Album Review of “Kulture Walk” by Kumar

KultureWalk

I was excited when asked to review Kumar’s debut solo album as I was a big fan of the Raging Fyah. I have also met Kumar a couple of times and found him to be a sweet humble young man. 

The album opens with an introduction called “There Is No Movement Without Rhythm”. An infectious African beat creates a  background for Kumar’s philosophy of this musical journey. In spoken word, he talks of how music takes us to places and people and elevates us. “Melodies that carry you to different places, visualizing faces, embracing these stages. Creating, elevating to the highest regions of our minds”. There are many instances when I don’t always agree with the selection of opening songs on an album, but this one is perfect, setting the scene for the album’s journey.

Trading Places” is a very poignant song to a marching beat, which I believe, without him saying so, is describing Kumar’s journey upwards with Raging Fyah and his difficult decision to break from the band to follow his own dreams.

The following track, “Sailing” has the same musical feel that a lot of the US bands have. I’ll admit I didn’t like this song to start with because it was so different from the true Jamaican feel that we have come to know from Kumar. Having said that, after listening to the album 3 more times it has grown on me,  and as the theme of the album is the journey through cultures, it fits well.

Joined by Chevaughn, Kumar brings us “Live Another Day”. a rock fusion song about how having fame and fortune isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and doesn’t make you happy. If they had to make the choice, they would trade it in and go back to the beginning “just to live another day”.

“Grain Of Sand” feat. Agent Sasco has the same underlying beat as the previous track making the flow from one track to the other seamless. The riddim on this track is a lot more complex with horns etc,  filling it out into a big production. The song emphasizes that no matter how much you think you are a big man,  you are as small as a grain of sand to Jah.

With a mystical, somewhat Eastern-sounding backing, Kumar brings a reminder of what this album is about with an interlude called “My Life – My Message”.

Kumar’s next track definitely has a message. “Dry Bones” is questioning if we are programmed to think in a certain way and speculating that we are all owned by the establishment,  which results in us living in a war zone. He sings how he can’t wait to escape the program. 

One Day” is a song about life’s choices and what you do with them. How sometimes you get off on the wrong track and don’t know how to get back home. Some youth become gunmen and can never go back. It continues that however lost you feel, some days you just have to be a Moses.

A complete change of mood comes with the next track. “Loyalty” is about a broken relationship. Kumar sings that loyalty seems to be missing in the world today. Despite this, he is recovered from the hurt and is happy.

In “Race of Your Own” Kumar is joined by M-1 of the US Hip-Hop duo Dead Prez. to brings us a song to make us think about the way we treat the resources of this world, “Where will we go from here when the rain is all gone?”. They are encouraging us to be wiser than before and to not be discouraged when fighting for change but to make small changes ourselves and continue on, alone in a race of our own.

The next track is a new mix of the recently released, highly acclaimed single, “Remember Me”. This is a call to Jah to not forget him and assuring that he won’t become a sellout to the system. With the famous line from “Oh Freedom,” the post-civil war African American freedom song, “Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave”, this is a powerful anthem.

A piano version of “Dry Bones” is the penultimate song on the album. I love both versions of this song but I think this is my favorite. It’s a simpler sound with piano and strings. It’s beautiful.

Jamaica”, the closing track, should be picked up by the Jamaican Tourist Board. It has a catchy rhythm and enhanced by the horns, made me want to get online and book a ticket to Jamaica. This is the song to take our minds off the craziness in the world right now.

I always add at the end of my reviews to buy the complete album so as not to miss out on some tracks that you initially skip over, but this album is a perfect example of that. When I first listened there were a couple of tracks that I didn’t feel. Now having listened to the album 3 times, there isn’t a track I don’t like. Well done Kumar, it was worth the wait.

 

Album review of “Survival” – Ginjah

GINJAH ALBUM front LOGO

 

Roots reggae artist Ginjah released his long-awaited 3rd album “Survival’ on March 20, 2020.  The album was released under the Young Veterans Music label and distributed by VPal

Before writing this review I went back and listened to Ginjah’s two previous albums as I was not very familiar with them. I can see growth and maturity in this latest album which has increased in spiritual and conscious content.

 

The album opens with “Jah By My Side”, a song revealing Ginjah’s unfailing trust in Jah. “Imma be fine. Imma be ok. I know I’ll be alright.”  a faith that would help us all in this time.

 

Fire Blaze” is my favorite track on the album. It’s a song about artists who compromise their morals and try to be something they are not for stardom. “They will do anything to live the life of a superstar.”  I not only like the lyrical content of this track but Ginjah sings this song in a lower register than he is normally known for. I think he should do this more often as it shows a richness to his voice that is not as evident in the higher register.

 

The following track is “Jah Light”. This track talks about the light of Jah that shines through the darkness that is often associated with the music industry as a whole. This light is what keeps him going and not giving up.

 

In “Shootie ShootieGinjah hits on the subject of gun violence and murder by the youth in gangs. He asks the murderer how they feel now, in other words, is it on their conscience.

 

Life is a struggle with many hills and valleys before you find peace of mind, This is the theme of “Many Mountains”. This track has a big band, old school feel to it and a variety of instruments to give it a real full sound.

 

Previously released as a single in 2019, “Survival”, the title song, is a song about keeping negative people a way to find peace of mind. Ginjah also sings about forgiving those who have done him wrong to obtain that peace.

 

With its infectious ska beat, “Stronger Together” speaks of ending the fussing and fighting and coming together to make the whole world stronger. This is a light-hearted beat with a deep deep message.

