King of Kings. Lords of Lords. And… The Storm of Storms
The whole city was caught in a torrential downpour Thursday Night that buzzed mobile phones with legitimate flash flood warnings — as streets like 12th St and Callowhill filled up with 3ft + of water [see photo below]. Thus, the scheduled performance at a then puddly Underground Arts was quickly moved to higher ground; at the friendly and cozy confines of The Fire in Northern Liberties.
So, after a quick jaunt and unexpected performance from “The Homophones” — South Philly rock band who was gigging on The Fire’s calendar — “The Young Lions Tour” (on the tail end of two months across the United States) took center stage after midnight.
Youthful backing band The Bebble Rockers quickly dialed in the sound [and UP the bass] before welcoming headlining act Kabaka Pyramid to begin his talented display. Arguably, and perhaps due to a lack of peers willing to do so, Kabaka in many eyes is a leading torch bearer for critically acclaimed conscious reggae artists. Search his catalog of recordings, or step inside a live show and you’ll quickly find he’s up to this challenge.
Chanting against social injustice and for the teachings of Rastafari, the Kingston born and bred performer proudly shines a bright smile on stage to balance a focused and gifted delivery. Unfazed by the change of venue and later start time, Kabaka Pyramid roused his audience and shared many pleasant exchanges, pausing at times to explain the poignant messages in his lyrics .
Fellow Jamaican (Linstead, St. Catherine-born) and tour-mate Iba Mahr provided an ample encore presentation, plus more, bouncing between a raspy-er style and sweeter notes. This effort succeeded in keeping The Fire [pun intended] burning well past closing time — with hands, sentiments, and mind states held high. This tour being an in person introduction to many for Iba Mahr, it will be interesting to see what heights he ascends to.
Author: Franceska Rouzard | Photographer: Molly Rose
Music, particularly rap, is a fiercely competitive industry. In Hip Hop, every rapper is “the greatest to ever do it” and there is very little room at the top. However, in recent years there has been a subtle yet significant shift. Alongside records about lavish lifestyles and beautiful women are the equally popular songs that preach about spreading love and self worth. Along with the change of subject matter in Hip Hop comes a surge of good sportsmanship – artists wanting to help other artists. And while I’ve seen a distinctive growth in this amongst creatives, none have exemplified the desire to see fellow artists prosper as much as Verbatum Jones, East Coast rapper and curator of the vibrant artist showcase, Vibezz. Jones is also well known for Everbody Eats, an intimate potluck performance.
I met Jones in college in 2010. His presence was commanding yet warm, like the leader of revolutionary movement – he was ambitious and passionate. When he speaks about music, it moves those around him into action. For this reason, no one was surprised when he announced that he would be curating Vibezz, a show featuring a plethora of local and brilliant but somewhat underrated artists.
With Vibezz, held on Saturday, February 7th, Jones expanded the spotlight to his musical extended family. Not to be confused with your typical showcase, the event’s energy was just as welcoming as its host. Jones was inspired by his Haitian background, remembering attending parties filled with home-cooked food and libations so guests were treated to homemade pizza muffins and goodie bags in addition to dope giveaways like Power Beats 2 Wireless headphones. However what set Vibezz apart is due entirely to the unmatched amount of audience participation. “Vibezz!” was shouted from every corner, some in reverence of the performers, others in excitement for music played by DJ Tank Top, cousin of Jones and New York native.
The evening began with soul singer Andrea Valle, the youngest of the artist collective. Contrasting her sweet appearance, her music was raw and soulful.
The tone of the event quickly changed with rapper Gabriel Wolf. His high energy and passion infected the crowd into unparalleled participation.
Jamir Milligan, accompanied by Andrew Aulenbach of Halfro on the piano, brought the audience back to a familiar place with a beautiful gospel rendition and covers of John Legend and Kanye West.
The night was closed out by The Bul Bey, accompanied by his live band Hazie Blu. I would definitely award him “Most Moving Performance” for his cover of Verbatum Jones’ single “Nappy”, a symbolic song of the theme for the event – share love and positive “vibezz.”
At the end of the night, I spoke with attendees over cigarettes outside of the venue. As we floated and recounted the best parts of the evening, each of us were left with a single question: “When/where will Vibezz land next?”
