Black Roots: Son of Man

4717_pochette_250pxThis seminal UK band is back with a new 11-track album, with – as always – a strong political message at its core. With their origins in the Saint Paul’s area of Bristol, Black Roots began in 1979 and built up a formidable reputation for writing and performing firmly in the roots reggae genre until their peak in the 1980s. With their music steeped in the urban political fragmentation of the UK of the time, they played roots music in an uncompromising but melodic way and were a key reggae band of that era.  Their last album – in their initial incarnation – was released in 1990.  Various re-releases and dub makeovers were released subsequently but the band was not an active performing and recording outfit until they bounced back in 2012 with On the Ground (featuring most of the original members). Its dub counterpart was released in the following year. The French label, Soulbeats Records, released Ghetto Feel in 2014, and now the band is back with a brand new album, Son of Man.

Although the band no longer tour extensively they have played a series of selected live shows since they reformed, both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe including I’ll Be Your Mirror curated by Portishead at Alexandra Palace London UK, Glastonbury , the Lambeth Country Show , Garance Reggae Festival in France, Dour Festival in Belgium, the Polish Ostroda Reggae Festival and Reggae Sun Ska in France. So it is possible, if not easy, to catch them live: meantime, the title track from the new album (see above) is a good solid roots track in the fine Black Roots tradition.

Black Roots: Son of Man, release on Soulbeats Records, 22nd January 2016

OK! Ryos

220px-Pro-Independence_Flag_of_New_Caledonia.svgHere’s a taste of kaneka, a reggae-infused music from the South Pacific island of New Caledonia. Deriving from the diverse music heritage of the island and its kanak peoples, together with the political and religious influences of French administration over the years, the music is broadly rather than narrowly defined. Due to its remote geographical location, and technological underdevelopment of internet connectivity, there have been severe commercial limits to how far the music has travelled from New Caledonia to the ears of listeners elsewhere in the world.

There are also limits to how far it has spread within New Caledonia itself where kaneka can at best serve as a unifying movement amongst different groups of the population and amidst political conflict. While none of the kaneka bands and artists are well known beyond New Caledonia, OK! Ryos have perhaps the highest profile internationally, and their album Wa Coco Le Meilleur (the best of) OK! Ryos (2008), with its mainly gentle quasi-reggae sound, is readily available. More recent releases (above) are a fine introduction to this engaging music.