 

Another song with a deep message is ”White Lies”. Ginjah says that freedom is a lie that the white world would have everybody believe. The black race is still in slavery because of the way it is discriminated against and is still facing what the ancestors faced 500 years ago.

 

Moving” is a song about how Ginjah sees the stages in his life, how he sees his life-changing to make him a better person. He likens these stages to the stages of the moon and how it becomes brighter.

 

The pain and hopelessness of feeling no-one cares is what Ginjah describes in “To Be Alone”. When you are going through struggles you feel you are on your own even if you are not. This song is poignant and convincing enough to make you believe that Ginjah has been there.

 

Ginjah’s debut album “Urge To Love” was an album of love songs but “Special Friends” is the only song on this album that is a love song.  Some of this album speaks of the love of life or the love of your fellow man but this one is a romantic call to a girl to be a special friend even if they can’t be lovers. “Even though you’re not my honey. You’re sweeter than pocket money.” is a little cheezy but a great line.

 

The final song on the album is “I’m Alive”. This is a call for celebration, to feel the vibes,  to cherish life and to believe in your dreams, a fitting end to a diverse and uplifting album.

 

As I’ve said in reviews before, don’t just pick and choose the tracks to download. For the price of a couple of fancy coffees, you will have an album that will grow on you more and more each time you hear it. This is an album that will last over time. Well done Ginjah and Young Veterans Music. I look forward to more in the future.

 

When is a band not a band?

album cover

 

 When I was first made aware of the Reggae Powerhouse Band, I was intrigued by the idea of a band that was not just a band but a concept. To find out more about the band I had to talk to Leroy Scarlet, the man behind the magic. 

   Leroy Scarlet has been in the music business since back in the 1970s. He was born and raised in the parish of St Andrew in Jamaica. Growing up Leroy was exposed to music by the local sound systems and singers who lived in the area. He remembers seeing George Nooks, who had to pass his yard going to and from school, singing and chanting while walking the seven or so miles to his home. Wherever there was music Leroy could be found, both in school and in the community. At the age of twelve, Leroy became a box lifter for a sound system called Killaphonic and eventually was given a chance to sing. The first time he tried he didn’t even have a microphone, they had to reverse the sound back through a speaker. DJ Big Joe had a sound system called Rebel Tone in the community and Leroy began to chant on it regularly. Whenever Leroy heard that a big sound system was coming to town, he would be at the spot way before they arrived because he didn’t want to miss anything and by this time he was performing at every opportunity he could get.

 

  Leroy’s High School graduation was coming up and as the festivities finished early Leroy had the vision to hold a dance for the graduation. At the time Leroy’s father worked on road construction so Leroy went to work with him to pay for this dream, although his pay was only $50. Leroy’s neighbor was Noel Harper whose father had a large grocery store and bar. Noel would play music in the bar area on Friday and Saturday nights. Noel decided he wanted to build a sound system so he and the boys went around the community buying up all the cedar boards they could find and he made an 18 box system. This was the birth of the now famous Killamanjaro sound system. After Leroy received his paycheck for working on the roads, he went to Noel Harper and asked how much it would cost to have Killamanjaro play at the graduation dance. Noel said it would be $250 but Leroy only had $50. When Leroy told him this he said “Boy, you are ambitious. I charge $250 and you only have $50. I will take that as a deposit but how are you going to pay for the goat and the drinks etc?” Leroy replied, “I don’t know how but I’ve got to do it”. As was stated earlier, Noel Harper’s father owned a big grocery store, so somehow they persuaded him to let Leroy have the provisions he needed on consignment. With help from his parents, his father on the gate and his mother running the bar, Leroy put on the biggest dance in the community with everyone from the school in attendance. The dance was such a success that Leroy had enough money to pay Mr. Harper and Killamanjaro and had money left over.

 

  By this time, Leroy’s cousin Chris Stanley had returned from the US and was living about 20 miles from Leroy’s home. After graduation Leroy went to live with him. Chris had a grand piano in his house so one day Leroy decided he was going to teach himself to play it. He took a record player and put it by the piano and played a record over and over until he picked out a note in the bassline, then the whole bassline, and then he started to sing along with it. When his cousin came in he was impressed by his singing and playing and from then on he didn’t look back. Leroy met Tyrone Downie from Bob Marley &The Wailers and told him he was a singer, Tyrone listened to him and sent him to Bob’s Hope Road Studio for an audition. Leroy was disappointed that he didn’t get to meet Bob while he was there. Leroy was becoming increasingly frustrated for as hard as he tried he wasn’t getting any results from the producers he was reaching out to.  

  Chris Stanley had decided to build a studio on the large piece of property he lived on. While Chris was traveling and collecting the equipment he needed for the studio, Leroy was singing 7 days a week at dances. At the return of his cousin, they worked day and night until Music Mountain Studio was finished. Jimi Cliff attended the grand opening of the studio and as most of the recording studios in Jamaica at that time were located in Kingston, artists began pouring into Music Mountain Studio because of the proximity to where they lived. Some of the earliest recordings at the studio were Boris Gardner’sI Want To Wake Up With You”, Sophia George’sToo Girlie Girlie” and Black Uhuru’s Solidarity” album. Although Leroy wasn’t being paid he was always in the background helping out and running errands. He met big artists like Toots and The Maytals, Marcia Griffiths, Glen Ricks and many more. Around this time Sly and Robbie started to use the studio and Leroy closely studied the recording process. One day he commented to Sly Dunbar that he really liked the track they were working on so Sly told him to take a shot at it. With David Roy as the engineer, Leroy recorded his first single “Murder”. The single was released just before Christmas 1987 and was quite successful. He was paid $100J for the single which was a lot of money at that time. After Christmas when Sly and Robbie returned to the studio, Leroy told them he didn’t want to sing anymore. This was a big surprise to them as the single had done well but Leroy explained to them that he loved the producer’s lifestyle. Producers were making more money than the artists and without the stress of having to perform every night. It was obvious then that Leroy was very ambitious and driven. He produced his first track with instrumental help from Tyrone Downie of The Wailers and Trapper John from The Bloodfire Posse and the first artist to voice on it was Super Glen, following that he produced an album for Melvin Irie. Gregory Isaacs was passing through so Leroy had him voice a track, then Anthony Red Rose and Linval Thompson both voiced a couple of songs. Leroy was on his way up.

