Thursday, July 12, 2012

'Daybreak!': A review of "A New Day" by Jah Marnyah

Everyone's journey is different. It's so strangely wonderful that there exists a basically infinite amount of different ways in which a particular artist can not only rise to prominence, but to attracting your attention as well. And while this is a process which is most often attached to a single big tune or more, it can also be a variety of different other things which initially draw your interest in their direction and, through the years, we've seen so many of them. On the most unusual end would be someone such as Jah Cure who, early in his career, pulled in such a great deal of notice for two reasons. First there was the fact that his voice was, and remains, simply one of the most breathtaking displays in all of music and, of course, by the time the Cure had reached any type of further reaching level of stardom he was already the midst of serving what would become an extremely extended incarceration. We could also look at someone such as Turbulence who was, when he began, a perhaps more taciturn version of Sizzla Kalonji who had to be respected in a different sense because, when he wanted to, the man could really sing exceptionally. And there are also others like Midnite and a whole heap of other VI artists and maybe even a Vybz Kartel who may not necessarily stand out, as far as their beginnings, for one significant moment of music - single song or album - but of whom you think just as respectfully and highly. I'm going to add another name to that list of someone who emerged not on the strength of specific pieces of music, but on his style and apparent potential, at least for me, it's the Foreman of the Cannabis Factory, Jah Marnyah. The chanter quickly became someone of interest for me and did so for an assortment of different reasons. Yes, he did have big tunes, he had a one in particular, 'Anointed One', which may just be one of the best one-hundred or so that I've EVER heard from anyone, but in those tunes I heard a prevailing intelligent edginess that made his music so powerful for me and, a few years later, it's still there. There was also something really interesting about how Marnyah's career progressed which made it full on fascinating and even more so when you consider the fact that it was over something that he hadn't even done yet. WHAT!

An album. Although we primarily deal with albums around here and I think this is changing today, in Reggae music, having an album is not always the focus or the goal. We still have so many successful veteran artists who have yet to have a full record release to their credits although, as I said, that number is dwindling and getting older and Jah Marnyah was not to be a member of that pack. You knew where he was headed and although it probably took a couple of years longer than even he expected, we've all gotten here! Originally from out of Montserrat (or 'Monster Rat' as my Daughter calls it) (biggup my Daughter) (biggup Montserrat), Marnyah's musical life began in the UK where he now lives (as does another big chanter from out of Montserrat, Ras Iyahkayah and four-billion time Montserrat Soca Monarch, Scrappy, to my knowledge) where he has linked with Faya Wurks Records, with whom he's made many of his big tunes and with whom he's also now giving us what we've been waiting for.

Jah Marnyah & Faya Wurks Records
"A New Day". FINALLY [!] the wicked Jah Marnyah and Faya Wurks Records have unveiled the former's big debut album and even before you get into it - it just feels RIGHT! The album has been, presumably, on the proverbial table, for about two years now and, if I recall correctly, it was even originally to be known as "Sweat of Your Brow" after an older Faya Wurks helmed single. With that being said (and surely I would have enjoyed to be writing a review now for Marnyah's sophomore set right now), perhaps it's taking so long to arrive has been a GOOD thing. Over the past year or so THIS ALBUM has become most of the talk surrounding the artist and when you have so much discussion about something that you're planning to do and then you finally do it, the interests of the masses have definitely been peaked. It also helps that Marnyah hasn't been exactly stagnant while he was waiting to wrap up this project and he's been recording for some of the biggest outfits on European soil such as Achis Reggae favourites, Oneness Records from out of Germany and definitely the mighty Dub Akom Records from France, with whom he's done several tunes and who are also closely involved with "A New Day" (as are the Sound Guyz also from out of France). And leading up to the actual release of the album, Marnyah has been jumping up with big singles through Faya Wurks which have definitely gotten even more eyes and ears pointed in his general direction and, even more importantly perhaps for me, really shown that he had deemed 2012 to be a year in which he was going to make a great deal of big moves. None are likely to outshine this album, however (although should Marnyah want to make me wrong in that assumption, I GREATLY look forward to the opportunity of admitting my incompetence), and for good reason. I didn't get very far into it at all before I comprehended that it was a pretty good feeling that I had invested in his work over the course of the past few years or so. "A New Day" makes up for lost time and reintroduces a talent in Reggae music whose time has come . . . FINALLY & LITERALLY. Let's have a listen!

