Music

Putumayo presents Caribbean Playground & Reggae Playground

Caribbean Playground coverBarney 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.

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Chezidek – Inna Di Road

Inna Di Road coverHailing 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.

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Ranking Dread – Most Wanted

Most Wanted coverMost 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. 

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Putumayo presents Latin Reggae

Latin ReggaePutumayo 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!

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Conscious Roots 5

Conscious Roots 5I’m glad it’s summer. Summer is traditionally a time for Kiwis to throw down grafting tools, cast of 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.

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The Meditations – No More Friend

No More Friend coverThis 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.

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Putumayo’s Reggae Around the World

Reggae Around The World coverJamaican music has a few obvious global strongholds beyond its own backyard, including the United Kingdom and Europe, parts of Africa, and of course – Aotearoa. The beauty of this compilation by Putamayo is that it introduces sounds from little known pockets of reggae around the world, and celebrates the truly international nature of reggae music.

The universal nature of the themes of peace, love and redemption are beautifully highlighted, and you can hear the echoes of Bob Marley’s ongoing influence in almost every track. At the same time, each artist brings their own cultural heritage, musical influences, language and lyrics to the familiar riddims of reggae music.

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Bobby Konders – Massive B / 90’s Hardcore Ragga Dancehall Mix

90's Hardcore Ragga Dancehall Mix coverFollowing up on Greensleeves’ first official Bobby Konders/Massive B Dancehall mixtape, Mad Sick Head Nuh Good, comes the second installment of the series in the shape of a real proper hardcore ragga retrospective. Avoiding the obvious pitfalls of a ’90s’ mix, Brooklyn’s Bobby Konders manages to pull out all the stops without resorting to the, well… tired ‘classics’ that Greensleeves and other labels are usually guilty of filling ‘best of’ albums with.

This only makes more sense when you consider Bobby Konders and Massive B’s history in the game. Massive B was co-founded in the early 90s by Konders and Jabba to serve as Record Label, Sound System and Radio presence and since then has produced a slew of hits including classics such as Super Cats’ Ghetto Red Hot and more recently the popular No Borders riddim, just to touch on a couple.

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From Dubplate to Download – The Best of Greensleeves Records

From Dubplate to Download coverFrom Dubplate to Download – The Best of Greensleeves Records is a two CD compilation demonstrating just how closely Greensleeves has been associated with the evolution of reggae.  Established initially as a record store in London then developing into a label in 1977, Greensleeves has consistently been at the forefront of bringing Jamaican music to a wider audience.

Formed by Chris Cracknell and Chris Sedgwick, Greensleeves has, along with now-parent company VP, been the avenue for quality reggae music over the last thirty years. Top producers such as Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes, Prince Jammy, Gussie Clarke and Bobby Digital have without fail worked with Greensleeves to see their releases gain exposure on the international stage. As a result, Greensleeves’ vaults exist as a near definition picture of reggae over thirty years. 

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The Kingites – Feathers of Peace

Feathers of Peace coverThe debut album from The Kingites on Dave Allan’s Moving Production label is as varied in genre as it is consistent in production.We move easily from dancehall in Triumphant, to rootsy reggae in Notify and Emperor, through the solid funk of Hustlin and Lost Angeles and into the spacey, smooth dub of Kingite Sound System.  These are competent, knowledgeable musicians and it shows.

They have intentionally gone for the ‘big’ feel – there is ample use of distant, echoed off vocals and instrumental licks, the drums are tight and clean and big, and the overall reverb gives a feel of a concert setting rather than an intimate jam.

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