by: Jarret Lovell
Danakil: "Echos Du Temps" (X Ray Productions)
When I first played Danakil on my program last week, an online listener based in French-Canadian Montreal emailed me. "Thanks for playing. I guess I should really give this band a try. Their album ECHO DU TEMPS won best french reggae album at Victoires de la music." And this was my intro to the international phemonenon known as Danakil, whose award-winning album is now available stateside. Since then, facts garnered from various international reggae music sites reveal that the band is Parisian, having been founded in 2000 by eight college students. Years later, with enough material for a full-length release, the band (whose name comes from an Ethiopian desert) traveled to Jamaica to have their music recorded at the famed Tuff Gong Studio. What results is a full sound of roots reggae, with big horns and keyboards dominating. While many of the songs are sung in French, some lyrics are in English , and they reveal highly politicized lyrics keeping true to the tradition of message music that is reggae. "Media are the voice of government/propaganda from the president;" "They can't find no jobs, so the youth them start a rob." This is an impressive release, and one that deserves to be played alongside the best in reggae and world programming.
Zvuloon Dub System: "Freedom Time"
One of Israel's top reggae bands, Zvuloon is a reference to one of the 12 Tribes of Israel. This piece band stays close to the roots of roots reggae, with gorgeous melodica, nice horns, and of course songs about Sensimilla. Songs are sung in English, and "Nah Give Up" features DJ Ranking Joe doing his thing. Check this track out, along with the super funky and soulful "Voodoo Chile" which begins with outstanding keyboards, and "Go Down Moses" for a classic biblical song in a reggae style.
Pentateuch: "The Genesis" (Boot Camp Productions)
A band whose name references the first 5 chapters of the Bible, this 5 piece band hails from the Edna Manley School of Performing Arts in Jamaica where they were students. The songs are sweet and soulful, with beautiful vocals that are as much chanted as sung. Simply put, this is a beautiful album with an emphasis on vocals. Try track 1 (Going Home), and track 5 (Kingston) which reminds one of Michael Rose.
Windy City: "Countryman Vibrations"
Performers at the 2010 SXSW festival, the Seoul-based band Windy City was formed by front man Kim Ban Jang in the summer of 2004. According to the festival website, "the band combines elements of African music in addition to reggae and salsa, creating a fusion of new sounds while simultaneously paying homage to classic roots music." And that's the truth. Track 2 (Countryman) begins with the funkiest keyboard riff reminiscent of Dam-Funk, giving way to a nice reggae tune without ever abandoning the funk riff. "Reggae Rule the World" (track 4) is bombastic in its horn intro, only to give way to (African? Korean?) drumming and trippy sound effects. Meanwhile, "All Time Rockers" is just straight-up great dub, with a chorus that sounds so much like the chorus from one of my favorites from the Chemical Brothers. Also added is their "Love, Peace & Unity" e.p.