Inna De Yard-The Soul Of Jamaica.

Back in June 2016, two generations of Jamaica’s greatest musicians were about to embark upon a musical adventure. Before that, they had to head high into the hills above Kingston. Their eventual destination was Kiddus I’s studio. It sits high above the vast forests that decorate the hills on the outskirts of Kingston. It’s an unlikely site for a recording studio.

Eventually, some of legends of Jamaica’s musical past, arrive at Kiddus I’s studio. This includes Ken Boothe, Lloyd Parks and The Viceroys. They’re soon joined by Cedric Myton from The Congos, Winston McAnuff and Cedric Mynton. Joining them, would some of the rising stars of Jamaican music, including Derajah, Kush McAnuff, Bo-Pee Bowen, Var and Steve Newland. As the musicians arrive, they head inside Kiddus I’s. 

Copies of the records recorded in the studio hang on the wall. So do photos of the artists who recorded at Kiddus I’s studio. Soon, they’ll be joining this roll of honour. As they enter the main studio, Rastafarian paintings hang proudly on the wall. Old friends catch up before the recording gets underway. Some head out through the swing doors and sit on the balcony overlooking Kingston.

They catch up, joke and reminiscence. Some smoke or drink, while others gaze out at the spectacular view of Kingston and beyond. Always though, the musicians were thinking about what was about to unfold over the next few days. The two generations of Jamaican musicians were about to record an album together. This was an exciting project that nine months later, came to fruition when Inna De Yard’s album The Soul Of Jamaica was released by Chapter Two Records on March ‘17th’ 2017. However, that day in June 2016 when the two generations of musicians arrived at Kiddus I’s studio, the adventure was just beginning.

Meanwhile, Kiddus was inside setting up his studio and preparing to record history being made. He could hear laugher as the two generations of musicians got know each other. Some of the icons of the golden age of Jamaican music seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to spend time with the latest generation of roots musicians. They joshed, laughed and began to exchange ideas. It sounded as if they were getting on well. This was just was well, as they were about to spend the next few days recording an album together. Kiddus I knew, was a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

He may never again get the opportunity to bring together this group of musicians. Kiddus I was determined to do whatever it took to capture these musicians at their best. This might mean going with the flow, and see where the music took him as he recorded The Soul Of Jamaica. With the studio setup, Kiddus I and the band he had brought together to record the album were ready to go.

For this very special recording session, Kiddus I wanted a backing band that featured top musicians. In his eyes, there was no better than pianist Robbie Lyn, guitarist Winston ‘Bo Pee’ Bowen and Ruel ‘Rice’ Ahsburn on contrabass. They would provide accompany the musicians who now, were preparing for the recording of The Soul Of Jamaica.  The band Kiddus I hoped would play their part in music that was rich in Rastafarian spirit and oozed soulfulness.

In Jamaican music, the soul comes from the root. It was originally honed when musicians combined an standup bass, piano, guitar, percussion and vocal. They ware guided by Nyabinghi rhythm, which was originally, was a Rastafari ritual. Since then, it’s played an important part in Jamaican music. That was the case right through to when artists young and old began recording the songs that would feature on The Soul Of Jamaica.

Songs had been carefully chosen for each and every artist that would feature on The Soul Of Jamaica. For the artists that represented the golden age of Jamaican music, underground classics which were written in the sixties and seventies, were chosen. Meanwhile, some of the new generation of Jamaican musicians decided to cover songs penned by their contemporaries. Others decided to rerecord songs that had originally been recorded by artists on Earl Chinna Smith’s Inna De Yard label. However, the artist had the freedom to take the song in the direction they chose.

As the recording sessions began, Kiddus I had created a relaxed and informal atmosphere. He encouraged artists to dictate what sort of accompaniment they wanted. Some decided they wanted the full band to accompany them. Others wanted a much more understated backdrop accompanying their vocal. This would allow their vocal to take centre-stage as they delivered a heartfelt, poignant and positive message that spoke of love and harmony. Kiddus I, who knew each of the artists, concentrated on capturing vocals that were rich in Rastafarian spirit and oozed soulfulness from the moment he pressed record.