On Wednesday November 26th, 2014 Cult Classics and [EV]-BnksCrtv will debut a showcase production at Sole Control in the Piazza, Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. .
The event will be presented as a movie catered to the city of Philadelphia. “We not only want people to feel like the audience, but also cast” says Tre’ Banks, who will be reffered to as the “narrator” rather than the traditional “host”, all tying into the feature film experience. The movie/event will be titled “GRAVY TRAP” — based off of the classic pop film Parent Trap. The most notorious holiday condiment (gravy),and a play on one of today’s most popular descriptive words (trap).
Born and raised in New Orleans, and since well travelled and critically acclaimed, the high energy and exciting jazz, funk, rap fusion artist Trombone Shorty and his band have been across the map on worldwide tours, broadcast through media airwaves, and featured on top television shows and series — rightfully including HBO’s Tremé — his home neighborhood in the Crescent City.
For those who have not yet been introduced, if you’re looking for a band that stays true to the conscious principles of reggae, blends in the latest sounds and musical influences of today, and boasts outstanding vocal talents, search no further than Morgan Heritage. For those fans already well acquainted, you know that these trademark characteristics have remained proud fixtures dating back to the early 90’s. We haven’t seen the Morgan family in unison the last several years, as each member has remained active but more individually, making this latest collective re-emergence that much more special.
The five siblings and original members of Morgan Heritage — Una Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Peetah Morgan (vocals), Roy “Gramps” Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan (rhythm guitar) and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan (percussion) — shine on as the offspring and living legacy of famed Jamaican reggae singer Denroy Morgan. Recently, the next generation has joined in the shape and sound of Gramps’ own son Jamere Morgan.
In this current era with its generation criticized for its sense of entitlement, many seemingly too-often fail to recognize those who came before and struggled for the betterment of humankind. Morgan Heritage though, graciously gives due notice to the predecessors of their trade who battled and faced prejudice during a remarkable and transformative time. Yes this includes Bob and Peter, but stretches far beyond and into the isles of past icons the likes of Jacob Miller, Inner Circle, Dennis Brown, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, and Black Uhuru… the list certainly goes on.
Morgan Heritage remind their listeners that the work moving forward is not, nor will it ever be done. An ever-changing world provides new challenges, and needless to say, many of yesterday’s problems still remain far too prevalent today. But key is the road map their words in effect become, offering a guide to live better for your fellow woman and man. In the name of love and understanding.
I spoke with lead vocalist Peetah Morgan about the current state of reggae music, the important messages Morgan Heritage sings about in their songs, and discussed reggae’s transformation into a global music genre.
Two.One.Five Magazine | Morgan Heritage Exclusive Interview
ARAN HART: Why does Morgan Heritage feel it’s important to shine light on the founding figures of Roots Reggae music?
PEETAH: It is important for us to pay homage to the pioneers because they’ve been through the struggles that we are free from facing today. They broke down so many barriers. And that has allowed us to go into countries and places that they weren’t able to go because of the stigmatism that was upon Rastafarian and Dreadlock people, playing rebel music. We are now playing in places, on TV, and on radio stations that they never played on. It’s a great feeling for us to be doing this today as a tribute to recognize the hard labor of those who came before us.
ARAN HART: Is Roots Reggae music’s future in good hands?PEETAH: Roots Reggae music forever will be in good hands. It’s great now because it’s not just Jamaica. The music has become global. You have great reggae bands playing roots music from here in America, in Europe, Africa, Japan, and the South Pacific. We still have Jamaicans like Tarrus Riley and Morgan Heritage, Anthony B, Luciano, the list goes on. But it’s not just us anymore… it’s foreigners who have joined us as torchbearers of the music.
So our eyes are not just looking at what is coming out of Jamaica, we are also seeing what is coming out around the world. Bob Marley prophesized it many years ago — that reggae music is only going to become bigger and more global. Now we are seeing those words become reality. If you go onto iTunes, you’ll see that most of the top selling reggae music is not from today’s Jamaica — you still have the Wailers and Peter Tosh. We give thanks to the international bands like Rebolution, Soja, J-Boog, The Green, Lord Alajiman, and otherswho are carrying the torch because Reggae music is beyond borders. Reggae music is beyond color. Reggae music is beyond the islands.
