Tag Archives: Swedish reggae

Hanouneh sings about the real Gaza

Swedish singer Hanouneh dropped her debut album Love & War in February. It’s an album that tells stories of her experiences from the real Gaza set to sounds of roots reggae, dancehall, RnB and hip-hop.

Hanouneh is a Swedish singer whose music springs from a broad range of different influences and topics. According to herself she is rooted in jazz and had an upbringing where music was a natural part of life.

Read my interview with her over at United Reggae.

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The mystic world of Jonahgold

Jonahgold is one of Sweden’s most notable reggae producers, and has worked with both domestic and international artists. He is a sound engineer, producer and musician and has learned his craft from legendary Swedish studio owner and producer Internal Dread. Reggaemani got a long chat with Jonahgold in the Rub a Dub studio.

My first contact with Jonahgold was in relation to the release of Sheya Mission’s acclaimed debut album Nine Signs & Heavy Bliss. From our e-mail conversation prior to the interview I learned that he works at the Rub a Dub studio, just around the corner from where I live.

We decided I should drop by.

A few days later I sat down in a well-used sofa in the studio, located downstairs in a backyard at Södermalm, an area in central Stockholm. A room that seems to serve as a living room, bedroom and kitchen.

We discussed reggae. I greated singer and trombonist Joseph Beckford, studio owner Internal Dread and two Swiss musicians on a visit.

Jonahgold showed me around the studio. Though he has worked there since the late 90’s he still looks like a child in a candy store when describing the different elements in the heart of the studio. Delays, reverbs and other equipment essential to a sound engineer and producer.

Unfortunately I had to leave after just a few minutes. We decided to set a new date for an interview at the coffee shop opposite the studio.

Jonahgold

Jonahgold is one of Sweden's most notable reggae producers.

A week goes by and I’m heading for the interview. Just when I’m about to reach the café I notice an individual outside the studio entrance, sweeping the street clean from gravel. It’s Jonahgold.

“The coffee shop is closed for renovation”, he says and suggests that we use the studio instead.

Jonahgold boils tea and we sit down in the sofa for the interview. A long interview.

Jonahgold is thoughtful, low-voiced and cool and he often emphasizes certain words.  He has long hair, round glasses and gives the impression of an intellectual as we talk about his passion for reggae and mysticism.

But let’s take it from the beginning.

Started as a tennis player
Jonahgold started playing the piano at an early age and he also went to music school in Stockholm.

“I played boogie woogie, and really liked it,” he says.

He was also a promising tennis player and competed in his early teens. One of the players he met was former world no. 1 Björn Borg.

“I played against him when he was about to make his first comeback. It was great fun,” he says, and continues:

“I believe that tennis gave me discipline, dedication and focus.”

Jonahgold says that the basis for his musicianship is the keyboard, but that he hasn’t got enough patience to practice. He is rather in the studio behind the mixing desk.

He started out in a local reggae band in the 80’s and sometimes played with Cool Runnings, a band that worked with late producer Denniz Pop.

“I also played with a band called Yardem Riddims, which had Sheya Mission on vocals. We did recordings and sent them to some labels.”

Working with Daweh Congo
His first release on his own label – Goldheart Music – was Sheya Mission’s Valley in 1997.

“We were almost the only ones putting out Swedish produced singles,” he remembers.

Since then much has happened. Jonahgold has produced Daweh Congo, Mysticman and Desmond Foster.

“Since the label started in the mid 90’s I have put out records every other year.”

Jonahgold is lucky. He has had the opportunity to produce his favorite singer and lyricist Daweh Congo. It begun in 2004 with a few recordings and in 2009 Daweh Congo’s praised album Ghetto Skyline hit the streets.

“He performed at the Uppsala Reggae Festival in 2004. He came to the studio and we recorded Steppin’ and Ganja Baby,” Jonahgold says, and adds:

“When we later did the album, I recorded the music here in Stockholm and sent the riddims to him in Jamaica.”

The two also recently worked together in pair with Hawaiian-based label Jah Youth.

“Daweh Congo had recorded some a cappella’s which needed music. Jah Youth contacted me and I did the music,” he says, and continues:

“It was free tempo and was sung on a free key. His singing was surprisingly steady. It was a challenge, and I built the music from scratch,” he smiles.

Other possible collaborations
He would like to get the opportunity to work with Army from St. Croix or Keith from Keith & Tex.

“I’ve contacted Keith, but it hasn’t resulted in anything.”

He also gets inquiries from artists from time to time. But he turns down almost everything due to lack of time.

Detailed productions
And if you listen to his productions you will probably notice why. The songs are carefully crafted and detailed.

“Nobody produces on a detailed level anymore. I often out start very ambitious, and the Sheya Mission album took some time to finish,” he says, and adds:

“I often pay attention to details, but it starts to get a bit slack. I haven’t got the same craze anymore.”

Running a label these days isn’t easy. But according to Jonahgold it’s not all that bad.

“It has never been easy,” he states, and continues:

“But today it’s cheaper than ever to distribute an album and get it out all over the world. It’s a new world order, but I don’t know if it’s better or worse.”

Aside from producing his own music, Jonahgold is a freelance sound engineer, both live and in the studio.

“This is my school”, he says and looks up from his cup of tea.