 

  Leroy Scarlet later produced and released several albums includingReggae Train” series one and two, Frankie Paul “It’s My Time”, Easy B “Prophecy”, Anthony B “Judgement Time” and “Dimensions In Music” containing tracks by Glen Washington, Luciano Messenjah, Frankie Paul, General Pecos, Easy B, Anthony B, Sizzla, and Beres Hammond plus a fourteen track album called “Four The Hardway” featuring Capleton, Sizzla, Luciano, and Anthony B. Most of the well-known artists of the 1990s have recorded something with Leroy Scarlet.

  In the late ’90s, reggae music sales plummeted. Singles that had up until then sold from 70,000 to 80,000 copies for a hit single suddenly were selling on an average 1,000 copies. The artists were making money from shows but the producer was no longer making as much money and Leroy realized the tables had turned. Although he loved making music, he wondered how he was going to continue to make a living. 

 

  With a heavy heart, Leroy switched from making music to Real Estate. He had some building skills and he learned tiling and painting and decorating then he bought some old properties, fixed them up into apartments and sold them. This brought him in a decent amount of money so he left the music and concentrated on the Real Estate business. Unfortunately, after some time Leroy started to feel ill. He went to the doctor who told him the dust from construction had given him severe asthma. With this in mind, he took some time off from construction.

 

  During his break from construction, Leroy was talking with his longtime friend Duckie Simpson from Black Uhuru about the state of the reggae industry and about how he had a lot of music that had never been released.  Duckie suggested he formed a band and use the band in combination with some of his catalog of unreleased music to get the music out there. Leroy liked this idea so he set about putting together a band.  Leroy had always liked the idea of being part of something meaningful and he believed that a band could contribute a lot with the unity of ideas, energy, and methods. A band relies on teamwork so unity is the key to success. Meanwhile, a producer of the movie “One Love” flew into Jamaica from the UK to meet with the late Gregory Isaacs wife to get permission to create a movie of the life story of Gregory but permission wasn’t given so the idea was dropped. Leroy thought this was a travesty as he believed Gregory’s legacy should be recorded. He talked to Sly and Robbie about this and Sly said: “The story doesn’t have to just be the life of Gregory Isaacs, call it The Powerhouse of Reggae or something similar and make it the life of all the reggae powerhouses.” The idea seemed like a good one but it still has a long way to go, although when forming the band Leroy adopted the name Reggae Powerhouse Band.

 

  When putting together the band, Leroy didn’t want to stick with solely Jamaican singers and musicians so, still with the theme of unity in mind, he traveled to other Caribbean islands in search of talent. He was producing a show in Antigua with Sanchez and the late Frankie Paul using local artists to start the show. It was there where he found his first lead vocalist, Cordel Dunnah. He immediately signed him and then going on from there signed Pernal Winchester from Trinidad and Tobago and Kobla Mentor from Guyana. The backbone of the musicians in the Reggae Powerhouse Band is drummer Joslyn McKenzie aka Speckles, drummer for Sanchez, who has played for many artists including Luciano and Culture. The musicians of the Reggae Powerhouse Band change up from time to time, showcasing talents during recording but there is a set lineup for performances. Each of the lead vocalists has his own song on each track but they all know each other’s songs so no show would ever have to be canceled due to illness. In theory, the Reggae Powerhouse Band could be playing in three different countries at the same time. As they are a relatively new band they have only performed at a few shows so far. They were invited by Tuff Gong to play at the Bob Marley Earthstrong Show at the Bob Marley Museum and in turn, invited double platinum South African artist Don Dada to perform with them. Don Dada’s single “Jah Is Good” was produced by Leroy Scarlet. Since then they have also performed in 2 shows in the Jamaica Live Concert series. 

 

  The debut album “Reggae Powerhouse Band and Friends” which contains collaborations with Richie Spice, Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs and, Don Dada, Luciano and Sizzla, has ended up with 20 tracks, so is being released in two volumes, the first going out in early 2020, distributed by Tuff Gong. Some of the tracks have been released as singles but there are still some epic tracks that haven’t been heard. Life has turned full circle for Leroy Scarlett as he has 5 songs on the album himself and he also joins the band sometimes on stage. “Tribute To The Legends Past and Present” is another album being recorded at this time by the Reggae Powerhouse Band

  

  A six-city tour of the UK is pending for the band in 2020. 

 

  There is a saying “You can’t keep an old dog down”, well the “old dog”, Leroy Scarlet, is proving that to be true. Leroy Scarlet and the Reggae Powerhouse Band are names we will be hearing a lot about in the years to come. A little bird has also told me that a book of memories of his life in the music industry is also in the works for Leroy Scarlet. Having heard some of the stories, this could be very entertaining.

