Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rewind!: The Songbird Riddim

"The Songbird Riddim" [I Grade Records]

I wasn't finished! I have more thoughts. Eh-ehmm - let's continue!

#1. 'She's Got Soul' by Lutan Fyah

"She's blessed with the gift of love
She's got soul
So comely with a heart of gold
She's more than what I bargained for
And she's tired of being told she's not beautiful
Through she nuh look like the model inna di fashion magazine
And she nah play no role
Yow she's tired of being told she's not beautiful 
Through she nuh pose fi no video clip
And she no dress up inna tights and slip

She's like a rainbow - real and fine
Women of quality - sealed and signed
She's just like the water that run through the stream of my life
Deserve to be a wife
For all of the struggle that you been through
You fight with all that you got deep within you
All the pain and the trials and the issues
Yes, all the best in life I've got to wish you!"

Lutan Fyah's opener for the Songbird Riddim, 'She's Got Soul' is certainly nothing new from the chanter. As I said, he's been doing these type of women empowering pieces for quite some time and you do not look at them like the stereotypical 'love song' because they are not, but there is definitely an element of  that. What works so well in the case of this particular tune is how he kind of directs it, simply and more complexly, to the 'real' women of the world, while acknowledging a very personal (presumably) issue of trying to reach this assumed ideal. It is the "ideal" of many people - this woman that you might find looking strange in a magazine - but clearly Lutan Fyah is not one of those people. Neither am I. Well done.

#2. 'The Rain' by Pressure

Pressure's effort  on the track, 'The Rain',  is, essentially, a kind of vivid social commentary which has this very clever tie into the ways of the world. I can almost 'see' the imaging behind the song and how Pressure may've developed it along and, like I said, it is a very witty type of composition. While you won't hear any new ground being broken, what you do get is a quite unique perspective on a well hit topic and one of the stronger tunes on the album.

#3. 'So Beautiful' by Ras Batch

"Sandy seashore, tropical islands
Stars bright at night, resembling diamonds
Fullness of The Lord thereof -
As it is below, also above
And as the rain ah fall - trees rising
Ever-fertile Mother Earth she keep providing
As the tide go out and the tide come in 
She deh pon a revolution axis deh ah spin
And feel Her fire
Redda volcano - hotter fire
Fall inna spring, summer or winter
Mother Earth deh yah for all to share
So stop the destruction -
For the life who yet to come"

Ras Batch continues his streak of brilliance (which dates back  to the beginning of his career) with his appropriately environmentally conscious piece on the Songbird Riddim, 'So Beautiful'. This song is somewhat similar to the opener because Batch very much gives the entity Mother Earth humanlike characteristics (merely by addressing Her by name) and then spends the rest of the song, basically, saying "THANK YOU!" It also (like all of his work) has a more pronounced spiritual side, so we hear him not only thanking 'Her', but subsequently thanking 'HIM' for 'Her'. One of the best choruses on this riddim.

#4. 'I Know' by Danny I

You know what?

"When I hear the songbirds I think of you"

TEARS! VI and I Grade veteran, Danny I, at least in my opinion (and maybe only my opinion (WHO CARES - I LOVE THIS SONG!) continues to top honours with his wholly passionate and downright FLOORING 'I Know'. I've now probably heard this tune more than fifty times (have you ever just found yourself just unable to stop listening to a particular song? That's now happened to me three times with this one) and while I have shifted just slightly in terms of how I perceive its direction - its quality has remained an unquestionable topic. This thing was MASSIVE when I first heard it and its only gotten better from then. In terms of what it is about, I now kind of look at with a double purpose. On one hand, like I believe I said originally, it most certainly is a song about appreciating and being able to appreciate beauty throughout the world, wherever you find it - big or small - but ALWAYS in being thankful for that splendour, you must also be thankful for The Creator for making it possible. So, in that respect, what you have is a subtly complex praising tune, which is similar to several tunes the singer has done to date. This one, however, has to rank amongst his very best efforts to date and I'm not even finished with it. Also, I should say, although I hope I'm wrong (and fortunately for me, I usually am) that this may prove to be the type of song which kind of flies beneath the proverbial radar and, should that happen, it would be awful, because to my opinion, despite the presence of other truly special moments on the Songbird Riddim (one in particular), 'I Know' soars higher than them all. 

