A brilliant release from reggae singer/songwriter Shniece Mcmenamin with her interpretation of jazz trumpeter Tom Browne’s classic 1980 song ‘Funkin for Jamaica’. The vocal style is strong but at the same time languid, the delivery assured and powerful. The production, courtesy of Prince Fatty (Mike Pelanconi) is just as you might expect from him: dub-oriented reggae displaying a knowledge of the vintage reggae sound – including some electronic beeps that would make Rose Royce more than happy. If you know his work with Hollie Cook you’ll know what to expect here.
Prince Fatty/Shniece Mcmenamin: Funkin’ for Jamaica NY, release 7th August 2020
Bob Marley’s exquisite reggae classic ‘One Love’ from 1977 will need little introduction to those who visit this site. It’s a song by Bob Marley, coupled with elements of ‘People Get Ready’ by Curtis Mayfield, that stands as a true classic of reggae music. It has been revisited a number of times including the excellent extended remix by Julian Mendelsohn from 1984 featured on the ‘deluxe’ edition of the ‘Legend’ greatest hits album, and the sweet Cordovan remix from 2008 included on the ‘Roots, Rock, Remixed’ album. So, is there any mileage in another visit to this song?
This version was assembled by the Marley Family in association with Tuff Gong International and Amplified Music. Cedella Marley, Bob’s daughter, and musician Skip Marley, Bob’s grandson, are heavily involved with the track. This new version is designed to support UNICEF’s Reimagine campaign, a global fundraising appeal to respond, recover and reimagine a post-COVID-19 world fit for children. There’s no cynicism or aggression here, only heartfelt compassion.
“Over forty years ago, my father wrote ‘One Love’ about unity, peace and universal love during a time when there was much trouble in the world. Even in a time when we aren’t able to get together, his message remains true today, we can get through this global crisis if we come together through one love and one heart” says Cedella Marley. “(The) song is very special because of (its) message. It’s a song of equality. One love meaning love for everyone, for all humanity. It doesn’t matter the colour, creed or social status or anything like that. It’s appreciating the human family. ‘One heart, let’s get together and feel all right,’” adds Stephen Marley
The money raised from ‘One Love’ for Reimagine will help UNICEF respond to the immediate needs of children and families affected by Covid-19.The project has been put together by new UK record label Amplified Music, run by Serene Sass. They work to give access to the music industry to artists who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance – refugees, those from conflict zones and countries in crisis.
Marley Family: One Love; released 17th July 2020, Amplified Music
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’
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 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
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.
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.
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!
‘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!