 

http://reggaepowerhouse.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reggaepowerhouseband/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/officialreggaepowerhouse/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Powerhouse_band

 

For bookings: reggaepowerhouseband@hotmail.com

 

First published in Island Stage Magazine.

 

What brings together a tattooed hip-hop artist and a veteran reggae artist?

Before

 

B4TheFall” is a collaboration between heavily tattooed hip-hop artist CARPETFACE and veteran reggae artist JIMI LYONS. It is the first single released from an upcoming album by the duo. Like myself, you are probably wondering how this unlikely duo got together and if you know either of them it would seem even more unlikely. CARPETFACE is extremely outgoing and his brain seems to be on overdrive with ideas both in music and community activism. Jimi, on the other hand, is a quiet, humble rastaman, who thoroughly meditates on everything he does before doing it. Let me give you a little background into how I came to know about this project.

 

As I once worked in radio and subsequently ended up on a mailing list, I am often sent unsolicited music. I don’t always have time to listen to it so it’s usually the reggae music that gets first priority. I don’t generally listen to hip-hop music, so the fact that I listened to a single by CARPETFACE must have been predestined. The single had been sent to me by an overenthusiastic team member who was helping with his marketing. It was the hip-hop/jazz

fusion track “Painstaking Arranger” from his 2nd solo album “Cognitive Diss”  I did what I usually do when I get sent music that I rate, I wrote back and said I liked it. To my surprise, I received an email the following day, from CARPETFACE, thanking me. We’ve since kept in touch so when he was ready to release “B4TheFall”, a duo with veteran reggae artist JIMI LYONS, he sent it to me. What follows is the story behind the project.

 

CARPETFACE 

 

CARPETFACE, real name Adam Russell, was born in Wembley, UK. He has been a drummer since the age of 14yrs and since then has developed into an acclaimed hip-hop artist and producer. His first studio job at the age of 22, was remixing a track by Lee Scratch Perry for Mad Professor’s Ariwa label. CARPETFACE has released records steadily over the years and has been proclaimed as “One of the UK’s most talented underground artists” by Rough Trade records. He has released records on many different record labels and has formed his own label, New Bias Records. One of his songs, “Don’t Get It Twisted” was voted “Runner Up” for Best Single – 2nd place out of <1400 international releases in Wigwam Radio International Radio Awards in 2017. CARPETFACE has made many collaborations including with US rap legend Donald-D, UK dance heroes The Stereo MC’s, and Young Einstein. He has performed on stage supporting the likes of Ice-T, De La Soul, Lords of the Underground, The Pharcyde and many more established hip-hop artists. DJ Format described him as “Wembley’s answer to The Beastie Boys.”

CARPETFACE has always been an activist, using his hip-hop platform to speak out (or shout) about many injustices not only in the UK but around the world. In 2003 he was asked to participate as a hip-hop artist in a “last chance” workshop for young offenders. As CARPETFACE himself had been a bully and a “bad boy ” in his school days, he could relate to the kids, so he agreed. After this, he was contacted by organizers of workshops every now and again to participate. As these were paid workshops this became another source of income, rather like a performance gig.

After the birth of his son, CARPETFACE settled down and realized that with his connection to children, combined with his activism, he could educate future generations by combining song and public health information, although in his words he could be “a little preachy” at times.

He was approached by Beats House Records in France to write a song and he agreed as long as his portion of any money generated went to charity. The song was called “ 1-2-3-4-5 Wake Up”, a song about welcoming refugees. The song and the subsequent tour was a fundraiser for the Refugee Community Kitchen. The 15-day tour of Europe, from Cornwall to the French Alps and back raised £2.2k in cash donations and filled a truck with food and blankets donated along the way. Although this was very successful, CARPETFACE realized it was just a drop in the ocean, a short-term solution to an ongoing problem and that something sustainable was needed. He also decided that as an artist, just donating the money he made was not the most cost-effective way of doing charity work. His next step was to take a course to learn how to set up and run a non-profit organization. he then turned his record company NEWBIAS Records into a non-profit Community Interest Company NEWBIAS CIC, which acts as lead SW UK partner for London-based urban regeneration org “Respace Projects” – winners of 2019’s Sustainable Cities Award for Innovation

.  

Because of his rapport with youth, CARPETFACE was often asked by people he knew to try and reach their troubled kids using his musical talents. It soon became obvious that to continue this he needed a space to do so. He was donated empty office space but this was not ideal, a Youth Club type of setting would have been better. Unfortunately, the government has stopped funding for Youth Club programs, which has been suggested is one of the reasons for the massive acceleration of gang activity and knife crime in the inner-city areas. Having recently been donated a caravan (mobile home) CARPETFACE and a team of like-minded activist friends “up-cycled” memory foam and carpet and created a “pop-up” Youth Service Unit with A.V production suite, live room and an overnight emergency respite facility for young beneficiaries.

CARPETFACE then set up a new division of NEWBIAS CIC using the name of his workshops, “HEADSKILLZ

 Headskillz Centres was born in 2018. Using donated caravans, donated unused land, materials that would normally end up in landfills and donated time and skills by tradesmen in the communities, HEADSKILLZ is now creating pop-up Youth Clubs with a pilot unit serving North Cornwall in SW UK – and also developing an “Open Soundcheck” workshop installation tour for young people, before the doors open, at applicable music venues wherever he’s booked to perform in 2020

 

JIMI LYONS

 

JIMI LYONS was born in London to a Jamaican father and a Guyanese mother, both part of the Windrush Generation. His maternal grandfather was a Warrant Officer in the Guyanese Volunteer Force and performed with the band. The band was invited to the UK to perform at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 2nd in 1952 and Jimi’s grandfather stayed and became a citizen. He then brought his family over and that was how Jimi’s mother came to the UK. Jimi had music in his blood which became obvious later. His mother made sure all the children had music lessons and JIMI learned piano. 

