Tag Archives: UK

Macka B is an investigative reporter

Macka B is one of the most influential UK reggae artists and is a veteran with a career spanning over three decades. But he hasn’t slowed down. Far from it. In 2012 he has put out two albums, and I had the opportunity to speak to him about his latest one – Rasta Soldier.

It was produced by Curtis Lynch and features Macka B’s clever and humorous takes on reality set to grim beats with ground shaking bass lines.

Good humor has always been a key ingredient for Macka B, but he also wants to reveal the harsh realities many people face. Like an investigative reporter he’s taking the viewpoint from the ordinary man in the streets and will continue his quest to tell the truth until we live in a perfect world.

Check the full story over at United Reggae.

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Heavyweight Dubkasm dubplates on new compilation

Bristol duo Dubkasm – radio personality DJ Stryda and Digistep – put out one of the best albums of 2009 – the groundbreaking and ground shaking Transform I. That album contained newly recorded material, whereas the latest Dubkasm set collects some of their earliest and previously publically unreleased material.

The recordings put on Brixton Rec are mostly dubplates previously only available via sound systems such as Aba Shanti-I and Jah Shaka. The vinyl version of the compilation collects four vocals – two by Tena Stelin, one by the late Lidj Xylon and one by Dubkasm regular Ras Addis – and each is followed by its cavernous dub version mixed by Aba Shanti-I himself to achieve the ideal sound balance on his sound system.

The CD and download version contain three bonus tracks – a melodica version of one of Tena Stelin’s vocal cuts, a vibrant track where Aba Shanti-I mixes and sings live in the studio and a live recording captured in a dance. The latter is as authentic as it gets, even though the audio quality leaves a lot to be desired.

Brixton Rec is UK roots and dub of the finest sort – it’s slow, melancholic and meditative with rich, hypnotic dub effects and lyrics about love and spiritual devotion.

The album comes with sleeve notes telling the story of Dubkasm’s early years including rare archive photos. Brixton Rec is released on vinyl, CD and digital download on Monday October 8.

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Some very strong moments on Jah Marnyah’s debut album

After vocalist, musician, songwriter and producer Jah Marnyah’s move from the small Caribbean island of Montserrat to the UK, because of the volcanic eruptions in the mid 90’s, he has put out over 30 singles for a broad variety of labels and producers.

Now his debut album A New Day has arrived through his own label Faya Wurks as digital download.

This 13 track set includes four previously released singles and is mainly produced by Faya Wurks with live and computerized riddims composed by Sound Guyz and mixing provided by Fabienne Romano of Dub Akom.

A New Day deals with issues concerning everyday life and has Jah Marnyah singing, singjaying and deejaying in a rough and tough style. Musically it ranges from the slow and sweet auto-tuned R&B feel of More Than a Friend over the dark, deep and spiritual Rasta is Love to the upbeat ska track Musical Party.

It hosts several strong moments and bright and catchy melodies, but Jah Marnyah should concentrate on his singjay and deejay styles, since some of his straight singing is occasionally too off-key to get an A.

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Bristol Archive Records goes against the grain

The record business has been in a bad shape for years, and you don’t often hear success stories anymore.

UK-based reissue label Bristol Archive Records is however one such. The label came from seemingly nowhere when the acclaimed compilation Bristol Reggae Explosion was put about one year ago. This compilation has been followed by two new volumes as well as other albums and singles.

Thanks to the success of Bristol Archive Records Mike Darby – the man behind the label – has shifted focus on his other label, Sugar Shack. This label was previously releasing British rock artists, but from April and onwards reggae is the focal point.

But that’s not all. Mike Darby has also taken the initiative to launch another reissue label. This one’s called Reggae Archive Records.

I’ve talked to Mike about the success of Bristol Archive Records and its history and future. Check the story over at United Reggae.

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Lovers rock is about looking for love and losing love

Even though a romantic and soft side of reggae has been heard ever since the late 60’s with artists such as Delroy Wilson, John Holt and Ken Boothe, it wasn’t until the mid to late 70’s it became a genre in its own right.

Lovers rock heralds from the UK and evolved as an alternative to the political and militant roots music dominating the 70’s. Lovers rock is not particularly well-suited for riots or uprisings, but rather for late night dances and intimate moments between silky sheets.

Songs like Janet Kay’s Silly Games, Louisa Mark’s cover of Bobby Parker’s Caught You in a Lie or Brown Sugar’s I’m in Love With a Dreadlocks helped to make the genre popular and are today regarded as classics.

Menelik Shabazz’s documentary The Story of Lover’s Rock tells the story of a hostile environment characterized by discrimination. It’s a story about escaping the harsh reality and the search for identity in a divided British society marked by racism. But also about thirsting for love and losing love.

Maxi Priest, Janet Kay, Kofi, the late Jean Adebambo, Winsome and Tippa Irie are just a small portion of artists interviewed. And they are telling stories of where the genre came from, the people behind it and what it has meant to generations of musicians and listeners. They also cover other aspects, such as its future, how it gave women a voice and how it has travelled from the UK to Japan and Brazil.

