02 November 2009

Monday's mp3: Jamaican Roots, Aoteoroa Style

CD REVIEW
Fat Freddy's Drop: Dr. Boondigga & the Big BW (The Drop)
The Black Seeds: Solid Ground (Easy Star)

It must be something in the sausage rolls. How else to explain the remarkable claim of New Zealand to be the southern hemisphere's answer to Jamaica? In truth, I haven't heard this claim made explicitly, but added to the the existing library of Kiwi reggae (Ruia, Trinity Roots, Katchafire) these two new releases certainly argue in that direction.

On their second full album, Fat Freddy's Drop hones their soul-dub sound through nine fine tracks. Stripped-down rhythms, rich harmonies, and sparse horns create a chilled vibe perfect for beach or party.

"I grew up listening to American Black music from the early ’70s, loving soul music and loving jazz, and discovering reggae and hip-hop," explains Samoan-born electronics wizard Chris Faiumu (a.k.a. Fitchie). "That music wasn’t that developed here. I had to look offshore to find good music. And it mostly seemed to be African-American artists of the '70s and '80s. Indigenous people drew parallels in the work of Bob Marley in their own struggle here in this country. Reggae is a music that suits the taste of life here."

The Black Seeds take a more straight-ahead reggae approach, though the surf guitar riff that opens the CD's first track "Come To Me" suggests something a little different. With more focus on vocals than Fat Freddy's Drop, the Seeds' conscious lyrics are up front: "Slingshot" admonishes one to "Simmer down your temper now / Don't inflame the problem now" or it'll come right back to you. "Strugglers" makes a powerful case for taking care of the less fortunate: "Take what you need / and give what you can." And who could resist the imagery evoked by the song title "Love Is a Radiation"?

"It’s all about the island sound: speed ukulele, church choirs, the rhythm of the Samoan log drum. After all, if you live on the island, are you going to put on AC/DC?" says The Black Seeds' guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Barnaby Weir. "There are African rhythms in every music, and we believe you can find the journey of the rhythm all the way down to New Zealand."

[mp3] Fat Freddy's Drop: The Raft
from Dr. Boondigga & the Big BW

[mp3] The Black Seeds: The Strugglers
from Solid Ground

Maybe it was Bob Marley's visit to Aoteoroa some 30 years ago that sparked this music, but the Kiwis have taken it in their own direction, and it's well worth catching this musical wave.

Links:
Fat Freddy's Drop website (album sampler)
The Black Seeds website
New Zealand reggae events




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