Ibis Lawrence is a Dominica-born, US Virgin Island-raised, French-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger, who can trace the origins of his music career to his childhood — and by the time, he turned 15 he was playing guitar and percussion in a band called Axis. As he moved up in high school. he started his own band Dread Ones. And since then, he learned how to play several different instruments including keyboard before deciding to go solo.
Over the past two decades or so, Lawrence has toured across Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, making stops at some of the world’s biggest festivals including Reggae Sunsplash andMontreux Music Festival, sharing stages with the likes of Exile One, Grammacks’ Jeff Joseph, Bankie Banx, Jimmy Cliff and a lengthy list of others. And throughout that same period of time, Lawrence has developed a reputation for crafting material that’s centered around socially and spiritually conscious lyrics that address justice, equality and love. And he’s done this while developing a reputation as a highly sought-after producer, arranger and remixer working with a number of acts including Alpha Blondy, Secteur-A and others.
Lawrence’s latest single “Earth Will Take A Rest” is a breezy reggae track full of irie vibes, infectious riddims, shimmering and arpeggiated keys and an enormous hook. But just underneath its irie vibes, the song is centered around an earnest message: that COVID-19 has forced all of us to pause and reconsider our lives, what’s truly important — and at the same time, the past few months of quarantine has allowed Mother Nature to recover a bit from our corruption, greed and stupidity. But the song also hints at a much larger hope: that there’s a massive paradigm shift coming — one that will finally bring equality and peace for all people.
Professionally known as Kaleta, Leon Ligan-Majek is a Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer, who leads the up-and-coming local, Afro-funk act Kaleta and Super Yamba Band. Although the project is relatively new to the scene, Ligan-Majek can trace his music career back to Lagos, Nigeria, where Ligan-Majek spent his teenaged years playing in local churches. Eventually, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based signer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer caught the attention of renowned juju pioneer King Sunny Ade. “I was at Church when I heard King Sunny Ade sound checking one block away. By the time church service was over Sunny Ade’s gig was in full gear,” Ligan-Majek says of his first encounter with King Sunny Ade. “I infiltrated the gathering, snuck into the front row to watch the show. At the strike of the last note, right before Sunny Ade disappeared I went between him and his body guard and told him point blank my desire to play guitar for his band. He invited me to his house. I went the next day with a cassette containing songs and guitar riffs I wrote with him in mind.”
Kaleta went on to spend several years in King Sunny Ade’s backing band, recording four albums with the Juju pioneer before leaving the band to join Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and Egypt 80. Unsurprisingly, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer learned how to fuse elements from an electric array of West African genres and styles — including highlife, juju, Afrobeat, Afro-funk and Afro-dance.
In 1991, Ligan-Majek relocated from Lagos to New York after Fela Kuti and Egypt 80 completed the North American leg of their world tour. And almost as soon as he set foot in New York, he wound up being the co-founder of two Afrobeat ensembles, Akoya Afrobeat and Zozo Afrobeat — and as a member those acts, he had shared stages with the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Yellowman, and Lauryn Hill. “Lauryn Hill was rehearsing in the same music complex when she heard my music from another room,” Kaleta recalls. “She stormed into Zozo Afrobeat’s rehearsal, and two weeks later, I was on tour with her playing guitar and traditional Beninese percussion. . . we performed about 45 dates all over the world.”
While Ligan-Majek’s chops suited him well to back some of biggest names in music, he had an irresistible drive to create his own unique work. He searched for a band of his own but he knew that he needed a perfect combination — an irrefutable explosion of creative energy that came from a dedicated, like-minded group of musicians. Interestingly, Ligan-Majek credits his ambition and his vision to his older brother’s massive influence. Ligan-Ozavino Pascal was an obsessive music listener, with a passion for funk and soul. And as the story goes, Ligan-Ozavino Pascal occasionally weaponized his record collection to teach his younger brother discipline. When Kaleta misbehaved, his older brother would lock him in his room with a pile of records. The price of his freedom? A careful listen. “I had to submit to his huge love for music,” says Kaleta. “He introduced me to James Brown, Otis Redding, and other American, French and Cuban music.”
