Tag Archives: Sizzla

Grammy Awards Nominees announced

grammy_awardSo the time has come for the much discussed Grammy nominations and yesterday the nominations for the 56th Grammy Awards were announced by The Recording Academy.

Jay Z tops the nominations with nine; Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams each garner seven nods.

For the reggae genre, five artists fight for the lustrous award – Beres Hammond and his double disc One Love, One Life, Ziggy Marley and his live album Ziggy Marley in Concert, Sizzla and his The Messiah, Sly & Robbie and their Reggae Connection and Snoop Lion – as Snoop Dogg labeled himself at the time – Reincarnated.

Pick of the bunch is by no competition Beres Hammond. Second, and far from the top spot, is the surprisingly strong Reincarnated.

As usual I would have presented a rather different list of nominations, and I’m not surprised a Marley had to be thrown into the list. But for the bigger artist albums of the year I’m surprised that Etana’s Better Tomorrow and Shaggy & Sly & Robbie’s Out of Many, One Music did not make the final cut.

The Grammy process this time registered more than 22,000 submissions over a 12-month period ranging from October 1, 2012, to September 30, 2013. The Grammy Awards will be held on January 26, 2014.

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Sizzla the enigma revealed

For a music writer and music fan some interviews are more important than others. One of my greatest moments was a few weeks ago when I got the opportunity to talk to the prolific and enigmatic Jamaican deejay Sizzla.

He’s not one of the most consistent artists, but when he’s at his best he’s definitely on top of the game and his mid to late 90s output includes some of the best reggae music ever recorded, such as the must-have albums Black Woman & Child and Praise Ye Jah.

Funnily enough Sizzla wasn’t as all as I had pictured him. My my preconceived image of him was an angry and hot-tempered person, but he was one of the nicest artists I’ve interviewed and not nearly as heated as he sounds on wax. Check the full story over at United Reggae.

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Sizzla is on a righteous journey on The Messiah

50684099807531I get the feeling that every new album from Sizzla in recent years has been labeled as a return to his sound from the mid and late 90’s. But everytime I’m disappointed. Because none of his more recent albums is nearly as great as the fierce and spiritual music he did for, say, Phillip “Fattis” Burrell or Bobby “Digital” Dixon.

The Messiah – Sizzla’s 70th and latest album – has also been described as something of an album where Sizzla goes back to the roots. Well, lyrically it may be true, but then again his three latest albums have all been jammed with spiritual and righteous ravings and chants.

Musically The Messiah is better than both his albums released in 2011, but not as good as The Scriptures released in 2011 and produced by King Jammy’s son John John, even though they are similar.

On The Messiah Sizzla sings – as usually an acquired taste – and spits his social commentaries over mostly relicked popular reggae and dancehall riddims, including the mighty Tempo riddim and Harry J’s buoyant skinhead rocker The Liquidator, a rather odd choice, but one that actually works really well. The festive sound clashes nicely with Sizzla’s falsetto singing about politicians killing and stealing from the poor.

No Wicked Man, voiced over Barrington Levy’s Tell Them Already, is one of Sizzla’s finest album tracks in a long while, and the high-powered Suffer So Much, on the aforementioned Tempo riddim, will definitely set any dancehall or living room ablaze.

Sizzla is one the greatest and most prolific reggae artists, but his intricate vocal style is hard to cope with on a full album. He has clear pitch problems and it can be charming and add character, but only to a certain point. Sizzla’s musical mission and struggle to make a positive change in the world is overshadowed by his eagerness to extend over his vocal limitations.

Available now on CD and digital platforms.

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Passionate with a rock-twist on Mystikal Revolution’s debut album

disc-3125-mystikal-revolution-divide-and-ruleIf 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.

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Reggae albums to look forward to in 2013

Most of the lists collecting best of 2012 are now published – Reggaemani has one more on the way though – and I guess most of us are looking forward to what to expect of 2013. Only a week of the new year has however passed, but I know I’m already thirsty for new albums. Luckily enough several album releases have been made public. Some confirmed, while some are rumours.

There are a number of big releases ahead and since last year was tasty, expectations are high and to be honest I’m quite excited, particularly about the full-length studio sets from Tarrus Riley, Captain Sinbad, Sizzla, Meta & The Cornerstones and Lutan Fyah.

Check the full list below and you’ll hopefully be as wound up as I am.

The list doesn’t cover reissues or compilations and is no particular order.

Anthony B
The recording of the album has just begun. It’s produced by Austria’s House of Riddim and will hopefully see the light of day in March.

