Tuesday, June 12, 2012

'Never The Same': A review of "Warrior Of Jah Army" by Singer Jah

You know, for a genre often thought of and regarded as being somewhat stagnant, unmoving and just not very unique, there sure are more than quite a few very interesting and original individuals and styles in Roots Reggae music. I've heard it and will continue to hear it in messages we get pertaining to the music from newer and potential fans, that the music just doesn't differentiate itself from itself enough to really grab an interest, particularly in the modern era, but again, I just don't see it. On one end of the incredibly distinct Roots artist style would be someone such as Perfect Giddimani, who we recently dealt with in regards to his brand new album, "Journey of 1,000 Miles". I don't know how you can listen to that man and connect his music, besides the riddim, to just about anyone else not only going right now, but certainly from any other age in Reggae music. He is just that different from everyone else and it is something which has become one of his major points of attraction - if you want something different, you listen to Perfect. Also near there, for an entirely dissimilar reason, would be Chezidek and Jah Cure. Their vocals set them apart from everyone else, again, and it's now where you could very well give them the same vibes with the same lyrics, the same melody and the same riddim as another artist and the results will be so different in their case. And to my ears, even if you dive right into the middle of the music and encounter artists like Jah Mason, Junior Kelly, Anthony B and others, if you care enough, you'll find just how incredibly incorrect the notion of 'all of these songs sound the same' is when applied to Roots Reggae of the modern era. It's just wrong. And most fortunately, today we get to deal with yet another artist who, very casually and seemingly without force is breaking that mold by being himself and doing what comes naturally to him musically, the always interesting Singer Jah. The still relatively young singer is going to do a great deal to attract attention, and he already has, but now he's taking things to an even higher order with the release of a brand new album, which turns out to be a pretty nice standout on its own for many different reasons. 

"Dancin' Shoes" by Malijah & "Gimme What's Mine" by Chantelle Ernandez - 2012

The least interesting aspect surrounding the releasing of this project clearly isn't its origins. Over the past year or so, Singer Jah has been one of the talented artists who has taken advantage of the rising of the  burgeoning ReggaeLand Productions from out of Barcelona, Spain. The label has been one of the most active, although somewhat overlooked, European sets of the time and they've made many fans all throughout the world via constantly producing solid Roots music with some big names in the music and thus far, 2012 is proving to be a pinnacle for the label. Previously, ReggaeLand reserved album projects for the likes of Miguel Arraigo, Maia and Jah Nattoh - all Spanish artists who voice, primarily, in Spanish - the latter is probably their most well known artist, but that's all changed this year. Singer Jah was the second of three solid albums, two of which are debuts. First was Malijah, with "Dancin' Shoes" and just last week, the label dropped the first LP from impressive Jamaican vocalist, Chantelle Ernandez, "Gimme What's Mine". Also reportedly in the works for this year, is an album from veteran singer, Anthony Que and they've also done a big new single with Achis Reggae favourite, Mikey General. That's a lot of work, but to my ears thus far, you're looking at what is the crowning jewel of their 2012.

"Warrior Of Jah Army". While Singer Jah isn't exactly what I'd call a household name in Reggae (though if he keeps this up, he may very well be), from a few years back when he first began to garner attention for his work, he's always maintained a very cool level of quality in his music and his results, when at his best, have shown that. A couple of years back, the singer released his own debut album, "Waasskaa", which contained powerful works such as 'Why Are We', 'Youths Been Dying' and 'Right On Time' (there's also a very interesting track on that album called 'Wicked Than Pharaoh' which you should check out). To my knowledge, he released the album, so named after Singer Jah's signature phrase, on his own and exclusively in the digital market and I don't know how well it did commercially but, as I said, it contained a nice number of tracks on which the vocalist has made his name and he's remained active in the time since then as well. Because of that obvious determination in the music and devotion to his craft, I was SO happy to see this album come up and Singer Jah's be in the line of names in whom ReggaeLand has taken so heavy of an interest. And it's proven to be productive in both ways. As stated, having heard all of "Dancin' Shoes" (a nice album indeed) and most of "Gimme What's Mine""Warrior Of Jah Army" is my favourite of the batch and although it does appear as if the label has decided to push the EXTREMELY marketable, fantastically voiced and stunningly beautiful Chantelle Ernandez most of the three (DUH!), in my opinion, most hardcore Reggae heads will find the most satisfaction in this piece, but you check them all out of course. With that being said, I did base this review partially on the premise of artists who make themselves standout in Roots Reggae and you don't get very far into this album, or any of the good work of Singer Jah without hearing an immediate stream of something different. For what he lacks perhaps in fanfare, the vocalist makes up for in a PASSION for his music and getting the message out there and he does succeed in both arenas with this album. Let's have a listen. 