At the age of 10, JIMI had a paper route to earn a little money of his own. On Saturdays, he would follow his dad into town and while his dad was in the pub he would go to the record shop and hang out listening to music and buying records with that money. He can remember the counter being higher than he was. He would buy records by Big Youth, I Roy, U Roy, and Dennis Walks among others. As an adult, he has been privileged to spend time with these heroes from his childhood.

When JIMI was 12 his mother left his father and returned to Guyana. Jimi took his record collection with him and he became popular with the older people as he introduced them to reggae music. His uncle made him aware of Bob Marley’s music and he was hooked. He started playing bass guitar in his school band and was also the main vocalist. A teacher from a neighboring school took him around to local venues and backed him while he sang and played. He sang a lot of Bob Marley songs which weren’t played in Guyana at the time as it was considered incendiary.

By the time JIMI was 15 he became a much more serious student. He was having a hard time dealing with his parent’s divorce and the return to poverty in Guyana, so he was determined to get out of that situation. He graduated when he was 16 and took a position as a bank clerk. In his spare time, JIMI read a lot and further educated himself. When he was 17 JIMI’s mother returned to the UK, taking her children with her. This allowed him to continue his education so he enrolled in the City Literary Institute where he became certified in all aspects of music and learned to play piano and guitar to a higher level. In his spare time, JIMI would frequent the places where the musicians hung out. Through a family member, he met Ross Andrews of Basement Studios where he recorded his first record “Firing Line”, an original song, which had a cover of Bob Marley’s “Wisdom” on the B side. After that, he met Wally Frazer, a record producer/benefactor who introduced him to the big names of that time, Dennis Brown, Alton Ellis, Junior Delgado, John Holt to name a few. He traveled to Jamaica and recorded several singles produced by Junior Delgado and engineered by Tappa Zukie but at that time Jamaica didn’t really support artists who were not born in Jamaica and his style of reggae didn’t fit into what was popular in the UK, having a heavy Soul influence, so his singles didn’t really take off. One big influence in JIMI’s life was Danny Simms, the music business entrepreneur who recorded Bob Marley and The Wailers in their early days. Danny became his mentor, guiding him along the way. Dancehall music became very popular in the ’90s but JIMI didn’t want to go in that direction, so although he didn’t stop writing, he put his music career to the background.

JIMI has been constantly involved in music in various capacities over the years and is very well respected in the reggae industry for all he has done to help others. Despite all his connections, he hasn’t pushed the catalog of music he has built up over the years. JIMI LYONS is getting older now and has realized it’s time to build a legacy with his own music.

 

Collaboration.

 

Every year JIMI LYONS curates the Rasta Village at the One Love Festival, the UK’s premier reggae festival. CARPETFACE and JIMI have a mutual friend who had been trying to link them for a couple of years so Jimi invited him to the festival and he turned up with five friends including CARPETFACE and his young son. JIMI gave CARPETFACE the opportunity to perform on the showcase stage. During the first day of the festival, CARPETFACE ’s son developed a severe toothache that the first aid people couldn’t handle but the nearest hospital was many miles away, so JIMI offered to take them. It was during the trip to the hospital and back that they talked and built a strong connection. JIMI discovered that CARPETFACE was born on the same date that his daughter passed away, which was also that Saturday of the festival. It brought a closeness to him on a very difficult day. After the festival, they agreed to meet up again. 

CARPETFACE was in London with another hip-hop artist soon after so they called in on him. They were surprised to see the studio in JIMI’s house and they got to work making music. CARPETFACE was due to go to Europe to perform with this artist but was let down so he and JIMI continued working. Enter the duo.

 

CARPETFACE and JIMI LYONS have created enough material for an album of which “B4The Fall” is the first single to be released. 

** “ ”B4TheFall” is a direct reflection of this uncertain time of desperate societal decline, public outrage at widespread corruption and fear of imminent environmental catastrophe. “B4TheFall” tells the story of how we got into the mess we’re in, taking the listener on the emotive journey from the birth of humankind, through our subsequent corruption, greed and separation from nature, to the present-day injustice, hypocrisy and inequality built into our current social systems, with the final anthemic chorus-hook filled with the hope of survival, redemption and prosperity for future generations.”**

The independent record and the subsequent video were entirely produced at Headskillz Southwest, an off-grid studio and youth support center and community hub based in SW UK, a project previously mentioned. 

2019 has seen this unlikely duo of CARPETFACE and JIMI LYONS craft a bank of conscious and uplifting cross-over material, enough to become an album. The album will contain tracks appealing to all ages and multi-genre music lovers, bringing back the classic male duo with a twist.

 

**“100% of profits generated from all digital and merchandise sales of this record will go towards funding our latest youth-support project “Headskillz UK” delivering a wide range of support initiatives stemming from engagement in creative practice to disadvantaged young people in urban and hard-to-reach areas across the UK over 2020”**

 

** Quotes from the “B4TheFall” press release.

 

First published in Island Stage Magazine.

 

Learn more at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1P8SUspRJB_MZlLpULaMyC1oxcow5Wa7K/view

 

Business Enquiries & Live Bookings: newbiasrecords@gmail.com +44 (0)7749408940

 

 

 

Album Review of “Royal Soldier” by Jah Cure

Jah Cure

I became a fan of Jah Cure with “The Universal Cure”, his 2009 album. I loved the raw gritty lyrics of his “prison songs”.  Since that album, I have been disappointed, as I felt that the rawness had gone. “Royal Soldier” has brought me back again.

