Friday, May 15, 2009

A Family Affair: A Review of Modern Revolution by Sojah

Music, in and of itself, tends to be the type of thing which is rather easily transferable from generation to generation in terms of family. I grew up listening to whatever my parents were listening to at the time of my upbringing as did they with my grandparents and so forth. When you take those types of conditions to a specific genre more closely defined and/or associated with a particular genre of the world, you get an even CLOSER type of a situation, because that particular genre and growing up with it becomes even more exclusive. Take Reggae music for example. The genre, most closely associated with the Caribbean and Jamaica in particular, has produced several find examples, not only culturally (in the cultural sense, it’s probably produced billions of examples by this point), but SPECIFIC families who have gone onto meld their names with a bit of Reggae history and, by extension, Jamaican and Caribbean cultural history as a whole. Of course, the first family of Reggae music is and has always been the Marley’s. Following in the footsteps of not only the head of the family but the entire Reggae world, Bob Marley, the Marley clan has delivered CONSISTENT hitmakers, all doomed to be compared to the King, but all of whom have definitely left their own imprint on the game also such as Ziggy, Stephen, Ky-Mani and most recently the WICKED Damian and Julian Marley. After the Marleys, in terms of popularity, the next most crucial family of Reggae musicians would DEFINITELY be the Morgans. Descending from one Denroy Morgan (who is still relatively young these days, not yet even crossing the age of sixty-five by my knowledge and just recently released an album, Theocracy Reign), the Morgan family primarily is known for their group, Morgan Heritage, arguably the greatest Reggae group on the planet and unarguably one of the genre’s most consistent acts. Also there is the offshoot group of younger Morgans, LMS, who have had pretty good success as well in their careers and are currently pursuing solo options to my knowledge (as are the members of MH). After that you STILL have quite a few famous Reggae families, even in this modern era. Check the Bonners who have most notably produced brothers Pliers (of Chaka Demus & Pliers fame) and Richie Spice but also Spanner Banner (new album out now, I’m A Winner), a fine veteran singer in his own right. There’s also the King Jammy’s family of producers descending from Jammy’s himself to a STRONG set of current boardsman such as Baby G and John John. And currently one of the most IMPRESSIVE, yet not so well known, families in Reggae is from out of Trinidad where brothers Million Voice and Isasha are definitely representing their family quite well. Simply put, if you find ONE halfway decent Reggae artist, there’s a pretty good chance someone else in their families have at least tried the game but it takes a nice QUALITY to make your name and your family’s name stick in Reggae.

So how about two different families doing it at the same type? I would venture to say that most fans outside of Europe REALLY began to take notice of Austrian label Irie Vibrations when t hey began to promote (and promote and promote) the coming of their new release, Born Dead With Life from Jamaican (BIGGUP ST. ANN!) chanter Perfect. The label has actually been around from since around the turn of the century and if you dig even a little deeper, you would discover that Irie Vibrations is actually ran by a pair of brothers, Professa and Syrix. Besides Perfect, they’ve also worked with the likes of Sizzla, Luciano, Turbulence and the aforementioned Morgan Heritage (and Mischu Laikah!). Now, as the next step in their own development as a label, the Irie Vibrations bros. are now looking at helping the development of another pair of potentially MASSIVE Reggae brothers, Konshens and Delus, collectively known as Sojah. As a unit, Sojah has been around from a few years back, initially striking up in Japan with several singles (most notably Pon Di Corner) before achieving successes locally. That initial strike in Japan would also produce an album by the name of Sons Of Jah which was actually pretty good and made it to this side of the globe just a bit back in 2006. Since then, the brothers have embarked on solo careers while occasionally popping up as the combined Sojah. Konshens, the younger of the two, has made an undeniable impression on the business and has very QUICKLY (within the past eighteen months or so) made himself into a virtual hitmaker despite not having much experience to his still very young credit. He absolutely RULED the local market with his hit tune Winner which would make him pretty much a household name locally, go on to appear on some of the genre’s biggest compilations for the international markets and give him his first Jamaican number one tune as well. Delus, although not reaching the levels of his younger brother as of yet, has been slowly showing his class on his own as well. Currently he has one of the most impressive promos that I’ve heard in quite awhile from an up and coming artist. Now, the Brothers Sojah meet the Brothers Irie Vibration somewhere in Austria to build and now release Sojah’s sophomore release, the somewhat aptly titled Modern Revolution. To my knowledge the album, coincidentally also becomes the second from the label to go international, having previously been almost exclusively European with their releases prior to Born Dead With Life. Modern Revolution is VERY GOOD. I still am not to the point of saying that I am a fan of Sojah’s (although with the level of successes that he’s reached recently, it’s somewhat difficult not to be impressed by Konshens in someway I suppose) but I have to confess near SHOCK I what I heard on this album. As opposed to the hyped monster which was this vaunted ‘concept album’ in Born Dead With Life which, in my opinion, really didn’t live up to expectations, Modern Revolution produces a near master class at times and is MUCH better than I thought it would be.

