Trinidian singer Jah Defender (born Ricardo Mills) has been crafting in the musical blacksmith for almost ten years. Formerly known as Jah Faya, he altered his stage name to Jah Defender. Serving as a charactonym, it makes it sound more in line of what he stands for and wants to accomplish as a singer. His debut album “Rastaman Rise” was produced by French reggae label 7 Seals Records. Notably, it has been nominated as “Album of 2013” in the Modern Roots (nu roots) category on the site Reggae.fr alongside of albums like “Life of a King” by Lutan Fyah and “Over The Top” by Perfect Giddimani.
This album is preluded by the excellent and uplifting “Black Man Rise.” “So many homeless children got nowhere to go/so black man rise, open your eyes, don’t accept no more babylon lies” It is shoed by a high-pitched guitar, dark keys and round bass. It’s pinned by an overall warm riddim with bright trumpet. One can notice a switch of mood, a bit nostalgic, but then it comes back to the general warm mood.
The second song of the 15-track-laden album is “Jah Is the Maker.” It is another stand-out effort in which the artist renders homage to His Imperial Majesty. “Jah is the maker also the creator/and I will never ever doubt.” It is reinforced by the dark tone of the guitar and organ in the beginning but then comes in brighter instruments like piano and discrete yet joyful and uplifting flute in the back.
“Time Will Come,” which is voiced on the No Pwoblem Riddim, comes with a different mood, but keeps up quality-wise with the initial two tracks. “Fire haffi bun, nowhere for them to run, nowhere for them to hide/judgement gonna come.” Jah Defender’s soothing voice and comforting lyrics on this laid-back riddim definitely do justice to this song.
With its inspirational smooth synth strings, mellow touch and easygoing bass line, “Everytime I Rise” undoubtedly comes out as one the shiniest gems of the album. “As I rise in the morning, I hail up my God and King Selassie I, He’s everything/Mi no give a damn with di wicked/ Want to chant and sing, chant and sing.” A very round synth with a flow reminding the one of a melodica, plays a simple melody from time to time. A couple of laser sound samples and some dub delay effects in the beginning gives the song a live mix-like dimension. The edgy guitar’s riff is crisp. It is very well arranged, with strong delivery and superb sound. The best song of the album hands down.
The next runner is “Jah Is Alive.” This song is coined with violins, a skanking guitar riff along arpeggios. Its cheerful dribble conveys yet another positive message and praises to Jah.
It is followed by “Call on Me,” a Reggae/Rhythm and Blues crossover. The style of this song is quite unexpected. It blends mellow synth strings, soulful keys and a couple of bluesy piano licks opposed to a strong stepper beat riddim topped by a western-sounding melodica lead. And the whole song is pulsed by a hammering bass line that makes you feel like skanking. To put it mildly, this song can be described as a romantic modern R’n’B oriented dub wise lovers rock. “Anytime you need some loving, baby, just call on me/I’ll be coming over for you, baby.”
Next up is “Listen,” an uptempo Modern Roots song. The riddim is actually quite simple with a catchy bass line and a groovy organ. “Man ah work fi go climb up di ladder/Playing my part, just to make things better/The struggles goes on, I’m doing my best/We’re unconquerable, Rastaman a survivor” Overall, very neat and nice song.
“Rebel,” is a provocative pop-oriented Reggae song that is embellished with various modern synths. Jah Defender is a rebel. He calls himself a rebel with a cause. A concept that was brought up before by other reggae artists, like Dennis Brown, Luciano, Fantan Mojah, and more recently Kabaka Pyramid. “Dem waan to see I stoop/Di Rastaman stand up strong/Man a Selassie I recruit, mi ah bun dung babylon/Di more dem try fi cool di fyah, di more di fyah bun” Very explosive!
“No Feel No Way,” which made its appearance on the “Sweet Music Riddim,” has somewhat of a ‘different’ cadence than the previous track. It is spelled with a repetitive round bright organ countered by a darker organ and rhythmed by a strumming guitar. Some slightly distorted rock-like riffs here and make it sounds somehow nostalgic at times. It is a nice song and one which probably requires more than one listening to really get into.
“Galang” is, in my opinion, quite a stand-out of the album. Defender blasts his verses pretty rapidly but after series of re-runs, it does fit in the overall ambience of the album. It just might sound a bit too experimental on the first run. “music bring the world together/everybody come come dance together.” The rhythm is Ska-oriented with a touch of modernity. Its uptempo pace will make you feel like rocking all night long. “Please don’t stop the music!”
Follow-up is “Rolling.“ This song distinguishes itself from the rest of the album with the nyabinghi vibe brought up by percussions. The edgy sound of the clav and the smoothness of the tenor sax bring more colors to the track. “better keep the fire burning/well that’s how we rolling.” A solid ganja tune!
“Lonely” song is a revisited version of 1961 classic “Stand by me” written by Ben E. King “It’s my life, I need love *true love* in my life, no one wants to be lonely” Who doesn’t, right? A song that will grip your soul in a steel vice, when you undergo a break-up or desperately long for a half. Very touching and charming.
Next up is “Only King Selassie I,” on the “Simple Riddim.” This chune is very listener-friendly and in a way similar to the first few tracks. The track is percolated by a sweet guitar sound that embeds the song with a romantic flavor, accompanied by sax, clav and organs.
“Jah Es Mi Amor” is underpinned by dark bass and brightened by the sound of a flamenco guitar and the warmth of Jah Defender‘s voice. Once again, he claims his love and faith in Jah who guides him everyday on the path of righteousness. “Jah es mi amor, I was once lost but now I’m found.”
“Give Thanks” is the last wagon in the caravan. This track features Tiwony, a French singer from Guadeloupe. The track is characterized by a deep prominent bass and warm organs, spiced up by a soft round and muted guitar. The title of the song is self-explanatory and the duo makes a strong musical pairing on this solid track. “Give thanks, never forget to pray each and every day.”
All in all, this is a well balanced and varied album that keeps you involved till the very end. While spreading a conscious messages and keeping with Modern Roots, there is a touch of R’n’B and pop-oriented sounds. Jah Defender put forward his faith in the most high, Rastafari livity and spreads a message of love and unity. He reminds us to not letting crooked Babylon fool us. To put it in a nutshell: if you like the roots and culture, conscious lyrics, this album is for you. It’s not really surprising that this release offers quality from start to finish. Truly worthwhile picking up. Defender of the poor, Defender of the faith, JAH DEFENDER i.e. Rastaman Rise!
Written by Emin Bayramov for Jamworld876
The album is available for purchase on all major digital outlets. You can preview it below: