Monday, July 1, 2019

Reggae Music Review: Chronixx - Jah is There

Photo courtesy of

The Shining light of the roots reggae revivalist movement, Chronixx, has released the single "Jah is There" which is featured on the deluxe edition of the Dread & Terrible project.

Chronixx re-issues the deluxe edition of his seminal project, Dread & Terrible (via Soul Circle/Seed Distribution) on its five-year anniversary. This re-release contains 11 tracks such as his now-certified classics "Here Comes Trouble," "Capture Land," and "Spirulina."

Previously unreleased, "Jah Is There," produced by Chronixx, was intended for the original release of Dread & Terrible but did not make it in time for production.

..... Even in the darkest night Selassie I he is my light.....

Chronixx Chronicled

Born Jamar Rolando McNaughton on 10th October 1992, in Jamaica's second largest city Spanish Town, Chronixx was musically nurtured from an early age by his father, dancehall artist Chronicle, and grew up surrounded by the likes of Burro Banton and Gregory Isaacs. Chronixx's youthful voice carries the wisdom of generations of reggae singers before his time and holds positive messages for the youth of this generation.

The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter and producer has been described as a “legend” (by the likes of Noisey and GQ) and “The future of reggae” (by The Sunday Times) who is “putting Rastafarianism back into Reggae” (The Guardian). Having organically built a devoted fan-base and turned industry heads as one of Jamaica’s fastest, most-promising talents. Chronixx’s own take on the roots sound, sometimes referred to as New Roots, has re-invigorated the roots sub-genre and is taking roots reggae to a new global audience.

..... though some times I lose my way Jah say you will be found one day .....

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Jah is There  is a song that shows that Chronixx refuses to be boxed in by pre-conceived musical boundaries. This IS roots reggae but not Chronixx riding lyrically over a driving drum and bass riddim as he does in "Here Comes Trouble" or "Capture Land".

1st Lick.
On first listening, I hear Chronixx deliver his Rastafari convictions:

"Even in the darkest night Selassie I he is my light
Jah is always there by my side
Though sometimes I lose my way Jah say you will be found one day
He is always there by my side"

I then expect to hear a wicked drum and bass riddim kick in but no. Okay, in a couple more bars, nope. It takes me this time to realize this song is taking me somewhere else. It is intended to reach parts other Chronixx releases haven't reached. This is a song of introspection.

2nd Lick.
Okay, I settle myself down relaxed with a suitable beverage and click play.
The music is there to support the message Chronixx wants to convey not to compete with his voice. The music has an atmospheric feel laying the foundations for you to absorb what is to come. It is thematic like a film score setting the platform for the coming scenes, narrated by Chronixx's soothing tones.

...  sometimes I feel like a ship lost at sea
   ... is there anyone looking out for me ...

The musical tapestry draws from hip-hop, jazz and soul. But, there are many flavours that come to the surface the more you listen. Well selected synths and samples compliment but never crowd the lead vocals the focus is the message. At the end of the song Chronixx's voice almost becomes celestial.

Listen to this song with no distractions with lights down low when you feel ready for a little introspection. For lovers of Chronixx's distinctive lyrical voice, you won't be disappointed.  But Chronixx is taking us on a journey that crosses borders. This song is an indication of the journey ahead. I for one, recommend you follow.



Saturday, April 27, 2019

Roots Reggae Revival: Consciousness Awareness and Overstanding

conscious raising, overstand, reggae revivalists, new roots

.... to overstand is to comprehend a concept and why it is the way it is.


Those of you that have been following my blog know that I believe that the golden age of reggae was the 70s and that reggae has always been a vehicle and voice to express injustice and raise consciousness. This is something that is again becoming stronger in the eyes of the new crop of reggae artists. I 'll come to that latter.

Understanding and Overstanding

To raise consciousness is to 'Overstand' What does this mean and how does this relate to reggae? Well, one definition comes from the Rastafari philosophy where everyone is equal under god hence the term 'I n I'.  As such, any concept or idea created by us cannot be superior to us. Therefore, to be aware and correctly comprehend a concept or idea in the right context is to 'overstand' it.

Being able to understand or overstand does not in itself mean that you will be liberated from whatever struggle you are engaged with.

So let's use an example, debt. We have all at some time played the role of debtor i.e. owe someone or some corporation money. We understand that borrowing can help us achieve things quickly and that we will have to pay interest on what we borrowed. We also understand that we can also borrow more.

Now, if we don't have a certain level of overstanding we are going to have issues. For example, we need to overstand that we have given a certain level of power to the lender over our destiny if we do not abide by their terms and conditions and that lending to us was not an act of charity but an un-emotional business enterprise to make a profit that will drive their behaviour. So to overstand is to comprehend a concept and why it is the way it is.