Only the piano and vocals were recorded within the environs of the studio. Other instruments were recorded outside of the main studio. Meanwhile, Kiddus I threw open the doors to the terrace and encouraged the musicians to relax and enjoy themselves. They laughed, reminisced, sang, played instruments, smoked and later, watched as the sun set. In allowing the musicians this freedom, Kiddus I knew he would get the best out of the two generations of musicians.

Over the space of four days, a total of twenty tracks were recorded for The Soul Of Jamaica project. This meant that Kiddus I had more than enough for the project. They would later cherry pick thirteen songs that found their way onto The Soul Of Jamaica. As Kiddus I had hoped, they were rich in Rastafarian spirit and oozed soulfulness.

The Viceroys open The Soul Of Jamaica with Love Is The Key. Before their vocals enter, briefly, the sound of birds and dogs barking in the distance can be heard. They accompany an impassioned lead vocal, until the rest of The Viceroys enter. 

Their message is one of peace, positivity and understanding.

Meanwhile, the arrangement is slow and understated with the piano playing the leading role. It’s joined by the bass and percussion. However, it’s The Viceroys that play a starring role, with their heartfelt, soulful vocals.

Ken Boothe features twice on The Soul Of Jamaica. His first contribution is Let The Water Run Dry. Soon, he’s rolling back the years. Accompanied by chirping guitar, piano and harmonies, Ken brings the lyrics to life. It’s as if he’s lived and survived the scenario, as he sings: “I won’t make the same mistake again.” Even if: “you let the teardrops fall from your eyes.” It’s a case of once bitten, twice shy from veteran vocalist Ken Boothe.

Slaving is the first of two songs from Lloyd Parks. As it unfolds, a piano and guitar combine before the bass ushers in Lloyd’s despairing vocal. Meanwhile the studio band provide the shuffling heartbeat.A piano, percussion and chiming guitar are added. They frame the vocal. Later, percussion adds an element of drama, while harmonies sympathise with Lloyd’s plight. However, he sees hope for the future in this poignant song.

Kush McAnuff’s Black To I Roots has a much fuller arrangement, that has been influenced by the golden age of Jamaican music. A moody piano is joined by a braying horn before the bass, guitar and percussion combine. For a minute, the band enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs. Then when Kush’s vocal enters, it’s heartfelt and soulful. He’s accompanied by cooing female backing vocalists, who match him every step of the way. When they drop out, horns and a fleet-fingered Spanish guitar take charge. Kush McAnuff returns and this powerful song reaches its memorable crescendo.

A piano, guitar and horns are joined by bass and percussion on Youthman. They set the scene for Cedric Myton’s urgent, hopeful vocal. It’s accompanied by tender harmonies, while stabs of horns and piano play leading roles. Later a wistful horn is added to the mesmeric backdrop. When the vocal and harmonies return they hope and plea for justice on a song which is rich in Rastafarian spirit and oozed soulfulness.

Var is another of the new generation of Jamaican up-and-coming musicians on The Soul Of Jamaica. His contribution is Crime, a song which deals with the social problems affecting young people in Jamaica. Still, there’s a soulfulness that comes courtesy of Var and female backing vocalists. Meanwhile,it’s a case of less is more with the arrangement. Just a piano, bass, guitar and percussion accompany Var. They play their part in powerful, poignant and soulful song from one of the rising stars of Jamaican music. 

Kiddus I moves from behind the mixing desk and takes centre-stage on Jah Power, Jah Glory. Soon, he’s delivering an impassioned and soulful vocal. Meanwhile, his band pull out the stops, and combine piano, percussion, bass, guitar and an accordion. A frustrated Kiddus I sings of inequality, poverty, war and how the planet is becoming despoiled and polluted. There’s almost disbelief at what Kiddus I is watching happen to the world, on a thought, provoking and spiritual sounding song.

