Reggae’s explosion on the global music scene has since dissipated but the African inspired genre has no doubt left behind a lasting impression. While much of that traditional reggae sound is being preserved a ‘reggae-lution’ seems to be brewing in the hearts of studio wizards - one that is bigger than reggae alone but highlights the titanic impression that the banana boat sound has left on cultures all over the world.
Ziggy Marley was recently featured on Santana’s latest album doing an electrified rendition of his father’s hit tune, “Iron Lion Zion”. This revamped sound that fuses Santana’s Latin rock flavour with Marley’s innate reggae flair, highlights the expanding horizon of reggae-fusion that Fly Rasta captures.
Its elements may be complex but Fly Rasta is an easy listen. The album flourishes but no crescendo is attained as it rides a steady groove through a diverse soundscape. Rock, funk, reggae and afro-folk all collide with varying effect on the album.
It’s easy to think of his father, Bob Marley, when listening to Ziggy’s raspy crooning. The multiple Grammy winner exudes much of that same charisma that his father was known for. Even though Fly Rasta carries less of an urban appeal and eludes that natural roots reggae charm that fans of the genre have come to love, Ziggy Marley’s performance is still rooted in reggae.
Cedella Marley who was a part of her brother’s inaugural band - Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers - makes an appearance on the album that is only half-memorable. The inspirational track, “I Get Up”, includes a sensational horn troupe that bestows an uplifting note of fanfare.
Reggae musician, Beezy Coleman and veteran Jamaican vocalist U-Roy are also featured on the compilation. U-Roy joins Marley on the title track which showcases a modern ska rhythm.
“Moving Forward” which features Beezy Coleman captures the overall progressive theme of the album both in its sound and its lyrics as Marley sings: “diversity is my ally, even though she makes me cry, I’m moving forward”.
Fly Rasta presents much of the same sonic blending that was present on Marley’s last studio album, Wild and Free. Fly Rasta is more daring however, in that the blurring of lines between the underlying reggae theme and the fusion elements at times creates a completely unique aural space altogether.
“Lighthouse” is a reggae tinged altern-rock ballad that embraces an eclectic weaving of complementary sounds while the light-hearted “You’re My Oko” flips between contemporary reggae and Woodstock folk-rock with dizzying succession.
“Small axe cuts big tree” is a popular moniker within reggae culture and presents an apt description of how the small island sound has infiltrated and completely redefined the immortal music industry. Fly Rasta gives just a taste of the endless possibilities that the transient age of digital production has introduced to the reggae playing field.
In a way the album itself is also a focused look at the dynamism that exists currently in the reggae arena. Already a pocketful of musicians from various backgrounds have introduced their take on reggae-fusion. Reggae enthusiasts have been tentative in their reception of some of these fusion elements but the trend is relentlessly increasing.