Tag Archives: Stephen Marley

I’m still laughing

The Grammy nominees for best reggae album have been announced. The proud nominees are Monty Alexander’s Harlem-Kingston Express Live!, Israel Vibration’s Reggae Knights, Stephen Marley’s Revelation Pt 1: The Root of Life, Ziggy Marley’s Wild and Free and Shaggy’s Summer in Kingston.

As usual parts of the Marley family are nominated along with the usual odd choices.

To be a part of the Grammy nomination procedure you have to submit a physical copy of the recording to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). And once the work is entered it’s reviewed by more than 150 said to be experts from the recording industry. These experts then decide if the work is eligible or not.

The resulting list is circulated to all NARAS members, and they are the ones that make the final decision about the winner in each category. The Academy members are required to vote based upon quality alone. This means that they should not be influenced by the commercial success of an album, which is probably easier said than done.

I can’t say I have much trust in these experts nor the Academy members when it comes to reggae. However, it’s hard to be too critical since I have no idea what albums that actually have been submitted for selection.

The nominees that have been presented are pretty far away from my own list. I’d have added Alpheus and Takana Zion and their excellent albums. And if you would like more well-known artists you could check the albums from Sizzla, Richie Spice and Alborosie, who recently won the MOBO Award.

Last year I wrote that the Reggae Grammy is a joke, and I’m still laughing, even though I hope that this event will promote and highlight the real gems in reggae music.

The Grammy Awards 2012 will be held on 12 February in Los Angeles, and I hope – and I could also bet on it – that Stephen Marley walks home with a gramophone under his arm.

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Stephen Marley takes tender care of roots reggae

In 2007 Bob Marley’s second son Stephen Marley dropped the Grammy winning and critically acclaimed album Mind Control. The year after he won another Grammy for its acoustic version.

Mind Control was a versatile and borderless album, whereas Stephen Marley’s new album Revelation Pt 1: The Root of Life is more or less roots reggae – foundation style.

And Stephen Marley fosters the heritage from his father and other foundation artists and groups well. Very well actually. Because this is a stunning album from beginning to end.

Thematically and lyrically it is in the same vein as last year’s Distant Relatives set from Nas & Damian Marley. It is conscious with messages of Africa and Rastafarian teachings of love and unity.

Stephen Marley handles the production himself, and the album is built on live instrumentation. The result is an organic and rich sound that assembles drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, saxophone, flute and harmonica in perfect harmony.

Stephen Marley’s raspy voice and singing style is close to his father’s. And when listening to his three reinterpretations – Freedom Time, Pale Moonlight and The Chapel – of Bob Marley’s catalogue it is almost as if you were listening to the father himself.

The remarkable Damian Marley duet and first single Jah Army – the album version also features Buju Banton – set high expectations with its thunderous one drop riddim accompanied by dub reverbs.

With this album Stephen Marley was set to preserve the foundation of roots reggae, and he has exceeded in doing so.

In the press material he is labeled as a five-star general in Jah Army, and I believe that he has rightfully earned every star and can now be nominated for supreme commander.

Revelation Pt 1: The Root of Life hit the streets on May 24th.


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Stephen Marley waters the roots of reggae

Stephen Marley is a seven time Grammy award winner now set to take reggae back to its roots. His new album Revelation Pt 1: The Root of Life is a 14 track celebration of the music his father helped create and globalize in the 60’s and 70’s. Reggaemani got a chat with this acclaimed singer, songwriter, musician and producer.

Stephen Marley started his music career at a very early age. Together with his siblings Ziggy, Sharon and Cedella he formed The Melody Makers and made his professional debut with the single Children Playing in the Streets in 1979, only seven years old. Since then he has managed to put out own albums as well as produce other artists.

He has handled production duties for several members of the Marley family, most notably his younger brother Damian Marley’s albums Half Way Tree and Welcome to Jamrock. He also co-produced the acclaimed Distant Relatives set by Nas and Damian. And it was during those sessions that Stephen begun the work of Revelation Pt 1: The Root of Life, due for release May 24th.