#5. 'Bumpy Ride' by Glen Washington

Reigning coolest man in the world and another Zion I Kings veteran, Glen Washington, also returned with a tune for the riddim, 'Bumpy Ride'. There is a wonderful inherent amount of quality which accompanies the vast majority of Washington’s music and just about ALL of it in his flaming recent times (which sees him, arguably, making the best music of his entire great career) - so when you see his name appearing on a track, particularly one like this and one from this source, almost more than anyone, with the exception of one or two others, you KNOW that you're going to get something good and this very detailed and involved piece of Lover's Rock is not even the tip of an exception. 

#6. 'War Is Not The Answer' by NiyoRah

Someone seemingly on the verge of superstardom, NiyoRah, comes in with this multifaceted social commentary 'War Is Not The Answer'. What I am now most struck by in regards to this tune is just how COMPLETELY DISGUSTED [!] Niyo seems to be with war. It is an aggressive tune, but it does have this feel of a quiet confidence around it where Niyo approaches "war" as if it is a misbehaving and ignorant person. He addresses it with the appropriate disdain and while he is really speaking to this who continue it, to look at war as an individual or even as a concept AND THEN TALK TO IT is a very interesting and captivating lyrical twist which you shouldn't be surprised to hear from such a talent. 

#7. 'Best In Life' by Jahdan Blakkamoore

"Mi wish mi woulda deh-deh when dem rush in
But mi glad mi neva deh-deh when dem bruk in -
Guns blazing
Another innocent life taken
Summa dem no live to see 20-13
And fi what?
A few thousand dollars from di cocaine?
Di rims pon your Ferrari and your gold chain 
Yah malice and yuh jealousy cause tragedy
For a few dollars more you leave di bloodstain
Well it's the same old story -
The youth drop out fi di money and di fame and di glory
I pray -
Jah protect us day-by-day as we trod down these evil streets

I'm looking forward the best in life
Nuh bodda wid no stress in life
So many valleys to walk, rives to cross
And so many mountains to climb
We rise up over test in life
It's not easy to do what's right
And so wi tell di youth dem gather up dem strength -
Cause life is no easy ride

So tell mi what is life worth -
Cah you know seh you're only this earth -
For a short while
Haffi watch your profile
Respect man and woman and child
Rasta in front
We neva stay back
Cah you know wi nah go follow inna stray flock 
So think for yourself and keep pon track

As far as lyrics, Jahdan just may be one of the most talented artists in all of Reggae music today and that is a trait which has yet to be highlighted as finely as it was on his latest album, "Babylon Nightmare. Here, we find him continuing his linguistically devastating ways with the somewhat subtle 'Best In Life'. I've spent some time going through this one with a greater attention to detail and, though I definitely enjoyed it the first time through, 'Best In Life' now, easily ranks amongst the best on the Songbird Riddim altogether. On the lyrical level what I most enjoy is the kind of casual feel of the chorus. What I mean, particularly after the first verse (which is here), what you get is Jahdan acknowledging that taking the negative route may have its attractions, but he's more than willing to take a positive course instead of doing evil things which not only adds the more expected negative things, but also other, more furtive, type of things, such as living in total stress and things like such. It not only adds to the presentation of the song, because he literally sounds kind of tired at points, but it also excuses itself from being this type of overly-positive and sappy song which doesn't go over well. 'Best In Life' does everything well. 

#8. 'A New Overstanding' by Midnite

"Still so marvelous - Creation
Why should they be flourishing -
When the earth have famine in?
So they can have some help to pray
Inna deliverance offering 
Alleviate some suffering
Designate the resources
Hey, run things
Willing and able and qualified - run things
Then get pluralistic
Reach the streets with it
Of with The Trinity consists -
The wholesomeness of this
The Earth is in transit
She gotta new overstanding
That She values wholesomeness and truth
That it takes roots
That it bear fruit"

Our old friend, Vaughn Benjamin (new album, "Free Indeed", in stores now ) (new album , "Be Strong", in stores now) (new album, "Lion Out Of Zion", coming soon), also gives another fine selection on the Songbird and does so in his typically inimitably brilliant manner, with 'A New Overstanding'. It goes by the tune: Just how much of a joy it is to attempt to decipher Benjamin's meanings and I'm still working here, but where I am with it now is, in a build off from the title, that is a tune about starting new things and being open-minded to towards new things and having positive outlooks. Of course, he'll never come out and make it plain for us (what fun would that be???), so he makes his point, and makes it a historical one, by using the Earth as his 'heroine'. The results are what they always are, especially these days - a most unique and incomparable journey to comprehension, taught be an absolute genius.

