My pick of the Jamaican artists whose music brought a smile to my face in 2014 – Barbara Makeda Blake-Hannah.
Top of my list is NOMADDZ, a unique group of which there is no comparison or precedence. A mix of dub poets, performance artists and reggae singers whose music is a fusion of sounds and whose lyrics are always thought-provoking, each is talented in their own right. We haven’t heard from them in a while since they dropped “Breadfruit is The New Bread”, though we’ve been watching some excellent acting performances from Everaldo Creary and Sheldon Shepherd in the Jamaican movie “Betta Must Come”. Now NOMADDZ has teamed up with Sly & Robbie to produce a new album that displays their many versatile talents excellently and will probably earn lots of accolades in 2015. “(Watch NOMADDZ – ‘Shotta’)
ROOTS UNDERGROUND and RAGING FIYA are reggae bands in the lineage of Third World and Steel Pulse that command a stage in their own right, not merely as backing artists to a major act. A recent double-bill in Kingston over Christmas confirmed the musical excellence of both bands that has seen them each booked for the major music festivals in 2014 and to come in 2015. STEPHEN NEWLAND, lead singer of Roots Underground, is an electric performer who brings further dynamism to the group’s rootical music, while Raging Fiya – though only a few years old – show a cohesion and professionalism that makes their performances good to watch, listen and dance to.
KELISSA McDonald stands out from the upcoming female musical flowers that include JAH9, , HEMPRESS SATIVA, CEN’C LOVE and newcomer NEO-SULAN SMITH with a series of dynamic performances at home and abroad. A powerful solo show before Christmas gave insight that she holds her own as a performer on the recent international tour with Chronixx, and it is clear that her few single hits will surely increase in 2015. Often keeping her company is her brother KEZNAMDI, whose 2014 songs “Darkness” featuring Kabaka Pyramid and “Weekend” showed that he is a talent in his own right. (Watch ‘WINNA’ ft. Chronixx )
JESSE ROYAL, DRE ISLAND and KABAKA PYRAMID all came to attention at the start of the ‘Reggae Revival’ movement, almost indistinguishable from each other. But each has carved out a space as a solo artist in 2014, distinguished by a hit that has given them greater visibility and enabled them to stand out from each other. Each can be proud of their increased popularity and tour dates in 2014, following hard on the heels of CHRONIXX and PROTOJE, who still hold the top spots among the ‘Reggae Revival’ crowd. WATCH DRE ISLAND – ‘Rastafari Way’:
EXILE DI BRAVE and DEXTA MALAWI are a new breed of roots artists who have developed an identity while hosting music events that feature them and their group of artist friends. Exile Di Brave‘s ‘Vinyl Thursdays‘ revived interest in vinyl disc sessions and gave a few up-coming artists a weekly chance to dub live. Dexta Malawi launched his catchy hit song and video “Woke Up This Morning” with a Boxing Day 2013 party at popular Afrocentric restaurant Veggie Meals On Wheels that took the song on its global journey. Both artists have toured Europe in 2014 and are set to continue in 2015. WATCH “Woke Up This Morning’ Dexta Malawi
NEW REGGAE GENERATION – In late 2013 three friends ARSEENAL D’ARTILLARY, IYAH GIFT and MAKONNEN BLAKE-HANNA who have been working as solo artists on their own careers, united in a musical fraternity to perform as the N.R.G. – the NEW REGGAE GENERATION. The unusual trio who sing together, back each other up and mix it up in a combination of roots reggae, hip-hop and dub, received special attention for their performances at a growing number of 2014 events, including the popular ‘Kingston Dub Club’ Sunday night session, Bob Marley Museum’s ‘One Love Fridays’ and the ‘Pay Attention’ hip-hop sessions.
While accepting the growing recognition of N.R.G., each artist continues to work on his individual career with positive results that will increase in 2015. Solo albums were released by IYAH GIFT and RSEENAL in 2014, soon to be joined by MAKONNEN in 2015. IYAH GIFT brings a touch of his African parental roots to his music, (LISTEN HERE) while RSEENAL‘s album ‘A Luta Continua – Vitoria e Cierta” (LISTEN HERE:) reflects his position as a committed revolutionary, whose bullets are his rapid-fire lyrics.
MAKONNEN, a ‘tech genius’ whose early musical years were spent as composer/producer of a number of artists and hits, took on the added musical role of artist in 2013 and came to attention with the popular airplay of his first single “Red Eye”. Makonnen’s Soundcloud page (LISTEN HERE) features several tracks from his upcoming album ‘Rockers Revoution‘. Dermot Hussey, musicologist and host of “RIFFIN” online radio show, says of Makonnen: “What I like about Mak’s music, is the creative elements he produces. His work is very focused, and he makes use of a wider sonic choice, his beats underscore that as a young brother he marches to a larger sound. There is a lot of talent in Jamaica, but an equally repetitive factor, a kind of mono culture, the same thing over and over, or one thing at a time, but as a young man, he understands the generational shift, because he’s a part of it, and understands that it relates to a bigger picture.”
STARS OF 2015 – These are the Jamaican artists whose performances and music I will be looking out for in 2015. Wishing them all the BEST for the New Year.