So back to music. Something that roots reggae or conscious reggae has been doing since reggae music began is expressing the trials and tribulations of life and also raising awareness of why life is more difficult than it should be, overstanding. This was the driving force of the golden age of reggae in the 70s and the reasons for wanting to spread those messages still exist today. However, reggae is now a genre with multiple sub-genres some more popular than others.

Roots Reggae Revivalists

Reggae having many sub-genres a testament to the versatility and creativity of the music and the artists. The dominant force over the last couple of decades has been Dancehall which generally has a completely different vibe and message to roots reggae. But in a world where people are crying out for change in the way things are done and music that epitomises this message, it is conscious reggae music that can satisfy this demand.

The last few years have seen the rise of young Jamaican artists referred to as 'Roots Reggae Revivalists'.

consciousness raising, reggae revivalist, chronixx, new roots,
consciousness raising, reggae revivalist, Jah9, new roots,
consciousness raising, reggae revivalist, new roots,
Jesse Royal

The shining light of this movement is Chronixx but it includes Jah9, Protoje, Dre Island, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal and others. These 'revivalists' play consciousness raising reggae increasing awareness and overstanding to an ever-increasing audience.

The reggae foundation artists and legends who have always continued to express conscious messages in their music will doubtless disagree that roots reggae ever went away or needing reviving. But like most changes and trends in the world, they are led by the young generation and it seems that uplifting and spiritual lyrics are what many seek.

The young revivalists have taken the core roots reggae vibe and added their own modern twists. This mix of conscious lyrics and progressive roots reggae riddims seems to be taking them to international stardom. This can only be good for reggae music, having rising talents writing great music and spreading uplifting and positive messages across the world.

The more overstanding there is the more change there will be.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Buju Banton a Long Walk to Freedom

Buju Banton, reggae artist, reggae concert, reggae music
Buju Banton

'every genre needs an icon or icons that can drive the music forward on an international level, a symbol that transcends the music.' 

The return of Buju Banton to Jamaica and the success of the 'Long Walk to Freedom' tour has shown that reggae still loves an icon. Someone who represents the core struggle that created reggae music. At the moment, I believe there is a global vacuum but for how much longer.

Buju Bantan

Mark Anthony Myrie later to become Buju Banton, was born in 1973 in the Kingston, Jamaica. His music career started when he was 13 performing on sound systems.  He was destined for success and eventually released his first single 'The ruler'.

Coming from a social background that was typical of a hungry musician and which underpinned the original message of reggae music, Buju had forthright views that he was not afraid to express in his music. This led to controversy after the release of some of his works like 'Love Me Browning' which touched the controversial topic of skin hue and 'Boom Bye Bye' which contained homophobic lyrics. The latter attracting worldwide attention and causing considerable damage to his international career. However, this did not halt his progress.

Buju transformed himself from dancehall king to embrace the teachings of Rastafari in the 1990s. However, such was his talent that his success increased even more. One of his hit singles "Murderer," sung over a Mafia and Fluxy built riddim, was inspired by the murder of his friend Panhead which reflected the violence in Jamaica at the time. He went on to win Grammys for the best reggae album in 2009 for 'Rasta Got Soul' and 2011 for 'Before the Dawn'.

Buju Banton , Long Walk to Freedom, reggae concert, reggae artist, jamaica
Buju in Concert

Everything came to an abrupt halt in 2011 when Buju was convicted in the US and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. This could easily have been the end of his career not just because of the time away from the music scene but had Buju lost that magic touch? Well, the Long Walk to Freedom tour has put that notion to bed. His performances have had critical acclaim, Buju is Back!

Reggae Icons

Reggae has gone global but in this new wave of reggae popularity, it is driven by local preferences. Each reggae market has its own flag bearer, artists or bands that deliver the local brand of reggae music their followers want. This is great for the diversity of sound and creativity of reggae but, every genre needs an icon or icons that can drive the music forward on an international level, a symbol that transcends the music.

This is no mean feat. Reggae was blessed by the presence of the likes of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Even now if you travel to the outer reaches of the world it is likely that their image or name will be instantly recognisable. These are the heights that the current reggae stars must try to attain.

Bob Marley, reggae music, reggae artist,Peter Tosh, reggae music, reggae artist,

There are some great new reggae artists who may one day turn out to be global icons Chronixx comes to mind. But is the mantle of global reggae icon something that Buju Banton can attain. He has a huge following and there is a lot of international attention at the moment. 

Maybe this is his time we will have to wait and see. But one thing is for sure, whoever it is, they will have the support of all lovers of reggae music.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Be Ready for an X Factor Audition

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"Sending your song for review is like auditioning for X Factor"


You have done all the hard work. Writing and composing the song, recording and mixing and now it's ready for distribution. You are proud of your creation and so should everyone else. So, you send it out to blogs and publications for a music review.

the scream, audition, review, critic
The Scream
This is where the indie artist has to realize that they are now in almost the same position as if auditioning for X Factor. There is no guarantee that the 'judges' i.e. the reviewers are going to see your creation in the same light. 