The Brooklyn-based Super Yamba Band, comprised of Daniel Yount (drums), Evan Frierson (percussion), Walter Fancourt (sax), Sean Smith (trumpet) have long been students and devoted fans of vintage West African, psychedelic Afro-funk. When they met Kaleta, who sang and played guitar over roots-rhythms while bbringing his infectious style to the project, things clicked. “I loved the way they stick together as a team,” says Kaleta. “Their exuberance. Their love for African music, notably Benin funk… I found out they were listening to my idols, too.” Between the members of the project, it became obvious that they stumbled upon something rare, exciting and in need of further cultivation and exploration. The members of Super Yamba Band had the skill and dedication that Kaleta had long sought for his solo work — and in turn, Kaleta brought the heard-earned wisdom from four decades as a professional musician that he was eager to share with bandmates.
Since their formation, the band has spent the past couple of years honing their material and playing live shows across town and elsewhere, including an opening set last year for Niger-based Afro funk/Afro pop act Tal National and an appearance at last year’s Barbes and Electric Cowbell Records Secret Planet APAP Showcase. Interestingly, the band’s “Mr. Diva” was remastered and re-released earlier this year — and as the story goes, the band was so encouraged by the success at recreating their live sound in the studio, that they set out to record what would eventually become their forthcoming full-length debut Medaho.
Slated for a September 6, 2019 release through Ubiquity Records, Kaleta and Super Yamba Band’s full-length debut derives its name from the Goun and Fon word for “big brother,” “elder,””teacher” — and the album is dedicated to the memory of Kaleta’s brother Ligan-Ozavino, who died earlier this year. Sonically, the material finds the band unabashedly paying homage to its massive influences, including James Brown, Fela Kuti, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, El Rego, The Funkees, among others — but interpreting their work, learning from it, deconstructing it when necessary, amplifying it, defying it and pushing it and the sound into the future.
Mèdaho‘s first single is album title track “Mèdaho.” Centered around a looping, wah-wah and other pedal effected guitar lines, a sinuous groove, propulsive percussion and Kaleta’s grunts and howls, the song manages to recall He Miss Road/Expensive Shit-era Fela Kuti, The Payback-era James Brown, as it possesses a similar grit and forcefulness — but unlike the period specific work that has influenced the track features a lysergic haze.
Building upon a growing national profile, Collier released her self-produced, debut EP Words You Never Heard through Love and Other Records in late 2015 and followed that up with “Ships,” a single she released during the last few months of 2016. Now, as you may recall, last year I wrote about Collier’s “Paper Tiger,” a slick yet un-fussy club banger, which she followed up with extensive touring playing sets at clubs and festivals across the European Union and unsurprisingly, with the release of her latest single “Darkshade,” her experiences touring throughout 2017 have influenced her creative process and her sound, as the new single finds Collier pairing what arguably may be the most emotionally direct lyrics she’s written with a sound that manages to be simultaneously radio and club friendly — all while further cementing her reputation for crafting rousingly anthemic hook.
“I’ve been heavily inspired from playing live at clubs and festivals throughout 2017 -playing my synths on stage at full volume is so satisfying and fulfilling that I’ve been incorporating synth solos and counter melodies way more into my actual production rather than just doing it on stage for fun!” Collier explains in press notes. “Darkshade feels like a song I needed to get off my chest — many of us will go through life hiding, disguising or playing down a physical/emotional element that we have but we don’t like. This song is about that and how I deal with it.”
This year may be a breakthrough year for the Swansea-born, London-based singer/songwriter, producer and electronic music artist as her full-length debut is slated for a September release.
With today being International Women’s Day, I felt it was appropriate and necessary to spend some portion of the day both here and on Twitter honoring the female artists, musicians and producers I’ve written about throughout the site’s history and to writing about new (and sometimes, firmly established) female artists, producers throughout the day as much as humanly possible.