Captain Sinbad
This veteran, old school deejay released his debut album with Henry “Junjo” Lawes back in the early 80’s and since those days he hasn’t recorded much. But last year he put out three must-have singles on Maximum Sound and producer Frenchie has announced that he and the Captain has something very special cooking.

Christopher Ellis
The son of the great Alton Ellis has had his debut album produced by Stephen and Damian Marley and that is certainly promising.

Dubtonic Kru – Evolution
Has been in the making for over a year and the recently released single Jah Love promises well.

Etana – Better Tomorrow
Etana’s much anticipated third album is mostly produced by young mastermind Shane C. Brown, who was responsible for Busy Signal’s highly praised Reggae Music Again released last year.

Iba Mahr
Together with Chronixx Iba Mahr is one of the most promising young talents from Jamaica and hopefully he’ll be able to deliver on a full album set.

Jah9
Hyped Jamaican singer that has been taken under the wings of producer Rory Stonelove and her latest single Jungle showcases an interesting jazz-influenced talent.

Jesse Royal
One of the strongest singjay’s from the XTM. Nation camp, led by the late and great producer Phillip “Fattis” Burrell’s son Kareem Burrell.

Lutan Fyah
The always reliable VI-based producer Tippy I of I Grade Records is putting finishing touches to an album with the prolific Jamaican chanter. Collaborations between Jamaica and the Virgin Islands are usually interesting and this will probably not be an exception.

Meta & The Cornerstones – Ancient Power
After his debut album Forward Music – released in 2008 – he was dubbed the African Bob Marley by the New York Times. This follow-up album was recorded and produced in Jamaica and has lots of great collaborations – Capleton, U Roy and Damian Marley. It was supposed to have hit the streets last year, but was pushed forward to March 2013. I’m confident it was worth the wait.

Morgan Heritage – Here Come the Kings
In August last year the royal reggae family released their first new studio recordings in years and at the same time they announced a new album, a set due in March.

Nazarenes
Early last year Tippy I announced a dub reworking of Nazarenes’ album Meditation released in April, but it was pushed forward due to albums from Ras Batch and Lutan Fyah.

Perfect
Has almost finished his brand new album with House of Riddim and it’s set for release in March.

Protoje – 8 Year Affair
Protoje has once again teamed-up with his producing cousin Don Corleon for the follow-up to his highly regarded debut album 7 Year Itch released two years ago.

Queen Ifrica – Play Day
The fierce queen of contemporary reggae has released two scorching albums and several top notch singles, of which Tiad of da Supm Ya is the latest and certainly proves she’s still a force to be reckoned with.

Sizzla
Every Sizzla album is met with huge anticipation, but when I heard he had recorded an album with Australian producer Mista Savona to be released in 2013 I got a little more excited than usual.

Snoop Lion
I was not the only one that got a big surprise when hip-hop superstar Snoop Dogg turned Snoop Lion and dropped three Major Lazer produced singles, of which two were well-above average. Let’s now wait for the album and see if this is a marketing gimmick or not.

Tarrus Riley
His new studio album follows last year’s acclaimed acoustic set and is supposed to hit the streets in May.

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50 best reggae songs in 2012

So it’s that time of the year again. December means best-of-the-year-lists, and first out is the best songs put out in 2012.

This year I decided to make a huge list covering no less than 50 tracks, mainly for two reasons – it has been a great year for both reggae and dancehall and I also wanted to present a list showcasing several different styles – dancehall, dubstep, one drop and UK steppers are all included on the list.

Just as previous years the list features mostly artists from Jamaica, while the producers hail from Europe, the U.S. and Jamaica. What makes this year’s list a bit different though is the inclusion of lots of dancehall. This year has been fruitful for electronic, bouncy and playful dancehall.

When browsing the list you’ll probably notice that Tarrus Riley is still the artist running the show. On the production side Frenchie from Maximum Sound is perhaps the most reliable and consistent producer and all of his riddims from 2012 are included in the list.

Female singers are few and far between. It’s a pity, but it’s sadly how the reggae industry looks like. A one riddim album usually has about ten tracks, and of these one, or at most two, are by female artists. This has been the case for years, and nothing indicates a change in the near future.

The tracks are presented in no particular order and I’ve only selected tracks released as singles, from one riddim albums or from compilations, i.e. no one artist albums.

If you’re curious about the music you can check a playlist I’ve made on Spotify by clicking here. This list doesn’t however cover all tracks, and lethal gems such as General Levy’s Dub Murda on Irie Ites’ Stop That Sound riddim or Loyal FlamesKeep Focus. The latter is currently only available as 7” and the former is available on other digital platforms, for example iTunes.

