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Jahmali - We I Open

Jahmali - We I Open

Jahmali - We I Open

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A triumphant return for Jahmali.


Reggae isn't first and foremost an album-based music. Singles have always been its main currency. Yet when an artist leaves a gap of more than a decade between long-players we are prone to wonder why.

So it is with the singer Jahmali. Born in Clarendon, his mother was a Christian and his father a Rasta who re-converted to Christianity (Jahmali, who came to Rastafari via the 12 Tribes, frequently invokes Christ in his lyrics). He recorded acclaimed debut set El Shaddai with Donovan Germain in 1997. However, dissatisfaction with Jamaica’s digital, rhythm-juggling culture and producer-controlled environment led to him relocating to New York and eventually California.

JahmaliA collection produced by Bobby Digital, Treasure Box, appeared in 2000, followed by a combination disc with Yami Bolo (Jahmali claims it was released without permission). Then it all went quiet. Although he did voice a suite of tracks with UK producer Curtis Lynch – only one of which, Blood Thirsty, saw the light of day in 2012.

Therefore it is a welcome surprise that Jahmali is back with a fourth album for Catalan label Reggaeland - makers of Mikey General’s well-received Hallelujah Song last year. (Interestingly this is not the first vocalist to travel from Lynch to Reggaeland: the singer Chantelle Ernandez did the same).

Reggaeland’s rhythms have a tropical, organic sunny vibe – and Jahmali’s selections tend towards the upbeat with few of the heavy minor key excursions of General’s project. But what prevents this from descending into summer holiday reggae cliché is Jahmali’s tart, citrusy-sweet tone and philosophical words - which sometimes up-end received wisdom on certain subjects.

Nor has he lost any ability to put a song together. Real Life Champion is a stirring anthem of disillusionment and hope for the young generation. No Weapon is a catchy prediction of the unstoppable march to reckoning and judgement.

Selecta Man’s chorus of “Batty Bwoy” may initially sound like the precursor to another media storm. Yet when you check carefully it is a rebuke to DJs who play anti-gay content to get a forward – and a request to his brethren to “live and let live”. (That said, given the potential for wilful conflation and confusion over this topic, it might have been better not to go straight into a tune about child abuse, Worst Criminal, immediately after).

Like the Mikey General record, We I Open starts with traditional roots and moves to more commercial one-drop. Fussy traditionalists may blanch a little at Courageously on the soft rock Reggae Reasoning riddim or the “Na na na” refrain of Silver Nutmeg (a critique of the JA industry – inspired by the Melodians Little Nut Tree).

But these are minor quibbles when most people will just be overjoyed to hear Jahmali’s voice again. This is a triumphant return for Jahmali and another good release from Reggaeland who are fast becoming major players on the European scene.

Tags: Jahmali

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Read comments (1)

Posted by suelion on 07.13.2014
The whole album is strong, and while I am a bit of a traditionalist, Courageously and Nutmeg are two of my favorite tracks on this refreshing album from a gifted singer.

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