Tag Archives: Takana Zion

Takana Zion returns to roots reggae on Good Life

TakanaZion-GoodLife-VisuelGuinean singer Takana Zion returns to the rootsier side of reggae with his brand new album Good Life. A wise decision since his eclectic Kakilambe was a disappointment.

Good Life follows the same recipe as the monumental Rasta Government. The new album was also recorded in Jamaica – at Tuff Gong and not Harry J’s this time – with Sam Clayton at the controls and working with legendary local talents such as drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, sax maestro Dean Fraser and bass man Errol “Flabba” Holt.

Takana Zion is one of Africa’s finest reggae singers. Probably the best in my opinion. His sound is darker, rootiser and more uncompromising compared to greats such as Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly. He is a versatile artist equally at ease with both dread singing and singjaying.

Highlights include the uplifting album opener Africa Unite, pulsating nyabinghi take Congo Dreadlocks, the positive Hit My Soul – with its infectious sing-a-long chorus – and the dubby Mosiah Marcus.

Iconic singer Bunny Wailer also turns up on the album adding spirituality to When Jah Speaks. It’s not an ordinary combination track; it’s more like an endorsement from Bunny Wailer.

A solid set, though not nearly as strong as Rasta Government.

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Takana Zion’s most diverse yet

Guinean singjay sensation Takana Zion’s latest album Kakilambe is a huge departure from his previous sets, particularly last year’s monster release Rasta Government, an album recorded in Jamaica and dedicated 70’s roots reggae.

Kakilambe’s 16 tunes strays in several different directions and it’s a fascinating journey starting with the partly acoustic dancehall flavored Abada, followed by the rootsy Assali with its pulsating organ and bluesy guitar, then turning to the Ibiza club banger Wali, after which Takana Zion turns to rock with the Pearl Jam styled Aminata.

This album is anywhere and everywhere. It’s boisterous, playful, rhythmically innovative and filled with traditional Guinean folk music and pop hooks, which certainly makes it stand out.

Takana Zion’s play with different languages – English, French and his native susu – also contributes to the somewhat schizophrenic feel of the album, but at the same time it offers plenty of sunshine, hypnotic beats and enthusiastic attempts to do house music.

I’ve been impressed by Takana Zion since I heard his debut album Zion Prophet five years ago. I still hold his talent and vocal skills high, even though parts of this album have him going in the wrong direction.

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Half-year report – best tunes and albums yet

The first six months of 2011 have passed and there have been plenty of fine albums, singles and riddims from around the globe.

From Down Under Mista Savona presented the wicked compilation Warn the Nation. Here in Europe producers, artists and labels in Spain, France, Germany, the UK and several other countries have been busy putting out music with good quality. The U.S. and the Caribbean have also – of course – been very much present.

The two finest albums to date come from former Studio One singer Alpheus and the Guianese singjay sensation Takana Zion. Their efforts are in two different reggae genres – rock steady and roots – and show how important the roots of reggae really are.

Several strong riddims have been released. The best ones come from the Maximum Sound camp and are titled Skateland Killer and Ghetto State. The former is loosely based on Half Pint’s classic One Big Ghetto from the early 80’s.

But everything is not sweet and dandy in the reggae business. French reissue label Makasound filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. It shows just how tough it can be running a label these days. The small independent labels and producers need you. Please support them and buy the music if you like what you hear. Piracy is killing our beloved music.

Ahead are what could be some really interesting releases. VP has listed albums from Queen Ifrica, I Wayne and Sanchez with new albums. Pressure Sounds has scheduled a compilation with some of Augustus Pablo’s digital output. Lustre Kings – who put out the seminal Jahdan Blakkamoore album Babylon Nightmare late last year – is on the verge of dropping Back for the First Time by Perfect.

Dutch Slimmah Sound will also release an album from sound system mic man Lyrical Benjie in early July.

These are just some of the albums scheduled for release in the coming months. There will of course be plenty of other albums, one riddim compilations and singles from Jamaica and beyond.

To sum up the first six months I have compiled some of the best reggae that 2011 has offered so far.

Below you will find five must-have albums and ten must-have tunes. As you will realize, I am not much of a contemporary dancehall fan. There have been some tough tunes, but not many made it into the top ten.

Five must-have albums (in no particular order)

Alpheus – From Creation
Takana Zion – Rasta Government
Alborosie – 2 Times Revolution
Ziggi Recado – Ziggi Recado
Earl Sixteen – The Fittest

Ten must-have tunes (singles only, in no particular order and with riddim in brackets)

Sizzla – Ghetto Youths Rise (Ghetto State)
Tarrus Riley – Rebel (Skateland Killer)
Ricardo Clarke – Only Got Love (Bonafide)
Brina – Real Reggae Music
Dark Angel – Good One (Reuben)
I Octane – Cyan Do Wi Nuttn
Queen Omega – Take Control (Backstabber)
Tarrus Riley – Never Leave I (Island Vibes)
Sizzla – Terrible Stranger (The Nyabighi)
Ky-Mani Marley – Brave Ones (Message)

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Takana Zion calls for a Rasta government

Takana Zion is the Guinean singjay sensation that went to Jamaica and recorded his third full length album Rasta Goverment at the legendary Harry J studio together with producers Samuel Clayton and Stephen Stewart.

