A lot of talented female Jamaican singers have rose to prominence recently. Some have received more exposure than others, like Shanique Marie, who recently put out her debut album, or Jah9 who has signed with reggae powerhouse VP and is gearing up for her second album.
But there are others too. Singers that has yet to put out a full-length. Like Keida and Toian, two talented singers that dropped an EP each last year.
And now you can add Sevana to the ones who have an EP out on the streets. Her self-titled debut dropped about a week ago and it’s produced by Winta James – main producer on Protoje’s Ancient Future – and Protoje. Some might actually recognize Sevana from Ancient Future, since she appeared on two cuts – Love Gone Cold and Sudden Flight.
She made an impression on me with those songs and her debut single Bit Too Shy wasn’t bad either. And this six track EP is in the same soulful vein and includes four previously unreleased tracks, including the marvelous Rawle, the sensual Easy to Breathe and the slowly pulsating Love the Way.
Jamaican female singers are on the rise and now I just wait for EPs or albums from the likes of Kelissa and Shuga.
Choruses usually get all the credit in a song. It’s often catchy and infectious and easy to like. But what about the verses? They are certainly more than just a highway to the chorus.
My favourite verses at the moment are from two of the main proponents of the Jamaican reggae revival. I’m talking about Chronixx and Jesse Royal.
It’s not often Chronixx voices a one riddim track compilation, but he is featured on On the Corner riddim. I guess when you get a call from Damian Marley you won’t let the man down. All cuts voiced are superb, but Chronixx’ Ghetto People stands out slightly above the others, partly thanks to the second verse where Chronixx lets loose his slick and unique singjay mode. Listen below at 1,07 minutes into the song.
Jesse Royal murders every time he stands in front of a microphone and his combination with Protoje and Sevana is no exception. He is stylistically superior and his verse on Sudden Flight is murderously slick. He rides the riddim like a surfer riding a wave. Listen below at 1,59 minutes into the song.
Dubtonic Kru – one of the baddest bands from Jamaica – is back with a new blazing album. Conscious Dub collects eleven tracks and is a mix of different styles and genres and is not – as the title indicates – a dub album.
Conscious Dub is a cocktail of dub versions of previous released material and new smashing vocal cuts. Pitchy Patchy comes with a scorching organ and Guiding Light is driven by a haunting guitar solo and echoing keys, while the smooth The Highest fades out with some stylish deejaying.
Microphone duties is shared with Rasta revivalists Protoje and Iba Mahr along with the lesser known Jamaican vocalist J Militia. Protoje graces the strong Mankind with laid-back verses and Iba Mahr lends his voice to the repatriation cut Somewhere Inna Africa.
Positive and uplifting. As always with the Kru.
On successful Jamaican reggae revivalist Protoje’s third album Ancient Future he sounds more inspired than ever before when he tackles Winta James’ uncompromising hip-hop-flavoured reggae riddims. It’s clear that duo has worked tight together on this excellent release.
I have followed Protoje since his debut single J.A. released in 2010. That track was producer by his cousin Don Corleone, who Protoje worked with on his first two albums Seven Year Itch and The 8 Year Affair. And with each album Protoje has matured and his sound has evolved from easy-going reggae to spiritual roots.
Ancient Future is a cohesive set that balances rootsy reggae with hip-hop beats. But it also offers a few tasty slices of lovers rock and joyous ska. It’s definitely rooted in the 70s and 80s, but embodies the energy of the present.
Protoje is a frontrunner of the reggae, or Rastafari as Jah9 describes it, revival scene, and Ancient Future enlists several contemporaries, including Chronixx, Jesse Royal and Kabaka Pyramid. Onboard is also rising stars Sevana and Mortimer.
Chronixx showcases his talents on Who Knowns, one of the best cuts from last year according to several reggae heavyweights, and Kabaka Pyramid blazes a verse on The Flame, a track the metamorphoses unexpectedly.
Ancient Future is jam-packed with both talent and highlights and it will be hard for Protoje to outshine a masterpiece like this in the future.
It 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.
New albums from two of the biggest names on the contemporary reggae scene have just been announced.
In October Jamaican songstress Etana follows up her acclaimed album Better Tomorrow with I Rise. It will be her fourth studio album and the first single Richest Girl is featured on Reggae Gold 2014, set for release in mid-August. Richest Girl is smooth with an edge and is produced by the legendary Clive Hunt.
Protoje has announced that he has finished recording his third album Ancient Future, a set that will drop in September. And on his Facebook page he writes that “the sound changes once more…”.
Until his album is released – don’t hesitate to check out the first single off the album. It’s a combination with Chronixx voiced over a hip-hop influenced beat produced by Overstand Entertainment. A solid single that managed to be included on Reggaemani’s list over the best reggae songs of 2014 so far.
Following Reggaemani’s top 50 tunes, 25 best albums and the best ten reissues come five favourite mixtapes.
All five mixtapes come from new and aspiring Jamaican Rasta singers. The new generation if you will, a generation following conscious giants like Luciano, Sizzla, Capleton and Buju Banton. Four artists that made names for themselves in the 90s and now they have serious competition from aspiring young singers and deejays that aim for world dominance with an eclectic mix of roots reggae, hip-hop, soul, rock and pop.
Chronixx put it eloquently in a recent interview with NPR.org – “We are not going to do it like Bob Marley did or like Burning Spear did. We are using their blueprint to bring on a new generation of works.”
Below is a top five list in no particular order and a link to each mixtape on Soundcloud. Check em’!
Protoje & Yaadcore – Music From My Heart
Exco Levi & Mighty Crown – Official Mixtape 2014
Kabaka Pyramid & Livity Moments – Accurate Mixtape
Dre Island & King I-Vier – Rastafari Way
Jesse Royal & DJ Tall Up – In Comes the Small Axe
Jamaican up and coming singer Dre Island is part of the vital cultural reggae scene in Jamaica with young artists such as Chronixx, Protoje, Jah9, Kabaka Pyramid and Iba Mahr. He is a classically trained pianist who has co-written material for Julian Marley, Ding Dong and Junior Reid.
His latest single is the smooth Rastafari Way, produced by Lloyd “Jam2” James. Now comes a mixtape with the same title. It’s mixed by King I-vier of U.S. Jah Warrior Shelter Hi-Fi and collects several big tunes, among them cuts on well-worn riddims like Police in Helicopter, Baltimore and Cuss Cuss.
Listen and download for free over at Soundcloud.
In January last year I wrote a piece about fresh talents for the future. The list included conscious female singer and poet Jah9, a singer who I had an overwhelming encounter with on Protoje’s debut album The 7 Year Itch.
Now she has released her debut album New Name, produced by Rory Gilligan from Stone Love. It’s a striking, mature and contemporary roots effort without any major cross-over attempts. Jah9’s solid and sophisticated voice floats over muscular and relentless bass lines, echo-laid drums, dramatic horns and bright flute.
It sounds like she has done this forever and it’s hard to believe that New Name is her debut set. But, then again, she developed her craft on the Jamaican live music scene, which has probably given her valuable experiences and many opportunities to cultivate and foster her own style.
Among the several highlights are the powerful and previously released title track, the uplifting single Jungle and the percussion heavy closing track Inner Voice.
New Name is now available on CD and digital platforms.