Most reggae was created out of Jamaica and it was Jamaican artists who faced persecution to establish this music globally. But we are not fools to not understand where the music is today. We appreciate what each and every one is doing for the music. At the end of the day it’s not about people, it’s not about race, it’s about the music.
ARAN HART: You touch on many issues and have many messages in your songs… What is at the top of your list right now of issues you feel people can and/or should be fighting against/for?
PEETAH: We fight against racism number one. We fight against segregation and oppression. We fight against injustice. And we fight against sexism. And we fight for equal opportunity in the working world. For example, we have women now who are doing twice the work of a man and still only getting paid half as much. We are about equality and justice for all people. No matter your race, your color, your gender, or your creed. So we fight for women’s equality and rights. Without the women, we wouldn’t have the world that we have today. These things are important to us as a people and as a family. All people are respected for what they bring to the betterment of humanity.
In Jamaica right now, our communities are being hurt by gun-men, violence, and sadly enough we have a lot of young children who are being raped. These are things that we want to see eradicated from communities across the globe and are at the forefront of what we pay attention to. We need to educate our youth. We need to reach out to prepare the next generation who are coming up in the world today and will lead tomorrow. Everything is all about a better world. Everything we do and focus on — from relationships, to our social commentary, to spiritual awareness. The foundation of all of this is love.
ARAN HART:Including songs like “She’s Still Loving Me” and your latest single “Put it on Me,” Morgan Heritage is known to produce beautiful Lover’s Rock. Do you believe that pure love, kindness, and romance are the solutions to these issues you just mentioned?
PEETAH: Without love we have nothing. Love is the biggest foundation to everything we do in life. So, when we write songs about love and relationships, this is a form of consciousness. You have to be consciously aware to experience or share love with the ones that you love. You will always get that side of Morgan Heritage through our music. Just as much as you get social commentary or the spiritual awareness, you will always get love songs through lover’s rock music because it is a major part of life. Without love we wouldn’t be here. Our parents come together and make love to bring forth more love, which is life.
ARAN HART: How does it make you feel, having this opportunity to bring these messages to people’s awareness across the globe?
PEETAH: I’m grateful and thankful everyday because it could have been anyone else. It didn’t have to be us. But we are aware that we have been chosen to do this. It’s fascinating to go to a foreign land, in front of people that speak a foreign language, and realize that the music talks, and brings so many people together. So it’s fascinating to see how through our music we are able to communicate and inspire so many people, globally. It’s a blessing and it gives us encouragement to continue doing what we are doing, because this is why we do it.
ARAN HART: Talk about the latest projects Morgan Heritage have been working on and what we all have to look forward to…
PEETAH: In addition to our own recently released single and video, Put it on Me — which is doing very well globally and we are very grateful for — we have been producing and song-writing a lot for other artists like J-Boog, Irie Love, and many others from Africa. It is a work in progress and we will continue to be song-writers and developers of new talent. Also, look out for our own project set for release next year. Plus, we have been working a lot with Gramps’ son, Jamere Morgan. Morgan Heritage has a lot more in store for you, yah mon.
Matisyahu’s journey is one that travels far beyond the stops of his very busy 2014 mostly North American tour. For the man we all grew to know as The Hasidic Jewish rapper / reggae star, this journey explores the growth and evolution of an individual and the lessons he searches to learn from. He shares a piece of this ongoing experience with us all on his most recent 15 track release, titled Akeda.
A decade into his professional music career, much has changed. Many will point right at his obvious physical make-over. But what you’ll find when talking to Matis is that the true transformation came from, and took place, within.
His unique path before and after he became publicly recognizable — from his time he spent without an audience figuring out his sound, to that epic performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live — has influenced and developed Matis into who we understand him to be today. Matisyahu has successfully blended his creative talent as a musician with a personal narrative he uses to inspire his fans across the globe.
