Album review
Two Decades the 20th Anniversary EP
Umoya / Irie Records
September 8, 2004

Tracking list

  1. Bang-2-2-Pang
  2. Jump & Praise
  3. Boom Raggamuffin
  4. Tings & Times
  5. Dread Inna Babylon
  6. Ghetto Life
  7. Ghetto Dub
  8. Dub Inna Babylon
  9. Tings & Dub
  10. Dub Raggamuffin
  11. Jump & Dub
  12. Dub-2-2-Pang
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Vocals : 3/4 Backing : 4 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 4/5 Sleeve : 4

"Two Decades" is the third full-length album, this time distributed by Münster's recordstore, mailorder shop and independent distributor Irie Records, of long serving (you could have guessed it by the title of this album: 20 years) German roots outfit Umoya. The band was formed in 1982 by 2 Jamaicans, 1 Portuguese and 4 Germans, and named after the Swahili-word for Unity, and 2 years later (yes: exactly two decades ago) they started playing their brand of reggae music on stages, with each year passing laying further away from their Bonn hometown, in the slipstream of the early 80s rise of reggae, when Bob Marley at the peak of his career had just been called home by his creator, Black Uhuru drawing massive audiences all over Europe, and UB40 paving the way for non-Jamaican reggae. They had the pleasure of seeing reggae, after a slump in the later 80s, rise again in the early 90s, when their single "Hey You" even brought them into TV pop shows, as would their video later of "See De Rastaman", that even reached VIVA's 'Videoclip of the Week'-status. And even though reggae in Germany is in the slipstream of Gentleman and Seeed rising high again, all members of Umoya still need other jobs (in the music- or music-related-business) to survive, but it hasn't stopped them from spreading their vibes. After the spoken Greetings in the name of love the first song "Bang-2-2-Pang" kicks off this anniversary album in a melodic rub-a-dub-style, with sing-a-long lyrics about badmen. "Jump & Prance" is a nice rub-a-dub with fine harmonies, followed by the great "Boom Raggamuffin" with its fabulous 'real' horns, something that emphasizes the text in the booklet that this recording is neither sequenced nor quantized - 100% pure human vibes, boogie-style piano intro that returns a couple of times later in the tune, and Trevor 'Supa T' Taylor's toasting counteracting Harold 'Junior' Pinnock's feel-good vocals in its 6-plus minutes of sweet reggae music. "Tings & Times" is a conscious tune, with once again nice horns featured alongside the harmony-vocals and a vocodered toast in the dubby middle part of the song. "Dread Inna Babylon" prolongues the conscious vibe, with its all too familiar yet fresh brought theme, with its prayer of "Our Father" embedded in it. "Ghetto Life" is the least convincing tune on the album for me, probably because it's too much two-themed, sufferers and lovers, yet musically the incorporation of small dancehall-aimed parts in the riddim works out very fine. And after these 6 tunes the 6 dubs follow, with a tracklist that is mirrored. A nice idea, and for some reason it works out very fine for me as a listener as well. From "Ghetto Dub" to "Dub-2-2-Pang" the dub recordings sound real nice, and it is as if closing the album with the dub of its opener completes a full circle of "Two Decades" of sweet reggae music. The CD comes with extras, there's a multimedia section, with plenty pictures of the band from 20 years ago until very recently, a video shot during their show at the Chiemsee Reggae Festival in 1999 performing "Never Again" and some more information on the band and its members. Umoya have created a nice present for themselves to celebrate their own 20th anniversary, that is definitely worth checking for all roots listeners.