Here is a new single from Elijah Salomon in conjunction with Gambian artists King Kora and Sambou Suso who are both Griots, that is, West African troubadours and cultural historians. The sound is fresh and vital – and also unusual in its highly effective combination of reggae rhythm and African vocals alongside ascending and descending Gambian instrumentation. Based in Switzerland, Elijah has been releasing his distinctive brand of reggae for over ten years and the fusion achieved on this release is worthy of your attention. The single is accompanied by a dub version courtesy of Joe Ariwa which proceeds with a fine pace and great clarity: take a listen!
Elijah Salomon: You Never Know, release February 2018 on One Camp Records
There must be something about the atmosphere or the water in Seattle, given its musical impact upon the late Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, and latterly upon Peter Buck. Here from the same city we have a new release from the Georgetown Orbits who are inspired directly by the sound and the feel of Jamaican ska. Since the band’s conception in late 2004 the Georgetown Orbits have shared the stage with leading names including the Skatalites, Clinton Fearon, The Gladiators, Israel Vibration, The Roots Radics, the (English) Beat and Pato Banton, and toured the US west coast with New York’s ska band the Slackers.
The fourth album by the Orbits is due for release in May 2018. In the meantime we have this single, ‘Keep Your Chin Up’, to consider. Released by Portland ska label, Simmerdown Productions, it also features the classic reggae song ‘Picture on the Wall’ as the B-side. It seems that the Pacific Northwest is the place to be if you’re serious about contemporary US reggae.
Georgetown Orbits: Keep Your Chin Up, single release 2018
British reggae band New Town Kings are back with an uncompromising new track entitled ‘Borderline’, focussing on migration and upon politically-motivated hostility towards difference and towards those who seek to escape persecution.
The New Town Kings have featured on these pages before (see reggaemusic.org.uk 14th December 2014). The eight-strong ska/reggae band seek to merge old-school Jamaican rhythms with a novel take on UK-inspired ska and they have already built up a strong live reputation. In April and May 2018 the New Town Kings will be touring in England where you can have the chance to hear their forthcoming album ‘Reach Out’ live in a relatively small-scale venue setting.
New Town Kings: ‘Borderline’, single release 9th March 2018
Here’s the second album from five-piece French band Ryon, comprising thirteen tracks of reggae music in the mainstream roots tradition. The title track rocks along at a leisurely pace, while ‘Gaia’ kicks off in a dubby style before taking us into another moderately paced thoughtful track, melodic and instrumentally interesting. With live dates in France from April there is an early chance to hear this positive reggae music in a live setting.
Ryon: Zephyr, release on CD, digital and vinyl, 16th March 2018
From Bordeaux here comes the forthcoming third album from Alam, featuring Glaswegian Soom T (see reggaemusic.org.uk February 17th, 2013) along with personnel from French reggae band Danakil who also help out with the production. With the female vocals of Marie and Soom T set atop the tight reggae rhythms of the band it’s mainstream reggae at its best with hints of hip-hop from time to time amidst strong instrumentation.
Amongst the tracks included here, the single ‘Someday’ is a faster-paced politically informed song. Dealing with a range of contemporary world issues the album is nonetheless feel-good and optimistic, and the pace of the music makes seeing the band live an inviting prospect.
The new album by King Kong entitled ‘Repatriation’ is due at the beginning of March and will feature top rated reggae musicians including Roots Radics, Sly & Robbie, Naram & Art, Russ D, Bongo Herman, Leroy Mafia, Dwight Pinkney. It also includes Burro Banton and none other than Eek a Mouse so should be well worth hearing. In the meantime we have the first single release from the album in the shape of ‘Gwaan’, an easy-going dancehall-influenced reggae track. Back to the 80s!
King Kong is scheduled to tour in mainland Europe from January to May, backed by Irie Ites with what is billed as “a brand new live concept” called Irie Ites Live Mix comprising a trombonist and the in-house producer who will play and dub the rhythm tracks. Different!
King Kong: Repatriation, release due 2nd March 2018 by Irie Ites Records in CD, vinyl and digital formats
Long-established Jamaican singer and actor Peter Lloyd has released his cover of John Lennon’s ‘Woman’ in a soft melodic reggae-lite style. Described as the ‘Love Messenger’, Peter Lloyd believes that love is the ‘greatest revolution’ that creates unity. His personal Rastafarian philosophy has influenced his music and he states that the purpose of his music is to ‘heal the world’. He also tries to give back to society as much as he can through a programme of philanthropy, delivering his message through a programme called Yutes Rise, where he seeks to inspire participants through a reggae/motivational workshop and live performances. On this single, Peter Lloyd teams up with legendary Jamaican producer and saxophonist Dean Fraser who has worked with the likes of Dennis Brown, Sly and Robbie, and Joe Gibbs. Widely known on the international reggae festival circuit, he has come up with a track that is leagues away from angry powerful drum-and-bass or dancehall sounds. Not the first time this song has been treated to a reggae makeover, this track stands as a thoughtful and gentle reggae version of Lennon’s sweet song which somehow seems right in the run-up to Christmas as we remember John Lennon’s murder in December 1980.
Here is the new album from vocalist MLK, an eleven-track analogue reggae album firmly in the roots reggae tradition. MLK takes us through a selection of original tracks and some revisiting of lesser known tracks from Lee Perry’s Upsetters house band, with new vocals and with renewed inspiration. Originally from Sierra Leone and currently based in Amsterdam, songwriter and artist MLK provides some serious reggae music informed by mainstream roots history and delivered with commitment. Authenticity is the word.
Released on vinyl and on digital download, the latter includes four dub versions not included on the vinyl album. Great music.
MLK and the Breadwinners: the World is in Trouble, release on vinyl and DDL, October 2017.
From Polish producer Dreadsquad (Marek Bogdanski) here are some serious reggae/dancehall rhythms in the form of a fine digital release alongside a two-volume vinyl alternative. Confusingly it’s a riddim collection with vocals – from a variety of guest artists. Volume 2 is at different points melodic vintage reggae, dancehall, electronic, and good old-fashioned dub. Volume 3 begins energetically and continues in similar style throughout. Worth catching.
Dreadsquad: Riddim Machine volumes 2 & 3, release on Superfly/Moonshine Recordings, digital/vinyl, 17th November 2017
From new independent label Konquerin Soundz Recordings comes this six-track collection based on one rhythm track, with an upbeat but sometimes angry take on life. The Leaderz Riddim takes its title from Bristol based-Da Fuchaman’s “So called Leaders” (included here) and is a dismissive but worthwhile view of those who style themselves as our leaders. Other tracks range from Gappy Ranks’ “Conquering Lion” to Tenna Star’s “Stand for Life”, YT’s “Optimistic”, Mowty Mahlyka’s “In the City” and Blackout JA’s uncompromising “No Justice”. Konquerin Soundz are a Reggae/Dancehall vinyl soundsystem based in Cornwall, and have been generating full-onsounds around South West England for twelve years. This compelling dancehall-based sound is a great way for the label to make its mark on contemporary reggae.
The Leaderz Riddim released digitally on Konquerin Sounds label, 2nd December 2017