Army Gideon – Forsake Not

Forsake Not
Title: Forsake Not

Artist: Army Gideon

Label: Uhuru Boys

Formats: CD, Digital

Release date: March 23, 2018



Based out of Fort Lauderdale and Jamaica, the reggae fusion group Army Gideon champions equal rights, justice, universal love and Rastafari awareness on their debut album Forsake Not. Calling themselves “musical soldiers,” the band’s militant persona reflects their focus on liberation and commitment.

The album opens with “Mezmur,” a tribute to Haile Sellasie, while “Empress” expresses devotion to a woman with the attributes of Empress Menen Asfaw, wife of Emperor Sellasie. Other more traditional tracks include “Sabbath Peace,” aka “Shabbat Shalom.” Loosely based on Psalm 92, the song features well-known reggae trumpeter Junior “Chico” Chin and has long been one of the band’s signature works. On the liberation song “Chains Dem,” lead vocalist Ras Anbesa Tafari sings on the bridge, “We are out here in our Babylon / look around and there’s nowhere to go / equal rights that’s for everyone.”

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The wailing rock guitar of Jassiah “Lion” Boswell on the intro to “Mightly People” signals a turn toward the Reggae rock fusion for which Army Gideon is known, as lead vocalist Ras Anbesa Tafari sings “the gift of Rastafari sets you free.” Boswell also takes over the midsection of the title track, “Forsake Not,” with Tafari contributing vocals as well as violin and guitar. The band is anchored by the “heavy and steady” rhythm section: Steve “Skins” Kornicks, percussion, Dane “Spice” Hutton, and Sheldon “Don Don” Satchell, bass

Forsake Not will delight fans of Army Gideon, who have been waiting a long time for the group to release an album. Most if not all of these tracks have been in the band’s repertoire for several years, and it certainly shows in the tight performances.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

One Love

Title: One Love: Word Sounds & Powah

Producer/Director: Howard Johnson

Label:  Screen EDG/MDV Visual

Cat. No.:  EDGE59D

Format: DVD

Region Code: 0

Duration: 110 minutes

Release date:  May 19, 2009

One Love: Word Sounds & Powah is a remarkable three episode series that delves deep into Rastafari and Nyabinghi culture. Often misunderstood and stereotyped, this film is a rare opportunity for an inside glimpse into the practices and ideology of Rastafari. Shot in London and Nottingham in the early ‘90s, the three episodes form a unique document of Rasta history, reasoning, and artistic creation. The film features the late Jah Bones who sets out the Rasta agenda illustrated with drums, music, poems and praises from dedicated interpreters like Jah Sheperd, Ras Anum Iyapo and Cosmo Ben Imhotep.

Part One: Nyabinghi Blood and Fire

Filmed at the Rastafari Universal Zion headquarters in Tottenham, London, this is a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to observe the sacred drumming ritual that calls on thunder, lighting, brimstone, blood and fire to burn and destroy the weak hearted and promote the righteous. The ceremony brings together old, young, men and woman in the praise of Jah and the celebration of Rastafari.

Part Two: Blues for Rastafari

Shot mainly at the Simba Project, Woolwich, London, this episode deals with the historical dimensions and roots of Rastafari.  Beginning with the Empire of Kush, 400 BC in Central Africa, the film discusses the impact of African Biblical traditions during slavery, including pocomania in Jamaica. It then progresses to the rise of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and the persecution of the early pioneers in the maroon tradition like Leonard Howell at Pinnacle, Jamaica. This section culminates with a reception given to Emperor Haile Selassie I at the Kingston Airport and the eventual globalization of the movement.

Part Three: Word Sounds and Powah

Shot in London and at the Matismela, in the Marcus Garvey Centre, Nottingham, this episode describes various notions of livity-Rasta as a way of life, as a life-force, as a sense of well-being, as a receptacle of love and creation, as humility in the face of human and corporate greed, and as a teaching which opposes isms and schisms. Musical interpretation is provided by the Naturalites, who, amongst other praises to Jah, sing their classic anthem Picture on the Wall.

The 110 minute DVD was directed by Howard Johnson, who also directed the Deep Roots series and the soon to be released, much anticipated Rocker s Roadshow. Johnson is able to capture cultural aspects from a fly-on-the-wall perspective that really brings forth the blend of music and life that exists in Jamaica and its Diaspora.

Posted by Heather O’Sullivan

Word, Sound and Power

Title: Word, Sound and Power
Artist: Soul Syndicate Band
Label: FOCUSED; distributed by MVD Visual
Format: DVD (5.1 surround, 60 min.)
Catalog No.: MVD4634
Release Date: 2008

Word, Sound and Power is an impressive documentary that captures the essence of Jamaican music and spirit by featuring one of Jamaica’s finest instrumental and studio groups, the Soul Syndicate Band.