Started with an article
The new album is all about showcasing roots reggae and its core messages, and Stephen embarked on the journey of recording the new album after reading an article on reggae music.

“It was portrayed in a negative light. I was offended. I mean, where did you get this from,” he says in thick patois over the phone.

Stephen has a media day arranged by VP Records and he explains his view on contemporary reggae music. He feels that the genre has lost touch with its foundation.

Real reggae artists
“Roots reggae is overlooked today. Roots reggae has integrity; it is music with a purpose. It is not jump around and shake your body. That is not about preserving the foundation of the music,” he explains, and continues:

“Roots reggae is music in its time. It enlightens, and I want to introduce the music that is roots reggae.  I mean, if I should introduce someone to reggae today, who would I put on? Sean Paul? Bruno Mars?” He asks rhetorically.

Question is, who will Stephen put on?

“Without going back to the 70’s? I would pick songs. I would pick some Sizzla, Burning Spear, Bunny Wailer, myself, my brothers,” he concludes.

“You have to water the roots”
He describes the new album as foundation reggae and a positive body of work.

“It has been lost and I’m presenting it to the people. All music evolves, don’t get me wrong, but you have to water the roots,” he believes, and adds:

“Reggae music means so much. It is the voice of freedom, the voice of truth.”

People more important than Grammy’s
In the fall Stephen will put out Revelation Part 2: The Fruit of Life. It will feature an array of styles that have sprung from reggae.

“Part 2 is less of a concept. It is eclectic, and it feels good. I have rappers, deejays, sisters on it,” he says.

His previous album Mind Control won two Grammys – one for the original version and one for the acoustic version. I ask Stephen if the Grammys are important, and his answer is direct.

“No.  I mean, it feels good to be recognized by the music association and I appreciate the Grammy. But, you know, I come from Jamaica. Being famous is not my goal. My father is famous, but fame doesn’t motivate me. I have a passion for people. Affecting people is what I want, and if the Grammy will help, then it is good.”

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Reggae Grammy is a joke

Joke of the year was presented last week when the nominees for best reggae album were made official.

The reggae category was introduced in 1984 and the first winner was Anthem from Black Uhuru. Since then, several siblings in the Marley family have been awarded. Stephen Marley two times for his mediocre Mind Control (2009, 2007) and Damian Marley for his Welcome to Jamrock (2005) and Halfway Tree (2001). Ziggy Marley has also been awarded several times, most recently with Love is My Religion released in 2006.

That’s why I thought Distant Relatives from Nas & Damian Marley was a given nominee. But no.

Instead, this year’s list consists of six albums by a strange bunch, namely Lee Perry, Sly & Robbie (with two albums), Andrew Tosh, the late Gregory Isaacs and the imprisoned Buju Banton.

Weirdest on the list is Lee Perry and his Revelation set. This is a very poor album and I guess the jury just wants to give him some kind of lifetime achievement award.

I understand if the jury doesn’t find and appreciate gems such as Judgement Time by Chezidek or United States of Africa by Luciano. But, it missed out on decent albums from very well-known artists such as Busy Signal and Gyptian.

With Hold You, Gyptian scored one of the biggest reggae hits in recent years, and it’s a mystery why his album wasn’t nominated.

And if the jury wants to premier nostalgia and veterans, they should’ve nominated Clinton Fearon or Earl Zero.

The only great album that has won the Reggae Grammy is Jah is Real (2008) from Burning Spear. The jury needs to scrutinize themselves and come up with some real nominees for next year. Now the reggae world is just laughing at them.


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Mer hiphop än reggae från Nas och Damian Marley

Så har den äntligen kommit. Rykten om en platta med Nas och Damian Marley har florerat ända sedan samarbetet Road To Zion från 2005, och i april förra året bekräftades det av Nas.

