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Blend Mishkin - Survival of the Fittest

Blend Mishkin - Survival of the Fittest

Blend Mishkin - Survival of the Fittest

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A great reggae album is driven by a man of enormous musical energy.


By any standard, Blend Mishkin is a man of astounding energy who is imbued with a deep commitment to reggae music. Those qualities are fully present in his latest release, Survival of the Fittest, an 11-cut must-have beauty directed in all its glory by Blend and rocked by Roots Evolution, who laid down original, live recordings. Blend, the Athens-based producer/musician/ computer whiz, has also assembled a cast of reggae singers that span the globe from Canada to Denmark to South America. The album is released by Nice Up! the London-based record company known for its reggae-centered Dancehall-Jungle-Dub line.

Blend Mishkin - Survival of the FittestBlend Mishkin (aka George Mantas) has released a number of studio works. Born in Greece and educated in music production in London, he has grown consistently in his career, handling even funk and hip hop work and now, happily, seems to be settling firmly into reggae music. His previous riddim recordings such as Mama Proud, Red Eye, the calliope-like Break Out, and the alarmingly-named A Field Guide to Sudden Death, have paved the way for Survival of the Fittest. I believe Blend has released at least eight multi-cut recordings; but this release takes his vision to a new level. Roots Evolution recorded all the music live, Blend brought it back to the studio and worked on it, and then found (by my count) eleven artists to sing over the music. The result is an offering spanning the range from roots into dancehall that is a ton of fun and musically wonderful. It is modern reggae music full of skank and bass, zips and bells and sweeps, with some great lyrics too.

One cut from the album has already received a lot of notice. Settle Down, sung by Toronto reggae vocalist Exco Levy, is a roots-based tune with an old-school commitment to chantdown: Babylon gets weak in the knees. This roots anthem is then subjected to some electronic magic with a very sweet dub remix. Dancehall is in the forefront when Jamaica’s Skarra Mucci and Denmark’s Mandinka Warrior light it up on the Original, which one must dance to. The unique Jamaican singing team of Suga Roy and Conrad Crystal rock out with Town Pretty. Then tempo slows down to a sweet groove when Brit Gappy Ranks chimes in with some conscious lyrics on Hol Them.

There are a lot of surprises on Survival of the Fittest. Jammaroots, who has done some very righteous reggae in the Athens’s club scene, gets (very!)sultry singing on Baby Got Me Good as BNC responds in with a shoutback that reminds me of Anthony Red Rose’s Tempo.

It is really a delight to see how far Blend Mishkin will go to bring us the best of world reggae. Chica Fresa, which means Strawberry Girl, is pure driving dancehall sung in Spanish and influenced by South American’s Cumbrian music. Its singer, Don Caramelo, was born in Munich but raised both in Europe and South America. He and his brother are doing some great work in Munich and Blend Mishkin has wisely added Don’s distinctive take on reggae here. Kg Man, from Milan, and Greek singer Georges Perin round out this global cast of chanters.

This is a great set of reggae music in its modern form. Presiding over all of this is Blend Mishkin and Roots Evolution, who draw upon a seemingly endless well of musical energy. Make no mistake, this is a big project. My guess is that Blend Mishkin has been so deeply involved in reggae and dub that over the years he has met a lot of musicians and can now draw upon them for bigger and more far-reaching projects. Putting an album like Survival of the Fittest together takes the kind of dedication that can only come when a person believes that what they are doing is worth it all—and believe me, it is.


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