 

Royal Soldier”, Jah Cure’s first album in 4 years, has the love songs that his fans know and love him for, but it also has some songs about the harsh reality of life. There are several featured artists, including some from other music genres, making this a “Jah Cure and Friends” type album.

 

An acapella introduction starts the album with Jah Cure’s vision “I’m on the verge of making history. Ain’t nobody stopping me. I’m on the move. I’m on the move right now”.

 

The opening song, “Brighter Day” sets the tone of the album combining a sultry Latin rhythm with conscious lyrics, discussing the ever-increasing violence of street life in Montego Bay, and wishing for better times. 

 

The following tracks also stood out for me:

 

Marijuana ft Damian Marley” is probably the best ganja song I have heard since Bob Marley’sKaya”, it’s a love song to marijuana, with Damian Marley coming in and educating us on the many uses of the plant.

 

Risk It All ft Phyllisia”, is one of the love songs on the album. After the release of “Unconditional Love” back in 2013, I have been waiting to see if Jah Cure would pair up with Phyllisia again as they create magic together, and I am not disappointed.

 

With “Eyes On Your Body” Jah Cure collaborates with Dru, Sketch Cary and Alx to bring a rap/dancehall/R&B fusion, showing that he isn’t just sticking with the reggae genre but spreading his wings across the board. 

 

Another fusion track is “Magic ft Tory Lanez”. This track combines Jah Cure’s signature love theme with the rawness of Canadian rapper Tory Lanez.

 

Life Is Real” has, once again, the theme of life on the streets. This song, featuring Popcaan and rapper Padrino, includes lines like, “In this life of mine, me come from nothing. Hustle too hard fi get sup’m In this life of grave, but you haffi stay thuggy. Streets a make a way for me”,  illustrating how difficult it is to escape from that lifestyle. 

 

Another stand out track is “Street Kings” on the “One Blood” riddim. This track, built around a classic Half Pint sample, features an impressive cast of veterans, Yami Bolo, Junior Reid and Capleton. Jah Cure says this closing track is his favorite on the album and I can see why. The song explains how poverty and hunger drive the youth to the streets but then it finishes with a powerful verse by Capleton warning them of the dangers of street life. 

 

Take a generous amount of love songs, with which Jah Cure has become synonymous, mix these with conscious songs that cross over into other genres, and this album looks to be a surefire hit.

 

 

Album Review of “In Our America” ny Aaron Nigel Smith

Aaaron

“Aaron Nigel Smith released his debut solo album In Our America, on his Aya World label, in partnership with Tuff Gong International, on March 8, 2019. With reggae songs that speak truth to today’s turbulent times, In Our America offers positive messages and inspiration for everyday activism. Songs from the new album were performed on February 6th at the Bob Marley 74th birthday celebration at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica, as well as at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA, on February 23rd. On March 10 Aaron appeared at Wynwood Yard in Miami in a special album release showcase performance. 

An educator and internationally touring musician known for the Emmy Award-winning PBS TV show Between the Lions, Smith is also founder of 1 World Chorus, a nonprofit organization serving youth in the United States, Kenya and Jamaica. Currently based in Portland, Oregon, Aaron has produced and released five albums for children, including 1 World Chorus Celebrates Bob Marley in collaboration with Ziggy Marley’s Tuff Gong Worldwide.

 In 2017, Aaron was designated an Official Bob Marley Ambassador by the Marley Foundation. He has performed at venues ranging from Pickathon to Lollapalooza, with lots of schools and community groups in his regular touring schedule. This summer, he and his band will also perform at Wolf Trap Theater-in-the-Woods in Virginia. 

Produced by Jubba White of Dubtonic Kru, In Our America is comprised of a collection of songs inspired by events in the USA and around the world. Aaron says, “I feel compelled to speak up about the state of our country and our world, especially political changes in the last two years.” – Majesty Media Press Release, March 5, 2019

 

When I was asked to review this album I jumped at the opportunity because, even though I knew nothing about Aaron Nigel Smith, I had seen the videos of a couple of the tracks and was excited. 

 

The album “In Our America” opens with an intro track with a snippet of the National Anthem, followed by a child quoting “ In our America all people are equal”. This intro sets the scene for an album with a very political message, interspersed by interludes with other equally deceptive statements.

 

Track 2, “More Love”, talks about how it is up to the generations to pass on the philosophy of love making the difference. More love is needed in the family, the community and to immigrants and refugees. The Rastafarian message of love for our fellow man has always been the basis of reggae music and this is emphasized on this track.

 

This Rastafarian theme continues in the following track, “Rasta Run The World”, a call for Rastas to run the world with peace and love, saying that reggae music could “stand up to wickedness with a melody”.

 

Trenchtown Rock”, is a remake of the classic song by Bob MarleyAaron Nigel Smith has made this track his own but without losing the essence of Bob in the process. I think it is one of the best covers I have heard of this song.

Next up is one of the interludes I mentioned. This interlude is stating some blatant lies that are believed by many, that black lives matter and that immigrants and refugees are welcome here in America.

