Monday, July 23, 2007
"CHANT OF THE LIONS I" COMING AUG 15th!
"An Extraordinary Collection of DJ's"
by Jo-Ann Greene - All Music.com (www.allmusic.com)
The first of hopefully many more compilations, Mt Nebo Records now brings us "Chant of the Lions I," a set dedicated exclusively to the Virgin Islands' many chanters, toasters and singjays, all in a cultural mode of course. For those unfamiliar with the music bubbling up from this Caribbean island chain, this is reggae with a difference.
Although obviously Jamaican influenced, these VI DJs eschew the warp-speed deliveries of their bigger island brethren, and as the raps are virtually patois free, every one is perfectly understandable to northerners. Neither do the DJs feel the need to insert themselves into every open space possible, although backing band and producers Bambu Station's understated, bubbly, roots rockers accompaniments provide ample room to do so.
In that respect, the DJs have an 80s feel without the soul- destroying ragga sound.
And that VI sound is on the move, as Star Lion Family's exuberant "I-land Hopping" celebrates. The seven-strong vocal tag-team have been garnering acclaim since their debut opening for Sizzla back in 2000, and the group dominate this set, featuring on over half the tracks. Of all its members, Pressure has seen the most success so far, notching up a number of huge hits and popular albums in recent years. His "Firebun Day" is a potent lesson in righteousness, with the rest of The Family providing vocal support.
Rafijah showcases his sweet tenor on the comforting "Jah Iz", while Kimbe Don's powerful, emotive vocals demand attention on the apocalyptic "Time Is Up". Kimbe is tough, but Star Lion bandmate Niyo Rah makes clear on "Badness Will Bloody U", "The Almighty is the baddest man." That scorching number echoes of Israel Vibrations, and is far removed from Rah's more soulful "Blues Experience" later in the set.
However, of all the Star Lion members, arguably Ickarus is the most eloquent, with a grand turn of phrase, heavy hitting themes, and lethal rhyme schemes, all of which are showcased to best advantage on his two tracks here. Elsewhere, sermonizer/dub poet Sagenjyah uses his words as weapons, stripping away their meaning until only truth remains, a force to equal Mutabaruka.
Sagenjyah is not a Family member, nor is the equally impressive Jahman, a veteran artist with an infectious style and a much needed message for the youthman. Ras Bumpa is one of them, an up-and-comer beckoning stardom with "Taste of Consciousness". The catchiest number on the set, on it Bumpa hits virtually every cultural touch stone and shows nuff respect for his elders to boot. Even Bambu Station's gentle, downtempo backing on his second number can't keep this exciting DJ down.
Newcomer Papa Black makes his debut on this disc with a sweet singjay vocal and a gentle delivery that speeds a prayer to Jah on one number, and joined by Jahold delivers a warning to the bad boys on his second.
An extraordinary collection of DJs, a phenomenal set of music, and an album that may singled handedly shift roots fans view of the dancehalls.