Barney the purple dinosaur not quite irie enough for your offspring? Has little miss dancehall queen or rootsboy junior rejected the Wiggles and demanded something with more culture? Well don’t panic, because between Putumayo Kids’ two compilations, Caribbean Playground and Reggae Playground, you should find nuff sounds to appease even the most tantrum-prone of tykes.
These two albums allow funky mamas and Daddy-os to share their musical obsessions with their precocious progeny, without the risk of accidentally introducing the young ‘uns to any colourful turns of phrase from the ragga lexicon that could cause embarrassment at the next parents-teachers night.
Hailing from St Anne’s Bay, Chezidek has been in the scene for a few years now with Inna Di Road being his debut release on the Greensleeves label.
Known as an herbalist and environmentalist, Chezidek showcases songs of love, integrity and consideration for both humanity and the environment. His love of righteousness and Rastafari earned him the unusual name, MelChezidek, a biblical name meaning king of righteousness. In the last couple of years Chezidek has dropped the Mel from the name.
Most Wanted pulls together five of Ranking Dread’s most classic Greensleeves 12″ releases along with their B-side versions. The collection contains releases from 1981-82, two of which topped the charts in the UK and added to Dread’s fame.
All the tracks, bar one, were self-produced and feature spots by Sly & Robbie, Roots Radics, Jackie Mittoo and the Scientist. The title ‘Most Wanted’ reveals the story of Ranking Dread’s life, which was peppered with crime, prison, exile and ultimately murder.
Putumayo is a funky label out of NY specializing in Folk, Latin, Afro-Cuban and pretty much anything falling under the flag of ‘World Music’. I own a couple of Salsa, Rumba and Latin compilations by these guys and like them very much.
With an extensive catalog of almost 200 compilations ranging from Acoustic French to Native American to Jewish to Arabic and Celtic, these guys have more selection than a Starbucks, but I like to think of Putumayo as the Peoples Coffee of music labels with their stance on giving back to the community, claiming to donate 1% of proceeds from sales to charitable organizations of the respective countries. These guys are so on to it they even include band/song information in Spanish and French as well as English, and phonetic pronunciation of artists names and song titles!
I’m glad it’s summer. Summer is traditionally a time for Kiwis to throw down grafting tools, cast off those shackles of concerted analysis and for many of us, visit places we seldom see in this endlessly diverse nation of ours. There are exciting, fast places as well as dull and slow; warm and chilly; beautiful and dank; relaxing and angst – but there is that undefinable quality that we all recognise as being simply, proudly and undeniably Aotearoa.
So it is with this album. Forget the pigeon-holes – ‘roots’ takes on the meaning specific and relevant to each song. We kick off with an almost gospel feel from Katchafire, across the Pacifica tones of Three Houses Down and into the irie skank of House of Shem.
This release was described by The Meditations way back in 1983 as their first dance album. Produced by Linval Thompson and backed by the Roots Radics, it’s clear these guys had the clout to write themselves into reggae history. They are talented vocalists with the knack of making it seem the easiest thing in the world to pelt out sweet, irie melodies that still play out today.
The tunes on No More Friend play like digital 7’s. All are incredibly similar in vibe and tempo. Simple verse-chorus structures that repeat and fade out. Ubiquitous electronic drum patterns and single-line organ licks that stab in sparse as parsley between the vocals. Pared-back basslines that could almost be a synth loop…the air feels ripe for digital, much like it feels electric before a thunderstorm. You can sense the the Sleng Teng lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce and change the course of reggae forever.