When listening to Akeda, one understands his songs reflect a newly found comfort, but don’t overlook how he arrived there. Matis offers his story with signature grandiose choruses and chanting conscious lyrics over a mix of reggae, hip-hop, alternative, and pop music canvases, with separate guest appearances from Zion-I and Collie Buddz.
I chatted with Matisyahu a few weeks ahead of the Third Annual Reggae in the Park festival Sunday August 3rd, when the West Chester, PA native will take the Mann Center stage. We discussed how he developed his lyrical style, the inspiration behind his new album, and how he learned to walk through walls.
Get advance tickets to see Matisyahu — plus Steel Pulse, Inner Circle, Morgan Heritage, Konshens and many more! And stay tuned for more two.one.five exclusive interviews. Follow @215mag.
ARAN HART: Do you feel it’s harder for you to switch or evolve your style based on the image so many people associate with you?
MATISYAHU: I hadn’t really thought about it like that before, but yea. Being that I was a very specific thing to a lot of people probably does make it more difficult. There are a lot of artists out there that don’t have such an intense image that’s attached to them. But I feel like I go through this every record. I guess now it has happened in a more major way.
ARAN HART: How did you cultivate your singing and lyricist style?
MATISYAHU: I found what I really liked, listened to it a lot and just soaked it in. I spent a lot of time alone in my room, without a career or an audience, expressing myself via that mode. I had a band when I was 18 in Oregon and I got to be a front man and learn about what that’s like. Everything from having the right energy on stage and relating to an audience. I moved back to New York when I was 19 and I wasn’t able to put together a band so I set up a drum kit and PA in my room and would play the drums and sing, and chant through the microphone with different delays and effects.
I would also buy instrumental tapes on Canal St. in New York. At the time I was listening to a lot of Sizzla, Capleton, and Buju Banton — that wave of conscious dancehall. I would listen really fuckin loud, get high and write. Then I would plug in my mic and try to do what it was that I was experiencing and hearing. I would get really inspired by that reggae music. I never thought about, “I’m not this so I can’t do it.” If there is something that I connect with emotionally then it always feels natural to me. So I started writing and producing that style.
As time has gone I’ve evolved from that. I don’t sit in my room and get high and listen to the same music. I listen to a ton of different styles of music now. But whenever I find something I connect with, it’s still kind of the same process. I explore it, let it seep into me and figure out how I can add that to my palette of colors that I paint with, so to speak.
ARAN HART: Your music has been licensed for use with TV, movies, video games etc… Describe the importance of having your music used in these various media channels…
MATISYAHU: That’s a huge piece of it all, getting people to hear your music. The business man in me wants the music to reach as many people as it can. So you look for any outlet. With the exception of my first song, I haven’t had a lot of support in radio. Also with the game changing like it is, it becomes about looking for alternate ways, and licensing is probably the biggest way. Whether it be a car commercial, or a video game, or a movie, you want to get people that access to your music. It’s important.
ARAN HART: How has being able to take your talents around the world and experiencing other cultures influenced you as an artist and/or an individual?
MATISYAHU: I’m gonna be honest. For a long time I really had my head down. It was hard to get past the jet lag, the airplanes, going to the hotel, going to the show, getting back on an airplane and going to the next place. I’m just now learning how to try and take things in. Even though I’ve probably filled up 3 passport books, or whatever. I was tired for a long time and traveling for a long time. You can’t necessarily take in all the things that maybe other people who travel are able to. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. Even though it’s difficult, I love being mobile. You know, ever since I was 17 I left home with a backpack. So that’s who I am.
ARAN HART: In my estimation, so much of your music explores a personal journey, challenges, finding the ability to overcome, rising up and growing as a person. Where do you draw that inspiration from to write in that way?
MATISYAHU: I’m a pretty sensitive person. I’m affected by things. And it’s my nature to want to be growing. I’ve been searching for a really long time and I don’t see myself ever stopping. I mean, I’ve had periods in my life where I take it easy, but my nature is to keep pushing forward to elevate myself and get better at the things that I want to do. Whether it’s being a better father or singer. Being better at prayer. Being more understanding. Being a more compassionate person. Being able to take in my surroundings. All of those things keep me constantly striving and moving forward.
ARAN HART: Does your newest album, Akeda, represent a significant part of a journey or era for you?