Takana Zion was born in Guinea in West Africa. By the age of 17 he left his family and moved to Mali without saying goodbye. In an e-mail to Reggaemani Takana Zion explains why:

“They never do me wrong, but I wanted to be free and live my life. They are Muslim and my young faith was a problem for them and at the same time I was tired to see my mother spending her money on my school fees while I was chanting and praying king Selassie I God at the beach.”

Prior to Takana Zion, artists such as Ivoirians Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly, as well as the late South African singer Lucky Dube, have done a lot to promote African reggae.

According to Takana Zion, Guinea is also a country with a lot of talent and a strong musical culture.

“Trust me that it influenced me a lot. Yes, I can sing any traditional music from Guinea,” he reveals.

Two unreleased albums
While he lived in Mali he met Tiken Jah Fakoly, for whom he also recorded two albums, both yet to be released.

“The project was called back to Zion, but Tiken Jah is very busy with his own music, so it couldn’t be released. I didn’t want to waste my time, I wanted to learn and progress in music. I had to find food for myself being young (19 that time), and far from my family,” he explains, and continues:

“We don’t have plans to put them on market now that I start to get busy too.”

Shifted producer
His first albums that have been put out – Zion Prophet and Rappel a L’Ordre – were produced together with Manjul, a French producer nowadays based in Mali. For Rasta Government he instead teamed up with Jamaican producers Samuel Clayton and Stephen Stewart.

“I made two albums with Manjul, and it was a good experience for me. But as you know, in the process of development there is no limit, so working with Samuel and Stephen was the next level of experience. They know a lot of things in the music that will help me. They choose musicians and everything for this album. Their efforts are felt in it.”

Rasta Government is strictly roots and, according to Takana Zion, all about high level consciousness, justice and  peace for one and all.

“This album is like the rebirth of the original reggae that existed before,” he writes, and continues:

“We made a progress in the message and the music and I am satisfied.”

The Almighty lyricist
The lyrics are – just as on his previous albums – sung in several different languages. Eight out of ten songs are in English, one in Sousou and one in Manding. And where do his lyrics come from?

“I don’t write lyrics. I would say it’s almighty himself that tell me what to sing and how to sing it.”

Rasta government shall rule the world
Takana Zion explains that Rasta Government differs from his previous albums due to many reasons. The most obvious are the location of the production and the use of veteran Jamaican musicians, such as Sly Dunbar, Robbie Lynn and Dalton Brownie.

“Kingston is the capital of reggae, so if you know what you want in your music, you will surely get it. The musicians them know from what they hear in your way of singing which kind of spirit you are getting,” he explains.

Takana Zion seems tired of the public image of Rastafari, and with the title Rasta Government he wants to show that Rasta is more than smoking weed and singing.

“Rasta is a lot of things, and thing is, if Rasta men can be the greatest artist, they can also be the greatest leaders and everything they want. It’s a prophecy that Rasta government shall rule the world. Just wait and see.”

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A journey to Zion

I don’t know where to begin. I lack words to describe my feelings, but I’ve an urge to at least try to convey my emotions when listening to Takana Zion’s third full length album Rasta Government.

Joy, pride and euphoria are words that run through my mind when writing this. But also thoughtfulness and honesty, because the lyrics on Rasta Government is a cultural affair and deals with injustice, inequality, love and unity. Song writers such as Winston Rodney and Bob Marley spring to mind.

Takana Zion has outperformed himself this time. His first and second albums were highly impressive efforts, but the third one takes things just a little bit further.

Rasta Government is uncompromising roots reggae in a 70’s style. Takana Zion has toned down the African influences to a minimum and sings mostly in English, whereas his previous albums have included at least four different languages. This makes his new effort his most accessible album yet.

He has previously been described as an African version of Sizzla. Sure, Takana Zion is a singjay sensation from Guinea, but his voice has matured and on Rasta Government his singing is better than ever. You can hear a resemblance to both Garnett Silk and Culture’s late lead singer Joseph Hill. But Takana Zion has a modern edge. His raspy, angry and desperate tone has an uplifting sincerity.

I sometimes complain that contemporary reggae albums contain too many tunes. This time it’s the opposite. Ten tracks are just not enough. Luckily though, Takana Zion is just 24 years old, so he has plenty of time recording another set of classics.

The music that was created in Harry J’s studio in Jamaica by producers Sam Clayton and Stephen Stewart as well as musicians such as Sly Dunbar when recording Rasta Government is bliss. This is the best album I’ve heard so far this year.

I hope that these words have got through and that you understand how I feel. Because this is not a review, this is a love letter.


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