If you’re a stickler about things in music like who is who, then you might have a problem with Modern Revolution and Sojah as a whole. Delus and Konshens sound quite similar and really the only thing that I can say consistently to identify them vocally is that Konshens will occasionally sing (Delus, even more infrequently) and when he does he’ll use a higher pitch than Delus and not that it goes there, but Delus is a better pure Dancehall style DJ than Konshens. So while you ponder that and after a brief opening, getting Sojah’s sophomore album Modern Revolution off to a start is the very MATURE sounding Babylon Burn. This song is just EXCELLENT really and if you want to call it the best tune on the album, I’m not complaining. LOVE that opening. Next checking in is the rather clever herbalist tune So High. This tune isn’t just a straight forward herbalist tune, instead Sojah kind of play it as an extension of Babylon Burn, as they say, “Youthman step out inna Babylon face, spliff inna wi mouth and a chalice wi a blaze” keeping the tune within a social frame of talk and not just praising the herb. Another big tune right there (and check the hilarious ending). The opening ends with it’s biggest effort and the album’s biggest as well, the BEAUTIFUL Positive Vibration. The tune features Sojah alongside none other than Luciano (Sojah meets The Messenjah?) who I was honestly surprised to see featuring on the album. It says something about Sojah’s sound that it can so wonderfully and easily compliment Luciano’s very veteran sound. The song really is just a lift up for the music and for the world from the vibe, which is of course a nice joy and seriously if you don’t like this song then you should find a next genre of music to listen to.