Artibella is a tale of love lost and betrayal that marks the return of the Ken Boothe. Again, he brings the lyrics to life as he sings of how his girlfriend left him for another man. Meanwhile, an accordion, bass, guitar, percussion and piano accompany Ken. He recounts how: “Artibella you took all my money, and told me you didn’t love me.” Despite this, he’s soon pleading: “Artibella my pretty little darling, please come home to me.” It seems love is blind.

Just a gently strummed guitar and piano are joined by the bass as Steve Newland delivers an urgent vocal on Sign Of The Times. Sharp stabs of piano accompany percussion and a crystalline piano join with a sweeping, soulful harmonies. They provide a foil for a vocal that veers between urgent, worldweary and soulful on a song that’s melodic and memorable.

Winston McAnuff is accompanied by sweet, soulful and cooing harmonies as Secret unfolds. Meanwhile, the arrangement chugs steadily along. Percussion and piano are to the fore. It’s the harmonies that play a leading role. They accompany Winston every step of the way, and respond to his call. Later, his vocal becomes a mixture of power and emotion. It soars hight above the arrangement and is akin to a heartfelt confessional. Still, though, the harmonies accompany him and play their part in the sound and success of the song.

Gradually,the arrangement to Stone begins to unfold. There’s an element of theatre, before the percussion, guitar and ethereal harmonies give way to Derajah’s vocal. It’s heartfelt and has a spiritual quality. Meanwhile, an acoustic guitar and percussion are augmented by the elegiac harmonies. They join with  Derajah to create a truly beautiful song.

Money For Jam marks the return of Lloyd Parks. Horns, an accordion and percussion set the scene for Lloyd’s soulful vocal. 

Tender harmonies accompany him as he delivers lyrics full of social comment. “Instead of walking down the street and robbing the people you meet, you got to work for the jam.” Soon, horns, an accordion and harmonies join the bass, guitar, piano and percussion. They all accompany one of the Jamaican music’s veterans, as he delivers a vocal masterclass.

Closing The Soul of Jamaica is Thanks and Praise by Bo-Pee. It features an understated and spartan arrangement. Just an acoustic guitar accompanies Bo-Pee’s vocal. That’s all that is needed. Anything else would risk overpowering the vocal. It’s sincere and has a spiritual quality, on what’s a beautiful song. Just like on so many albums, one of the best tracks has been kept until last on The Soul Of Jamaica.

It was recorded over four days at Kiddus I’s studio, high above Kingston. That was where two generations of musicians came together, and recorded the thirteen songs that became The Soul Of Jamaica. Legends of Jamaican music joined with some of the island’s rising stars. Nine months later, and The Soul Of Jamaica was released by Chapter Two Records on March ‘17th’ 2017. However, The Soul Of Jamaica is no ordinary reggae album.

Instead, The Soul Of Jamaica finds the eleven artists delivering poignant and positive messages of love and harmony. That is the thread that runs through each and every song on the album.  They’re rich in Rastafarian spirit and ooze soulfulness. However, that is not all. 

The music on The Soul Of Jamaica is also beautiful, melodic and memorable. Other times it’s powerful, spiritual and thought-provoking as artists discuss the social problems that blight not just Jamaica, but the wider world. Songs like Lloyd Parks’ Money For Jam the songs are akin to mini morality tales, that offer advice to those who have taken a wrong turning in life. These morality tales come filled with a powerful and positive message. This adds to the poignancy of the music on The Soul Of Jamaica. It was recorded by two generations of talented musicians. 

Despite the difference in age, each and every musician played their part in the sound and success of The Soul Of Jamaica. It’s one of the finest reggae albums of recent years. There’s neither padding nor filler on The Soul Of Jamaica. Instead, it’s quality all the way. That’s not all. The Soul Of Jamaica is imbued with the Rastafarian spirit and soulfulness as eleven artists spread messages of love, harmony, positivity and togetherness.


Inna De Yard-The Soul Of Jamaica.

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