Förväntningarna på Distant Relatives har varit höga och singlarna har lovat gott. Framför allt öppningsspåret As We Enter som bjöd på både orgel à la The Doors och feta hockeykörer. Andrasingeln Land of Promise fick det också att vattnas i munnen. Den tuffa rytmen, baserad på Aswads Love Fire och Dennis Browns Land of Promise, visar hur tung roots reggae kan vara.

Den tredje singeln Friends släpptes härom dagen och är betydligt lugnare än sina föregångare. Rytmen är huvudsakligen hiphopbaserad, och när jag lyssnat igenom hela plattan så är faktiskt Friends mest representativ för den övergripande känslan. Distant Relatives är betydligt mer hiphop än reggae. Och ibland är det nästan inte hiphop. Jag kan tänka mig att om Fugees och Massive Attack hade hängt i en studio i Addis Abeba, så hade rytmerna kunnat låta ungefär så här.

Distant Relatives
är baserad runt Afrika och har budskap om att alla människor hör ihop, därav titeln. Damian Marley för in sin fars budskap i 2000-talet. Och ärligt talat så är det uppfriskande med omväxling. Här finns inga gräs- eller vapenhyllningar.

Plattan är producerad av Damian Marley, men på några spår har halvbrorsan Stephen hoppat in. Därför är det lite förvånande att skivan andas så mycket New York, vilket i vanliga fall får mig att rygga tillbaka. Men den här gången funkar det ruskigt bra. Mestadels i alla fall. Produktionen är kanske väl slick på sina ställen och texterna om Afrika kan kännas klyschiga. Dessutom frossas det i gitarr åtminstone två gånger för mycket.

Men det finns gott om snygga samplingar och sköna beats. Lyssna exempelvis på pianodrivna My Generation med Joss Stone eller de elaka slagverkarna i Tribes At War, som för övrigt är plattans kanske bästa spår.

Distant Relatives kommer att locka både kepsar och dreads. Men för de mest inbitna traditionalisterna rekommenderar jag en provlyssning före köp.

Skivan finns i butik tisdagen den 18 maj.


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Stephen Marley tog hem sin andra Grammy

Bob Marley-sonen Stephen kammade i går kväll hem sin andra Grammy för plattan Mind Control. Det rapporterar bland annat Dancehall Mobi. Sin första Grammy fick han för originalversionen av Mind Control 2008, och sin andra för den akustiska versionen av samma platta.

Konkurrensen bestod av Rasta Got Soul från Buju Banton, Awake med Julian Marley, Brand New Me med veteranen Gregory Isaacs och Imperial Blaze med Sean Paul.

Hade jag enhälligt valt vinnare bland de nominerade hade det blivit Rasta Got Soul med Buju Banton, även om den plattan hamnade utanför mina personliga favoriter från förra året.

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Nominerade för Reggae Grammy 2010 har tillkännagetts

Flera sajter rapporterar om de fem finalister som nominerats för en reggae grammy nästa år. Totalt var 39 artister nominerade, men den listan har alltså kokats ner till fem.

De nominerade plattorna har släppts mellan den 1 oktober 2008 och den 31 augusti 2009, vilket diskvalificerar personliga favoriter som Omar Perrys Can’t Stop Us Now och Chezideks I Grade.

De nominerade plattorna är:

Buju Banton – Rasta Got Soul
Gregory Isaacs – Brand New Me
Julian Marley – Awake
Stephen Marley – Mind Control
Sean Paul – Imperial Blaze

Har inte hört vare sig Julian eller Stephen Marleys plattor, men det känns typiskt att två Marleys är nominerade.

En personlig lista på nominerade hade sett en smula annorlunda ut och exempelvis innehållit Sojahs Modern Revolution och Takana Zions Rappel à l’Ordre.

Grammy-utdelningen äger rum i Los Angeles den 31 januari nästa år.


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