Tag Archives: Zion High Productions

Arkaingelle gets the Zion I Kings treatment on Tru Da Fyah

ARK CVR_finalGuyana-born singer Arkaingelle dropped his debut album O’Pen back in 2008 and since then he has only released a couple of tracks here and there, including excellent efforts on the compilations Nyacoustic Chants and Jah Golden Throne. Both those sets were put out via Zion High Productions and they are also responsible for releasing his second album Tru Da Fyah.

The album is crafted and produced by Zion I Kings, one of the strongest forces in contemporary reggae music with their signature smooth and melodic audio landscape. And by just glancing at the striking sleeve you get a strong hint on what this album is about – spiritual Rastafari lyricism and devout chants and praises of the Most High.

Just as many other sets produced by Zion I Kings, this album is coherent both musically and lyrically. Arkaingelle sings – or chants in a more melodious Akae Beka style – over expertly produced riddims. Just listen to a cut like No Race with its lingering synth melody, Children of the Most High with its dubby audio landscape, the nyabinghi-tinged Ancient of Days and skanking Herbalist. This is music with a message.

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Yet another masterpiece from Jahdan Blakkamoore

OoD cover3Guyanese born and Brooklyn bred Jahdan Blakkamoore has finally released his follow-up to the rightly acclaimed Babylon Nightmare, released in 2010. And Order of Distinction is yet another masterpiece from this ruthlessly versatile and talented singer, deejay, rapper, producer and Grammy-nominated songwriter.

Jahdan Blakkamoore isn’t a particularly prolific recording artist and Order of Distinction is only his third full-length, but he has also released singles and been key in a number of other artists careers, for example Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Lion aka Snoopzilla, and his underrated reggae effort Reincarnated.

Order of Distinction is well-crafted from beginning to end and Jahdaan Blakkamoore is a innovative wordsmith delivering positive and insightful lyrics, ranging from sexy locers rock on Smood Blakk Skin and Everything I Love to the encouraging and electrofied Faith, the spiritual Come Back Around and the more boisterous and energetic Ting Tun Up! with Lady Leshurr and Melodic Yoza.

This set is mainly produced Zion I Kings – one of the best and hottest production crews today – along with Paper Stars, a production and writing duo forged between Jahdan Blakkamoore and Andrew “Moon” Bain, who is also part of Zion I Kings. But on board is also dancehall maestro Dre Skull and electro whiz Nate Mars.

Zion I Kings and affiliated labels Lustre Kings, Zion High Productions and I Grade are synonymous with reggae productions of the highest calibre. They are no strangers releasing both fresh talents and seasoned veterans, and they always deliver on putting out music with clever arrangements, innovative production and a conscious approach.

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Jah Bless’ militant swing

cover170x170Last year I interviewed Jah David, bass player and musical director in Zion High Productions as well as member of acclaimed production trio Zion I Kings. In the interview he mentioned he was working on an album from saxophone player Jah Bless. Now that set has arrived.

To state that the reggae market today is overflowed by instrumental sets would be a grand exaggeration. Vocal sets are the order of the day and dub albums are far more common than instrumental albums. It was however different in the 60s and 70s when instrumental reggae efforts were part of a label’s regular output.

I’m a huge fan of instrumental albums and was really looking forward to this new album from Jah Bless. He’s carrying the tradition forward and this is a set in the same tradition as the great instrumental sets from the likes of Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso.

Redemption is Jah Bless’ second album and it collects 14 sax-driven tasty and organic instrumentals, sometimes with a hint of funky jazz and sometimes accompanied with a dub workout on the mixing board. The riddims are steller and Jah Bless blows his horn with an elegant smoothness.

Expectations are always high on Zion I Kings and they always manage to deliver accordingly. Essential for fans of bright and stylish reggae instrumentals.

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Midnite ride tru in December

VI reggae trailblazers Midnite is back with yet another album with acclaimed U.S. production trio Zion I KingsZion High Productions, I Grade Records and Lustre Kings.

