Zulu Bob: Ms Joy

This is the new single from Antigua/Barbuda Reggae dancehall singer/selector Zulu Bob. It anticipates his new album ‘Road To ReggaeVille’ from Chinese reggae label DB Bros Records. ‘Ms. Joy’ follows a theme familiar in reggae music, a depiction of a hard life culminating eventually in a brief happiness. Musically it’s a repetitive dancehall digital sound which will appeal to Western ears accustomed to 1980s dancehall. It’s well produced and if you like that period of vintage reggae you’ll like this.

Zulu Bob (Norris Angelo Hodge) has already worked with some big names in the reggae world including Lutan Fyah and Tippa Irie and this release will build on his reputation established by his 2017 EP ‘Feel It’ and his debut solo album ‘Way Up’ in 2019.

The press release sums it up thus:Zulu Bob hails from the twin Island of Antigua and Barbuda. Moving to China for studies he jumped in the entertainment scenes. Zulu Bob spends his times working as both a DJ and Mc in Beijing under the alias of Norrisman but his true joy comes from him being able to share his views and feelings through his music. Working closely with DB Bros Records (China), WhyBeatz and Island Trap Records (Caribbean) he touches different styles, different genres and is truly dedicated and ecstatic about releasing to the world music from an artist with no barriers’

Kingdom Soldier: The Watchman

From St Lucia, here comes singer, songwriter and producer Kingdom Soldier (Lenny Deneb) with his third album entitled The Watchman. Due for release at the beginning of September this will be his third studio album and it reveals his thoughtful and religious inspiration throughout. Lenny says: “the Watchman album was inspired in me to write songs that hopefully encourage those who are searching for ‘peace’. In my youth singers such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Culture and Gregory Isaacs inspired me and helped me to cope with life’s journey. Therefore the Watchman album is for people like me when I was struggling with life issues such as loss, drugs, unemployment, religion, lack of family support, police harassment and such likes”.

‘The Watchman’ reflects aspects of the singer’s life and experiences, some individual and personal, others based on observations drawn from his work with young people and families going through their own difficulties. In addition to his music, Lenny has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organization (ECCO) in St. Lucia and has helped to develop young St. Lucian artists such as Coldsweat, Sherwin ‘Dupes’ Brice and Lateefah.

At the age of ten years Lenny left England for St. Lucia. He later co-founded the reggae band Cygnus who recorded for Greensleeves Records and attracted considerable positive attention. As a solo singer, Lenny released three songs in 1985 for his own LED Records namely ‘Mustique Girl’ (later appearing on the album ‘From the Sanctuary’ as Lucian Girl), Soldiers and the third single ‘Who or what turns you on’ which made record of the week in the Echoes music paper. During the 1990s he worked, under the alias of Zouk Doctor, as a freelance music reviewer and was also the first zouk disc jockey on a London community radio station (Reflections Radio 96.9FM). The peak of the band’s career came in early 1980 when Cygnus appeared on live French TV with no less than Jimmy Cliff.

This fine pedigree is certainly reflected in a track like ‘Under Your Wings’ from the new Watchman album, with its melancholy sentiment, insistent rhythm and excellent production. The album begins with ‘Train to Zion’, with its spiritual message and firm reggae beat. ‘Murderers Gangsters and Thieves’ updates the powerful message of ‘Police and Thieves’ from so many years ago. ‘Love of the Most High’ has a strong repetitive rhythm and melody, building to a powerful conclusion. The album closes with ‘Where Will You Go From Here’, posing questions for us all and including some fine contemporary guitar sounds. The album consists of twelve carefully-crafted and spiritually-inspired tracks that all lovers of reggae music should hear.  

Kingdom Soldier: the Watchman: release September 2020

Samur-I vs Grove (featuring JDPL): Quest for Freedom

Samur-I is a reggae producer working as part of a music collective in South West England, writing and recording rhythm tracks for different singers to voice over. Samur-I Sounds have previously released dub-heavy music featuring the likes of Paul Divers. This new release (May 2020) features Grove, a Bristol based singer and together they come up with this powerful reggae number with brass, vocals and strong support from the thudding bass and sharp percussion throughout. Along with the vocal track this features dub versions from Jack Carver (UK) and ‘Jim the Boss’ (USA). Great reggae music in the classic tradition. Release date 20th May 2020

Harmonie Deja: Herb Root Riddim

After successfully launching West London label Shero Records Ltd in 2019, founder, singer and female producer Harmonie Dèja launches its series of music releases with a vital roots-reggae EP entitled ‘Herb Root Riddim’. It’s accompanied by a video showcasing a strong compilation of artists from Jamaica to the UK, extoling the virtues of peace, a gentle life and of course marijuana. The video introduces the personnel involved, culminating in Kitty Corbin (why didn’t she win the last election?). There’s a strong rhythm throughout before finally getting into a dub style for the final minute or so. This is powerful but gentle reggae music with excellent production values.

‘Herb Root Riddim’ features tracks from former Raging Fyah frontman Kumar, Jahkirk and Ras Tavaris as well as Kitty Corbin. Background vocals are added to each track by Harmonie Deja herself, who has previously toured alongside reggae greats including Susan Cadogan and Freddie McGregor. She demonstrates that women can overcome the barriers to success in a male dominated industry and this is indeed a passionate initial release.   