The many stories are also told through dance moves and music and vivid comedy performances.

Menelik Shabazz has made a thorough exercise in music history. It’s obvious that he has great love of the music and its culture, which might have contributed to making the film unfocused at times. There are too many subjects, too many stories to be told.

But as a lover of music in general and reggae music in particular, you can’t but sit down, relax and enjoy the tale of one of Britain’s finest export products.

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Takin’ the Strain doesn’t stand the test of time

Bristol Archive Records has during the last year or so issued a bunch of heavyweight early UK roots gems, albums and tunes long forgotten, but well worth reissuing.

Their latest finding is Talisman’s debut studio album Takin’ the Strain, originally put out in 1984, and now released with five extra live cuts – one of which is previously unreleased. The CD version also comes with a booklet full of archive images and extensive liner notes based on the recollections of lead vocalist and guitarist Dehvan Othieno Sengor.

Talisman begun their musical journey in 1976 and started out under the name of Revelation Rockers, an outfit who recorded five tunes in the 70’s, actually recently released by Bristol Archive Records under the title Jah Praises.

Revelation Rockers’ set was jam-packed with powerful roots reggae, while Talisman’s debut album leans more towards pop, soul and funk.

Takin’ the Strain hasn’t aged with dignity, mostly due to synthesizer arrangements that expired in the mid 80’s. The funky proto-rap Burn the Bread and the video game sounding I’m Sorry are two tunes best left in the drawer.

Among the 14 tracks there are however several highlights, such as the title track and Ah Wah You Seh, even though I can’t forgive the quirky synthesizers.

The sound quality on the five live workouts isn’t great, but the nine minute long unreleased Slow Poison shows a creative band capable of jamming.

This might not be the best reissue from the Bristol Archive camp, but I celebrate their strive to dig out long lost music, even though some single tunes on this particular album might have been better left forgotten.

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Smiley Culture dies in police raid

Smiley CultureBritish deejay pioneer Smiley Culture has died during a police raid in Surrey in the south east of England according to BBC News. He died of a suspected stab wound when police officers from the Serious and Organised Crime Command carried out an arrest warrant at his home. Smiley Culture was due to face trial next week accused of conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Smiley Culture rose to fame in 1984 when his debut – the hilarious Cockney Translation – hit the streets. The single made fun of the cockney dialect and was an instant hit. His other hit song was titled Police Officer.

He was part of several talented British deejays, or MCs as they preferred to be called, that was popular in the early and mid eighties. This period is deeply explored on Nice Up the Dance – UK Bubblers (1984 – 1987) released last year.

Smiley Culture, whose real name was David Emmanuel, recently appeared in the BBC4 documentary Reggae Britannia. He was 48 years old at the time of the incident.

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Emmanuel Joseph delivers quality conscious reggae

The talented and versatile musician and singer Emmanuel Joseph recently dropped his solo debut album Psalms From the Heart on UK label Falasha recordings, affiliated with the well-known Aba Shanti sound system.

Emmanuel Joseph has been in the business for many years and his merits list includes composing for the theatre and working with Paul McGuigan from Oasis and the band Cornershop. The producer of his new album – drummer Blood Shanti – has a more straight forward reggae background working with artists such as The Abyssinians, Johnny Clarke and Tena Stelin.

On Psalms From the Heart, there is no theatrical sounds nor styles reminiscent of Oasis or Cornershop. It offers roots reggae in a UK style. There are lots of dark thumping bass lines and also some nice nyabinghi vibes. Emmanuel Joseph’s deep voice suits the rhythm backing very well.

The album collects 14 tracks in a showcase style, which means that each vocal is followed by its dub counterpart. There are also four versions of the tune Open Road – two vocals and two dubs. The remix versions of this strong tune is actually better than the originals, at least if you prefer melodica instead of keyboard.

This album is for those who enjoy quality conscious reggae with spiritual vibes. And I’m always thrilled over showcase albums. You just have to love it.

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Sweet voiced Bitty McLean performs in Stockholm

Bitty McLean, one of UK’s finest reggae artists, will perform at Sthlm Reggae Klubb on Saturday September 25th.

Bitty McLean has recorded since the 90’s, mostly lovers oriented material. Last year he released his latest effort Movin’ On backed by veteran musicians such as Sly & Robbie and Dean Fraser.

But his best work is from 2004, when he dropped Peckings Presents…On Bond Street With The Supersonics. This album was produced by brothers Chris and Duke Peckings, who is behind Gappy Ranks acclaimed debut set Put The Stereo On, released last month.

A Peckings production essentially means vintage ska, rocksteady and reggae rhythms. And the Bitty McLean album is no exception. It’s a masterful combination of his soulful voice and some of the finest rocksteady ever recorded by Duke Reid and Tommy McCook in the 60’s.

Accompanying Bitty McLean is Swedish singjay talent Joey Fever, probably best know for Young Gunz, a massive combination tune with Million Stylez produced by Curtis Lynch.

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