This month’s goings on in dancehall and reggae…
- - -
Just as it was looking like Vybz Kartel might walk free after spending more than two years in custody, the dancehall star’s case took a turn for the worse. With new evidence presented in the form of text messages as well as BlackBerry Messenger transcripts and video recordings, it’s not looking good at all for the Worl’Boss and his co-defendants, on trial for the murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams. Although it’s still unclear why prosecutors took so long to present this evidence, with so much damaging detail now before the jury, the defence will have to prove that police tampered with or fabricated all that evidence.
Early February is usually a joyful time for reggae fans as they celebrate the birthdays of Dennis Brown and Bob Marley. But this February 2nd was a sad day in the industry as William ‘Bunny Rugs’ Clarke, the lead singer for the groundbreaking reggae fusion band Third World, passed away. Rugs had been battling cancer and died at his home in Florida at the age of 65.
Congratulations to Ziggy Marley for bagging another Grammy Award, this time for his album ‘Ziggy Marley In Concert’. In the Best Reggae Album category, it was up against Snoop Lion’s ‘Reincarnated', Beres Hammond’s 'One Love, One Life', Sizzla’s ‘The Messiah’ and Sly & Robbie's The Jam Masters with ‘Reggae Connection’.
- - -
Ever had problems sleeping at night? Is your conscience is playing tricks on you? Or maybe you just don’t have peace of mind? Damian Marley dropped a new reality song that speaks to such questions. ‘Is It Worth It?’ sums up the reality of life as a gun man with the fantasies and false pretence stripped away. The track – voiced on Overstand’s ‘Rootsman’ riddim – explores the psychological and physical effects of the job and poses the question of whether this is really the route you want to take in life. “Man must do what they need to survive / Sleeping with the rifle across his chest / So he never gets a good night’s rest / What if a back stabber names his price / Is it worth it?”
First it was the One Drop, then he had everyone doing the Mosquito Net dance. Now QQ – celebrating 10 years in the reggae biz this year, despite being only 20-years-old – drops a new track that’s just as catchy as his dance tunes but has a slightly different message. On ‘Dutty Heart’, he’s warding off the haters who love to sit down and criticise with a straightforward message: “Them heart too dutty.” Check QQ chatting about his new track and how he deals with the darker side of success.
Cham and the Gully Gad Mavado link up to drop ‘Love Song’ on Madhouse Productions’ ‘Fighter’ riddim. You already know this collab is on another level. Both artists go hard but they also know how to love hard, so this love song gets both dancehall stars chatting to the gal dem: “She wanna hear my love song / Turn up the radio cause me mus’ make she bawl.”
- - -
Hot tracks in rotation at the moment include the ‘Pan A Knock’ Riddim with voicings from Black Ryno, I Octane and QQ.
Also on a fresh release this month is the ‘Feenin’ Riddim, which includes a sexy slow jam by Konshens. ‘Dancefloor’ is just in time for that Valentine’s Day nightcap: “Lean back with your head pon mi shoulder / Tell me how much you need it.” (Check it out below.)
- - -
Sometimes it’s difficult not to see Sean Paul (pictured) as a cat with nine lives. Somehow he revives his career just as you think things are over for him. After despite having his last album pushed back by his label and enduring a messy launch with different dates in different continents, the dutty yute has landed on his feet and has been on fire this year.
A series of hot collaborations with 2 Chainz, Juicy J, Damian Marley and Konshens have catapulted him back into the limelight, and now Sean is set to release his new album, ‘Full Frequency’, later this month. Watch for @DuttyPaul to team up with more big names soon, including Iggy Azalea. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Tarrus Riley revisits the golden age of Jamaican rocksteady on his latest album, ‘Love Situation’. The independently produced and released project is a modern take on a period of reggae music when love songs and sweet instrumentation were the order of the day. With musical direction by Dean Fraser and company, ‘Love Situation’ showcases reggae music at its best.
First came ‘The Seven Year Itch’, then ‘The 8 Year Affair’, but don’t try and guess the rest because Protoje has announced that he will be dropping a new album but it will not follow in the same numerical sequence as his previous two. The young roots star, who performed at this year’s Jamaica Jazz & Blues festival (review), spilled the beans about what to expect off his new album and who will be making guest appearances.
With Protoje coming off an extensive European tour last year, don’t be surprised if there’s a complete mixed-up mash-up sound coming from him. Check him here drop some exclusive news on the upcoming project:
- - -
Brace yourself for this year’s 9 Mile Festival in Miami taking place on February 15th. The 21st staging of this benefit concert has a line up that’s heavy! The roots reggae raggamuffin fest features Sean Paul, Shaggy, Mavado, Stephen Marley, Damian Marley, Julian Marley, Tessanne Chin and Lauryn Hill. For more info and tickets head to the event's official site.
On the UK front, Yellowman and Dillinger will be putting on a show at Cardiff’s The Globe on February 27th. Fans of classic DJ music should not miss this one - visit the venue's site for more information.
- - -
TO WRAP UP
This is the second consecutive year that Monty Alexander has held a showcase at the Blue Note jazz club in downtown NYC. However, there was nothing repetitive about his performances. That’s how it goes when a piano virtuoso invites a few friends over to jam with him. You never can tell what’s gonna happen. This year he paired up with the legendary Jamaican guitar master Ernest Ranglin to bring some of that JA swag to a freezing-cold NYC.
Monty interpreted classic reggae standards on the piano, and the melodica, including Bob's ‘No Woman No Cry’. But the piece de résistance came when they jammed together on King Tubby’s dubwise selection ‘Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’.
The best part of the night came when the two legends linked with reggae’s youthman of the moment, inviting Chronixx and his Zinc Fence Redemption band to perform a jazz-flavoured set of his catalogue including ‘Smile Jamaica’, 'Here Comes Trouble’, and ‘Odd Ras’. It’s a welcome sight to see two big names in the industry humbly supporting a relative newcomer. Guess it all goes to show that the old saying is true: real recognises real.
- - -
See ya next month!
More Reggae & Dancehall columns, read some, if you like.