The obvious comparison point of Jah Marnyah's style would be another kind of 'edgy' (and I mean that only in delivery, not in subjectry) Jah M. chanter - Jah Mason. They sound absolutely nothing like one another, but I always thought (and still do) that their full styles are somewhat similar, but listening to the type of diversity Marnyah presents on this album, I think that a more appropriate contrast can be drawn in looking at someone like Pressure Busspipe or maybe even a more rough version of someone like a Ras Attitude. Those two are even more similar to my opinion (Jah Mason has no problem at all in just SCREAMING at you when the mood strikes him) and that level of an intense, and more than I expected, versatility is on full exhibition throughout the whole of "A New Day". Want an example? Look no further than the sterling opener, 'All Is Not Lost'. Theoretically, you hear a title like that and you assume that the song is going to be one of overcoming problems and sticking around through hard times and you're right in this case, but you probably didn't expect it to sound this good. 

"All is not lost
Let Jah be your boss
All is not lost
Jah be your boss

All is not lost
Jah di shepherd fi di fold -
Di meek and di humble, di young and di old
My guiding star, Emmanuel, save our soul -
From these desperate times, from this desolate world
Try make a hustle, man need some billfold 
Gots to be brave 
Rasta gots to be bold
Claim seh dem ah help you, find out dem ice cold 
Well look ya now - Dem betta go purge dem soul 

Iyah ites glorify and give thanks - 
King Emmanuel fold
From the depths of the sea, from the belly of the beast and come and save thee -
From this modern day civilisation
Caught up inna dis modern day slavery 
So tell mi why di upper class of people rule di masses
Taking advantage of di under privilege
The system is like a man with no heart
No spirituality" 

Of course, me making that dramatic statement is only made powerful when you buy the album and hear the full tune which you are going to do right now . . . Back? Good. Next up is the delightful 'Peace & Harmony' which may just be even stronger than the opener. This song is a bit more broad, but when you relate it to the nature of the tune (and it's beautiful sound), you get the idea that it's more of an all-encompassing notion than the first track and clearly not one with it's dynamic moments and moods. 

"Press along, my people press along
The sunburned faces, Royal Ethiopians 
Bobo chant international repatriation -
FREEDOM! And wi want redemption" 

Marnyah goes into that riddim with all of the grimy maturity that he put forth on earlier tracks which well made me a fan. The title track sends out the opening batch of the album named after it and it keeps the vibes high. 'A New Day', the song, comes via the aforementioned Dub Akom on their shining Bonafide Riddim. This song being here actually made me wonder why other tunes Marnyah did for the label aren't present such as the recent 'She Keep Herself Right' from the Full Swing Riddim (although its absence is entirely explainable, it probably would have disturbed the nature of the album) and the MASSIVE 'Evilous Ways' on the Vitamin ["claim seh dem a big man, find out dem a big pervert"] [WHAT!]. But we're definitely happy that they included this track (I guess you don't really have much of a choice after choosing it as a title, but you know what I mean), because it's another highlight and a winner for an album which has just pushed three of them consecutively. This piece also shows off Marnyah doing a bit of steady singing which is a surprise in a good one.

'Musical Party'

As I alluded to, adding to the attraction of "A New Day" coming forth was a couple of singles which really grabbed the awareness of the masses recently. In both cases we have songs which definitely took a bit of growing on me before I could recommend them to any degree, but thankfully their presences here, respectively, took any final doubts I may have had. The first is 'Keep Trying', which reached not long ago at all and was actually done on a digital EP with five differing mixes (including the always interesting vocal dub). This song has an intro portion which is a bit jarring and electric, but when you really tune into it, it shows itself to be one of the most lyrically proficient songs on this album and that's saying a great deal as Marnyah is a terrific writer. 'Musical Party' is the other highlight selection and while I won't go as far as to say that I did not like this song when I first heard it from sometime late last year, I will say that it was out of what I was expecting from Marnyah at the time. These days? I'm a believer. It's still not amongst my favourites on "A New Day", but it really does help to add different colours and textures to an album which isn't short in that area, but could definitely use some of the Ska-ish array available on the infectious 'Musical Party'. And while it wasn't a previously featured tune (at least not to my knowledge), another set here which well sticks out on paper is the only official combination, 'I Can See', which links Jah Marnyah with veteran Anthony John. The interesting story here, apparently, is that John and Marnyah crossed paths in a French studio doing recordings and John was so impressed with the chanter that he wanted to do a tune with him. This spiritually directed social commentary is the result of that encounter and it is a top notch tune. I didn't even have to listen to this one to know that, Anthony John & Jah Marnyah on the same record is a guaranteed sizable offering. 

