Thursday, July 26, 2012

'Make It Happen': A review of "In My World" by Jah Van I

Follow the vibes. Even just as a fan, it can be very a difficult and often somewhat strange experience to really find an exact type of music which works best for you. Reggae music, in particular, is an excellent example of just that as the kind of stereotypical fan of the music is one who has had a rather massive image rearranging over the past decade or so. It's just something which now brings together such a wide and varied lot of individuals and, presumably, many of these people come to the music looking for different things, which they all eventually find in one way or another. Now think about how that must register if you're actually an artist. Of course, you're going to work with those whom you have the most chemistry and, ultimately, success, but as we go on and on and the music spreads out so far, you start to see that sometimes that's a task which is far easier said than done. Just this year we saw the unlikeliest of pairings which linked Swedish based, Ethiopian grown brothers, The Nazarenes, link with I Grade Records from out of St. Croix for their sublime new album, "Meditation". We could draw lines on a map from Ethiopian (and Eritrea originally, if I recall correctly), to Sweden and then to the Virgin Islands so you could see exactly how far spread that project is and in due course we found that it was worth it. You've also seen countless Jamaican acts head to locales through the European continent for similar works, most notably at the moment I'm thinking of Hi-Kee who has now made his home in Italy. Taking the specifics out of matters just think of - A Jamaican who wants to do Reggae finding that his best opportunity for success comes in heading  to Italy. On a far smaller scale we see, basically local by comparison, instances of people like Vaughn Benjamin and Midnite linking with Andrew Campbell, King Cephas and Tuff Lion, Pressure Busspipe and Don Corleon and others (Jamelody and Bobby Digital) who have bridged smaller, sometimes not likely, gaps in order to find the biggest vibe possible. Today we take a look and listen to another such case as Portmore native, Jah Van I, has clearly hit his prime level of efficacy and done so while working through a fairly unusual set.

Royal Warriors Muzik
Royal Warriors Muzik is a label which is based in Martinique and while that certainly can't be called unusual (more on that in a moment), again it is relatively rare, as far as I can recall, for a Jamaican artist to find his musical home in a next location in the region. Of the examples that I gave, only King Cephas' linking with Tuff Lion fits that description and while there're surely several more, it's definitely not common at all. Martinique does have a very established Reggae base, however, while it may not have as big of a wide and reaching presence as the St. Croix and the Virgin Islands, you do see quite a few artists reaching from Madinina who are clearly talented (the obvious change here, of course, is that most of them deliver in French/Kreyol. Names such as Paille, Mighty Ki La and definitely Kalash as of late, highlight the strong Dancehall talents from out of Martinique, while there's also the extremely gifted Saël, a personal favourite of mine, and Straika as well. Another name you should know is that of one Bhy2R who (releases an album every half an hour) comes through on a little label called . . . Royal Warriors Muzik.  

Up until recently that's been the way you generally hear of RWM, doing Bhy2R's music. And he's done a great deal, having already worked alongside the likes of Turbulence, Fire Star, Daddy Morry, the aforementioned Straika and others. The owner of RWM is one Etifier Johann and . . . Yeah, he is Bhy2R, they're the same person. I don't know what were the circumstances via which Jah Van I and Bhy2R (who looks almost exactly like Slikee) originally came together to do work, but it has taken the career of the former and the name of the label of the latter to higher stages as both have well benefited in the partnership. As I said, you only really heard of RWM in doing Bhy2R's music and now they've become a pretty big deal and, previously, Jah Van I existed as Jah Smood, an artist who did have good music (check 'Freedom Streets'), but lacked a proper notoriety. That's changed over the last couple of years or so and the new "Jah Van I", has become a bit of a hitmaker. To place it all in context and to slap a nice package on it in full, Royal Warriors Muzik now presents the debut album from Jah Van I, "In My World". The basic foundation of it is well interesting, as we've just examined, but the obvious next step comes in whether or not it, and JVI's music in general, are any good. To date, the singer has wrapped up a few big tunes in his career and this album collects several of them and it also pushes new[er] pieces as well  to serve as some type of a formal introduction to the rest of the world who may not have been as attentive to the artist. What you are also going to learn, if you are such a person, is that besides coming through under different circumstances, Jah Van I has clearly paid his proverbial dues in terms of sharpening his skills and his successes thus far haven't been the products of flukes at all. Also, again, all the work wasn't for naught as he and RWM have a large amount of chemistry and familiarity in making music together so one could only hope that "In My World" is eventually looked upon as a very productive and fruitful (and hopefully he is the first in a string of artists taking a similar route to success). Right now, however, all that we can do is judge "In My World" for what it is and what it is, is a set which proves itself to be one satisfying debut album. Let's go!

'Down A Yard'

Jah Van I has a very interesting little 'twist' to his style - his vocals. I don't know who I would compare his voice to! He has this thing where it almost seems like he's singing apart from the riddim. It's not like he's singing offbeat or off-key, but it's like he's the leader of the song and the riddim adjusts itself to him as opposed to the other way around, which is the norm. Regardless of how you want to classify and compare him, you do have to admit that whatever it is he's doing when he sings, it works for him. The greatest example of  this (ALL of it) comes on the biggest moment on "In My Life", which doesn't start the album, but I don't have to go in order all of the time (I make the rules!), the HUGE 'Down A Yard' [track #3]. This tune is probably one of the most original and ingenious social commentaries that I've heard from the turn of the century. It's an extremely poignant observation on the state of the times and as Jah Van I sees them, and for me it really was the tune to showcase his immense gifts in the brightest of lights. Joining that signature tune in starting the album are another couple of very familiar pieces, the title track and 'Neva Forget'. The first is song for the women which really went on to do very strong work and despite an opening which I've never liked, the song is nice and even with it having done large things, I still think it's rather underrated. 'Neva Forget', on the other hand, is an even better tune and no less than the third finest flash on "In This Time".