“Tom [Hofwander aka Internal Dread] has taught me everything. I have been working with him for many years. He is a sound guru, and it has been a great school. He has a fantastic feeling for frequencies.”

Spirituality important
Jonahgold’s latest work is something in the dub poetry vein. He is into mysticism and has set sound to Mooji, an advaita vedanta teacher based in the UK.

“I like the spirituality in reggae music. I’m on a quest for freedom and self-knowledge. No aggression or depression. I want to be really free and distinguish between what has been taught and what is the real ‘I’,” he says, and concludes:

“I have advanced during the last ten years or so. Maybe it has made my music more soothing and meditative.”

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Catch the fever

My first acquaintance with Swedish singjay Joey Fever was Youth Dem Rise on Pleasure Beat’s Majestic riddim put out in 2007. Since then he has voiced one great riddim after another, for both domestic and international producers, including Partillo, Curtis Lynch, Fast Forward and Lockdown. These singles showed a great talent and a huge promise for the future.

And he must have made an impression on Lockdown since they decided to put out his debut album In a Fever – a varied set that consists of 16 tunes and two bonus tracks. It spans from contemporary one drop and dancehall to ska. All spiced with a retro 80’s feeling.

The debut album boosts a number of different producers, but the majority has been handled by Sweden’s Mastah L, responsible for Million Stylez’ breakthrough single Miss Fatty.

Joey Fever is a clear example of the new generation of reggae singers. He’s equally at home with singing as with deejaying.

His is voice is similar to Jah Cure’s nasal tone and the singing style is reminiscent of Waterhouse legends such as Michael Rose and Junior Reid. Just listen to Someone Out There and Traffic, complete with Michael Rose vocal gimmicks.

When he switches to deejay mode he’s in the same vein as UK’s finest early MC’s with their fast chatting style, and on Till the Night Is Over he measures up to Tippa Irie himself.

All his promising singles weren’t just empty promises. Joey Fever has delivered a mature and varied set.

In a Fever hit the streets on May 17.

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Impressive debut from Hanouneh

Sweden isn’t necessarily known for its huge reggae scene. But there are a great number of producers, artists, musicians and sound systems that have started to make themselves heard in the last couple of years. The most well-known is without a doubt dancehall star Million Stylez, who scored a huge hit in 2006 with Miss Fatty.

A more recent talent is female singer Hanouneh, who dropped her debut album Love & War in February. This album contains a healthy 12 tunes, several of them firmly rooted in one drop reggae, but with obvious influences from hip-hop, RnB, dancehall and some Middle Eastern flavour.

On top of these riddims are Hanouneh’s patois infused, laid back, almost nonchalant, voice. She sounds remarkably relaxed. Just listen to Getting Ready for War. Hanouneh doesn’t care. She just does her thing, whether you like it or not.

In November last year she got some attention in Jamaica because of the Promoe duet Real Gaza Me Seh, a tune about the real Gaza, and not the Gaza Vybz Kartel and many other Jamaicans refer to. Real Gaza Me Seh is one of the several highlights on Love & War and was supposedly an anthem during Ship to Gaza last year.

Love & War blends the work of seven different producers, six of them from Sweden. This could easily boil down to an inconsistent album. And sure, Love & War might not have a clear thread. But that doesn’t really matter when the material is so strong that you continue to push your fingers red on the repeat button.

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Best Swedish reggae albums

In December last year acclaimed Swedish reggae blog Svereggae (formerly Svenska Reggaebloggen) appointed – among its readers – the best Swedish reggae albums during the years 2000-2009.

The selection procedure was rather advanced and the whole list consists of 77 albums, all placed in order of precedence.

Popular singjay Kapten Röd’s debut album Stjärnorna finns här released in 2007 won by far and got way more votes than any other album.

If you interested in Swedish reggae, check out the ten best albums below. If you are interested in all 77 albums, you should check this article on Svereggae.

Artist – title

1. Kapten Röd – Stjärnorna finns här
2. Svenska Akademien – Tändstickor för mörkrädda
3. Kalle Baah – Bråda dagar
4. Helt Off – Helt Off
5. Kultiration – Döden föder
6. Kultiration – Om Gaia
7. Svenska Akademien – Resa sig opp
8. USCB Allstars – Class brutáls
9. Junior Eric – Raggamuffin på svenska
10. Governor Andy – Som Salomos sång

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House of Reggae pays tribute to Internal Dread

German reggae blog House of Reggae has produced a tribute mix to Swedish reggae in general and producer/engineer Internal Dread in particular.

The mix contains 18 tracks ranging from 2002 up until 2010. Artists include newcomers such as Robert Athill and Mysticman as well as veterans like Desmond Foster and Joseph Beckford. There are also several dub songs included, mixed by the great Internal Dread.

Nils Kersten, editor of House of Reggae and producer of the mix, writes in an e-mail that he loves the deep warm analogue sounds of Internal Dread’s production and mixing techniques.

− It reminds me of the Jamaican roots sounds of the 70’s. I haven’t expected something like that from a producer out of Stockholm, he writes, and continues:

− Over the last years some Swedish reggae artists have gone international, like Million Stylez or Serengeti. But I’m more interested in native tongue artists. I found out about Governor Andy, Junior Eric, Syster Sol, Swingkids and Kapten Röd. I love all of them, even if I don’t understand a word.

Listen to the mix here.

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