MATISYAHU: About 2-3 years ago there were a bunch of things going on. One thing was, I was unhappy in my marriage so I decided to move on from that. I wasn’t feeling comfortable or happy in the religion anymore… and, when I say the religion, I mean specifically the rules. I had been following those rules for 10 years, and there are a lot of them. They dictated a lot about how I lived my life and the way I thought. Even though I struggled with those things, I still went through with them. I still woke up and lived according to a certain way. I started to feel claustrophobic and like I was being stifled.
I also had an issue with my voice. I had to go on vocal silence for about 3 months. I had finished a tour so I was sitting at home. I also had another health problem with my stomach that I was trying to heal. Basically I wasn’t talking, communicating, or eating normally. I was pretty much fasting. I got into a very deep meditative place and all of a sudden I started to feel all of my emotions start to come back. I don’t know if I’d ever felt things the way I was feeling. I was getting this intense mental clarity and getting in touch with all of these feelings. I could feel my heart waking up. I was claiming myself back from everything — the religion, the relationships, and even the lifestyle I’d been chasing. I’d been trying to be a rockstar all these years, thinking, “How can I get more famous, and make more money, and do more shows?” I just stopped all of it and went inwards. I was also battling drug addiction, and got sober. That’s where this record and all the creativity came out of.
ARAN HART: Alluding to the title of your single Watch the Walls Melt Down… Were these the walls you were watching melt and fade away?
MATISYAHU: Yea, the metaphysical walls. There was this one song they would always sing in Chabad, the Hassidic group that I was with, and the name translates to mean “go over the wall.” So this is my version and my take on that. You don’t go over the wall, but watch how the wall isn’t really a wall. Just watch it fall down, and walk straight through it.
ARAN HART: Have you walked through and achieved this freedom?
MATISYAHU: I’m still in the process, but there is definitely a taste of freedom.
Hailing from the UK, Morcheeba, along with multi-instrumentalist and VERY talented opening act Conner Youngblood, made its latest stop on their international tour at the TLA Thursday night May 15th, and did not disappoint those in attendance – ranging from fans that have followed along since the mid-90’s to a new wave that only recently learned about this well-polished outfit.
Promoting their new album ‘Head Up High’ released last October, Morcheeba welcome anyone to experience their smooth, stylish showcase, and offer their appreciation for the active participants. Flashing high-fashion semblance while avoiding dripping in bourgeois attitude is a commendable trait. Rather they let the audience in with a warm invitation.
Gimme Your Love Video
Morcheeba consists of a bassist, drummer, guitarist, and keys/organ player, while layering in a DJ on the decks to mix in scratches, samples, and effects. Upon that foundation stands the prominent and seemingly ageless wonder lead vocalist Skye Edwards and her self-made high-fashion wardrobe and stunning smile. Refreshingly embracing the current state of omni-present technology, Skye stepped down into the first row for a mid-show selfie and took another camera on stage to film from her perspective before handing it back to the gleeful audience members. Her fans even offered up gift baskets of flowers and fruit, which she warmly accepted.
The band seamlessly weaved from one song into another, serving on-time varietals of neo-soul, trip-hop, reggae, rock and roll, and eclectic grooves (this Youtube mix displays their varying styles). Studio recordings conjure up some comparisons to Thievery Corporation.
The crisp and serenading vocals sat right on top of the mix, finding the pocket and filling the room with a comfortable reverb – hats off to the sound man for his work. The rest of the scene was lovers and friends, dancers and swayers, soaking in the sights and sounds coming from the stage, and giving back their appreciation. No need to pay for VIP to be treated that way on this occasion.
Friday April 18, 2014 – photos and story by Aran Hart
Stephen “Ragga” Marleyfilled the Trocadero Theatre Friday night with the special sounds blending his namesake’s classics, his own hits, and introducing his latest album Revelation Part 2: Fruit of Life (look for its release later in 2014), gathering fans from all around the Philadelphia and Tri-State areas.
The night opened with Stephen’s son Jo Mersa engaging the audience with a young generation style of conscious lyrics and “ghetto-youths” dancehall. Jo Mersa studio tracks like (Comfortable), cut through clear but his live performance still needs improvement.