Song title – artist (label – riddim)

Capital Offence – Captain Sinbad (Maximum Sound – Rudebwoy be Nice)

Selecta – Rayvon (Ranch Ent. – Kingston 13)

Final Move – Cornadoor & Kabaka Pyramid (Weedy G Soundforce)

Original Dancehall Days – Starkey Banton (Mafia & Fluxy – Bun n’ Cheese)

We Run It –Tarrus Riley (Charlie Pro)

Go Down – Machel Montano (Mixpak – Loudspeaker)

It’s a Party – Elephant Man & Tarrus Riley (Romeich – Stinking Link)

Shots – Voicemail (Akom – Full Swing)

No Barbershop – Conkarah (Lifeline – Rock Fort Rock)

Badmind a Kill Dem – Popcaan (UPT 007 – Juicy)

Trod in the Valley – Lorenzo (Irie Ites – Borderline RMX)

Chill Spot – Chris Martin (Chimney – Chill Spot)

Independent Ladies – Gaza Slim (TJ – Summer Wave)

Chant Rastafari – Tarrus Riley (Maximum Sound – Most Royal)

Blood Thirsty – Jah Mali (Necessary Mayhem – Possessed)

Fire Fire – Capleton (Dynasty – Kush Morning)

Perilous Times – Luciano (Maximum Sound – Dance Ruler)

Start A Fyah – Chronixx (Jungle Josh – Game Theory)

Cyaan Tek Di System – Burro Banton (Weedy G Soundforce – Roadster)

Make It Bun Dem – Skrillex & Damian Marley (Big Beat)

Kingston Town Remix – Busy Signal & Damian Marley (VP)

Addicted – Conkarah & Denyque (Lifeline)

Irie Collie – The Tamlins (Irie Ites – Jah Jah Man)

Nuh Rate Dem – Capleton (DJ Frass – Cross Fire)

Sorry Is A Sorry Word – Tarrus Riley (TJ – Live In Love)

OK – Sizzla & Neïman (Union World – Melodical Fyah)

Jump + Rock + Move – Wrongtom & Deemas J (Tru Thoughts)

Blaze & Rum – Etzia & Fambo (Jugglerz – Kickdown)

Let Jah Lead The Way – Iba Mahr (Notice Productions – Digital Love)

Badmind Dem A Pree – I Octane & Bounty Killer (Markus)

Wild Bubble – Voicemail (Cr203/ZJ Chrome – Wild Bubble)

We Nah Bow – Sizzla (Boom Shak – We Nah Bow)

Obeah Man – Turbulence & I Shenko (Riddim Wise – Downtown)

Kingston Be Wise – Protoje (Don Corleon)

Upgrade – Ce’Cile (21st Hapilos – Corner Shop)

Dub Murda – General Levy (Irie Ites – Stop That Sound)

Them See Me As A Threat – Lutan Fyah (Adde Instrumentals/RR345 Muzik – Sweet Sounds)

Again And Again – Stein (Cashflow – Sun Tan)

Mama – Christopher Martin (DZL – Perfect Key)

Party – Top Cat (Weedy G Soundforce – Jump Up!)

R.A.S.T.A.F.A.R.I. – Professa Natti (Scoops)

Sound System Culture – Digitaldubs & YT (Scotch Bonnet)

Words Of My Mouth – Earl Sixteen (The Bombist – Words Of My Mouth)

How Do You Like My Music – Terry Linen (TeTe)

Keep Focus – Loyal Flames (Vikings – Focus)

I’m A Survivor – Peetah Morgan (Special Delivery – Feel Good)

The Streets of London – Soothsayers (Red Earth)

Every Single Thought – Christopher Martin (Jugglerz – Street Soul)

Badda Dan Dem – Beenie Man (Radio Active)

Jamaica 50 – Captain Sinbad (Maximum Sound – Leggo Di Riddim)

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Strong line-up on Special Delivery’s anniversary compilation

About a year ago I wrote a piece on the vibrating French reggae scene. One of the interviewees was Pierre Bost, producer and co-founder of Special Delivery Music, a label that last year celebrated its tenth anniversary.

As a celebration Special Delivery now drops the 14 track compilation The 1st Decade 2001-2011.The compilation highlights some the most popular tracks recorded over the past ten years in Jamaica, the UK and France.

The compilation takes off in fine style with Morgan Heritage’s acoustic version of Have no Fear recorded in 2006 in Kingston and ends with upcoming super talent ChronixxBeat & A Mic and an exclusive track from Gappy Ranks recorded last year in London.  All three tracks were produced and mixed by Bost & Bim, a duo responsible for nine cuts on the album.