#9. 'Tension' by Jah9

"There is tension building inside I 
And I'm trusting I spirit to guide I
Even if no one else overstands -
I have got to do what it demands
I eyes and ears might deceive I
Friends and family might leave I
But is a righteous tension ah brew
So I must prepare for what I might have to do 

I don't have a problem in the world
Solution oriented, simple island girl
Passionate, compassionate, with patience as a science 
And also love and unity promoting self-reliance
Balancing I emotion, tempering I temperament 
Maintaining I composure and learning when to vent
But as injustice grips the masses more and more
The pressure makes them numb, but instead makes me sure -

That there is tension building inside I 
And I'm trusting I spirit to guide I
Even if no one else overstands
I have got to do what it demands
I eyes and ears might deceive I
Friends and family might leave I
But is a righteous tension ah brew
So I must prepare for what I might have to do

Misleaders use semantics to manipulate us
Meaning less promises to keep us inna state of -
Catatonic apprehension, empty hands up to di sky
The art of misdirection is to disguise the lie
Telling us decisions made are for our good
By those who we elect -
When in actuality they merely reflect -
An ulterior agenda to profiting their terms
So dem corrupt system get burn"

That's why there's tension building inside I 
And I'm trusting I spirit to guide I
Even if no one else overstands
I have got to do what it demands
I eyes and ears might deceive I
Friends and family might leave I
But is a righteous tension ah brew
So I must prepare for what I might have to do
But I'm never gonna give Jah up
No matter what

Imagine di morning you awake to find the soldiers on your street
Tanks on every boulevard, police on every beat
Choppers hovering but a stillness in the air
How will you be feeling?
Relieved or filled with fear?
Then the radio announces that the leader's gonna speak 
Adrenaline explodes as your attention speaks
He says, 'you may already notice the plans for your protection
Put in place to neutralize potential insurrection
But have no fear, the force is here, with teargas, bombs and guns
So no undesirables will compromise the flow of funds
Tell me where will you be standing?
What will you plan to do?…
Is you!
It's you!
It's you!
Which side of the law are you?
Are you with the masses or are you the protected one?
Tell me which side of the law holds your place
Do they defend you or can they stick that gun in your face?
Tell me where does your allegiance lie
Is it clear where your conscience will reside

That's why there's tension building inside I 
And I'm trusting I spirit to guide I
Even if no one else overstands
I have got to do what it demands
I eyes and ears might deceive I
Friends and family might leave I
But is a righteous tension ah brew
So I must prepare for what I might have to do
In this tension - building inside! 
But I'm never gonna give Jah up
No matter what

And then the 'Tension' builds via master carpenter, Jah9 who is in the process of turning Reggae music in 2013 into her own personal canvass. This song is, I THINK, the first single from the Songbird Riddim and given its sound (it is my second favourite song on the riddim) and the buzz surrounding its star, I think it is an excellent choice. There is an entire back-story for the tune which is based on Jah9's experience of a terrible incident in Tivoli Gardens from three years ago now. Also, I received a press release for this specific tune which talked about Laurent 'Tippy' Alfred basically… just being a fan of Jah9's and upon completing the track just feeling compelled to see if he could get her involved in some way - and then making it happen. I just liked hearing that because, as if you needed more convincing (and you didn't) to the passion of this project and just music in general from I Grade Records - making the music and being FANS of it as well - here it is and hopefully this isn't the last time Jah9 and IGR link. I'm sure it won't be. 

