|"Salam" by Ras Muhamad [Oneness Records - 2014]|
I've been looking forward to this one! Reggae music is so powerful, as is music in general, that it can bring together some of the most interesting groups of people for the pursuit of making this amazing sound and it has been a very recent and modern occurrence, but we've seen some very strong examples of exactly how it can do that. Out of all the fantastic things that 2014 has given Reggae fans, surely one of the most interesting has been an album which charted a very curious course across the world in linking an artist from out of Indonesia, ready to make his full arrival to fans, and a label from out of Germany who has been making some of the most consistently good music in the entire genre. Today we go global and REWIND! "Salam" by Ras Muhamad from the wonderful people at Oneness Records.
See original review
See original review
If the goal and the mission statement with the title track and opening selection of "Salam" was to put the listener in a good mood and a very open frame of mind, then Ras Muhamad and Oneness scored a heavy blow with this track. At this point in time I am completely unable and unwilling to hear this song without smiling. I just CANNOT do it and it so beautifully sets the stage for what is to follow (aided by that downright sublime track carrying it). Aside from just being a, literal, greeting - I also take from this song just the thought of being nice to people and saying HELLO (however you say "hello" and in whichever language you say it in - another very large idea behind this song in my opinion and a mighty example of Ras Muhamad appreciating the moment here) when you see them. Hello Ras Muhamad!
2. 'Good Over Evil'
After you greet someone, it isn't a bad thing at all to be nice to them, further, and to help to steer them away from negative things and that was one of the sentiments behind the album's second offering, 'Good Over Evil'. It was put together just more aggressive than that and that's something that has helped to grow my appreciation for this, a song I well enjoyed and regarded as a highlight here from the first time that I heard it. Muhamad doesn't go fully, but you definitely feel the passion on this song and it is a necessary aspect of this delivery when you consider the subject.
"Babylon a bandit, put I inna bondage
Then they take advantage
Lock up I a conscience
WI NO COME FI ACCEPT
WI AH COME FI UPSET!"
3. 'Re-Education' featuring Kabaka Pyramid
Speaking of passion - it continues to build through the next song and the album's initial combination tune, 'Re-Education', which linked Ras Muhamad with the increasingly genius Kabaka Pyramid. Pyramid absolutely dazzles at times on this song which is about re educating the masses on all things, particularly in terms of culture and its history. What is most remarkable here, perhaps, is the combination which links Indonesia and Jamaica in a wholly DETAILED manner about Afrika. I also like the kind of 'loose' feel of the vibes. Kabaka Pyramid almost always has that tone when he is in a good form, but it pours out of Muhamad as well. You can almost HEAR a smile on his face at times. And I should also mention on a Rewind, the very INTELLIGENT usage of an excerpt from a speech made by legendary civil rights activist and Pan Africanist, Malcolm X, which well fit's the nature of this song perfectly.
4. 'Jah T Interlude'
The interlude here is barely north of a minute and it doesn't stand out for any type of reason on paper - but it is DELIGHTFUL to listen to. One of the nicest spins on this album and a major credit goes to whoever got the idea to make this one happen because it was an excellent idea.
5. 'Satu Rasa' featuring Conrad Good Vibration
I know that this may shock you, but over the past month I have not fully learned Bahasa Indonesian and, because of that, a great deal of 'Satu Rasa' ['One Feeling'] is lost to my ears, but you don't have to know Indonesian to LOVE a song like this. The song, like the interlude preceding it, is food for the ears as Ras Muhamad links with one of the best names in Reggae music today, Conrad Good Vibration, to deliver a winner.
6. 'Nuh Badmind Friend'
While I haven't flipped my thinking on 'Nuh Badmind Friend', I have certainly expanded upon it somewhat. I think that, besides the obvious, it is also a song about showing more in the way of patience and being careful who you call and refer to as "friend". It is a title to be earned is what Muhamad is saying and, if you do that, you'll almost always avoid those who don't have your best interests at heart.
7. 'Farmerman' featuring Naptali
Similarly as the song it chases, I'm also thinking heavier on 'Farmerman', which was Ras Muhamad's trip to ReggaeVille, alongside Achis Reggae favourite, Naptali. This song is one about being humble and working hard - along with spreading the idea of unity and brotherhood amongst people from so diverse cultures. The two definitely explore that aspect, but they do it in a way in which is about showing the ground-level similarities, saying that everyone has a struggle to face, no matter where they come from - an idea which Muhamad comes back to later.
8. 'Lion Roar'
Though it has been unseated as my most frequently listened to Ras Muhamad (by track #10 on this album) (DUH!), 'Lion Roar' from the African Children Riddim remains, easily, one of my favourite songs from the artist in… ever! The song is a subtly BRILLIANT and all-encompassing praising tune. On one hand you take it in a literal way - the roar of an animal. A lion is a well-respected creature and it is throughout the world. Going deeper - The Almighty is to be supremely respected and THE LION roars, you hear HIM wherever you may be! A fantastic song!
9. 'Leluhur' featuring Kunokini
'Leluhur', alongside Kunokini, at least for me, was as much of a musical EXPERIENCE, as it was a song on this album. It is definitely one of the most sonically pleasing moments here and it really puts the listener through a variety of different sounds, even if you (like me) are unable to fully take it in. Just as was the case with 'Satu Rasa', however, you don't have to be Indonesian or speak the language to appreciate a song that sounds like this… all you really have to do is possess a pair (or one) of at least semi-functioning ears.