The feedback you receive may be encouraging or it may be negative and not presented in a way that is very palatable either. What you do next is important to your future development and can damage or grow the following and fanbase you have worked hard to build up.

In this blog article, I'll look at negative reviews as these are the ones that need to be carefully managed and are the ones that lead to a better understanding of your music. Assuming the review is from a rational source and not a social media troll (although it may feel that way).

How to Turn Bad Reviews into a Positive Experience

Bad reviews can cut deep. So initially, let it out! Get upset, angry or whatever it makes you feel. You need to go through this in order to end up with a positive experience and be in a position to re-evaluate your creation. 

Don't take the bait. I have found it best not to make any comment about negative music reviews while you're still in the hurt phase as this can be the period when you say something you may regret. If you do reply be polite as this is just one person's view. 

Bad reviews really can be a learning experience. I have had many and at the start, you give it the 'they don't know what the f@ck they're talking about'. But after I let the hurt subside a little I take a look at the song again. Putting aside purely personal dislikes, I often find that there is something in the criticism and this is what should be taken away and used to improve future productions.

Everybody's tastes are different. All music is such a personal thing and likes and dislikes vary widely. This is something I have come to terms with long ago. It should be easier for you to accept that someone just doesn't like your style of music because there will always be someone that loves it. 

Bad publicity is better than no publicity.  This is a saying that has been around for a long time and makes even more sense in this social media algorithm driven world. One of the things that help with Google ranking is backlinks (links between websites). Sending out reviews and getting them published with a link to your websites helps with SEO. So even if you receive a bad review you can have the last laugh by knowing they are helping with your ranking.  

It's your music so play it if you want to. At the end of the day, it's your music, your creation, so be proud. Rise above any criticism, learn any lessons and make any action you take a positive one. A bad review doesn't mean all your music is bad. 

Take a lesson from the world of literature. Best selling author James Patterson became the Guinness World Record holder as the author with the most No. 1 New York Times best-sellers. His first book was rejected 31 times by publishers.

What do critics know?

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Are Street Musicians and Buskers Hiding a Secret?

Miss Megoo (Megumi Mesaku) 
Plays to a Mafia & Fluxy Rock steady Riddim


The marketing gurus say the secret to success is getting your music out there and promoting it for all it's worth. However, for the indie artist, a lot of the promotion will be undertaken by themselves. Some of this will be through social media via pictures and videos on platforms like Instagram and YouTube. If you have a following then showcasing your music at gigs is another possibility. You can also send demos to radio stations and record labels but it is hard to stand out from the crowd.

However, one of the oldest tried and tested methods to get close to the public and possible passing influencers is performing on the street or busking. You may think this is the last resort but, some of the music world’s biggest stars started off performing on the street and busking.

Ed Sheeran, street performer, busker, busking
Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran one of the world's best selling artists began by sleeping on couches of friends and busking on the London underground (metro) before gaining the attention of an influencer.

Tracy Chapman, street performer, busker, busking
Tracy Chapman

While at university, Tracy Chapman would sing in the sought after Harvard Square that required a permit to perform there. A fellow student Brian Koppelman brought her to the attention of his father who ran a record label. That was the break she needed and she was eventually signed by Elektra Records and the rest is history.

BB King, street performer, busker, busking, Beale Street, Blues Boy,
BB King

Before Beale Street Blues Boy became “B.B. King” he started off just as a wannabe kid playing the guitar on the streets of Mississippi for some spare change. King would eventually perform all over America gaining fans wherever he went and become one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time.

So, street performing or busking can deliver, if you are lucky.
pos payments, street performers, busking
In many cities, street performers are seen as a tourist attraction and when it comes to street musicians and singers there are some exceptional artists out there.  However, the reasons for being a street musician can be varied:
  • Musicians just starting out looking for a break
  • Established musicians who still like street performing  
  • Music students wanting to raise a bit of extra cash 
  • Backpacking musicians wanting to subsidise their trips
and many other reasons. With technology shrinking equipment, street performers can now have surprisingly good backing and PA with them which allows a better overall experience for the public. Even the payment of gratuities has not been left behind in the technological revolution. With the use of POS (point of sale) machines or dedicated text or phone numbers used by the street musicians or buskers for the public to make donations.

Street performing goes back hundreds of years but in the 21st century, it is still relevant. A good street performer will be captured on many mobile phones. The images or videos uploaded to platforms like Instagram and YouTube where they could be shared over and over again. The street performer can now be a YouTube star by capturing the public's imagination and so use this to their benefit.

So the next time you pass a street performer you may be looking at a star of the future. Ed Sheeran, Tracy Chapman and B.B. King are testaments to that.