{See full song lyrics on original review… or Bredz could just paste them in here somewhere}

#10. 'Times Ah Get Hard' by Junior P

"Everywhere mi go, everywhere mi turn -
People ah cry money 
People ah struggle hard fi pay dem bills
People ah struggle hard fi mek ends meet
Everywhere mi go, everywhere mi turn -
People ah cry money 
Hardworking people find it hard, fi get by
And dem ah wonder why
Wah wi ahgo do?
Wah wi ahgo do?
Wi haffi do something
Before, something due
Before, something due

Times ah get hard
So hard
So hard
Through di money thing, people ah move tricky
Times ah get hard
So hard
So hard
Through di money thing, people hand get sticky

Yow, last week mi go a store, mi buy a water for a dollar
And now mi gone again, dem seh dem waan one-fifty
And if mi nah got di fifty cents, dem not gonna give me
Oh Lord have mercy
Last week mi buy gas fi bout three-fifty
And now dem seh dem waan, dis week - three-ninety
And mi bossman, no him nah raise mi pay
You think it easy?
Check di saga -
Same time, di boss man seh 'things tight'
And now him business nah run too right
And him might haffi cut some hours - to save some money
He telling me he giving me a heads-up -
Inna six months he might haffi close up 
Yow that news is messed up
What a saga"

Junior P's exceedingly straight forward contribution to the riddim, ‘Times Ah Get Hard', has grown on me just a bit and it is also one of  the tunes on which I've focused a great deal. Junior P is someone who is really very capable and can do special things but it seems that he struggles from inactivity. I don't even know the last time that he did an album and, as I said, his new tune here may be the first that I've heard from him in quite some time. You listen to this tune and you know that his inactivity is really a loss for any fan of the genre because he is very talented - a quality well evident on this tune documenting economic struggles in the world in many different areas of society.

#11. 'The Power of Love' by Misael

"The power of love!
Caring for each other is what it's all about
Together we can make it grow
The power of love!
The strongest weapon of all times
But deep inside you can't refuse it
The power of love"

Hopefully, Misael is about to attract a great deal of attention via his SPARKLING effort on the Songbird, 'The Power of Love'. Along with clearly being one of the most sonically pleasing selections present here, this tune, to my opinion, really finds its strength by its mass amounts of common sense. Lyrically, Misael doesn’t take us anywhere we haven't been and haven't been on multiple visits, but he places it within such an open context ["I don't care what you believe in, as long as you can feel it"], that it becomes completely accessible. I really hope people take this one in because I think that it could do some very nice things and make a lot of people very happy.

#12. 'Don't Let Go' by Shay

On the only bonafide 'love song' on the riddim (which is somewhat surprising), sweet, sweet singing Shay gives us 'Don't Let Go'. Again, I really hope that people pay a special amount of attention to this track because I think that Shay is someone who could be very 'useful' for Reggae fans if we, collectively, began to give her a closer look. Of course like I said, it may help if she spices up her name just a bit (because apparently there're no less than nine-hundred Shays making music today), but everything else in well in place to make one very unique and fine (literally, she's a cutie) Lover's Rock singer - with those amazingly serene vocals. Want an example of what she can do? Take a listen to 'Don't Let Go' on the Songbird Riddim. 

#13. 'Holding Onto Freedom' by Dushane

Dushane's 'Holding Onto Freedom' is a tune which I'm steadily growing in appreciation of and I enjoy it considerably more right now than I ever have (should you, however, ask me about it again in an hour or so, I'd probably say the same thing then also) (which is a good thing). The artist's delivery, for some reason to my ears, has a bit of a 'twist' to it - there's something unusual in the way he voices, but again, that isn't a bad thing and this song in particular, actually, does a fine job of harnessing and nicely projecting what Dushane does well in my opinion. As for the song, it also has a very clever set to it as Dushane directly draws his land from the concept of 'freedom' to His Imperial Majesty. Alone, that may not be such a lyrical leap forward, but what he subsequently does is to hold up this great and attractive thing that everyone wants --FREEDOM-- as what happens when you walk with The Almighty. When you do that, you have something even more interesting and in Dushane's case I definitely hear something so I hope he sticks around to prove me right! 

#14. 'JAH Preserve' by Reemah

Is it going too far if I say that I LOVE this woman's music? Biggup one our of favourite readers, JP (biggup yourself JP), for viciously demanding that I go back and hear Reemah's music because she definitely has been someone who has stayed on my radars, particularly for lyrical reasons, over the course of the past six months or so. Because of that I was DAMN happy to see that Tippy and company had enlisted her for the Songbird and I know that they had produced for her in the past, so it wasn't a first time introduction, but should she fall in with ZIK output (and she has) that is a great thing because it means she's very likely to stay active as we wait for the inevitable second album.