10. 'Learn & Grow' featuring Sara Lugo
TEARS! I make it a point to listen to 'Learn & Grow' each and every day. I LOOOOOOOOVE this song and it isn't just because it features walking-wonderful Sara Lugo (though that certainly has a lot to do with it) (I'm sure you haven't noticed this before - but I'm a fan). The two make for a dynamic and perfectly complementary pair and, obviously, for a skyscraper of a song. The song is both inspirational and entertaining as, at its heart (in my opinion), is the idea of maturing at any stage of life (you can mature when you're fifteen and when you're one-hundred and fifteen). Simultaneously, this is such a joy to listen to and when you build upon it with two such different people come together singing Reggae music and doing it at such a high level - it's just a very significant release for me and the most lasting song on an album full of well-resilient vibes.
GRRR! By far the tune which I have grown in appreciation of most on "Salam" has been the downright dominant 'Conquest'. Though I surely did respect it from the first spin as the lyrical bomb that it was, these days, I’m ranking it even higher because of the mix between the lyrics and the presentation. For Muhamad's part, he delivers a song which covers the emotional span that you might imagine someone would experience in dealing with the most frustrating and aggravating subject of how so called 'discoverers' mistreated people on their way into a history which, almost always, regards them in such an esteemed fashion. Musically, 'Conquest' is just as crucial with a SWEET guitar prevailing throughout subtly and an excellent extension on the riddim after the song's final vocals have been spoken.
"Remember when they told of the explorers that went through a fantastic voyage and saw all these monsters
Now, it's them who were actually the monsters
The transatlantic human trade"
12. 'Barriers & Borders' featuring Uwe Kaa
"Barriers and borders inna our view
Like a roadblock inna dem curfew
We flying high with music, music
So come and get into it, to it"
The combination with German artist, Uwe Kaa, 'Barriers & Borders' is another album which mixes languages (and even more so in this case than on some of the others because Kaa uses German), but I do feel like I can follow along a little thanks to the chorus and even if I couldn't, this tune just sounds SO nice and is so pleasing. I think, actually, you can even look at this tune as a microcosm for a large chunk of the ideology of this album - where we CELEBRATE one of the things that virtually always manages to bring people together and espouse on all of its many wonders: Music (more on that in a minute).
13. 'So Tired'
'So Tired' was more of a straight-forward type of social commentary for the album but it, too, was a track which fit well into the scheme of the of the project. As where the tune before it recognized one of the many things that is capable of linking people together throughout the world, 'So Tired' did the same thing but with poverty and hardships that are faced by so many people from so many different walks of life. This song also has a HEAVY sound to it which is so wonderfully difficult to shake and helps to make it, in my opinion, one of the many standouts featured on "Salam".
14. 'All Over The World' featuring Mighty Che
Ras Muhamad continues to get global, this time with the help of the Mighty Che and this time he's taking in the 'sights'. All of the beautiful women to be found on the planet represent the direction of 'All Over The World'. I hadn't heard this tune in a few minutes but, listening to it now, I just couldn't help but to smile because of the wide open sound on this track and its damn infectious chorus.
15. 'Blow Them Away'
"BLOW DEM AWAY!
BLOW DEM AWAY!
A di wicked man wi smite and ah strike everyday
SHOW DEM DI WAY!
SHOW DEM DI WAY!
So di youths dem life could never go astray"
Ras Muhamad clears a path of righteousness directly through the negativity and wickedness to be found in the world on his cut of the Rub A Dub Man Riddim and a song that remains one of my favourite offerings that he's ever made, 'Blow Them Away'. This selection absolutely BURNS later in this album and though it hasn't been away from my players for a very long time, I love how the passion which effuses from it always gives it a very fresh and compelling sound - even after hearing it a few hundred times.
16. 'Through The Smoke'
'Salam' ended with another big tune in 'Through The Smoke', arguably the single biggest piece that it has to offer. In retrospect, aside from things which immediately stand out from it, something else I really enjoy about this song is the level of confidence coming from the artist. Songs which kind of acknowledge that bad things are happening and will most certainly continue to happen, but feature a vocalist who can remain confident that things will sort themselves out in the end have always done something for me and ''Through The Smoke' has to be amongst the very best of its kind that I've ever heard. I also love the musical end of this one which persists on and on well after the song’s final vocals and it is just a MIGHTY song from an artist who well put his proverbial best foot forward on this outstanding album.
I do want to quickly mention something, in general, which has changed for me in regards to this one and it is something that has happened before. Initially, one of the major point of interest here was clearly that you had an Indonesian artist linking with a German label to make a Caribbean birthed form of music and to pursue the art form and the kind of inherent and organic remoteness and randomness presented by that set of circumstances is still indefinably captivating. HOWEVER, what has illuminated for me in the month or so since then is how what is even more interesting are the spots in between! This isn't an album just linking three countries or three regions of the world, it is one attempting to link them all. Ras Muhamad, clearly appreciative of the moment and his situation, Ras Muhamad seems to make it a mission to include EVERYONE! No one is excluded. Everyone is invited and what happens, subsequently, is an album which I'm sure will find a place amongst any fan of Reggae music. Not sure about that??? See for yourself when you pick up one of the year's finest Reggae albums, "Salam" by Ras Muhamad, today.