Rachel K. Collier is a accomplished Swansea, Wales, UK-born, London-based singer/songwriter and producer, who has quickly achieved both commercial and critical success across the UK. Collier is credited as a co-writer or producer or several chart-topping, smash hits including Ray Foxx’s “Boom Boom (Heartbeat),” which peaked at nubmer 12 on the UK Singles chart back in 2013; Mat Zo’s Grammy-nomiated album Damage Control, which peaked at number 1 on the iTunes Dance Album charts; and on legendary garage producer Wookie’s comeback single “2 Us.” As a solo artist, she recorded a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Hard Road to Travel,” which landed at number 79 on the UK Singles chart, and her debut original single “Predictions” was named Sarah Jane Crawford’s “Smash of the Week” on the radio personality’s BBC Radio 1Xtra show. Collier has also received airplay and praise from the likes of Annie Nightingale, Capitol Xtra, Tiësto and Oliver Heldons.
Building upon a growing national profile, Collier released her self-produced, debut EP Words You Never Heard through Love and Other records in late 2015 and followed that up with “Ships,” a single she released during the last few months of 2016. “Paper Tiger,” Collier’s first single of 2017 and the single features a slick yet unfussy, dance floor-friendly production consisting of wobbling low end, twinkling synths and stuttering drum programming, enormous tweeter and woofer rocking beats, and a chopped up vocal sample paired with a rousingly anthemic hook; but interestingly, Collier’s production manages to be roomy enough for her swaggering, cocky vocals.
Initially formed back in 2001 as an octet featuring founding members Sean Flowered (keys) and Lenny Bignell (guitar), the British self-described “dub fueled ska rocksteady and reggae” act Pama International rose to national and international acclaim for a sound that borrowed liberally from several different sources while still staying broadly within reggae over the course of their first nine full-length albums, as well as their 3 BBC 1 Radio sessions at Maida Vale Studios. And as a result of their sound and their overall collaborative nature, the members of the collective have worked with an incredibly diverse array of artists including members of The Specials, Madness,Steel Pulse, Style Council, Galliano and Kasabian, Billy Bragg, reggae legends Derrick Moran, Dawn Penn, Dennis Alcapone and Rico Rodriguez. Also I must add the fact that the members of Pama International have toured with Toots and The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, Prince Buster and The Clash‘s Mick Jones among others.
After going on a lengthy 7 year hiatus, Pama International reunited with a new lineup featuring the band’s founding members Flowerdew and Bignell, along with Jewels Vass (vocals), who has worked with Mad Professor and Zion Train; Anna Uhuru (vocals); Bullit (drums), who has worked with The Wailing Souls, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Max Romeo; and Gary Alesbrook (trumpet), who was in an earlier Pama International lineup and has worked with Kasabian to write and record new material that would comprise the band’s 10th forthcoming full-length effort Love & Austerity, which Record Kicks Records will release sometime in the Spring 2017. Of course, before that, the album’s first single, which is currently available on all digital formats and will be released in a limited edition 45 is a “premier rocksteady” rendition of the Martha and The Vandellas‘ soul classic “Heatwave,” that plays with the original’s tempo while retaining its spirit and feel — and you’ll want to do a little two-step to it, too.
Perry turned 80 in March, and remarkably the man has managed to remain youthful, vital, challenging, forward-thinking, innovative, eccentric and imitable as ever as over the past decade or so he’s collaborated with the likes of The Beastie Boys, The Orb, Felix Da Housecat and several others while keeping a fairly busy touring schedule.
The reggae legend returns for the annual Dub Champions Festival at Brooklyn Bowl and this year’s appearance continues Perry’s continued tour with Subatomic Sound System to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Super Ape — and to celebrate the legend’s 80th birthday. Of course, in honor of that occasion check out some live footage of the great and incredibly eccentric Mr. Perry.
Over an incredibly prolific and lengthy 50-plus year career as a producer, artist and record label exec, much ink has been spilled over the legendary and influential Lee “Scratch” Perry, which would make delving deep […]