Let it say it began with the wonderful 'JAH Preserve It' track which is a highlight here for me and hopefully for every one else. Much like Jah9, Reemah's greatest contribution is her lyrical ability. She is just this inferno of serious information and commentary and it almost seems like she has to restrain herself at times, because Reemah probably could and would line every single tune she voices with ten verses ad have no problems doing it at all! Looking back on this track, especially, she does something BRILLIANT with the third and fourth stanzas if you really pay attention to what she says (and that's just what I do!). Watch:

"So many tired, mek dem still ah gaze whoa
Hear dem seh they only going through a phase 
Yet dem down deh on dem knees and seh dem still ah pray
And watch how they seeking 
Illusions of fear - THE MIND IS THE PRISON
Now over and over same road they're trodding
Their feelings create and manifest from within
How - can they ever forward and still believe dem ah sin

"Go down - go down
Go down - go down
Wi no waan no more corruption deh around now
And a more time dem illusions haffi drown out
Come mek wi find love and then mek wi surround now
Well inna di struggle lion haffi mek a loud sound
No time to sleep, yow a time to wear yuh crown
Well I seh raise up and then stand up your ground
No trepidation, now walk and tell di town
Si dem ah look, ah look already fi go bow down
Well I seh no surrender - a Zion bound!
I seh di righteous ahgo rebound

WHAT?! What did she just say?! In the first you see what you can do to make babylon happy. This [first part] is how oppression and corruption and nastiness succeeds, when you live a lost life - so lost that they don't even have to lock you up because your "mind is the prison". and they smile! However, should you desire to do your part and help to tear that down (and you should) this [second part] is what you do. When you walk confident and know what you want and don't do what they tell you do only because they said it - then suddenly they're not so happy. They frown! I didn't notice that the first few times around, but it is such a contrasting dynamic when you process it on the song in the easy way - one second babylon grins, but they're happiness is short-lived as a minute and a second later, it's all come to ruins and Reemah directly makes the point in saying they're FROWNING NOW! DAMN! Like I said, I love this her music!

#15. 'Call On JAH Name' by Duane Stephenson

TEARS! You get the impression that Duane Stephenson really just throws everything that he has into his own tune on the Songbird, the moving 'Call On JAH Name'. This one is straight forward enough. It is a praising and inspirational piece which finds Stephenson strictly giving credit to The Almighty and delighting in being capable to do it. As I said, when you deeply tune in his music, Duane Stephenson is someone who has the ability to throw SO MUCH emotion into his work that it can be overwhelming at times. To my opinion, this was one of those moments. 

#16. 'Birds Of Praise' by Tuff Lion

MORE TEARS! Only better than an instrumental for the riddim (which I would have critiqued them for not having) is to put the clean version of the Songbird Riddim into the otherworldly talented hands of the Tuff Lion which precisely what I Grade and the ZIK do with 'Birds of Praise' and it never sounded so good. Here, you have the hard contrast of the riddims normal dominant sound - that fantastic horn section - with the Lion's unmatched guitar and both sound divine alone and together. As far as the song, what I took from it was a kind of a progression or movement of idea. What I mean is that there're times where this tune is more kind of serene and laidback, but at others it's sharp and maybe even aggressive. So if you follow this, you  go through a wide array of thoughts and emotions, with the connection to them all being that no single one dominates the entire song. Not only are they all important, but ARRIVING at them all - how you got there - is also very crucial.

So if you haven't already (and you're still in the timeframe where not having this album isn't laughable) (but you're quickly running out of time), definitely pick up the Songbird Riddim from I Grade Records and the Zion I Kings. The album is available on every version of iTunes and if you want the physical right now, check out a wonderful site by the name of VIRoots also. It is the best riddim album I've heard in more than a little while and it is a borderline classic (already) in my opinion. So check it out and we can all hear the songbirds together.

1 comment:

  1. I would not have known about this riddim if it weren't for this great blog. Thanks,