Midnite is known for being prolific and I believe the upcoming Ride Tru album will be their third in 2014 and the second with Zion I Kings. They worked together on Beauty for the Ashes, which was released about ten months ago.

Ride Tru drops in December and you can check its initial single Credited below.

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Ziggi Recado is a musical therapist

ZIGGI CVR3BZiggi Recado – formerly known only as Ziggi – is a fascinating artist. His earliest work was heavily inspired by dancehall and hip-hop, and then he moved towards roots reggae, but suddenly turned towards funk and rock. An adventurous approach to say the least, and he didn’t stay long in that genre.

His two EP’s following his funky venture were more or less traditional and well-produced reggae. And he follows this path on his fourth full-length album Therapeutic, produced by acclaimed U.S. production trio Zion I Kings and out on Zion High Records.

Zion I Kings have been very successful over the last couple of years and are responsible for a number of triumphant albums from Midnite, Pressure, Cornell Campbell and Lloyd Brown. And Therapeutic is produced according to the same effective and popular recipe – smooth riddims, skanking guitar, infectious hooks and uplifting arrangements.

The highlights are many, especially the slowly pulsating Earl Sixteen and Taranchyla combination Jah Mercy and the Lutan Fyah combination Guide Ova, with its dub effects and tight drum and bass.

Instead of calling the doctor you could do much better with this album. It will rock both body and mind.

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Ten years with Zion High Productions

Zion High Productions is one part of acclaimed U.S. production trio Zion I Kings, responsible for a number of major releases in recent years. Zion High Productions has now been alive and kicking for ten years and Reggaemani took the chance to catch up with Jah David, bass player and musical director. He spoke freely about being a reggae musician, about Zion I Kings and also revealed some exciting upcoming projects.

David “Jah David” Goldfine is one third of Zion High Productions and lives near Tampa, Florida. The two other members, Ras Elliott and Quashi, live in Oregon and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Zion High Productions is a production house and a label and the story started ten years ago in San Diego, California, where Ras Elliott owned and operated a record shop called Trade Roots Reggae, a mainstay of the southern California reggae scene for almost 20 years. Jah David worked there and he and his childhood friend Jah Oil – an early member of Zion High Productions – were in the bands Kush and Jah Bloodfyah Angels.

“Yami Bolo’s Rebelution was our first project,” remembers Jah David, and continues:

“It was a great project and a great learning experience for me as a producer, writer and bass player. We had Santa Davis from Soul Syndicate on drums and Scientist as an engineer. Ras Michael was also involved in the project. It was a wonderful experience and we made great music inspired by Haile Selassie the First.”

Shortly after the release on Rebelution Jah Oil left and Quashi came onboard.

From violin and guitar to the bass
Jah David has been playing music since he was around seven years old. He started with the violin, but moved on to acoustic guitar and later played in various rock bands. He started listening to reggae, especially Bob Marley, as a kid, and when in his early teens his interest in reggae gained momentum with artists like Burning Spear, Culture and a little Israel Vibration.

“From that time, when I was around 15, I forgot the guitar. I was feeling the bass. I listened to Familyman and I felt those bass lines and I thought ‘I know I can play that’. It seemed so simple, but it is so complex,” explains Jah David with a calm, almost soothing, voice, and continues:

“I picked up the bass and started seeking Jah at the same time. Jah Oil and I started our reggae journey together; me as a bass player and he as a guitarist.”

I reach Jah David on the phone from his home studio. He has just finished recording dubplates together with Glen Washington and he says that they are also recording a new album together. No title yet though since the project is in its formative stage. Jah David is not like other producers or label owners when it comes to talking about new and upcoming releases. Many usually keep quite on work in progress, while Jah David speaks freely about what is about to come from him and his collaborators.

Forming the Zion I Kings
But let’s come back to the releases and continue with the fruitful collaboration between Zion High Productions, I Grade Records and Lustre Kings, more commonly known as the Zion I Kings.