 

Track 6  “Ring The Alarm” features Mic Crenshaw. My initial reaction when listening to this track was “Whoa”.  Aaron Nigel Smith does not hold back when letting us know how he feels about the government and especially the leader, with lyrics like “We don’t want no racist nazi, hateful wanna be, p***y grabbing, cheating, lying, thief, leading our country”. I envision this line being sung out by concert and festival goers for many years to come. This is a memorable line from a song that is calling on us to rise up and resist the resurgence of hatred. The force of this message is re-emphasized by Mic Crenshaw’s rap bridge which includes the lyrics “All the filthy deeds and dirt, like feces spread upon the earth” and “The ignorance feels comical”.  Although no name is mentioned, it’s obvious who these lyrics are referring to. On an optimistic note, Aaron continues the song with “Love is going to rise again. Can you feel the swell?”  I give massive credit to both Aaron Nigel Smith and Mic Crenshaw for having the courage to come out and say what many of us, not only in America, are thinking. 

 

Once again the Rastafarian influence comes into play with the next track, “Rasta Shuffle” featuring Eden Rain. This song calls for unity and a peaceful revolution, standing up to the politicians who are seeking division.

 

Track 8 is  “Real Situation’. The song speaks of the rise in hatred, calling on us to check out the real situation, not to go by what we are told but look to the facts.  The second half of the song talks about what we are doing to the planet. It urges us not to ignore the signs but check out the real situation before it’s too late.  This track has a jazzy fusion feel to it with a beautiful flute throughout the song.

Next up is another interlude, this time focussing on the misinformation about the progression of women’s rights.

 

In “Vision”, Aaron sings a song of thankfulness for what he does have, although acknowledging the hardships in life, but sharing his vision “I’ve got a vision, I’ve got a light. I’ve got a feeling that everything will be alright”. This is an upbeat song with some interesting instruments embedded in the riddim, listen closely.

 

The following song “Skate Rat”, features Zosia McGregor, daughter of Freddy McGregor. This is a love song Aaron dedicates to his wife, talking of how he has loved her since he was a “Skate Rat talking smack”. This is a catchy sing-along song.

 

Light It Up”, needs no introduction. Once again it’s the obligatory “weed song”. It has a South Sea Island sound but mixed with a big band influence and a wicked trumpet solo.

 

Track 13, “Jah Bless Africa”,  opens with an African chant and goes into a prayer for Jah to bless Africa and all her descendants and to extend a hand in the fight for equality.

The lie “In our America, people and the planet are valued over profit. Diversity is celebrated”.  followed by a gospel choir singing “Oh Freedom” the post-civil war freedom song, closes out this magnificent album. 

 

If Aaron Nigel Smith continues to make records of this quality, I believe in years to come he will be up there with the iconic revolutionary artists like Peter ToshBurning Spear and Lucky Dube, speaking out against the injustices of this country and the world, in a strong, unfettered way. 

If you value reggae music with a serious message then check out (and buy) “In Our America” by Aaron Nigel Smith

Album Review of New Wave by Fyakin.

Fyakin

 

The Most High calls on you when you are young, ‘cause you are strong,” said Fyakin. Over the years Fyakin found himself surrounded by other cultural icons in the industry, such as I Wayne. Fyakin, a devout Rastafarian, humbly credits I Wayne for imparting valuable words of wisdom that helped keep him on the righteous path and produce conscious music instead of slackness. “I Wayne told me to sing life music, culture music, no gun tunes,” said Fyakin.  

(Excerpt from Fyakin’s biography.)

Having spent a few days immersed in this album “New Wave” by Fyakin, it is obvious that he took the advice from I-Wayne to heart. This album goes back to the roots of reggae and you can tell that’s where his heart is.

  The album opens with a track called “Africa Awaits”. This song is a song about repatriation, which is a theme that occurs several times throughout the album. The song also has a dig at the government with lyrics like “They feed the multitude with plastic food, and then refuse to speak the truth. So now the youths them revolute.”

  “Children Of Fari ft Kabaka Pyramid”  opens with the most beautiful percussion and voice which leads into lyrics about being the children of Selassie I and following in His footsteps. The song ends with a sweet bassline. I’ve had this track on repeat several times since I received the album and it’s a definite favorite with me. 

  The following track is “Concrete Jungle”. This song talks about how there is no escaping the violence of the inner cities and that the politicians don’t care  There’s the violence of the police, the violence of the youth and even “The tiny tot, them a carry Glock”, and there’s nowhere to run to get away from it. This is a powerful song of despair about the way things are and no-one seems to care “Not even a little bit.”

  As a lover of “old school” DJ style reggae, the next track “Fari Style” is a winner with me. Fyakin shows his lyrical prowess with this song and as he says “The style can’t spoil”.

  A prerequisite of a reggae album is a ganja song and this album is no exception, it has 3 ganja songs. The first ganja track, “Green”,  is about the hunt for good ganja.

  “I & I Story Master” is the next track. This is Fyakin’s story in a rub-a-dub style but in the words of Fyakin he’ll “Rock it in a new stylee” and put a “fire in your ear”.

  Next up is “I Got To Roll”, the second ganja song. This one promotes the health benefits of marijuana.

  “Irie” is a song about the joy of dancing to the roots rock reggae music vibe. “All I want to do is skank my feet. Rocking to the roots rock reggae beat”. This track makes you want to get up and dance. It takes me back to the “Big people dances” back in the day.

  “Lyrical Don” is one of the 3 singles released from this album and was widely acclaimed in the industry. It has a very catchy, marching type riddim and with his scintillating lyrics, Fyakin can definitely claim the title “Lyrical Don”.

  Following this comes a complete change with “Only For You”, a Lovers Rock style song that’s sure to be a hit with the Lovers Rock fans. This track highlights Fyakin’s vocal ability on top of a wicked riddim. I really liked this song except for the very cringe-worthy line “You’re gonna be my bo”.  I guess it’s a generational thing. 

