by: Jarret Lovell
Tribal Seeds - Representing - (Tribal Seeds Music): From San Diego, Tribal Seeds are the band to watch, for they will certainly be the next big thing in reggae - if they aren't already. Their sound is smooth, rootsy, dubby, authentic. No gimmicks here, just a great album with an amazing list of guest vocalists: Don Carlos, Mykal Rose, Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite, Kyle McDonald of Slightly Stoopid. But make no mistake, Tribal Seeds does not rely on these guests, lead vocalist Steven Rene Jacobo can hold his own. Instead, the willingness of so many contemporary reggae artists to work with the Seeds in a testament to their talent.
See-I - Knowledge Shine Bright - (Fort Knox Five): Back with their second full-length release, Rootz & Zeebo (See-I) offer a really fun sound that continues their reggae/funk hybrid. Having performed and recorded with Thievery Corporation during the 1990s, its sound bears some similarity to the Corp, and that is a good thing. But where Thievery Corporation have blended reggae and dub with world, See-I take a funkier route with its brand of reggae, creating a sound all its own. For that funk sound, try #4.
Manu Dibango - African Boogie - (Label unknown): The latest release from this Cameroonian saxophonist and vibraphonist comes courtesy of former KUCI radio host DJ Yogi. Dibango is best known for his 1972 "Soul Makossa" which has been sampled in funk and hip-hop so many times, and which has been covered by countless times, that it is nothing short of a classic. Michael Jackson even incorporated elements of the song's lyrics in his tune "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin.'" Needless to say, Dibango's influence is huge, even if his name is relatively unknown to most westerners. Yet he has collaborated with the likes of Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock, Sly and Robbie, and Bill Laswell. (It was from Laswell's work that I first heard Dibango's name). I will not pretend to know much about Dibango, except that his sound is Afro Jazz similar to Kuti. His current release is a fun journey through various genres. "Soul Fiesta" is a percussion-lover's dream, with pounding beats accompanying almost whispered vocals. About a minute into the track, guitars - first rock, then funk - kick in, along with Dibango's vibraphone. By mid song, the the groove is in full swing, and one cannot help but be happy. Interestingly, the track is listed as a remix. "Reggae Makossa" is as its name implies - a variation on a theme, if you will, with Dibango giving a very light reggae vibe to his classic track. "Chock 'n' Soul" has a funk/slap bass vibe, with saxophone adding a nice jazz element to the track. "Black Beauty" is a full-on vibraphone fiesta, and it is gorgeous and fun.
Lou Bond - Lou Bond - (Light In the Attic): Not a new release, but new to KUCI. This is deep, deep soul, similar to the sound of Issac Hayes' "Hot Buttered Soul." And the comparison makes sense, since this 1974 album was originally issued on We Enterprises, a subsidiary of the Stax label from which Hayes hailed. These are not just songs, but arrangements, with some beautiful strings to accompany Bond's soulful voice. The songs themselves deal with social justice and reflect the politics not only of 40 years ago, but today as well. "To the Establishment" is a 10 minute composition worth playing. And it already has Amro's seal of approval!
Ziggy Marley - Fly Rasta - (Tuff Gong): A couple of disclaimers. First, while Ziggy is by now a household name, I am not sure if he's ever really charted, or even gets airplay on any other station. So I defer to the music director to make a call about whether he is A play. Second, I confess to never being much of a fan of Ziggy. I have always found his sound to be reggae-lite. Meanwhile, I find Damian and Stephen to be consistently putting out amazing tunes that push the boundaries of reggae, hip-hop, dancehall and electronica. That being said, Ziggy is definitely a talent, and a perusal of his discography reveals some reggae classics ("Love Is My Religion" is but one standout). "Fly Rasta" is definitely Ziggy's sound, though with help from U-Roy on the title track, the album has a more rootsy sound. Check out #2, #5, #6, #7 is a nice acoustic track.