While, ostensibly, the second half of "A New Day", may not stand out as much as its first, at least not on paper, you'll make a terrible mistake should you overlook it, particularly as it includes some of the and THE finest moment the album has to offer, in my opinion. THAT moment isn't 'Hypocrites', but it isn't very far either. The nature of this tune is self-explanatory, but its vibes are not. It's a big, big tune which goes heavy on the message. It's also a piece which really shows off Jah Marnyah's style very well because it features both the kind of rough chanter as well as the singer (BOTH on the first very also) simultaneously chanting down false friends. Check the Hip-Hoppish 'Badness A Madness' which is another one which took a minute to grow on me - I'm not the biggest Hip-Hop fan. Here, we have Marnyah essentially speaking on terrible behaviour in society and people keeping a bad company. This is interesting because if you REALLY tune it in, you'll hear how kind of unique it is. It isn't the type of composition which goes in the more routine direction of attempting to spread this kind of 'detached' good will. Instead, it's written in an in-your-face manner with the artist essentially saying, 'STOP'. Later comes a number which is somewhat related to 'Badness A Madness', the even stronger antiviolence creation, 'Everyday'

"Everyday another, innocent gone a morgue
Blood spilling, brain spilling
Stain pon di wall
Tell mi how di people ahgo manage lawd
Inna dis ya Armagiddion

Well look at the signs of the time
Mi ahgo tell dem things are changing
Violence consume di place, like a computer virus
Tell dem - live good a nuh bodda thing devious -
Or else you gwan lick up and crash up
Seet clear
One and all, it's not a secret
They take live for a joke and misuse it" 

It may not be as aggressive as 'Badness A Madness', but as 'Everyday' progresses, the intensity builds and by its end you have one nearly spectacular moment. Both 'More Than a Friend' and 'Lies' find the artist dealing with opposite ends of a relationship. The former is pretty unexpected, it's basically a straight forward love song, but the latter is STRONG and entertaining as he deals with a woman who obviously doesn't feel the same way about him as he does for her. 

And then there's the BOOM . . . both of them. 'Rasta Is Love' is a previous single from Jah Marnyah and it's thrown in on the album as a Bonus Track. It's also probably one of his most successful releases to date as well and when you get to hear it, you won't have to wonder why. This song is MASSIVE! 

"Nuff a dem caught up inna di judgment and dem doh know where fi run to
Oh Rasta is love
Oh Rasta is love

I & I praise and love The Emperor: The Prince Of Piece
Yeah babylon instigate dem hate through mental slavery
Let us - love not to hate, to deal with it right yes
Yes, mi nah go slide, nah go slip, nah mix up inna mess
So give dem a Van Damme thump, a Bruce Lee kick inna chest
Si dem ah send trick, si dem ah plot war
Dem caah escape dis yah judgment, no at all"

BUT! There's an even STRONGER song on "A New Day" to my ears which may not strike you (or anyone else either, besides me) on that level, but 'Dem Vex' is . . . I don't even know what to call it, I've ran out of adjectives. 


Jah Jah si us through
Rasta si us through 
Love ah carry through -
Anytime thing sticky like glue
Haffi set di pace
Man ah go through di gate
Mama Africa - Here we come
Roots over rum
Love over gun
Bread over crumbs
Time fi wi start live together 
Strengthen each other
Care for each other
More strength to my brothers and sisters" 

TEARS! This acoustic selection may not be the type of song which is the foundation of a great and productive, successful single, but to my ears it's just about every bit as good as the aforementioned 'Anointed One' tune and it's also the single best song on this album and a MIGHTY winner from Jah Marnyah and company. 

Jah Marnyah
Overall, while we really did have to wait a long time for this one, I can well say that it was worth the wait. My only significant critique here is that the album doesn't have more tracks. Typically, thirteen is a really solid number (and it is really here also), but in the case of Jah Marnyah, I think that he has such a solid number of tunes that would have worked well here, including but not limited to the earlier mentioned 'Evilous Ways' and 'Anointed One' (he also had a nice tune from Dub Akom named 'Life' on the Highlight Riddim]. Also, when you look back at even earlier pieces which are hard to find and it would have been nice if some of them could have been integrated. It's weird - after his first album he may already be in line for a greatest hits album. WHAT! However, just judging it based on what is actually present, "A New Day" is a big release and ranks alongside I-Octane's "Crying For the Nation" and a few others as one of the best debut albums of 2012. So, while one day you may not even be able to remember what it was that originally brought you to enjoying the music of Jah Marnyah, what's certain is that the performance he delivers on "A New Day" makes it very likely that you're not going to forget him anytime soon. Excellent! 

Rated: 4.5/5
Faya Wurks Records

Review #379

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