'In My World'

Said album, in its only twelve selections is full of recognizable parts which, to me at least, is a good thing because it shows just how prolific Jah Van I and Royal Warriors Muzik have been together. Along with the first three songs, you may also recall from 'Home Alone' RWM's Jungle Cry Riddim from last year. This is a love song and it kind of makes its place because of its sonics. It is immediately catchy and for that reason, not to be missed. On that same wave is 'Hello Suzy' which is a tune I began just jumped up right before the album reached. The first time I heard it, I didn't really enjoy this tune and I still definitely wouldn't call it amongst my favourites now, but it has moved up slightly in my estimation. I can't imagine it would go much further for me, but have a listen for yourself. Another relatively recent bite, 'Reggae Music', is the album's closer and it, shockingly, kind of has a Hip-Hop vibe to it, but I do like this one. It's the definitive changeup on "In This Time" as it kind of speeds things up and bit and changes the pace to give credit to the music itself ["music is flowing like a river through my mind"]. The other tune I recognized before digging into the album is the joyous 'Tak A Walk', easily one of the best songs aboard.

"I take a walk in the streets sometimes
See di ghetto youth dem ah suffer
Some ah wipe car glass 
And dem caan find bread and butter
And they don't even know -
If they're gonna get a next night dinner
And away dem go
Inna di streets, di slum and di gutter

This is the time
Time is now!
Get up and work, achieve your goals
Life ain't so easy
It used to be before 
So I sing-
This is the time
Time is now!
Get up and work to achieve your goals
Life ain't so easy
It used to be before" 

I love songs that can make a point, a powerful point, and entertain the senses simultaneously and that's what you'll find on 'Tak A Walk' in both instances.

'Tak A Walk'

The new songs on the album, for me, also offered some memorable times and perhaps a few to look forward to enjoying and seeing in the future (literally, they make videos for every song) (biggup Stevy Mahy). Surely you've noticed by now that Jah Van I is fond of the love song and two more remain on the album, one of which, the sterling 'Don't Go Back Home', is nearly exceptional. Here we find Jah Van I entertaining a very special woman in his life for the first time who subsequently likes the experience so much that she . . . doesn't want to go home! 'I Need A Girl' is another tune which I'm not overly excited about, but my main complaint here is that it kind of 'teases' the listener. Somewhere in there, not very far from what you end up hearing, is a BIG tune threatening to leap out. The actual results aren't bad, of course, but you get the feeling that there was something more in here. Back to making more social/cultural/spiritual sets (at which he is very strong), the singer continues to impress. Check 'Warrior For A Cause' which I really liked and took as a song suggesting to the masses, indirectly (and directly at times), to really just strive to do positive and make constructive actions in whatever you do - big or small. That ULTRA simple approach is at least a portion of the charm of this track and hopefully it gets a chance to shine like many of the record's offerings. 'Dutty Babylonian' is another one which would do well with such a spotlighting prospects, but maybe not in the same way. Like 'I Need A Girl', you just get the mindset that there was something even better here, but in this occasion, you actually hear that bigger performance as this song goes along and develops into something downright mighty. And lastly is song which is either the album's second or third strongest in my opinion, 'Give Thanks Fi Di Rain'. As soon as this creation dropped in for the first time I SMILED and it didn't disappoint at all. First of all the heavy riddim, which is quite 'moody', may just be the best on the whole of "In My World" and It plays a master painter's backdrop to a song which gives a MAMMOTH thanks and praise for every single piece of positivity and brilliance on the planet. The song also has a very free vibes to it which isn't normally a good thing, because it can kind of make a song sound messy, but here it literally sounds like Jah Van I set down with a subject in his mind and started singing and talking about it and Bhy2R and company just laid a track right behind and these were  those most natural of outcomes. 

My biggest critique of the album is certainly its length. There are twelve songs in all, which is kind of short, but not too bad at all (when you write like I do, you actually look forward to albums with twelve songs on them). But eight of those twelve are less than four minutes long (the title track is actually less than three) and only one is longer than five. So it would've been nice if they did just a bit more and, again, Bhy2R seriously makes new music like everyday, so you know they have the material. But I guess we'll to wait for album number two. 
Jah Van I
Overall, hopefully that sophomore venture isn't very far off at all (if Van I records like Johann, it'll be out by the time I finish this conclusion) (biggup my oldest reader who I still talk with too, John B, who is probably Bhy2R's biggest fan, despite the fact that, to my knowledge, he doesn't comprehend French AT ALL), because the first is very promising. "In My World" is an album and a collection of tunes which I think really shows Jah Van I's peculiar talents in a very favourable light, but I also think that in, getting back to my prevailing critique, his are talents which are somewhat difficult to TRULY capture in such brevity. That being said, however, one of the most interesting aspects of this album is its direction and the positioning of its star and that is something which is readily identifiable here. So, while Jah Van I may've taken an unusual route to get where he is today and where he is likely headed, as in so many cases before his and as is probable in so many cases to come - it was worth it. Nice. 

Rated: 3.75/5
Royal Warriors Muzik

Review #382


  1. thanks for this never heard of this ras I like his style

  2. Nice review , i'm going to listen the album , very interesting !!!