"Waasskaa" - 2010

The first thing you're likely to notice from Singer Jah is his voice. The clearest comparison, of course, would come to the legendary Garnet Silk and Ras Shiloh and the likes and it's a very fair one also. However, I'd say that Singer Jah has also just a bit of someone like a Mr. Vegas (now that may have something to do with me listening to A LOT of Mr. Vegas these days, but I do hear it) in his voice also. There's a very nice 'looseness' and 'free-flowing-ness' to his delivery, which is definitely something that you're more likely to hear from a Dancehall singer. Nevertheless, you're going to find straight Roots Reggae ideology and themes through the artist's new album from ReggaeLand Productions, "Warrior Of Jah Army", as its title would suggest. But, just to make me look dumb, the album does get up and moving with a sweet love song, 'Only U In My Life'. This song is really the only of its kind on the album, but it does have its place - when is the last time you heard a Roots album with no love song? It's a tribute to the special woman in Singer's life and the Mother of his daughter and he's just so happy that she's with him. I hear dozens and dozens of love songs which don't really do a damn thing for me, but this is not one of those. A nice tune. Next, we go in a more terrestrial direction with a downright scintillating effort, 'Blood Suckers', on which Singer deals with those who endanger the future of the world - children. The riddim on this song, whatever it is and whoever constructed it, is DIVINE! It is so nice and LUSH and the tune on top of it is probably one of the album's best. Speaking of nice riddims and the album's best, it is the gorgeous Cultura Riddim which underpins what is definitely one of the best selections to be found on the whole of "Warrior Of Jah Army", the outstanding 'Prayers 2 Di Most High'

“So I pray every night and I pray everyday
Asking The Most High to guide my way 
Guide my steps Oh Jah!
From the wicked, the evil and the backbiter!
Pray every night and I pray everyday
Asking The Most High to guide my way
Guide my steps Oh Jah!
From the wicked, the evil and the backbiter

Come mek wi chase away di locust outta town
Wid Jah by my side, dem caah get I down
HE protect mi in my going in
HE guides mi in my coming in
So praises be, praises be, praise be to thee!
Deliver mi Oh Jah from the wicked
In their heart there is a lot of mischief”

This one sounds directly out of the vault of Garnet Silk - it's a wonderful piece and extremely well done.

'Try & Do Good'

Silk would certainly be proud of a tune like 'Hello Mama' which comes through later as the Mama song for the album. Just like in the case of the opener, I hear these tunes literally all of the time, so they have to do something special to make themselves stand out and this one does that. The sonics on the song are just so high! The legendary singer would also be pleased by 'Never Forget', which just may be the best written tune on the album. Here, Singer speaks of "never forgetting" where one comes from and taking pride in it as well ["Nuff a dem forget and turn round, get left. Inna di wrong trap mi si dem go step"]. The riddim here is a curiously SLIM one-drop for the most part, but when left to bubble just a tiny bit, you hear horns and so many other sublime ingenuities going on the background, that while it IS message music, it gets a flaring treatment upon delivery to the listener! 'Try & Do Good' begins a trend which expands on the second half of the album (more on that in just a second) to a great degree, so I won't ruin it, but I will say that the song, which comes through across ReggaeLand's Dem Talking Riddim, is such a nice piece that it shouldn't be missed. There is a very nice way of writing which Singer Jah has in this portion of the album where it's more basic and easier to take-in concepts, driven home in a very passionate way (it's also the first time we actually hear "Waasskaa!"). Finally here (only for now) is my favourite song on the album named after it, 'Warrior Of Jah Army'. TEARS! 

“I’m a warrior!
I’m a warrior!
I’m a warrior of Jah army!
I will fight for my rights
Fight to stay alive
I’m a warrior!
I’m a warrior!
I’m a warrior of Jah army!
I will fight for my rights
Fight to stay alive

Wi never get scared pon di battlefield
Jah is our guide and shield
Many wanna see us fall
We’re standing firm, against the wall yeah
Dem think dem can shake mi
But dem caan shake mi
I’m a lion, so try no test me!
One Man mi fear - The Almighty”

It's standing up for His Majesty, it's standing up for righteousness and just common sense! HUGE HUGE tune!