It’s the perfect sound to sooth the soul during lockdown.

Harmonie Deja: Herb Root Riddim, Shero Records, release 20th April 2020.

General Levy: Jah Guide

Here’s the renowned UK artist General Levy with a great little fast-paced dancehall/ragga song ‘Jah Guide’, taken from the upcoming single-rhythm album ‘Africa We Want’. The album, from French label Conquering Records, features a host of performers including Anthony B., Skarra Mucci, General Levy, Queen Omega, Natty Jean, Sir Jean and last but not least Solo Banton in duet with BB Seaton – the original lead singer of the Gaylads whose 1967 Studio One song ‘Africa’ forms the basis for the rhythm track used throughout. Conquering Records is the label derived from the Conquering Sound team of selectors. Launched in 2016, the label was very successful with its initial release of ‘My Enemies Riddim’, released in 2017 and featuring the likes of Lutan Fyah. 2018 saw the release of the ‘Speed It Up’ single, issued on a maxi 45 with remixes done by some of the top names in the French dub scene. This great release from General Levy is the chance to get acquainted with the Conquering Records sound.

General Levy: Jah Guide, release April 2020

Chronixx: Dela Move

Jamaican performer Chronixx releases a new single this month in anticipation of his forthcoming second album ‘Dela Splash’ which is due for release later in 2020.

The single ‘Dela Move’ is the opening track from the album. The single has an earthy authentic instrumental feel before Chronixx pitches in with vocals over an adventurous rhythmic track.  It is hard to classify but that’s no bad thing. It stands as an intriguing taste of what the album may be. Chronixx tell us that he wants to “harness the full artillery of sounds that have been passed forward to us through the works of the great Diaspora and African music innovators.”

Chronixx has played at many of the world’s leading festivals and it is fair to say he is opening-up new directions in music based in the roots tradition to new and appreciative audiences. The release for ‘Dela Move’ follows the recent announcement that Chronixx is due to be headlining at London’s Eventim Apollo on 12th October 2020, although with the Coronavirus disruption to international travel we can’t be sure!

Chronixx: ‘Dela Move’ release March 2020

The Skints: The Island

The Skints have featured on these pages many times. It’s hard to believe that this punky reggae outfit from London have been active for more than a dozen years but here they are again with a fresh political edge on their single ‘The Island’. The title denotes the UK in a post-Brexit world, alone and dreaming in vain of glories in a world of Conservative fantasies.

The band says: “Well here we are. I feel there’s so much that’s been said already, and we’re all sick of it. There’s a million reasons to hate Brexit but to touch a personal note regarding The Skints; as working class musicians who until recently had the freedom to travel, live and work in the European Union as much as we liked, that right has been stripped from us against our will. It feels violating and isolating, so we wrote a song about it. Solidarity to all those whose lives are being negatively impacted much more than ours by this nightmare.”

 

The Skints’ debut album ‘Live, Breathe, Build, Believe’, released in 2009, was championed by BBC Radio 1’s Punk Show, whilst 2012’s ‘Part & Parcel’, the second full-length album by the band, further built their fan base and opened doors to extensive touring, festivals and markets outside of the UK and across Europe. The follow-up album, ‘FM’, released in 2015, reached number 5 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart and number 7 on the Independent Albums Chart in the UK, seeing The Skints tour relentlessly across the USA, Canada and Japan. You can check out earlier review of the band on these pages.

The band has a strong live reputation and has featured at some of the world’s biggest festivals, also receiving recognition in the form of the BBC 6 Music ‘Album of the Day’ and the playlist for earlier single ‘Armageddon’, a Billboard Reggae Charts #1 for the LP and the Independent Albums Breakers Chart. Their music has latterly gained even more in confidence, drawing from reggae, soul, dub, punk, hardcore and rap, bound together by their political and personal commitments to us all.

Musically this new single (from their 2109 album ‘Swimming Lessons’) is a punky rocky thrash with a hint that the band’s background is in reggae and certainly in live performance. Touring in the UK in 2020, they just go from strength to strength.

The Skints: The Island, release 2020 on Mr Bongo/Easy Star records.

ST1 (Stone): At Last

‘At Last’ is the forthcoming album from East London’s ST1 (aka Stone). It follows the success of his earlier reggae EP ‘Stoned Roots’ and his live reputation as a performer, either relaxing or upbeat depending on the mood of the music. Tracks like ‘This One’s For You’ and ‘Ba Ba Boom’ are straightahead reggae but he is also capable of soulful and melodic songs – as all the best reggae performers are. Currently unsigned, ST1 is nonetheless building a grassroots following through his live gigs and his own releases. Worth looking out for!

ST1 (Stone): At Last, release 2020

Avery Carballo: Closer

Here comes Avery Carballo (aka 77 beatz) with a fine reggae song ‘Closer’. As a producer based in San Antonio, Texas, he knows how to get the best out of a song and this new single has the crisp clear sound of the digital age underlying a strong melody and effective vocals. With a little dub around the edges of the backing rhythm this adds up to a strong release.   

Originally from Houston, 77 has clearly been influenced by his love of the reggae classics and has spent his young life generating music and beats through release on Spotify (from where this single can be heard) and working with other like-minded reggae enthusiasts including Reign Lowell, Donnie Canvas and Joey Calderaio. This single will add to his growing reputation.

Avery Carballo: Closer