Bambu Station Studio Presents Various ArtistsBambu Station Talkin' Roots Volume 1

[Mt. Nebo Records, 2002]

Occasional small bits of good news are necessary for a balanced lifestyle. One such tidbit that gladdened my heart recently was a brief note on Mt. Nebo’s web site, to the effect that there will soon be a second various artists compilation, “Talkin’ Roots II.” To me that’s splendid news because it will likely be as entertaining and uplifting as “Talkin’ Roots I.”. And in the meantime, there are other current albums from Bambu Station Studio to sample.

This reggae from the Virgin Islands demonstrates that Midnite is by no means the only huge talent emerging from those tiny spots on the map. This is as competent, rootsy and varied as any reggae fanatic could want: an hour’s worth of memorable tunes, socially aware lyrics and solid musicianship. It starts off with one of the strongest vocals, by the singly-named “Iba,” who urges us over a complex but never overpowering arrangement to “Chant a psalm a day, read a proverb a day, and you won’t go astray;” he comes back later with a second potent, sensitive delivery of thoughtful lyrics on “Tell Me Why.” The deep heartbeat rhythm of “Works of the Wise” anchors an impulsive, gruff, dancehall-flavoured verbal tongue-twister by Yah Shiloh I. The distinctive sound of Dezarie—the only one of the assemblage I was familiar with before—is a welcome addition, given her usual heartfelt handling of dread lyrics; the title of this one is “Woe!”

The strong song writing continues as the album carries us from one confident performance to another. What helps the musical flow immensely is that the same core of talented musicians plays behind the “various artists” who are doing the singing. Besides those mentioned above, those singers include Ankh Watep, Natty Empress and Jalani Horton; and I simply have to mention the stunning vocal by André Llanos that concludes the album on an appropriately subdued, prayerful, beautiful note.

Anyone who has heard Midnite may not have to be persuaded of the vibrancy of Virgin Islands reggae, but this compilation readily confirms for me the creative spirit of the people at Bambu Station Studio, and the power of their music. I’d suggest you learn that lesson for yourself.