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Derajah - Paris Is Burning

Derajah - Paris Is Burning

Derajah - Paris Is Burning

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A solid and intriguing debut, that should appeal to both the French market and beyond.


“Jamaican music has wandered from the path”, begins the official Derajah bio sent by his label, Chapter Two. And Kingston singer-deejay Derajah Mamby's long awaited first album, with tight if somewhat scholarly French backing band The Donkey Jaw Bone, is aimed squarely at those who feel this is an inalienable truth.

Derajah - Paris is BurningRecorded using only vintage analogue equipment 'Paris Is Burning' aligns the fundamentals of 70s roots with the fire and fervour of the 90s revival that first galvanized the reggae movement in France. Several tunes are re-recordings of old compositions such as My Sister, the candid account of a sibling's murder, and an electric version of the Inna De Yard hit Who Yeah Yah, given away as a free download to promote the set.

Derajah's mournful husk of a voice (think a calmer Fantan Mojah) and unusually frank autobiographical lyrics are a good fit for the Donkey Jaw Bone’s hand percussion heavy, filmic, Light Of Saba indebted backings. By far the strongest track, Bun Dem To Rass, features a lovely rework of the rhythm to Inna De Yard colleague Kiddus I’s Graduation In Zion. Run Run, a duet with deejay legend Big Youth (who inspired Derajah’s original moniker Jah Youth) revisits Burning Spear’s Swell Headed.

But Chapter Two's predecessor Makasound's mischievous and at times iconoclastic approach to roots music has not been forgotten. Just as it mixes eras, this album also has international elements that will gently prod the purists. The title song, whose message is not a reference to the 2007 riots as much as the cleansing fire of Derajah as a positive force in France, starts with some almost Gregorian chant like harmonies. Meanwhile the jaunty harmonica on the Green Bay rhythmed My Sister, gives it a distinctly Gallic touch.

At times the band's showy flourishes sound like they are trying to impress a live audience rather than a home listening one while, by contrast, the production feels a little flat and restrained. But the majority of tracks make this a solid and intriguing debut, that should appeal to both the French market and beyond.

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