Reggae music is a house. There are doors, a roof, windows and even a basement where the various lowlights dwell and do so rather calmly. There are beds, there are drawers and there are clothes. MANY people live in this house. And in a corner by a window there’s a chair. This chair looks like it’s been sitting here forever and as a matter of fact, if you go and move it just a bit, you’ll notice the grooves in the shape of the chair’s bottom in the carpet beneath it. Clearly it is old but it is IMMACULATELY cared for, someone LOVES it, but no one knows how exactly it got there or who bought it. I use this rather strange and perhaps lame setup to represent a very nice class of artists who, for one reason or another, don’t even seem to have come from anywhere in particular and are just kind of . . . There and particularly those from outside of Jamaica. Luckily, you probably won’t find a member of this category who isn’t skilled as (at least typically) longevity is something which requires ability. People I put into this “where in the hell did they come from” category is headed by the likes of Vaughn Benjamin and Midnite. You’ll hear how the group played in colleges all across the eastern US and that the brothers Benjamin, Vaughn and Ronnie Jr., had a Father in Ronnie Sr. who was also a fine musician, but compared to the extent of the information is available for similarly STAR Reggae artists (and that is what they are), Midnite (in all of its various facets) are downright MYSTERIOUS (which I ultimately think is part of their appeal, but that’s another story) (for someone else, lest I be bashed by crazy Midnite heads again). Midnite was just kind of there one day. So to was someone like a Maxi Priest (very strange in his case because I’m pretty sure UK Reggae heads know the man’s story to the letter, but outside of the UK, where he is still VERY popular and has been for decades by this point, not so much), arguably one of the biggest names in Reggae in the entire world. The Priest’s case is exceptional, in part, because now you look at some of his European peers such as Gentleman, Alborosie and even Ziggi these days, compared to Maxi Priest, they’re all open books for the most part. I’d also put rather timelessly mysterious artists such as Bambu Station, Tippa Irie and others who, although clearly there’re those who know, but their stories and how they came to be where they are aren’t on display to any lengths at all and, they just kind of seem to have appeared one day, like that beautiful chair sitting at the window.
And then there’s Bigga Haitian. Wonderfully, although he well fits onto this list and were I to rank these artists, he would rank fairly highly despite not being as well known as most of them, Bigga Haitian’s NAME does present some hint of his eventual origins. Also, in his case in particular, it’s not so much of his actual STORY, but more of his BEING. Despite the fact that I may have gone half a decade or so without hearing anything from the New York based chanter from out of Haiti, I don’t even know if then I could have imagined a Reggae ’house’ without Bigga Haitian in one of the rooms. Maybe he’s just performing locally wherever, maybe he’s working on something new (clearly he was doing both), but there’ll come a point where I’ll almost HAVE TO come across his name in respect to doing new things, otherwise the cosmic Reggae alignment is thrown out of wack, forever. What’s special about Bigga Haitian? Well, besides essentially being the international face of Reggae music from Haiti (outside of that Fugees fellow that is) amongst Reggae heads, Bigga is, in my opinion, one of the very few MASTERS of the craft of Reggae music. Not so much on the musician side (although I wouldn’t be surprised if he had that LOCKED as well), but as a lyricist and really in the way his vibes push through to the listeners, one could tell quite easily, even if “one” is a most casual of observers, that when you listen to Bigga Haitian’s music, this is an individual who truly knows what he is doing on his music. Most recently, apparently the internet has been buzzing with the newly released Sak Pasé for the New York based Walkup Records and deservedly so because, despite its brevity, it is a powerful album. However, arguably even stronger and arguably the greatest piece of work in an album of Bigga Haitian’s career Binghi Man, apparently was also quietly released to the digital world through Walkup and originally from Bigga Haitian’s own self titled imprint for it’s original release back in 2002. There was also (speaking of mysterious) I Am Back which was Bigga’s debut album (and hopefully Walkup can scoop that one up and get it back out there at some point in the future as well at some point), but Binghi Man is EXCELLENT. The album really showcased who Bigga was as an artist as that point and despite the occasional misstep (at the end), it definitely showed, in my opinion, his overall mastery of the game, as new fans and old alike would have to agree that the man’s timing, his pacing and most importantly, the word’s he chooses are precision ON POINT throughout Binghi Man. Of course, it also comes through as being quite personal for Bigga as despite the obvious tune which sheds light on him personally (more on that in a bit), the album is also chockfull of tunes which appear to come at various stages and stops along the line of his spiritual journey and development as a person. I was also very (quietly) impressed at the level of INTELLIGENCE which seems to pervade throughout the vibes of the album, which in terms of being personal and speaking of oneself and one’s experiences, is something which can be very unique (how in the hell do I sound SMART talking about me? Everyone is an expert on themselves). Again, I remind you, Bigga Haitian is a master at this art, something which is evident all over this album.
