Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This band is now ready to conquer the world

We are in safe hands

Sunday, December 04, 2011
I attended the Manifesto Jamaica festival two weekends ago and was impressed with the level of organisation, the sophistication and breadth of activities and the sheer enthusiasm and commitment displayed by their volunteers and management team.
This organisation, in its short life-span, has taken its commitment to empower inner-city youths by giving them the kind of skills-training which will not just give them basic qualifications and experience for the working world, but will go a far way in re-socialising those who have been impacted by the programme as well as re-orienting their mindset.
It is unfortunate that other than Director of Culture Sydney Bartley, I did not see other representatives from the public sector or captains of industry and commerce for whom, I'm sure, this festival would have been an inspiration if they had attended.
That being said, however, I wish to highlight in particular the concert held in the Vera Moody Concert Hall on Saturday night and the Evening of Poetry held at the dance auditorium on the Sunday night. Mutabaruka, Tanya Stephens and Cherry Natural really did themselves, and Jamaica, proud with their poetry on the Saturday night. But, there were some Jamaican Canadians who also performed at this poetry session and their perspective, given the race issues that they have to contend with in that society, revealed the continuing struggle of blacks in Canada against a system that is stacked against them.
The Uprising Roots Orchestra's performance could only be described as awesome. The addition to the group of the horn section and Bo-Peep on rhythm guitar, has truly transformed the band into one of the best sounding local bands in Jamaica presently, and by the end of their performance the entire audience was in a trance. This band is now ready to conquer the world!
Edna Manley had their graduation ceremony on Saturday November 22 at The Little Theatre. I had the pleasure of witnessing their rehearsals for this function on the previous Thursday and Friday, and was totally fascinated and pleased by the concept of Pierre Lemaire and the arrangements of the musical director Michael 'Ibo' Cooper. They were able to take A Night in Tunisia on a trip through genres ranging from classical, to jazz, to dancehall, so seamlessly weaving the styles together one hardly knew where the actual transitions took place. They were also able to stunningly marry the more stringent European influences to our indigenous sounds, art, and movement.
It is a little known fact that many of the current crop of Jamaica's top, popular bands and artistes, attended and/or graduated from the Edna Manley School of Music; Romaine Virgo, C-Sharp, Raging Fyah, Uprising Roots, Further Notice, Chevaughn, Shereita, Dubtonic Kru, Roots Underground, Diana Rutherford and Warren McPherson (who got the highest marks for the grade 10 classical piano exams) granting him a trip to Winnipeg for a Master Class a few years ago).
Many graduates of Edna Manley have told me that the portion of their success attributable to their tutelage at the college under the mentorship Ibo Cooper; they think of the school as having two phases, BC (Before Cooper) and AC (After Cooper). One student actually said he was about to leave the school because of the direction he saw himself taking was not being fostered by the previous atmosphere of all classical/jazz, all the time.
Last Saturday, I had the most exhilarating night of live music while attending the Bands Incorporated Concert at Lindsay Avenue. The four bands on the lineup, Blue Grass in the Sky, Roots Underground, Dubtonic Kru and Raging Fyah are four of the top performing groups currently in Jamaica and each has its own distinct sound and vibe.
Raging Fyah stood out on Saturday night with a performance that was second to none. The crowd would not let them leave and demanded two encores before they allowed the band to leave the stage.
The following day we drove over to Asante Adonai in Winefield, St Ann for Jimmy's Jam, and I am certainly glad that I did not miss this event. Even though the attendance was less than a hundred people and the rain fell throughout the afternoon, this did not have a great impact on the recorded and live musical program. DJ Afifa played two excellent sets featuring Jimmy Hendricks, Led Zeppelin and many other famous guitar-driven hits from various genres of music which led to lively discussions, debates, arguments that just added to the sheer enjoyment of the afternoon. Then we had a live performance from an impromptu band featuring Omar Francis & Maurice Gordon on guitars; Shurwayne Thompson on bass; Akil Krram and Shane Campbell on drums. They literally brought the hills alive with the sounds of music.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dubtonic and Uprising Roots both played pleasing sets