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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Is Releasing a Music Album Worth the Effort?

Vinyl Album

"So is the album concept a thing of the past?"


The way consumers listen and buy music has changed. There are so many platforms like Spotify, iTunes and Deezer available for downloading and streaming music. Although CDs are clinging on to existence and there is a revival of vinyl, digital listening is now the norm. With albums, consumers can now listen and purchase on a track by track basis. What does that mean for us creators of music?

records, albums, cd, dvd
Albums and CDs 
There was a time when an album could be sold off the back of a hit single from the album meaning the other tracks did not necessarily have to be of the same quality. It was quite common for some tracks to be 'filler' tracks i.e. they would not stand on their own as singles. However, often, this did not stop the album from being in demand.

Nowadays, the digital platforms list albums by tracks. The consumer can listen to individual tracks and purchase the tracks they like without purchasing the whole album. So is the album concept a thing of the past? Well, an album is still recognised in the industry as having intrinsic value. There is still recognition by the top award organisations and even having an album nominated gives the artist tangible benefits.

Grammy Award

However, for the typical indie artist trying to get their music out there, track by track purchase means that for the production of an album there is a greater burden on production and song quality. Unless the album is a concept album where each track has a part to play in the unfolding of the concept and therefore need not be capable of standing alone, each album track now has to be seen as a potential single. This means that as an artist or producer you really need to take a view on the return on investment of time and money in the production of an album.

Many commentators state that for success and growing your fan base getting content out there should be the main objective. So is taking 18 months to put an album together really worth the effort? Many artists recognizing the continued status of an album, especially if you are a touring artist, have gone down the road of EPs. This can make a lot of sense as producing four or five tracks is a lot quicker than a full album.

An EP or full album is always a great basis for a tour or launch event and a great addition to the merchandise table.

At the end of the day, the decision whether to produce an album depends on where you are in your journey and the resources available in respect of time and money.

The options are definitely worth looking at. Is it better to produce a single every month and keep your fan base engaged? Is an EP every six months better than an album every eighteen months?

In this new consumer-driven industry the market is now track based. The consumer can now make their own albums with the advent of playlists. Playlist curators now hold some sway on platforms especially those with large followings. Although artists also have this facility using services like Spotify for Artists.

Albums still have a place and I don't think they will disappear. They are a means of telling a bigger story and maybe this is how creators of music need to adapt them. After all, nobody would buy just one chapter of a novel and even if they could, hopefully, that would lead to the purchase of the remainder of the work.

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Butterfly Effect and Songwriting

Butterfly Effect

... a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can cause a hurricane in Texas

I'm starting off a little deep with this post. Chaos Theory and The Butterfly Effect so bear with me.

According to Wikipedia Chaos Theory is:
... a branch of mathematics focusing on the behaviour of dynamical systems... 
... At any given time, a dynamical system has a state... 
... The butterfly effect describes how a small change in one state can result in large differences in a later state, e.g. a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can cause a hurricane in Texas.

I am definitely not going any deeper other than to say I've always been interested in this particular theory because, in my view, it goes a little way to underpinning philosophical statements like, 'what goes around comes around' and 'everyone can make a difference'. It would seem to suggest that small actions can indeed lead to greater outcomes. So as an individual, whose is part of the world socio-economic system, maybe I can take some small action that one day may lead to something substantial.

Besides the butterfly effect, I was always struck by how, whenever there was a catastrophe of some sort, there was always a story of how someone's bad luck or good fortune was the result of a specific decision they had made. For example, missing a flight, changing flights, arriving early or arriving late just everyday decisions. So it would seem that every decision we make has an impact.

This thought led to a songwriting idea and led me to write the song 'Every Decision'. Here are the lyrics from the bridge:

Every decision that I make still shapes my destiny
Will today by the day things change maybe I’ll finally live my dreams
Every decision that I make what will they mean for me
Live today like it’s the only day I’ll see how life turns out for me

Every Decision, Reggae Music, miss tun pickney, Ramize Yardsoul
Soon to be released

Although the butterfly effect, mathematically relates to certain types of systems, the concept of small actions leading to greater outcomes is something that exists in many cultures. When songwriting, I do find that one idea can lead to another with the connections not obvious to me but I'm still happy to have found the lyrics.

So I have learnt not to force the process if things aren't going well with the song. Sometimes I just leave the song and do something else and somehow the next line pops into my head when I least expect it.

The butterfly effect is something that gives me encouragement when songwriting. I know to just take one small action whether it is writing the title, writing the keyword of the song anything to set the songwriting process in motion and leave it at that. Knowing that something more substantial will come about eventually. It may not turn out to be what I want but I can make that decision when the time comes.

So ending on a philosophical note, maybe the butterfly effect is something to recognise in all aspects of life. Take that small step, take that first action and who knows where it may lead.


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