Jo Mersa – Comfortable
Dancehall artist Wayne Marshall followed with smooth lover’s rock steady riddims like (Good Love) that moved the crowd, especially those who came with their lover, to feel all right. Marshall can switch up to some bad man tunes (I Know) over dance based sounds so his show mixes both styles his fans have come to expect.
Wayne Marshall – I Know
When the main attraction, Stephen Marley, stepped out in his usual denim attire the crowd crescendoed to greet the reggae superstar with love, which was certainly the theme, and one reciprocated throughout the performance. Standing front and center with his signature lion-art designed guitar, Marley interacted with the crowd with radiant smiles and that ever-so familiar raspy Marley trademark voice, receiving warm responses as his band dropped into recognizable tunes, or announced the newest premiers. Wayne Marshall made a quick cameo appearance, and even reggae stars Capleton & Sizzla jumped out in front of the bright lights to fill the room with excitement performing the album’s new song, that actually dabbles into EDM and dub-step styles, (Rock Stone).
Stephen Marley Ft. Sizzla & Capleton – Rock Stone
The Bob Marley classic Could You Be Loved jammed on as Stephen bid farewell, until next time, to the crowd who cheered him back on stage for a heartfelt encore that concluded with another new premier of the beautiful acoustic ballad (Celebration)- featuring Jo Mersa. The chorus sings: Cuz tonight / We ‘gon have a celebration of our life/ Party from night / ‘Til morning light / We all have a good time / Good vibrations.
Revelation Part 2 features a neo-soulful and hip-hop intertwined track with Philly’s own Black Thought (Thorn Or a Rose). This, along with the aforementioned Rock Stone, are proof that Marley continues to successfully bridge the gap between different genres and further cements his prowess as a critically acclaimed producer in the industry beyond the reggae landscape.
This was indeed a celebration, and a revelation, with host Stephen “Ragga” Marley.
Stephen Marley Ft. Black Thought – Thorn Or a Rose
Friday March 14 – Liacouras Center – Story and photos by Aran Hart
The wildly popular Ellie Goulding performed in front of a sold out crowd of avid supporters Friday night at Temple’s Liacouras Center, as part of her Spring 2014 US Tour. Goulding, the British Indie pop – synth pop – folktronica singer and song-writer shined bright in the glitzy blue and white lighting, sporting a black outfit and signature blonde locks.
Her most dedicated fans arrived as early as 1:30pm (showtime was 9:30pm), to grab the an upclose look at their coveted starling. When asked what they thought of the show, words like “heavenly” and “amazing” came gushing out to describe their ‘starry-eyed’ love affair. Much of the first 10 rows held up bright fluorescent cutout hearts with personal messages that Ellie smiled at to show her appreciation.
This was a true Pop performance, much less along the dub/chill-step lines she often toes, laced with top-tier music industry staging, back-up singers, instrumentalists, and stadium sound. Each note played and sung came through clear though the back-up harmony vocalists needed more decibels in the mix and her duet acoustic guitar and piano performance lasted a bit too long. But the truth is, this was no doubt Ellie’s show. The band was dressed in all black and the light only dimly lit their stations. Goulding was front and center in the spot light with her floor toms, effect pads, occasional acoustic guitar, and of course the mic. She claimed to be shy of talking but had no reservation dancing and belting out her ballads, playing to the crowd, and offering sincere thanks between songs.
She might not be your style, she may come off too soft, or too teeny-pop, but Goulding’s success is not up for debate. In fact, it is downright impressive – just check her online play count and accolades, wow. This can be attributed to her unique and mystical voice that remarkably blends so seamlessly with the gritty electro sounds of the dub-step world, lends itself to the catchy pop genre, and serves the emotional and freeing themes EDM songs so often feature. That versatility has Ellie getting remixed by the biggest DJ’s, jet setting on worldwide tours, being licensed for feature film soundtracks (i.e. Divergent), singing out through your speakers, and/or on major sound systems during a late-night party mix.
Her latest 2013 album titled Halcyon Days points to the freedom, joy, and carefree nature of youth. We’ll surely be hearing a lot more from the 27 year old electro-pop superstar for many years to come.