Tag Archives: NiyoRah

Niyorah tells stories from the streets and from the heart

niyorah-rising_sunWith 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.

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NiyoRah is loaded with important messages

Virgin Island based singer and chanter NiyoRah dropped his third album Feel Your Presence in June and went on a U.S. tour with Toussaint in August. Reggaemani has had the opportunity to hear his thoughts on reggae music and what it was like to record in Jamaica.

In June I published a review of Feel Your Presence and stated that NiyoRah is a hidden gem. And I still believe that’s correct. His music may be widely present in the U.S, but here in Europe I wouldn’t say that he is too well-known.

And that’s a shame. Because Feel Your Presence is a great album that will hopefully appeal even to those that aren’t into the VI-reggae scene.

NiyoRah started his career in the group Star Lion Family – a collective of seven VI-reggae artists including the well-known Pressure Busspipe – and is nowadays a solo artist.

Special mission
He has previously worked with Laurent “Tippy” Alfred, a producer and label owner that has done some great VI-reggae, a genre NiyoRah describes as earthy, celestial and bright. It’s also a type of music that he thinks is uplifting.

– I feel courageous and triumphant when I listen to our artists from the Virgin Islands. It’s almost like the Creator has downloaded important messages within us to present to the people of the world and beyond, writes NiyoRah in an e-mail to Reggaemani, and continues:

– Our writing approach is the one thing that’s unique because we take time to write intelligent and spiritual songs. We try hard not to rush or hustle the music.

Confident in VI-reggae
NiyoRah seems very confident in VI-reggae and believes that the genre differentiates from other reggae music due to its frequency and richness of the sound.

– It’s a sound that resonates because our producers go deep within to find something that doesn’t sound like anything constructed before, while keeping the primary foundation of powerful drum and bass.

Read before you sign
NiyoRah is grateful for the opportunity to share what’s in his heart and soul as well as to represent a good and honest lifestyle. But he also has a business approach.

– I cherish independence and being an example for other artists to follow in terms of entrepreneurship. Artists should investigate labels before they sign contracts because some don’t take the time, or don’t have the skills, to push artists properly.

Feel Your Presence was recorded in Jamaica and put out on his own label Denkenesh, so NiyoRah has supposedly had some problems with labels in the past.

“Music is truly a means of survival”
According to NiyoRah, working in Jamaica was not that different from St. Croix. But one thing seemed to make an impression.

– In Jamaica, music is truly a means of survival. There are many artists that hover around the recording facilities looking for a “bly” from producers. In St. Croix, the environment is more personal. I can deal with either environment. Both environments are blessed.

Promotion matters
Feel Your Presence is mainly one drop roots reggae, a genre not heard in Jamaica much anymore. Some people – myself for one – feel that there’s a decline in music coming from Jamaica. It’s not reggae anymore. NiyoRah doesn’t agree and writes that it’s just a matter of promotion.

– I don’t think there is a decline in reggae. I’ve heard many wonderful albums from artists the world hasn’t heard as of yet. There seems to be a decline because of where the most vital media/promotion outlets put their focus. They are responsible for choosing and pushing the music, he writes, and concludes:

– Dancehall is not reggae. Roots music with a soulful vibe is reggae. My view of reggae will always be one hundred percent positive!

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Toussaint is a singer on a mission

Mixing styles and genres is difficult. To have a clear and easy labelled style is usually easier and more commercially successful. Someone who has managed to combine his two favourite genres is American singer Toussaint. Reggaemani had a chat with him just before he went on a 16 day tour.

Toussaint started his singing career like many other great singers – in the church. He’s the son of a preacher man, so church was a natural place outside his childhood home in Indiana. At home, his parents often played music. Mostly gospel and old school soul from legendary record labels Stax and Motown.

− I’ve always listened to music, but when I was younger I had to sneak out from home to listen to reggae and hip-hop, Toussaint laughs on the phone from San Francisco, where he is to set off on a U.S. tour with NiyoRah and Tuff Lion.

Toussaint is in a great mood, and describes himself as ‘psyched’ at the moment. The tour lasts 16 days through three states and he performs every night.

Something that probably also brightens his mood is his reggae debut album Black Gold, released the same day as we talk.
− The album has been well received so far and I was just on Facebook to ignite my fans, he says.

Toussaint successfully combines soul and reggae

Mashing up genres
On Black Gold Toussaint successfully combines soul and reggae. His blend of genres might be too much reggae for soul fans, while reggae fans find it too soulful. But I think he handles the mix very well.