Formed in 1963, the Syndicate has worked with all the great Jamaican recording artists, including Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Director  Jeremiah Stein combines a mixture of performance and interviews to bring forth the talent and insight of lead guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith, drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis, rhythm guitarist Tony “Valentine” Chin, and bassist George “Fully” Fullwood. The film also features vocalists Earl Zero and Tony Tuff to help round out the performances by leading the band out of the purely instrumental realm.

The film opens by introducing the Syndicate with an ensemble performance in a Kingston yard. After quickly establishing the origins of the group, the film moves to connect roots reggae with Rastafari. Stein employs Jamaican Dallas Rogers to conduct the personal interviews and provide contextual information. The presence of Rogers seems to put the artists at ease and gives the interviews creditability that might have been lost if there were conducted by the American director.

The interviews are shot riverside, in the lush interior of the Jamaican jungle, suggesting a connection to land, to the roots. Blended with acoustic performances, the interviews combine brief lessons on the evolution of Jamaican music with Rasta philosophy. What is truly remarkable about this film is that it captures the connection between the music and the culture that is felt in Jamaica. The shifting back and forth between the Kingston yard and the river locations is representative of the dichotomy of urban and rural life in Jamaica. The music itself exemplifies the connection of African musical roots and post colonial ideology. The film culminates with the performance of None Shall Escape the Justice, a Rasta anthem that expresses the rhetoric and love that a Rasta man must balance in day to day life. Following is a brief promo clip:

Word, Sound and Power was originally filmed in 1980 and has been reissued for the first time on DVD. The documentary has a 60 minute run time that will leave you singing the closing song long after the film is over.

Posted by Heather O’Sullivan

Deep Roots Music

Title: Reggae Nashville: Deep Roots Music Vol. 1-3
Artists: Various
Label: Dist. by MVD Visual
Format: Color, Compilation, DVD-Video, NTSC
Region: All regions
Language: English
Catalog No: MVD 49-51
Year: 2007-2008

Deep Roots Music, an extraordinary documentary on Jamaican reggae music that was originally filmed in the early ’80s as a six part series for the BBC, was recently released on three DVDs (each including two of the original segments). Director Howard Johnson takes us on a musical journey through the complex history and culture of reggae music. Included are countless interviews and vintage footage of some of Jamaica’s most prolific musicians, producers and cultural icons. What is remarkable about this series is that it deviates from the customary documentary format and instead is filmed with a process oriented theme that gives the viewer a fly-on-the-wall perspective to Jamaican music and culture. The series is narrated by the late British reggae icon Mikey Dread, who provides the minimal commentary tying the segments together. Each DVD contains two thematic 50 minute segments skillfully blending the music and culture together:

Revival/Ranking Sounds: parts 1 & 2

Revival, explores reggae’s roots and stylistic influences, including Kumina, Poco, Burru, Mento, and Ska. Featured is archival and never-before-seen footage of the Skatalites, Toots and the Maytals, and Count Ossie, along with interviews with cultural historians that help bridge the gap from African music to reggae. Ranking Sounds unveils the origins of dee-jaying and toasting by introducing the mobile sound system and the birth of the Jamaican recording industry. Featured in this segment is Count Matchoucki, U-Roy, Prince Jammy, Prince Buster, and a rare interview with Duke Reid’s widow.

Bunny Lee Story/Black Ark: parts 3&4

Bunny Lee Story is an intimate look inside legendary producer Bunny Lee’s studio plus conversations with Prince Jammy, Delroy Wilson, Jackie Edwards, and Wayne Smith. Black Ark looks at the influence of Rastafari on reggae music, featuring rare footage of His Imperial Majesty Haile Salassie 1 during his visit to Jamaica, as well as Nyahbinghi drumming, the Mighty Diamonds and Bob Marley. Also provided is an in-depth look into the creative cosmos that is Lee “Scratch” Perry and his Black Ark studio.

Following is an excerpt from this segment, including opening and closing credits:

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Money In My Pocket/Ghetto Riddim: parts 5&6

Money In My Pocket shows the connection between politics, commerce and music. Featured in this segment is the footage of the infamous Bob Marley & the Wailers concert where he united rival political candidates during the bitter and violent campaign of 1978. Also highlighted in this segment is a close look at the “prince of reggae,” Dennis Brown, in his studio. Ghetto Riddim examines the process of finding new talent by showcasing street corner auditions, including an afternoon at Jack Ruby’s as he holds his weekly auditions outside the gates of his studio.

Deep Roots Music is a crucial series that provides much greater depth than most documentaries on Jamaican music. The interviews and rare footage alone make the series one of the most definitive resources on reggae music to date.

Posted by Heather O’Sullivan