Michael Rose was the first international artist to be put out on the label, and his Never Take it for Granted, recorded in 2002, is naturally included. Backing vocals on this song is provided by Trinibagoan singer and deejay Queen Omega. She also shares microphone duties with the incarcerated Buju Banton on Perfection.

The impressive line-up on the album also includes Sizzla’s Good over Evil, voiced on joyous version of the Itals’ classic Ina Dis Ya Time, the haunting Dem Doom by Capleton and J Boog’s So Far Gone, a tune released in 2010 but still remains in the top 200 on the U.S. iTunes chart and has become one of his biggest songs.

Special Delivery – the 1st Decade 2001-2011 drops as digital download on September 21 and includes no dull moments and perfectly showcases why many Jamaican artists look to Europe for well-produced and melodic one drop and dancehall riddims.

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Mark Wonder needs to pull in the reins

About a year ago Jamaican singer Mark Wonder revealed that a new album from him and some European producers was in the making. This album was released about a month ago and bears the title Working Wonders.

The European producers he referred to are Moritz “Da Baron” von Korff, courtesy of German Oneness Records, and Daddy Zigo, of French band Dub Inc. and Greenyard Records.

Mark Wonder released his debut album Sign of the Times in 1996, and Working Wonders follows on his True Stories of Mark Wonder and Friends put out in 2009 and reissued the year after with better distribution.

Working Wonders is jam-packed with uplifting, bright and beautiful melodies along with skanking bass lines and breezy, at times, jazzy horns. Mark Wonder’s gospel-inspired voice is however not as strong as the superb backing, and he is at times saved by powerful back-up vocals courtesy of experienced singers such as Sara Lugo and Nicky Burt.

The lead vocals are sometimes shaky, mostly in the higher notes, and he should take on a more no-nonsense vocal approach and stay away from vocal acrobatics. He shines on tracks like the crisp On This Day and the heartfelt Woman of the Nile, while the combinations with Sizzla and Mikey Melody are more vocally weak.

Mark Wonder’s continuous collaborations with European producers have over the years had its ups and downs and this album is no exception.

Working Wonders is currently available on CD and digital download.

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Sizzla’s second album in one month

Sizzla is back with his second album in just one month. February saw the release of the Caveman produced set The Chant, and now it’s time for Sizzla in Gambia, mostly recorded in the African country during a visit in 2008, with post-production in Jamaica by DJ Karim of Stainless Music.

Since 2009 Sizzla has dropped five albums. Three of these – Crucial Times, The Chant and Ghetto Youth-Ology – have been produced by people said to have worked the deejay since the beginning, and marketed with a back to the roots type of campaign.

And Sizzla in Gambia differs from these sets – not only by its more contemporary producer – by being more dancehall-driven, even though hip-hop influences are also apparent. There’s only one straight one drop – the previously released Blackman Rise. The other eleven songs are previously unreleased.

Sizzla in Gambia is far from solid, but contains a healthy dose of catchy melodies and conscious and spiritual lyrics.

The uplifting, yet frenetic, African chant Welcome to Africa opens the album and is later followed by the acoustic, yet furious, Make a Visit, which hits you like a punk rock song, while Where’s the Love is almost Barry White-like in its tone and mood.

It’s been a while since Sizzla dropped a real gem, but this album is together with last year’s The Scriptures his most cohesive set in years.

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Yet another decent album from Sizzla

I get the feeling that several Sizzla albums in recent years have been marketed with slogans like ”going back to the roots”. The man must be a veritable tree by now.

Anyhow, the latest album where he travels back to the roots is made together with sound system man and producer Caveman, who Sizzla met while still in his teens. He used to visit Caveman’s sound system after school, deejay and listen to his voice.

Soon he met up with Homer Harris – who produced Crucial Times two years ago – and later on Bobby Digital and Phillip Burrell, two producers responsible for Sizzla’s best material yet.

The Chant holds thirteen tunes and blends one drops with dancehall, winding synth loops and hip-hop sounding beats accompanied by Sizzla’s high pitched singing and hardcore deejaying. And I have to confess I didn’t like this album at all the first five times I listened to it. But after a while it sank in. Or most of the tracks at least.

Reality tunes dominate the set and Sizzla voices his dreams of peace, hopes of a marijuana legalization, anger with injustices in the world and frustration over the people’s struggle in Zimbabwe.

The Chant is yet another decent and competent effort, but far from the albums he made in the 90’s.

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