I don’t rightly know the meaning or the direction Sojah/Irie Vibrations intended with the title but I love it here because not only is the group a young and modern act but they also use this kind of new age style of more SMOOTH and rootsy, almost solemn at times sounding Dancehall (also used by someone like Bugle only way more morbid in his case) which is a VERY modern development and a style which figures to grow in popularity pumping new blood into the genre. One of the albums big tunes REALLY exemplifies what I mean by that, the WICKED Call The Police. IV vibes the tune as an old school Dancehall, almost DUB sounding riddim, but what Sojah pours into it is just a COOL music uplifting tune which is a definite highlight on Modern Revolution with a shot to the past indeed. You could make the same statement about the two other tunes surrounding Call The Police, Caribbean Love and ESPECIALLY War. The former is a pretty standard, yet impressive, lover’s tune which will grow on you very quickly while the former is just BIG all around. War is a tune over a riddim which I’m sure I recognize from somewhere and they absolutely WRECK IT. War is another of the big tunes on Modern Revolution which borders into the SPECTACULAR category. I love how the tune begins (I think its Delus) with the unforgettable lyric, “Well every time bullet separate from gun, mother separate from son”. BIG BIG tune not to be missed striking out against the violence of the world. Following War are two similarly vibed tunes in How Much Longer and the nearly FLAWLESS Wake Up. How Much Longer is a nice direct follow-up to War as it is written on the same issues and it kind of sounds like something out of the aforementioned Bugle’s catalogue (sans the ghoulishly somber direction, of course) and it does come across very effective. But Wake Up is SPARKLING, that tune comes across one of the nicest one-drops I’ve heard in awhile and Sojah uses it to deliver a message of upliftment which may actually be the best piece of lyrics you’ll find in full on Modern Revolution. You knew it wouldn’t be that long until the Bros. Sojah actually hauled in Professa and Syrix who voice themselves (in German) for a combination and that happens on the somewhat corny, yet forgivable, Hands Across The World. Irie Vibrations record as Iriepathie and it’s a nice tune, ultimately harmless but worth a mention. Pretty Land isn’t quite ‘harmless’ and gives Wake Up a run as the best written tune on the album. That riddim, I do recognize as the same which backed Elijah Prophet’s MASSIVE herb tune Piece Of Ganja. Sojah doesn’t reach those epic heights but they give it a good shot as they deliver another big tune shouting down Babylon and corruption wherever it may exist. Nah Bad Like We is the undeniable changeup of Modern Revolution as it is kind of a dark hip-hop/Dancehall vibed tune. I would have been happy if it weren’t here but it is quite interesting and you didn’t honestly expect them to go through without doing this at least once did you? The final stretch of Sojah’s Modern Revolution really SOLIDIFIES the album in my opinion, offering three tunes which, although not the class of the album are just so well done in full that you have to take note and it makes up the body of the album. The inspiring Be Free is the first of these tunes and even if it took a minute or two to get to me, it really does by the third spin or so; another very uplifting vibes with that one. Next in is the tune Crisis which comes across another composition which I recognize from an Elijah Prophet tune (Mother Nature in this case), the Love Bird riddim. Sojah is very in tune with this one and (I THINK) Delus stills the show with the serious lyrics right in the middle of the tune which probably helps makes Crisis the biggest of the final three (and Konshens rules it on the chorus of course). Finally is Better Man which comes across another nice one-drop. To describe this one; its kind of a woman empowerment tune which urges the good Afrikan women of the world to seek out better men in general (of course Sojah uses themselves as examples) and it kind of also indirectly pushes the men to simply treat the women in their lives better. Definitely agreeing with that. Also included is a acoustic lick of Sojah’s first hit, Pon The Corner, which actually doesn’t sound too bad and if you missed out on it, check it here. A subtly impressive ending to an equally subtly impressive album in full.

Overall, I’m sure Konshens will agree that Modern Revolution is a winner (did you see what I just did there???). The album most people were waiting for and perhaps even expecting this year was from Konshens alone (and Irie Vibrations is also promoting a release from Konshens as a solo artist, All About The Paper), but I’d be hard-pressed to think that at this point Konshens could have more vibes solo than Sojah has as a whole on Modern Revolution. As I said, it definitely comes as a surprise to me, not that it was good, but that it is THIS good. Seriously, and I may be alone on this one: If Modern Revolution isn’t somewhere on the ‘best Reggae albums of 2009’ list come December, I will be FULLY SHOCKED. Yes, it’s that good to my opinion. What you have here is just a very nice release, almost certain to float beneath radars (especially on this side of the pond) but will be a great addition to the catalogues of any fan of modern Reggae. A few more releases like Modern Revolution and both Brothers Sojah and Brothers Irie Vibrations may be able to someday add their family’s names to those of Reggae royalty. No doubt.

Rated 4.5/5 stars
Irie Vibrations Records

1 comment:

  1. UK Pogus Caesar's new book MUZIK KINDA SWEET = it features rare archive photographs of legendary Reggae artists including: Burning Spear, Mighty Diamonds, Augustus Pablo, Jimmy Cliff, Junior Delgado, Prince Alla, Dennis Brown and a host of others - a must for all lovers of Reggae. 

    Punch and OOM Gallery launch Pogus Caesars’ new limited edition book , the Birmingham-based photographer celebrates iconic Black musicians.
    Specially commissioned and published by Punch and OOM Gallery, the book features 95 evocative, nostalgic and largely unpublished images of musical legends including Stevie Wonder, Grace Jones, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Augustus Pablo.

    The book contains a foreword by Paul Gilroy, Introduction by Kate Pryor - Williams (Arts Council of England ) & Ammo Talwar MBE. Shot entirely in black and white on a Canon Sureshot camera purchased in the 1980’s, the photographs offer a stark alternative to the digital performance photography of today.

    All books are signed, and are part of limited edition of 250. 190 Pages, A4 Paperback Monochrome, 95 Black and White plates.

    ISBN-13: 978-0956674104

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