adrian frater

Ace deejay Bounty Killer decisively dismissed the notion that he can't help but being 'cross, angry and miserable' when he surprised fans with an incredible 'culture-lace' set at Western Consciousness 2011, which climaxed at Paradise Park, in Westmoreland, early Sunday morning.
With fans already in a tizzy following earlier high-calibre performances by the likes of the time-less Freddie McGregor, Luciano, reggae icon King Sounds, D'Angel, the classy Dubtonic, risqué female deejay Tanya Stephens and House of Leeds recording star Iyahblazze, the nattily attired Bounty Killer, clad in his trademark full black, hit the stage with authority, declaring himself, "Rodney Pryce (his correct name) in hi-definition."
good songs
Bounty Killer soon had the fans rocking gleefully to his lyrics as, in between declaring that, 'a long time me a sing good songs but it's like them like when me get cross, angry and miserable,' he rolled steadfastly through songs like, Poor People Fed-up, Cyaa Believe Me Eye, Originality, Down In The Ghetto and Before Dem Seek God.
After declaring that, "they can take away my visa but they can't stop my voice from leave yah," Bounty Killer got even hotter, reeling off, Born As A Sufferer, The Country Mash-Up, Book,Cellular and Too Dangerous, before taking a break to encouraged parents to send their children to both regular school and Sunday school, arguing that the children should be exposed to God as well as a good education.
After a lyrics-filled half hour, Bounty Killer exited the stage. However, the appreciative fans demanded more and the clearly pleased deejay unleashed, Gimme Back Me Hennessey, and after briefly speaking about his recent run-ins with the law, fired off the song, Stronger, as his parting shot.
Beenie Man, who closed the show in the aftermath of Bounty Killer's stellar performance, was quite generous in congratulating his former arch-rival, getting the crowd to join him in applauding the performance. Following that, Beenie Man played a tidy set, reeling off several hits as he enjoyed himself with the fans, especially the ladies.
After watching fellow female deejay star D'Angel playing a restrained set during which she held her own with songs like, Hot Gal A Road, First Lady, and Time Of My Life, a less than subtle Tanya Stephens came close to the edge on a few occasions with her thought-provoking lyrics.
"I will be celebrating the un-celibacy of rasta tonight", the lyrically astute Tanya Stephens bypassed and in some instances switched words as she skilfully delivered songs like, Cyaa Handle De Ride, Goggle, Mr. Mention, Bomb Wuk, Tek Him Back, These Streets and It's A Pity, in a non-controversial manner.
London-based King Sounds was velvety smooth. Sharing his set with deejay Supa Sass he was absolutely masterful. Clad in full white and looking almost biblical with his flowing white beard, the veteran singer was as crisp as a compact disc, churning out hits such as, Book of Rules, Games People Play, Give Dem Love and I Shall Sing, which was complemented by the blazing lyrics of Supa Sass.
Reggae messengers
Reggae messengers Luciano and Big Ship captain Freddie McGregor were both masterful and composed in their respective sets. Luciano was quite clinical in his cover of Peter Tosh's, Legalize It, during which he puffed on a spliff, much to the delight of the fans while the elder statesman McGregor, kept them dancing with songs like, Africa, Push Come to Shove and Big Ship.
From a roots music perspective, House of Leeds recording star Iyahblazze and Lutan Fire, who is recovering from a recent bout of illness, were both very good. Lutan Fire was crisp on songs like, St Jago Dela Vega and Blood Stain while Iyahblazze got an encore after belting out, What If, Rasta and Woman I Need.
On a night when musical instruments were solidly represented, top-flight show band, the potent Dubtonic and Uprising Roots both played pleasing sets, combining sweet vocals with soul-stirring instrumental delivery. After their set, Dubtonic left no doubt why they were recently voted the top reggae band in the world.
With others acts like the solid Droop Lion, the velvet-smooth Hezron, the lyrically potent Little Hero, a mature-sounding Harry Toddler, the resurgent Turbulence, the Canada-based Jah Cutter and the deejay policeman Stamma T also chiming in with good performances, it would appear that promoter Worrell King got the mix just right.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Horns, harmony, arrangement make 'Skyfiya' memorable

Horns, harmony, arrangement make 'Skyfiya' memorable

Published: Friday | April 1, 2011
Uprising Roots band
Uprising Roots band
Thematically and lyrically, Uprising Roots band's debut CD, Skyfiya, is at best unremarkable and at worst trite. It sticks to the accustomed topics of spirituality (King Rastafari, Blessings), marijuana (Steamers), self-determination (Positive), Garvey (Marcus Garvey) and respect for women (Most Royal).
There is, of course, a reason why they are well-worn topics, but the band does not explore them in new and interesting ways.
However, musically, especially in its horn arrangements and the utilisation of harmony, along with the interplay of lead singer Blackush and dub poet/keyboard player Akinsanyah, the album is outstanding. And the roots rock reggae of Uprising Roots is a perfect bedrock for the plain-style singing of drummer/lead singer Blackush. He does not engage in mind-blowing vocal pyrotechnics, but his voice is well suited to the material and the excellently delivered roots reggae music.
However, it is the horns that are guaranteed to blow the listener away. They come early, in the opening track King Rastafari, and are part of the album to the very last drop. The horns are rich, layered and well placed, and especially strong on the title track.
The interplay of lead and harmony singers, strong throughout, is especially striking on Shinin' So Bright, where Blackush urges "stop the killing" and the harmony completes the line with "it's a brand new day". And Blackush and Akinsanyah complement each other on many tracks, the singer observing in Know Yourself, "every day it's the same thing/on the corner keep yapping/no Gully or no Gaza cyaa get we out/King Selassie a him run the rout", before the poet advises "we have potential and ability/our thought create the reality".
The singer/poet combination is also used to decent effect on Most Royal, Marcus Garvey, Positive and Shinin' So Bright.
One gets the feeling of listening to a self-contained unit in which the members are in lockstep with each other. The all-important live feel is underscored by the instruction to 'record now' at the very start.
Uprising Roots shows a definite preference for things solar as the sun - and in some cases waking up early to experience its first rays - are addressed on the title track, Brighter Days, Shinin' So Bright and Brightest Light.
Roots music does not mean routine and, along with the horns, harmony and poetry to go with the singing, there are changes in pace on Skyfiya to keep the listener engaged. So the title track is uptempo, while Steamers is one of the many steady rockers on the album and Brighter Days closes the set on a Binghi note.
And it is a good set, despite the definite lyrical and thematic 'same old, same old', as the roots rockers of the band is suited to the lead singer's vocal style. Plus, don't forget those horns.
- Mel Cooke

Track listing
1. King Rastafari
2. Blessings
3. Skyfiya
4. Brightest Light
5. Steamers
6. Know Yourself
7. Most Royal
8. Marcus Garvey
9. Who Can't Hear
10. Positive
11. Shinin' So Bright
12. Krash Like Lightning
13. Brighter Days