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Monday, Feb 13 2012 | 11:24 Buy this now at GoodToGo (B2B)

SizzlaAny new Sizzla Kalonji album is an event, but this one’s even more special than usual. Sizzla himself describes his upcoming new full-length “The Chant” as “a breakthrough” and a major stepping-stone in his career. “We’re venturing into a new world right now,” he says. “We needed to put out an album showing where Sizzla Kalonji is coming from, and that’s for one of his first producers, who bring him to a level.”

The producer is Caveman – a renowned Kingston soundman whose last Afrojam Music release, Culture Sound Vol. 1, finally brought his talents to wider attention. The bond between he and Sizzla began at a time when the now world famous sing-jay was still at school, but already showing signs of greatness. Like seventies’ icons such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Sizzla’s music is a clarion call for truth and rights. Ever since achieving his breakthrough in the mid-nineties with enduring classics like “True God” and “Black Woman And Child”, Sizzla has steadfastly followed his own path, resisting all attempts at categorisation and storming reggae charts worldwide with an irresistible mix of roots, reality, dancehall and one-drop material.

This latest album finds Sizzla Kalonji on home turf – back in the studio of the man who first nurtured his prodigious talent, and voicing with unbridled freedom over rhythms that reach back into Jamaica’s past, whilst simultaneously pointing the way forwards.

Rasta artists have been telling us for years how the system, which they call Babylon, is failing the majority of people. Voiced on a cut of Bob Marley’s Rat Race, The System Mash Down is now revealed as prophecy. Another track worthy of milestone Sizzla albums from the past is Look What’s Happening – the catchiest sufferer’s lament you’ll ever hear – and hit single Hungry Children, which is another heartfelt reminder of the growing divide between rich and poor.

Sizzla Kalonji has passionately championed Jamaica’s ghetto youths throughout his career. His love for children and the younger generation – innocent victims of Babylon’s wickedness – has made him revered at home and abroad, and especially where oppression and discrimination hold sway. That’s because he’s an artist who believes in what he says, and lives according to the principles expressed in his lyrics. Unbeknown to many, Sizzla continues to donate the majority of his earnings towards good causes in Jamaica, including his own Youth Foundation. He’s built Rasta tabernacles, as well as a studio; pays for countless children to attend school and has initiatives in the pipeline that will help create employment, and enable Jamaica’s poor to fend for themselves. The impetus behind such charitable works is his Rastafarian faith, and it’s serious as your life. Lest we forget Sizzla Kalonji is a qualified priest, as well as treasurer of the Nyahbinghi Order, which may explain why songs like Chanting Rastaman, Jah Made It Possible, Love Jah More and the haunting title track, Chant, are so spellbinding.

In musical terms he’s a force of nature – a supremely gifted soothsayer whose songs are fired by a burning sense of injustice, but tempered by love of Rastafari. They’re also highly informative, imparting knowledge that’s hidden so that repression, corruption and greed can prevail. Even the President of Columbia agrees that marijuana should be legalised. Sizzla lends his voice to this cause on Smoke Marijuana, featuring Wippa Demus & Halloway, and then warns against fraudulent arguments for war on Put Away The Weapons; a song that carries a lyrical punch, and is already a favourite with dancehall audiences.

“When music hits you feel no pain,” and the same is also true of Zimbabwe – an anthem that echoes Bob Marley’s celebration of that country’s liberation struggle and which speaks to the people there, not the politics. Sizzla was so overcome with the reception he received during his tour of Africa last year that he was moved to record there. After he saw how strongly African people identify with reggae music, he wanted to give them something in return, and for them to feel joy and pride in knowing the song originated there.

“Rasta music is very strong over there,” says Caveman, who accompanied Sizzla on the trip. “We went from Ghana to Zimbabwe and South Africa and the scene over there is very bright; they want more of this music and can’t get enough, but the lyrics are speaking about their struggle as well, y’know?”

Sizzla’s been performing in Africa for well over a decade, and has a huge following there. Like Malcolm X, he’s courted controversy in the West, yet been greeted by heads of state in Africa. On songs like Zimbabwe he’s reminding us that the fight against colonialism is far from over, and explaining why Rastafarians like him await repatriation back to the land of their ancestors.

How Come, featuring Jah Seed, was also recorded in Africa. The former Apple Seed hails from Zimbabwe and performs with Bongo Maffin – a group that’s wildly popular with kwaito fans in South Africa after blending reggae, rap, dance and African styles.