Something very interesting happens near the midway point of "Warrior Of Jah Army" and it was a large part of the reason that I set this review up in the way that I did. If you just looked at the album, the title the cover and the artist, it would most likely never occur to you that, as I alluded to in regards to 'Try & Do Good', the second half of the album just becomes this LARGE sounding display. I hear Pop, I hear Zouk, I hear Reggae-still and a lot of other vibes thrown in and I still enjoy it! A good example would well be the familiar 'No Giving Up'. This song appears on the Reggae Reasoning Riddim and it just energizes the entire set immediately and in a good way, on a song which Singer Jah very much seems to apply to his own life and career. When I tipped into 'Don't Wanna See U & Me' I thought that I had accidentally mixed in some Kaysha into the tracklist ('Si Tu T'en Vas', big tune), because things suddenly Zoukified. This one isn't amongst my favourites and it isn't much of a case of appreciating someone 'doing something different', because it seems like such a natural leap for the singer. The bigness continues on a tune which would receive Ras Shiloh's approval (biggup Shiloh!), the social commentary, 'Life Continues'

“Blood been running in the street
Life continuing, getting delete
My Lord!
My God, put a stop onto it
I can’t take a next minute of it
Blood been running in the street
Life continuing, getting delete
My Lord!
My God, put a stop onto it
I can’t take a next minute of it

Where is the love, we supposed to get?
Nuff people dem kill, fling body over bridge
We all come together and a so wi must live
Why can’t we come together?
How come so don’t care for others?

I don’t know why they moving this way
I don’t know why they kill everyday
Some ah kill just fi money and fame

In the midst of the sound change and all of the other stuff I'm about to tell you about is one SWEET Reggae selection, 'Help 4 Di Youths'. It's a song which very much sticks into Singer Jah's line of thinking and writing throughout "Warrior Of Jah Army", as he very much is about standing up for those who can't stand up for themselves and calling for the betterment of children and this a song which touches, finely, both of those bases. Also I should tell you to pay a nice amount of attention to what's being said in this instance, because the message is HIGH! Also do check 'Hail The King', which is another very BIG vibed tune and I do really like it (though it took about five or six spins to arrive at that point). The prevailing message here being one of unity - saying how so many people come from so many different places and do so many different things and can link together in the name of one common goal - to hail The King. 

'Hail The King' digital single

NOW! The remaining for pieces on the album are all remixes of sorts as ReggaeLand, in a very Soca-like move, added them to the pack. Two of them are versions of the same song, 'Nah Afraid', which gets an acoustic and 'Discomix' washing. Most curious about this song, and it is very good, particularly in the acoustic form, is that the bubbly original version, which is better than both of these, is not on the actual album. You can give it a listen (as well as both of these tunes also), however, should you pick up a compilation called "Hold Di Trinity", which ReggaeLand dropped last month. There's also an exotic sounding remix of 'No Giving Up' and a remix of another tune not on the album, 'Bless Dem', whose original version (which is better than its remix) also appeared on the aforementioned Dem Talking Riddim. The most interesting artifact of information about this one is that is the only combination song on "Warrior Of Jah Army" (you have no idea how many times I have typed that as "Warrior IN Jah Army", NONE!) because it features famed Reggae singer, Ginjah, who just happens to be (in need a new album of his own) Singer Jah's brother. This is an interesting mix of what is a big tune, but I definitely suggest that you do track down the original. 

Singer Jah

Overall, the album, although only sixteen tracks (which seems short these days), is such a FULL project and a powerful statement to Singer Jah's abilities. I would have so enjoyed if he and ReggaeLand could have mixed in a female guest singer just to accompany him on a tune because I think that would make such an interesting sound, but judging the project based on what is actually present, I don't have too many complaints at all. The word that jumps up here is SOLID, but it is better than that and it does have a spectacular moment or two. So, if you saw this release and figured it to be an average album from an average singer, with an (EXTREMELY) average name that you've heard a thousand times before - pickup "Warrior Of Jah Army" from Singer Jah - and prove yourself wrong. Very wrong. 

Rated: 4.25/5
ReggaeLand Productions
CD [I THINK] + Digital

Review #366

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