As I said, for me, the prevailing vibes of the album is that you can literally see Bigga Haitian embarking on what appears to be (for the most part), a very personal journey. And while the ’personal’ aspect of this trip is DEEPLY explored at one signature moment, to my opinion, throughout (particularly the first half), that is a very present source of inspiration for the album. With that being said, kicking off our trip through the wonderful world of Bigga Haitian’s Binghi Man (not Binghi MON, biggup Dale Cooper) is the first of several downright LUSH ROLLING vibes on the album, ‘Nations Fighting’. This one is obvious from the title and the very second that riddim comes through Bigga begins to strike a chord and one which has its heart within the scope of antiviolence and just general negativity spreading across the world. Big opener. Next up is a very curious selection in the title track and it eventually became my favourite tune on the entire tune named after it (through MUCH MUCH deliberation) (between me and myself). You’ll find lyrically better tunes and tunes which have quite a bit more sonic appeal (such as the opener), but the message here is SO unique that I struggle to place a next tune above it. The tune comes very close to the 9/11 tragedy in New York and the NYC resident Bigga speaks openly about himself, a turban clad royal looking Rastafarian, being mistaken for those who participated in the attacks and how ridiculous and just WRONG it is. In pointing out the differences (big and mi-nute) Bigga captures a vibe RARELY seen, if ever at all. MAGIC! Should you choose any tune on Binghi Man for me personally to follow the title track here with no fear of losing the vibes, it is the one which does just that, ‘Red Hot’. This STEPPING is somewhat generic in terms of message (as the title suggests), but on the chorus, Bigga constantly namedrops Sizzla Kalonji. CLEARLY a fan and who can blame him, in terms of just how it sounds, Bigga makes Red Hot one of the biggest flames on the album altogether and does so in the name of His Imperial Majesty.
Now! To that personal of personal moments on Binghi Man. In 2000 Bigga Haitian [Charles Dorismond] lost his brother, Patrick, to a very suspect situation with a police officer, so to his tribute, Bigga offers ‘Tribute To Patrick Dorismond’(“March 16th, year 2000, dem kill mi bredda Patrick Dorismond“). The tune plays over the classic ‘Murderer’ tune via the equally classic Barrington Levy and it is definitely an eye opening tribute to say the least and it’s such a wonderful thing that this album is now out there and not, at least ostensibly, ‘lost’ to the world. Definitely check that tune. There’re also a whole heap of other tunes on the album which strike me as well, but more of a spiritual and less tangible type. Check the KNOCKING ‘Rastafari Seed’ on which Bigga offers his hopes for the coming generation. A well powerful tune there, but it precedes an arguably even more powerful piece in ‘King Of Glory’. BIG TUNE! This one, from the title, you might think that the vibes here are going to well slow down, but they continue in that head knocking style from the tune before it and Bigga Haitian delivers a lyrics espousing on the virtues and the MIGHT of His Imperial Majesty and it may not register the same way for you, but this one comes across as well personal to my ears; you don’t just get up and make a tune like such, it definitely requires a bit of personal reflection as well. ‘Daughters Of Israel’, the obligatory tune for the Afrikan Empress, keeps that vibes well on its way. This tune has an old school feel to the vibes and Bigga doesn’t even appear to change his pacing (this tune isn’t REALLY amongst my favourites, but I think the simple way it’s built is a STRONG piece of ‘evidence’ for Bigga’s real strength) and has NO PROBLEM AT ALL attacking the riddim in a characteristically strong manner. ‘Ethiopian Anthem’, on the other hand, is one of my favourites on Binghi Man and it definitely has a strong claim as being to being the single best tune, lyrically, on the entire album as Bigga offers a message for the ultimate upliftment of Ethiopia, the KING and all of their children! TEARS! The song gives any a ‘run’ for quality and is amongst Bigga Haitian’s very best efforts in my opinion. There’s ‘Destination’ which I was all but SURE was a repatriation tune, but I was wrong and it is, in fact, about helping people see the ‘right’ way in life (destination) and it REALLY works on that vibes and proves to be one of the better tunes on the album to my opinion.
And I don’t want to give the impression that this album is just ALL SO GREAT, because it isn’t and it almost seems to get ‘tired’ down the stretch. The first sign of weakness creeping in is ‘Who Dem Ah Come Test’ which is a Hip-Hop tune and features an unnamed rapper. YOU may actually like this tune, I don’t for obvious reasons if you read my material (most times, me and Hip-Hop don’t vibe well) (especially a broke Snoop Dogg impersonation style of Hip-Hop). Meanwhile, the FRESH, circa 1990 style speed chatting Creole flow of ‘Good To Be Important’ is WELL a release and it is funny at times and good for whoever decided to put it this low on the tracklist because it needs the help. The same could also be said for ‘Come Out Of Babylon’, which isn’t the BEST tune, but it is in no way indicative of the tunes which surround for the most part and even ‘Dangerous People’ is at least decent. HOWEVER, ‘Se Bondie Sel Ki Wa’ [‘Only God Alone‘] (I THINK) is okay, but the levels are off, the music drowns out both Bigga and his unnamed friend for the most part (and how do you drown out BIGGA and that voice!). The real ‘crime’ here is ‘Stay’ which is Bigga Haitian meets Jodeci (I THINK!) and is just REALLY WRONG. And the closer, ‘Don’t Wanna Be Alone’, is a little bit too sappy for my tastes ultimately and hopefully yours too. We can, however, still remember the other 85% or so of Binghi Man, which is EXCELLENT.
Overall, yeah pick this one up despite the rocky landing which is actually, at least to me, literally a less highlighted portion of the album, despite the combinations. This one would have SERIOUSLY been a 5 star contender were it three or four tunes shorter, but still you can definitely tell the quality present here. Bigga Haitian is an artist whose time in the business has afforded him a level of abilities which alone can allow him to make at least NICE music. When you combine that with a real NATURAL talent, like I said, what you get is an all around master class and when Binghi Man is at its absolute best, that is exactly what it is and such an album would make a very welcome addition to any collection. Like the Mansion of Reggae itself, your players just won’t be the same without a spot for Bigga Haitian.
Bigga Haitian Records/Walkup Records