In truth, Sizzla’s African adventure has only just begun. “Never let it be said that Sizzla doesn’t live in Africa,” he announced on his return to Jamaica. That’s where the remainder of this album was recorded, at Caveman’s HQ in East Kingston. Sizzla Kalonji himself insisted on this. He wanted the feel, atmosphere and sound of Caveman’s studio to be there in the mix, and allow listeners to appreciate what gives Caveman’s music its special character.

Caveman, real name Everton Moore, grew up close to the Kingston waterfront in the same area as Ken Boothe, Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his famous cousin, reggae producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – people he refers to as “the backbone of reggae music.” His father had a sound-system from 1975. Five years later, Everton and his brother Anthony took it over and renamed it Caveman. The brothers had earned a reputation for playing rough at school, and the name just stuck. There was nothing primitive about their music though.

“Our speciality was roots and culture,” says Everton. “I try my best to keep with the original part of the music, and follow in the footsteps of forerunners like the Wailers and Lee Perry. To me, that is the music that really goes out there internationally, and represents where Bob Marley and other leading artists left it so it’s very important we keep to that standard, and to have music that’s perfect and good.”

A school-friend took Sizzla to meet Caveman in Nannyville Gardens – a housing project north of Kingston near August Town, where Sizzla’s Rasta father owned a garage and ran a sound-system in his spare time. Real name Miguel Collins, Sizzla started dee-jaying in the local community before venturing into the city and meeting another of his early mentors.

“Caveman was really the first sound where Sizzla deejay because I get the opportunity to go to Caveman every morning and evening,” he explains. “I just deejay, deejay until I’m tired, then go home and come after school the next day to deejay again because Caveman have a whole heap of riddims and when I listen to my voice, it sounds like he take it really well and that encourage me to go forward and maintain it. From there now Caveman get the spot round Grove Road and link up with Mr. Harris, then it’s between those two who call me Sizzla…”

Homer Harris was based at the Blue Mountain rehearsal studio on Grove Road, near Half Way Tree. That’s where Dean Fraser and the 809 Band would rehearse for major tours and stage shows, including Reggae Sunsplash. A lot of big-name artists passed through there, reasoning with youngsters like Sizzla and generating what he calls “a whole atmosphere of love.” His musical education would develop at rapid pace from that point on.

Right from the start, Sizzla drew his inspiration from what he saw happening around him and he told it truthfully, with no room for sentiment. His lyrics were powerful and compelling, and after growing up among Rastafarians, he possessed wisdom far in advance of his tender years. From childhood, he’d witnessed the effects of political violence firsthand, and felt the suffering of people living in fear and want. In the years since then he’s developed into the voice of his generation. In his music – and also on this album – you can hear their dreams, hopes, anger and frustrations. His songs have edge, clarity, depth, heart and vision. He’s also versatile, and moves effortlessly between social commentaries, Rasta hymns, dancehall and even love songs, like She Me Move and the surprisingly tender Something Special included here. All these styles are part of Jamaican culture and Sizzla, as befits any cultural spokesman, was quick to embrace them.

The majority of his early hits were for the likes of Xterminator and Bobby Digital. Caveman didn’t make the transition from soundman to producer until a little later. It was Bunny Wailer who gave him his break on a compilation called Tek Set Vol. 1, for the Solomonic label. That was in 1998/99. Shortly afterwards, Caveman produced an album of reggae/hip-hop called Axiom that featured Sizzla, Beenie Man and a selection of newer artists. He continued recording tracks with Sizzla from thereon, focussing on quality rather than quantity.

“Back in the day, I never had the finance and my studio wasn’t set up properly, so other producers got the opportunity to record him before me,” he says. “I just take my time and record songs which have that original flavour because it’s I who groom him, and we have to keep it special, y’know?”

Caveman still concentrates on helping young, aspiring artists, hence the presence of G-Nius, Amp, Yambio and the dub poet Ras Haile Malekot on Culture Sound Vol. 1. Cadia is another of Caveman’s discoveries, and sings harmonies on tracks from this new album, including Hungry Children. In time to come, some of these names may prove as talented and hugely influential as Sizzla Kalonji himself. If so, remember you heard them on Caveman and Afrojam Music first.

www.myspace.com/sizzlakalonji

Tracklisting:

01. Chanting Rastaman
02. Jah Made It Possible
03. How Come feat. Jah Seed
04. Put Away The Weapons
05. Zimbabwe
06. Hungry Children
07. System Crash
08. Look What’s Happening
09. Smoke Marijuana feat. Wippa Demus & Halloway
10. Love Selassie I More
11. A She Mi Love
12. Something Special
13. Chant

The album SizzlaThe Chant” (Afrojam Music) is going to be released February 17, 2012.

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