  The third ganja song and another of the tracks released as a single is “Steamin”.  “Steamin” talks about how you can get the high from marijuana without the harmful effects that you would get from the hard drugs like cocaine etc. It tells how people put down ganja but so many are hooked on tobacco, then goes on to tell how ganja helps with cancer and strokes. All this set to an infectious riddim.

  “Protection” is a prayer for protection from the pitfalls and distractions along the journey of life. It starts with a spoken prayer and is another song that shows the varied vocal range of Fyakin.

  A completely different vibe comes from “Sauci Parilla Flow”. This track has a latin/reggae fusion vibe with some interesting percussion leading through it.

  “Smiling ft Oriel” is the final track on the album. On this track, Fyakin and Oriel sing that whatever struggles life throws at them, they keep on smiling, as Jah is alongside them on their journey. This collaboration blends the voices or two rising artists that I’m sure we will hear much more of.

 

New Wave” by Fyakin is definitely an album to add to your collection if you are a fan of roots reggae. Beautiful vocals, conscious lyrics, good riddims and very well produced. It’s an album that Fyakin can be proud of.

 

Review of Nesbeth’s debut album “A.M.E.N.”

Nesbeth

When I was asked to review Nesbeth’s debut album “A.M.E.N.”, an acronym for his late wife’s name Ann Marie Elliot Nesbeth, I was not sure what to expect. I was a big fan of his hit single “My Dream” but was not so impressed by the follow-up singles and was wondering if he was going to be another ‘One hit wonder’.  I’m happy to say this album has changed that opinion.

The album was produced by Nesbeth and co-written by Nesbeth and Merrick Shaw. Nesbeth explained the inspiration behind the album “ I was inspired by the Most High….Hopelessness is on the rise. As such, it will further increase if I should stand by and do nothing. As a consequence, A.M.E.N. was conceptualized to inspire the world. The album speaks to struggle, discipline, innovation, love, truth and rights.

The album is a mix of inspiration, upliftment, social comment and love songs.  “Think Rich“, the opening track, carries the message ‘believe in yourself’ with encouraging lyrics like,  “If you want big, something you’ve never been, then you haffi do something you never do before. And if you truly believe that the sky’s a di limit, then you haffi take your mind off a di floor“. The second track “Who Can Stop Me Now” continues on the theme and talks about the naysayers and backbiters, and how people become jealous when you start to make it “If God is for us, who can be against us? Who can stop me now?”  Nesbeth and Popcaan team up for the next track “Trial”.  Not being a fan of the electronic sound and the autotune effect, I have to say this is my least favorite track on the album and probably the one track I would skip. So saying, this is just my personal taste and I’m sure lovers of Dancehall will love it as it’s catchy and well done. Track 4 “A.M.E.N.” is my favorite track on the album. This track made me cry and will affect anyone who has been through the loss of a loved one. It’s a song to Ann Marie. The lyric that broke me was “When it’s over, wake me up“. Listen closely to the lyrics and then say it doesn’t bring a lump to your throat.  “Diamond Boy“, track 5, speaks about coming from hardship and poverty and how this hardship toughens you like a diamond, “If pressure make diamond, you can call me the diamond boy“. This is followed by “Success Story” which was the single released after the highly successful “My Dream“.  I said in my opening paragraph that I was not impressed by Nesbeth’s follow-up singles to “My Dream” but having now listened to the album several times before writing this review, this track has grown on me. I won’t explain the lyrics but listen carefully as they have a different message than first impressions may give. Track 7, “Trench Town” is the track I was most looking forward to as I am a fan of Agent Sasco. I was not disappointed. It combines the soulful, melodic voice of Nesbeth and the gravelly, hardness of Agent Sasco which conveys the hopelessness but strength of the people of Trench Town. This is followed by “My Dream“, Nesbeth’s highly successful single that shot him into the limelight and which he performed at the swearing-in ceremony of Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness. “Lawn Mower“, track 9, is another particular favorite of mine. This track is about ‘frenemies‘, the friends and sometimes family that, when you come down to it, aren’t as loyal as you thought they were. It’s about clearing the clutter and finding the truth about them. My favorite line on the album is one from this song,  “The grass low. I can see all the serpents now“. A poignant song about betrayal.  The following track is another collaboration, this time with reggae legend Junior Reid. This is also an encouraging song, promoting self-confidence with the emphasis on not listening to those who try to discourage you. “Emotional Rollercoaster“, track 11, has an infectious beat, impressive lyrics, and clever vocals with the background vocals having an African flavor to them.  Track 12, “Reason” is another love song, or more correctly a ‘lost love’ song. This is a song that will be played multiple times by anyone who has had their heart broken and is still asking “Why?” Following this is a different type of love song “Smile“. It’s not about romantic love but the love of those around you and who are there to support you when you are going through the bad times. It is a song about taking one day at a time. “Take it one whole day at a time. Smile“. The final track on the album is “Remove My Enemies” another track about the enemies close to you, the friends and family who want to be someone and are jealous when you become successful. This was the second single released after “My Dream“. I rarely heard this song on the airwaves, which is a shame as I would probably have rated it more if I had heard it more. I always encourage people to purchase the complete album instead of the tracks that initially hit you and this is why. Many times it takes a few listens to really get a song and if you only buy the tracks you like on the first listen, you can miss out on so much.

I am very glad I accepted the opportunity to review “A.M.E.N” as I now have a deep appreciation of the talent of Nesbeth. Nesbeth, you have gained a new fan.