[I Grade Records, 2004]

YahadanaiI Grade Records has done it again. They introduced the world to mystic Cruzan reggae music with Midnite, Dezarie, and Abja; demonstrating that they are adept at culling and nurturing artists dedicated to devotional music. Now, label owner Laurent “Tippy” Alfred and crew have moved beyond the borders of St. Croix to bring Guyanese singjay Yahadanai to the reggae listening world.

Yahadanai delivers his uplifting lyrics with raw fervency and spirit through a youthful sounding voice reminiscent of Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. Yahadanai comes to us at the point in life when youthful idealism is newly mitered and dovetailed with adult experience as one turns that corner toward maturity and wisdom. There is strength in Yahadanai’s delivery without the proselytizing often present in roots and culture songs. The power of his delivery lies in his humility, gratitude, and uprightness.

Yahadanai is backed by several gifted musicians including guitarist Tuff Lion of Bambu Station; Tippy Alfred; Kenyatta Itola; Jalani Horton also of Bambu Station; and James Smith of the Burning Brass, Burning Spear’s legendary horn section. With such musical talent behind him, Yahadanai’s voice and lyrics become puissant. Abja joins him on his call to ghetto youth, “Chant Out.” He collaborates with deejay Pressure of the Star Lion Family on the track praising Black femininity and strength, “Best Thing.”

“Rise”, “Wadada”, and “Best Thing” are the tracks promoted on I Grade’s marketing collateral and rightly so. “Wadada” with its upbeat tempo and joyous horn arrangements juxtaposed with Yahadanai’s questioning of violence make for biting irony. “Rise” conjures up images of people rising up as a man, small in stature but gargantuan in spirit, summons:

My people rise

Seek out humility
My nation rise
Uphold your divinity
My people rise
Know the land of your nativity
Rastafari give us Black liberty

But the song “Light” is most moving. Think back to being engulfed in the grayest, bleakest moment of your life. Recall the first glimmer, that pinhole of light, in seemingly utter hopelessness. Remember how that speck of light slowly grew diffuse, illuminated the bleakest of moments, and enveloped you with the warmth of hope? That swelling of hope is Yahadanai’s “Light”. Kenyatta Itola’s bassline, Dion Hopkin’s drums, and Tippy Alfred’s binghi drums pump blood through this piece. Tuff Lion’s guitar gives breath to it. Yahadanai infuses “Light” with the wisdom of an elder emanating from the voice of a youth.

I do, however, have two complaints regarding this album. The first, which continues to be a struggle for me, is to move past “Light”, the fourth track, to really explore and experience the remaining ten songs, which include “Mosiah Chant” featuring a sample of a Marcus Garvey speech, and the title track “One Atonement.” The second complaint is that the lyrics aren’t included in the liner notes. Yahadanai conveys a noble message of faith and hope with such economy of speech. It would be well worth the extra ink to include his lyrics for his audience to read and absorb.

But it is highly doubtful that these minor drawbacks would prevent anyone from immersing himself in this music. So, pick up this inspired and inspiring album soon… and move yourself past track four.