Ever since german reggae-superstar Gentleman broke big in almost every chart throughout the world, it is clear: you don't have to come from "the island in the sun" to make good reggae. We knew it all along, but somehow the productions made in Jamaica were always better then those that were not. Fiercer, rougher, more to the point and always one step ahead. But somewhere along the line the competition got harder. Sure, Gentleman still records a lot of his work in Jamaica (and thus getting that dusty, hot weather, scratched equipment feeling that comes with it for free) but a lot (including the backing of one of the biggest hits of 2004/5: Tanya Stephens' It's a pity) was recorded in a neatly set up recording studio in Germany. And for a change, it didn't sound overproduced, out-dated or ultra slick, which was often the big issue with outer-Jamaican productions. No, these new recordings sounded like real REGGAE! No Bob Marley clones, no instrumental dub bands covering the seventies, no poppy takes on the original style, but good companions to the ruling Jamaican sounds of today. And to prove the point: Tanya hit big in Jamaica and went on to conquer the world on the back of just that german produced song, Gentleman hit big allover the world, ze germanz of Seeed were the best act performing on the Jamaicans laden 2004 edition of Two 77 Splash and the German based production factory Germaica were suddenly a force to be reckoned with.
Ofcourse there are always exceptions, but fact is that, apart from the english (whom often use a productions style I'm not very fond of...)no other country ever fully satisfied my needs for good reggae. Not even when I was visiting the good continent of Africa, was I blown away by new sounds.
However, ever since the Germans broke big, the floodgate of good productions seems to be wide open. More and more good reggae keeps coming at us from all over Africa, Germany, France and even...the Netherlands! Maybe the Germaicans opened up some eyes? Or is reggae THE new trend and is everyone just copying a style? Whatever it may be, the result is good new music, with everybody putting in some of his own and in doing so making reggae a true uniting force once again.
Here are some tips for your listening pleasure:
Various Artists: African Rebel Music (OutHere Records)
Presenting hits from 10 countries ‘African Rebel Music – Roots reggae and dancehall’ gives a first insight into the new reggae dancehall movement in Africa (including a very informative 24 page booklet). So far only two reggae artist have had real international success: Lucky Dube and Alpha Blondy. A new generation has long arrived but although many of them are stars at home and regulars in their local charts, this compilation is the first chance for most of them to release their music internationally. Personale fave is the H20 featuring Zubz take on the mighty "WorldJam" riddim, produced by none other then Jazzy B of Soul II Soul.
more info and mp3's here
Ziggy: So Much Reasons (Rock 'n Vibes)
Hailing from the Netherlands and a future star on the rise. So Much Reasons, Ziggi's forth coming debut album is a hot mixture of dancehall and modern reggae and is set to be released on February 6th 2006. The album includes the hits "In My Head" featuring Shanaira Rey, "High Time", "Call Me", the remix of the international hit "Notorious" along side Turbulence and "Inna Mi Bed" featuring "Energy God" Elephant Man. You can listen to this youngster via the link below, but make sure to catch him on the stage as well. Who knows, in the future you might be one of those lucky bastards who can say that "I was there..."
More info and mp3's here
Various Artists: Sky is the limit (emi japan)
This one is a bit older (from 2002 actually) but still does the job quite well. The Japanese love reggae. The are notorious for paying huge amounts of money on e-bay for original 7"s and also famous for having the biggest collections of reggae music in the world. On top of that, the last dancehall queen contest in Jamaica (a BIG event!) was won by...a Japanese girl. Not to everybody's satisfaction, so much is clear after reading the dozens of forums complaining about it. This cd, however, shows us that they also know how to make hardhitting dancehall. Though some of the tracks are produced by Jamaican producers, it sounds like it was made for the Japanese market only. Seldom was dancehall this tough...The Japanese lyrics even make it filthier although I don't have a clue what they are singing about.
Listen here (reading info might be a bit tough i think..)
Various 7"s: Rasta Pickney (Old Capital)
And these nice gems come from: France! And they sound good. Not astonishingly different due to big Jamaicans artists riding the riddim (a.o Turbulence, Lutan Fyah and Lorenzo) but still very worthwile listening to because the french built riddim is heavy heavy heavy. This is a promising start of this new label. Keep an eye on these freshmen!
Info and mp3's here