new outfit surfaced, a band led by Vaughn Benjamin. Akae Beka is their name and it’s taken from the Book of Enoch. Akae Beka first stage performance took place in October last year and their debut album Homage to the Land was soon put out.
Now their second set has dropped. This one on I Grade Records, a Virgin Islands’ based label that has been an important partner to Midnite in their career. The label is spearheaded by Tippy I and the new Akae Beka album is produced by Zion I Kings, a production trio where Tippy I plays a key part.
In the press release accompanying Portals it’s stated that Akae Beka isn’t Midnite reborn, but a continuation of Vaughn Benjamin’s journey. Fans can however stay calm since this album both musically and lyrically lie very close to what Midnite did.
This is spiritual and Rastafarian roots reggae with conscious and introspective lyrics emphasizing commitment to Jah, justice, equality and universal love.
Vaughn Benjamin’s vocal approach is an acquired taste. It’s raw, monotonous and non-melodic. His vocal style is in need of an otherwise melodic sonic landscape. Otherwise it’s too raw. Luckily Zion I Kings have provided Akae Beka with heavily-textured arrangements and melodies from the players of instruments, but without failing to include dense grooves and hypnotic bass lines. The horns on Orderly are for example sublime and the guitar work is superb throughout the set.
Portals is powerful and spellbinding. It might not be commercially viable, but it’s memorable and mesmerizing.
At U.S. based label and production house Zion High Productions they go their own way. That was clear last year when they issued saxophone player Jah Bless’ excellent instrumental album Redemption. Now they have released another daring set.
Nyacoustic Chants probably isn’t the multi-million selling, Grammy award winning and cross-over-tinged set that other labels are looking for. No, this set is something else.
Nyacoustic Chants – produced by Zion High Productions’ own Jah David along with partners from powerhouse roots reggae production team of Zion I Kings – offers 13 percussion-driven tracks greatly inspired by the likes of Count Ossie and Ras Michael.
The album is bubbling with consciousness and uplifting vibes. It’s the sound of natural mystic. It’s a melodic and pulsating feast, so gather your friends and prepare them for a journey to another musical dimension.
With 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.
U.S. producer Rick Haze recently dropped a new album titled The Dopest Roots, an eleven track set where he continues to work with other U.S. based acts, and the album includes collaborations with Midnite, Inna Vision, Arise Roots and SkillinJah. The set comes with four vocal cuts, six dubby instrumentals and one intro.
The Dopest Roots is blunted like a G-funk album and brings back memories of the early 90s with whiny synths and lazy and fat beats. It’s said to be produced and recorded in memory of the late and great Jamaican producer and mixing engineer King Tubby and two of the tracks include name checks.
This album is heavier and more uncompromising compared to most reggae from the U.S. The bass lines are weighty, the arrangements are rather sparse throughout the set and the mood is ethereal and meditative, partly thanks to the slow and powerful riddims.
Definitely not the usual U.S. reggae album and definitely one to check out if like your reggae slow and heavy.
Midnite is known for being prolific and I believe the upcoming Ride Tru album will be their third in 2014 and the second with Zion I Kings. They worked together on Beauty for the Ashes, which was released about ten months ago.
Ride Tru drops in December and you can check its initial single Credited below.
The reggae scene in the Virgin Islands has grown a lot over the past ten years and is today a powerful force on the global reggae arena.
VI trailblazers Midnite are pioneers, even though reggae has been played on the islands since the 70s. Midnite’s socially conscious and take-no-prisoners style of roots, with extremely sparse arrangements and a dreader than dread approach, has paved the way for loads of other artists and bands from the Virgin Islands, including Bambú Station, Pressure, Army, Dezarie and Reemah.
French production company Reggaescape has produced a documentary about the roots movement in the Virgin Islands. Escape to St Croix VI dives deep into the culture, the history and the musical movement. It features music and interviews with several key artists and drops on September 15.
Wevolution is a visionary album with a critical approach set to militant riddims and beautiful harmonies. It’s largely focused on the importance and significance of individual actions in the struggle for changing the way people live in the industrialized world. Rod Anton cries for an ecological and environmental revolution and reminds us that we have a common responsibility to preserve and save the planet.
According to Rod Anton every step is important and every opinion expressed matters, and he criticizes the use of plastics, the oil industry and capitalism as well as pointing finger to news media for being one-sided and focusing on scandals.
Wevolution is a political statement and Rod Anton is a political activist, but he also shows other sides, for example the passionate Smooth but Revolutionary, about his love for reggae music.
Their debut album featured prestigious guests such as Max Romeo, Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite and The Congos. The latter two are also featured on Wevolution – Vaughn Benjamin makes an environmental statement on Agricultural Irony and Cedric Myton from The Congos, who is something of an artistic godfather of Rod Anton’s singing style, calls for unity on Come Together.
Rod Anton high and nasal singing style might be something of an acquired taste, but the skillful arrangements and the stripped down riddims and dubby mixing should appeal to a broader base.
VI reggae trailblazers Midnite is back with a new collaboration with I Grade Records. It’s their seventh album release together and the first since the acclaimed Rule the Time, released in 2007.
On Beauty for Ashes the very prolific Midnite also teams up with the mighty Zion I Kings production team. And as usual the result is sublime. For me, Midnite’s weak point has always been melodies, but the on this album Midnite and their producers have taken the song writing and production to a new level. This 13 track set even includes something that can almost be described as sing-a-long choruses. Just listen to album opener A Reminder. Maybe not sing-a-long like Coldplay, but probably as close as you get with a band like Midnite.
The album was recorded in both Jamaica and in the Virgin Islands. It collects several rolling and thunderous bass lines as well as Vaughn Benjamin’s dread and eerie chanting-styled singing, a style that might be an acquired taste. It’s raspy and can be a bit monotonous and non-melodic.
Beauty for Ashes is brighter and more uplifting compared to the bulk of their previous albums. The soundscape is dense, deep and hypnotic as usual. But the bright horns and strong melodies lighten up the set and these two key ingredients make Beauty for Ashes one of Midnite’s best and most accessible albums to date.
VI-reggae trailblazers Midnite is set to drop a new album in mid January. The album is titled Beauty for Ashes and is produced by the always reliable and interesting production trio Zion I Kings. It will be Midnite’s seventh album for I Grade Records.
But no need to wait more than a month for new Midnite music. Already on December 17 a seven track EP will be available on digital platforms. It features three vocal combinations with Pressure, Lutan Fyah and Ras Batch along with four dub versions mixed by Tippy I, Digital Ancient, Liondub and Nic the Graduate.
The Pressure combination Same I Ah One is now also available for free download on Soundcloud. Check the free download between December 1 and December 8. Go grab it people.
Their third album Hawai’I ’13 was recently released and it went straight to the top of the Billboard Reggae Chart and #77 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart.
And when listening to the 15 track set it’s easy to understand way. It’s easy accessible and just as appealing as a big scoop of chocolate ice cream on a hot and sunny day.
Some will probably dismiss this album and its fusion of reggae, pop and soul, with a slight touch of rock, as lightweight pop reggae. Well, yes, it is slick and it is as polished as a Wall Street bankers shoes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hawai’I ’13 is jam-packed with infectious melodies, skanking grooves, memorable hooks, beautiful four part harmonizing and sing-a-long choruses.
It can be a bit slick and sugary though. The piano ballad Chocolates & Roses is one such example. Luckily enough there are a number of standout tracks that will keep you interested – Good One and Something About It are two such examples.
Hawai’I ’13 is a positive album from start to finish and it sounds like a warm breeze on a beautiful beach. This is good times with a capital G.