Moon, Jah David and Tippy I in the studio.

Moon, Jah David and Tippy I in the studio.

Andrew “Moon” Bain, guitarist and musical director in Lustre Kings, started working together with Jah David, prior to Jah David’s involvement in Zion High Productions. Jah David played bass and was co-producer on one of Lustre Kings’ releases in the early days.

“My first love is the bass and I’m a bassie. I was playing sessions for Lustre Kings and worked on the Culture Dem album. I also did some singles before that, like 12-13 years ago. I was working on singles in Jamaica and material from Sizzla, Capleton, Al Pancho and Lutan Fyah. Lutan was just busting and started to get a buzz and I worked on the first Lutan Fyah album,” remembers Jah David, and continues:

“Tippy [keyboard player and owner of I Grade Records] and I met through Ras Attitude. We were working on the Holding Firm album. He said he had a good brethren in St Croix and Tippy had produced a great song, which he wanted to include on the album. Ever since that we have been working together,” he explains, and adds:

“Moon and Tippy met around the same time in New York City and that closed the circle. Moon is a great guitarist, Tippy is a great keyboard player and I play the bass. We are all producers and engineers. Zion I Kings – bass, keys and guitar. And we do sessions with different drummers.”

Their classy productions have gained lots of interest around the world and the trio was recently involved in the much discussed and talked about Snoop Lion album. The breezy Breadfruit riddim, that provided the basis for Lloyd Brown’s Just So That You Know, was utilized for Snoop Lion’s So Long, a standout cut on his Grammy nominated album Reincarnated.reincarnatedalbumcover

“It was really through Moon. That’s Zion I King’s involvement. He worked a lot on the project together with Jahdan [Blakkamoore]. They were hired by Diplo to go to Jamaica and help write for the album. They were hired to write lyrics and melodies. Not music,” he explains.

For the love of the music
Zion High Productions is a small label, even though it has put out a number of major and much talked about albums, including the aforementioned Yami Bolo album and the Jah Golden Throne compilation. And just as for many other labels the reality is harsh and Zion High Productions struggles with balancing costs and revenues.

“The most challenging is figuring out a way to make our business profitable. To stay afloat,” explains Jah David.

It’s however crystal clear that Jah David and his partners are not in this business for the money. They do it for the love of the music and for the love of Rastafari.

“This is our vehicle to glorify and praise Rastafari. It is our mission and we are using the talents we have been blessed with.”

But running a label and being a producer takes time, energy and money, and great response and wide file sharing does not translate well into dollars on the bank account.

“Everything costs. Lights have to be turned on and we need to bring in other musicians. I’d love if it becomes more profitable,” he explains, and adds:

“When we invest in a CD we usually make money, but not the kind of money we would like to see. There is support for CD and physical products, but it doesn’t cover the total cost of putting it together. It takes more than we are seeing. Everyone feels good artistically, but not monetary,” he says and adds that he’s not really preoccupied with dealing with file sharing and that he rather focuses on writing a bass line or mixing a song.

Being one with the music is important to Jah David and the response he gets from fans and other musicians are some of the greatest rewards.

“That the world hears the message, accepts the message and feels good about it; that’s the biggest reward. We are not making music for ourselves; we make it for the world to hear. That’s my greatest accomplishment. People in Africa, in Asia and in Budapest have heard my works,” he concludes.

Working with Lloyd Brown
Jah David has worked on countless of albums, compilations and singles and it is hard for him to pick favorite projects. To him they are all special and unique. But after a while when he has thought the question over he comes up with a few suggestions, most of them being upcoming projects rather than already released ones.

lloydbrown-rootical“I’m really excited about the Lloyd Brown album. This is something else. This is my album. Boy, I’m very excited about this one. This album is very different from every other Lloyd Brown album. To me Lloyd is like a virtual soul singer, like John Coltrane on sax, or Miles on trumpet. That’s how he is on the microphone,” explains an excited Jah David, and continues:

“I have been a fan of Lloyd for a long time. I used to tour with Tippa Irie and he and Lloyd are close, so I got introduced to him by Tippa.”

