Paris Is Burning
Derajah & The Donkey Jaw Bone
Chapter Two / Wagram Music
November 28, 2011
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 4||Backing : 5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 4|
Jamaican roots artist Derajah aka Jah Youth started to gain some international recognition when his songs "Well Ah O" and "Oh Yeah Yah" appeared on albums that were released between 2005 and 2009 by the now defunct Makasound label as part of their acclaimed "Inna De Yard" series.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, at the end of the golden age of reggae, Derajah grew up in a balanced family, surrounded by two sisters, one brother and his parents. Just like the majority of Jamaican artists he was confronted with two musical worlds. One musical world is reggae, street music, the national pride that resonates constantly on every corner, the other is that of the songs sung in church. Thus Derajah grew up with the music of Bob Marley, Sugar Minott and international artists such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, as well as 'churchical songs' (hymns).
However it was his cousin Black Pearl, a locally known artist, who pushed him towards a musical career. After leaving school, young Derajah started to hang around sound systems, looking for a chance to get his turn on the mic. It was not until he began to take a look in the song books of his cousin that he started to understand the forms of writing and the construction of a song. It was in the late '90s that his talents led him to collaborate with the best, starting with the late Sugar Minott with whom he was very close, then Kiddus I and master guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith.
In December 2007, Derajah met the French band Donkey Jaw Bone in Kingston, Jamaica, with whom he recorded four tunes at the legendary Tuff Gong studio. It turned out to be the cornerstone of their human and musical adventure. Four years after their first meeting, the results of this fruitful collaboration can be heard on Derajah's debut album "Paris Is Burning". The latter is a pure roots album, not really surprising as Derajah belongs to a group of contemporary artists who try to continue and persevere in the footsteps of great Jamaican roots rock reggae artists such as Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Jacob Miller, and Burning Spear.
From beginning to end the listener is treated to powerful, well arranged roots tunes underpinned by live played riddims. Throughout the entire album it's obvious that Donkey Jaw Bone's backdrops perfectly fit Derajah's vocal power. Besides that the artist has no shortage of lyrics, which makes that his songs keep you involved. Some of the tracks instantly grab your attention, while others just have to grow on you. The album opens in real fine style with the slow burner "Paris Burnin'""(Derajah's view on the riots in the suburbs of Paris in 2005), before the first highlight, "Burn Dem To Rass" -- underpinned by a relick of Kiddus I's "Graduation In Zion" riddim -- drops in. Other highlights are the collaboration with Big Youth called "Run Run", the great Ghetto Youth Fallin' Out", the wonderful "Righteousness Just A Flow", the excellent "I Work", the beautiful "I Rastaman", and the nyahbinghi flavoured "Did You Know".
Remain to point out two moving songs, "Mario" and "My Sister" (on the "Green Bay Killing" aka "Youthman" riddim), both about relatives that he lost due to violent death. Derajah wrote these songs for his friend Mario and especially his sister who was murdered before his eyes: "My sister, oh gosh I miss you / To you I write this one, me said, to you this one I whisper / When you passed away, I & I just say, I feel it all over / Everything hasn't been the same since you're gone / mama cry and every now and then papa bawl / to Selassie I your lickle brether call / I remember clearly on that night / when the heathen must've said to take away your life / I was there in the dark, they was standing in the light / And it was so obvious by dusty blight / Well.. they had guns and bent / didn't really know your life... yes they had planned to take it..."
This Derajah & The Donkey Jaw Bone album can safely be filed under the "good music" label. A 'must have' for any roots fan.