− Over the years I’ve tried as many genres and styles as possible, whether funk, soul, jazz, reggae or hip-hop. With Black Gold I wanted to mash up genres. Mash up soul and culture, he says eagerly, and continues:

− For the first time in my life I’ve been able to do my own thing without having to compromise. I work with people who understand what I want to do and have the same ideas as myself. In Soulive, it was more difficult. We had different ideas, but it was an important experience to tour and perform live on stage.

Toussaint says that there is no difference for him to sing soul or reggae.

− Singing is a spiritual experience for me and it doesn’t matter what genre it is. I come from soul music and that’s my strength. But if I need to rhyme, I can do that too.

Afro-American issues
The concept of Black Gold is African heritage and history. It deals, among other things, with Afro-American issues. Toussaint says that there are big challenges ahead, and immediately becomes more serious, though obviously still close to laughter.

− Afro-Americans are facing difficult times. I believe that we have what it takes to conquer, he says, and quickly adds:

− I mean conquer in a spiritual sense and that Afro-Americans need to stand firm.

Toussaint says that in the U.S. black equals criminal and that people don’t understand what that really means.

− People don’t realize that power, to be judged, he says, and continues:

− It’s the same violence all over the U.S. It’s in New York, Los Angeles and even in Indiana where I’m from and that’s supposed to be a hick-state.

“You can’t own land if you’re dead at 25”
Toussaint has obviously put much thought into the lyrics and concept of Black Gold. And when I ask him if he has a solution for the problems he is quiet for a moment and then fires off several opinions and ideas.

− We need more self-determination. You can’t own any land if you’re dead at 25, he laughs, and then gets serious again:

− First we need to realize that we have problems and second we need to be aware of misconceptions about manhood and womanhood. We have to realize that we’re worth something. That we’re capable of great things.

A big heart is not enough
He wants to contribute to the cause, for instance through working with young people and teaching them history.

− I’d like to start a foundation and do workshops and things. Right now I’m just gathering capital to do greater things. Because you must have money. You can’t approach youths and say ‘Hey, I got this big heart, do you want to eat?‘ he laughs again and says:

− I want to be honest in my lyrics. I don’t write fluff. I want to show the problems we’re facing.

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NiyoRah’s best yet

Reggae from the Virgin Islands is often equated with highly productive Midnite. But if you scrape the surface, there are several golden nuggets. NiyoRah from the tiny island of St Thomas is such a hidden gem.

On the new album Feel Your Presence – his third – he has outdone himself. Feel Your Presence sees the coexistence of creativity, new rhythms and talented musicians such as Earl “Chinna” Smith with NiyoRahs distinctive expression – he is an almost equally good singer as he is singjay. However, it is in his explosive singjay style he is at his best. Listen for example to his clattering delivery in the political Propaganda or singing in beautiful Capture the Moment.

Feel Your Presence is in contrast to his earlier works recorded in Jamaica. Actually at the famous Tuff Gong studio. In the producers chair you don’t find former partner Laurent “Tippy” Alfred of I Grade Records, but Jamaican Andrew “Bassie” Campbell, producer and musician who, among other things, has toured with Junior Reid and Yami Bolo. And he has done an excellent job with this album.

The production is smart and creative. I tend not be particularly fond of guitars in the forefront of the mix, but this time it works really well in several tracks. Stolen Legacy is a vague remainder of the sad guitar loop in Don Corleone’s rhythm Heavenly and Indigenous World is based solely on percussion.

As the crown of the work, Feel Your Presence features legend Sugar Minott and the angry Jah Mason on one track each. A dub version is also featured. No One Go Round the Track is just over six minutes and the last two and half is dub produced in Jamaica. Yep, you read it right. Hope it will become a trend.

Feel Your Presence is available through iTunes and eMusic. The physical cd release is on June 29.

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Reggaemani Goes English

So, you might have noticed that the last two articles have not been in Swedish…

I started Reggaemani in March 2009 and 15 months later, I can look back on more than 200 columns, interviews, reviews and general news stories.

During these months, and especially recently, I have received comments that Reggaemani should be in English. I replied that of course it is a good idea, but that it requires a great deal if you do not have English as your native language or consider yourself to be significantly good at English.

But after some random thoughts, I believe that more content in English would be useful. Reggaemani has since the inception been dedicated to international artists, producers and record companies, so as to write in English would be quite natural.

Having said that, much of the material on Reggaemani will from now on be in English. I’ll see how long it’ll last, but hopefully for some time.

I do not have any idea of how good my English is, but I hope I at least will make myself understood. So please have patience with me if I use the wrong words or if my sentence patterns are weird. This is not blog about languange, it’s a blog to spread the music I love to as many people as possible.

The journey ahead will be exciting. Coming up is an interview with NiyoRah, a review of his album and an article on mashups, where I talked with Max Tannone and Al Fingers. But of course there are much, much more. Stay tuned!

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