Lloyd Brown and Tippa Irie also had a combination on the Jah Golden Throne compilation called Make It Work.

“They have done so many things together. Lloyd heard the Make it Work riddim and contacted me. We linked and he wanted to listen to some other riddims. I sent him the Breadfruit riddim and he loved it and said we should do an album. From there it just went on,” he says and reveals two other upcoming projects:

“We are also doing an instrumental album from Jah Bless. It will be eclectic with a lot of dub, horns, solos and jazz. I’m really excited about that. And we are also doing an album with Ziggi Recado.”

Hopes for the future
Capleton, Lutan Fyah, Prezident Brown and Yami Bolo. The list of artists that Jah David has worked with is long. There are a few artists he has yet to work with, but aim for in the future.

“Lloyd was a big one for me. And I’d really want to do more with Queen Omega. She has voiced a tune on the Jah Warrior riddim [drops on February 25] and also has a combination on the Lloyd Brown album. I’d love to do an album with her,” he explains, and continues:

“I have never done any work with Tarrus Riley. I really love him from a technical production standpoint. Don’t know about an album, maybe just a record.”

Re-worked a Cornel Campbell album
Another recent release from Zion High Productions and the Zion I Kings is Cornel Campbell’s New Scroll, a rootsy and melodic set jam-packed with the usual memorable hooks and bright horns arrangements. The story of the album goes back many years. Actually almost ten years. So let’s take it from the beginning.cornel-campbell-new-scroll

“Ras Elliott has been a fan of Cornel Campbell for years. Elliott is an elder to me and could almost be my father. He has been into Cornel Campbell for 30 to 35 years. He’s a huge fan. Owns all of his records on vinyl and the whole thing. He has also known Cornel for years. And when he toured the west coast around 2004/2005 Ras Elliott was the tour manager. He called me and said ‘Jah D, book some studio time in Florida. We are coming there to voice and record an album, ’” he says with great excitement, and continues:

“He came for a week, but we weren’t satisfied with the result. We didn’t have enough time and I was much greener than I am now. My approach then was like a more hands-off approach. It didn’t happen and we moved on to other projects. But then finally, about a year ago, he came to Tampa again and we redid the album. One or two new songs are new, but the bulk of it is the same with different riddim tracks. The songs have been reworked and rearranged from the originals in a way where it seemed to become better. The result is great.”

On a mission
Jah David is a humble and dedicated musician that knows his talent and skills. People in the business know him by the trail of relentless bass lines he has provided the world with. And when he works with artists they can expect two things.

“First, it’s the music. Whenever I play a riddim for any of these artists, Capleton, Sizzla etc, they get excited. They shout when I play the bass. Even in the beginning, in the Culture Dem days. I play real reggae music. That’s the main thing,” he says, and continues:

“Secondly, the fact we are heartical Rasta and that we’re serious about the misson. People know what we’re about.”

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A wonderful new chapter in the Cornel Campbell story

PrintJamaica has produced countless of gifted, versatile and soulful performers and one of my all time favorite singers is the Original Gorgon aka Cornel Campbell. He started his career in the 60s as a member of The Eternals, but rose to prominence in the 70s when recording a number of major tunes for Bunny Lee.

Now he’s in the hands of acclaimed U.S. production team the Zion I Kings and together they have recorded another golden nugget in the Cornel Campbell catalogue.

New Scroll boasts nine fresh vocal cuts and four dub versions. Most of the tracks carry Zion I Kings’ signature sound – warm with live instrumentation, rich with vibrating arrangements and smooth with a soulful and deep vibe.

Cornel Campbell’s voice still sounds remarkably fresh. His emotive and instantly recognizable high tenor is a bit raspier, but it’s still cool as a pair of shades and soothing like aloe on sunburned skin.

New Scroll contains catchy melodies, memorable hooks and well-thought conscious lyrics and this album is yet another outstanding release from the Zion I Kings and one of the most distinguished, but sometimes overlooked, Jamaican singers.

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Cornell Campbell’s New Scroll

PrintNew Scroll is the new album by foundation Jamaican singer Cornell “Original Gorgon” Campbell. In a press release it’s describes as “evoking that timeless sufferah’s sound and spirit of the golden era of Jamaican reggae within a treasure trove of original roots music”.

It boasts nine new songs penned by Cornell Campbell, as well as four dub mixes. New Scroll is furthermore described as injected with “the musicality and poetic flow that brought Campbell early and unparalleled success in the 1960s and 70s with solo recordings like the iconic Queen of the Minstrel or as a member of Jamaica’s most beloved harmony groups, the Eternals and the Uniques.”

The album bears Zion High Productions’ sweet sound crafted by the Zion I Kings production team – Jah D on bass representing Zion High Productions, I Grade Records’ Tippy I on keys and guitarist Moon, who co-founded the Lustre Kings label and is credited with writing on Snoop Lion’s debut album.

New Scroll hits the streets on CD and digital platforms on June 18.

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General Jah Mikey’s tasty yard food

6PAN1TAbout a year ago Zion High Productions issued the excellent various artists compilation Jah Golden Throne. One of the many highlights was veteran Jamaican singer General Jah Mikey’s Set A Way. Zion I Kings – the producers behind that compilation – has now produced an entire album with this resonant voiced singer.

Zion I Kings is synonymous with well-produced, breezy and soulful productions and General Jah Mikey’s Original Yard Food is no exception. The live-played riddims are superbly executed and the arrangements with jazzy horns, easy skanking guitar and sweet flute and melodica are sublime.

The beautiful harmonies complement General Jah Mikey’s soothing, calm and no-frills vocal style very well. He sounds like a more whiskey-voiced Sugar Minott when he effortlessly rides the riddims.

General Jah Mikey has been in the music business since the mid 80’s and has tried and tested several music styles, including jungle and dubstep. I have not heard much from him prior to this album, but I really hope that he’ll continue in this vein.

Original Yard Food is now available on CD.

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Ras Batch is a powerful exponent of roots reggae

On Ras Batch’s seventh album Know Thyself he has teamed up with producer Laurent “Tippy I” Alfred from I Grade Records and the Zion I Kings, adding Andrew “Moon” Bain from Lustre Kings and David “Jah D” Goldfine from Zion High Productions to the team of arrangers and producers.

Ras Batch is a prolific figure in the rich and vibrant Virgin Islands reggae movement, and has via his label Sound V.I.Zion Records released albums from himself and others. Apart from running a label he is also a producer and a musician playing drums, keys and bass.

Know Thyself is an organic and crisply produced set with a handful of already classic Tippy I riddims, and includes Jamaican musicians Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace on drums, Dean Fraser on saxophone, Andrew “Bassie” Campbell on bass and Earl “Chinna” Smith on guitar.

Song titles such as Give Jah Thanks for Life, Trees and Dem Against Jah Rules tell of a strictly conscious affair dealing with topics such as religion, slavery, love and unity as well as environmental issues.

Ras Batch is a powerful exponent of contemporary roots reggae and has an honest and soaring tone in his voice. He occasionally lacks pitch control, something he makes up for in sincerity and emotional intensity.

Highlights include album opener Jah Children, something of an ode to nyabinghi drumming, Live Pray with its instant and memorable guitar hook courtesy of Chinna Smith and the first single Together, with a positive and infectious sing-a-long chorus.

Ras Batch might not be as well-known as fellow VI artists Pressure and Midnite, but with the rich and emotive Know Thyself he might be able to tell the world his story and put his name on the map.

Know Thyself is now available on CD and digital download.

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