Regarded as one of Jamaica’s most promising young acts, the band Raging Fyah makes music that is tethered to their island’s enduring, much emulated roots rock reggae tradition yet is distinguished by an expansive vision that propels their musical journey forward. The band received critical acclaim for the intricate harmonies, nuanced musicianship and impressive songwriting skills showcased on their previous self-released albums, Judgement Day (2011) and Destiny (2014), while songs such as the redemptive “Nah Look Back” and the spiritually enriching “Jah Glory” earned comparisons to legendary reggae outfits including England’s Aswad and Steel Pulse, and Jamaica’s beloved Third World.
One of few self contained groups (as opposed an artist’s backing band) within contemporary Jamaican music, Raging Fyah is now poised for a significant impact upon America’s vast reggae landscape (dominated by homegrown bands) with the Spring 2016 release of Everlasting, their debut album for VP Records’ Dub Rockers imprint. Recorded live at Kingston’s legendary Tuff Gong Studios producer Llamar “Riff Raff” Brown (whose credits include Stephen and Damian Marley, Richie Spice, T.O.K and 2016 Grammy Award winners Morgan Heritage) incorporates broad based influences, various acoustic subtleties, and a few guest artists, all of which enhances as well as expands Raging Fyah’s established reggae identity.
“Working on this album was very exciting but challenging; we wanted to stay within the context of who Raging Fyah is, but we never want to box ourselves in either,” explains the band’s bassist/backing vocalist Delroy “Pele” Hamilton. “Being free spirited as musicians, we spend many hours jamming all kinds of music when we rehearse so we said why not use some of what we feel naturally on our record?”
The title Everlasting was chosen to convey the durability of Raging Fyah’s music and the long term effect collaborating with Riff Raff has had on the band. “We had the choice to work with any producer we wanted, locally or internationally and we chose Llamar,” says Raging Fyah’s keyboardist/backing vocalist Demar “Keysie” Gayle. “We have learned so much from him; the way he helped to shape our sound is an everlasting lesson.”
The set opens with Everlasting’s title track, its hypnotic dub effects and majestic brass summoning the eternal strength of Jah love while heralding the extraordinary musical experience presented on the album’s 13 tracks. From the carefree, easy skanking vibe of “Happiness” to the unshakable spirit of resiliency on the roots rocking “Try Again”; from the melodious crusade for “Justice” to the lush harmonies and gentle soulfulness of the “Ready For Love”, Raging Fyah’s varied experiences and broadening perspectives in recent years contributes to the sonic sophistication that characterizes Everlasting. The band has performed in such far-flung locales as Siberia, Russia and the South Pacific island of New Caledonia; they’ve developed a significant fan base throughout Europe where they have toured extensively and they are now gearing up for their first U.S. tour, supporting American reggae band Stick Figure on the latter’s Set In Stone tour beginning March 10, 2016 in San Diego. “From our last album until now, we have traveled so much, and experienced different scenarios that we felt should be a part of Everlasting,” says Pele.
Pele, Demar and Anthony Watson (drums, backing vocals) met while studying music at Kingston’s Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, under the tutelage of Ibo Cooper, former keyboardist with Third World. They joined forces with veteran guitarist Courtland “Gizmo” White and formed Inside Out in 2002 before changing their name to Raging Fyah in 2006. The band spent years backing artists at major stage shows in Jamaica; their long held ambition to perform original music became a reality when Kumar Bent signed on as lead singer in 2010. Kumar attended Edna Manley College a few years after his band mates, initially studying piano; at Cooper’s insistence he began writing and singing his own songs. Kumar’s supple expressive tone persuasively delivers Everlasting’s array of personas, including the playful suitor on the album’s first single “Dash Wata”, the Jamaican roots revolutionary on “RaggaMuffin” and the enlightened soldier in Jah Army on “Getting Dread” Each mood is ideally complemented by the band’s finely honed, faultlessly taut grooves.
Unlike their previous albums, Raging Fyah has chosen to collaborate with select guest artists on a few of Everlasting’s tracks. Rising roots sing-jay Jesse Royal joins the band in criticizing greedy, uncaring leaders on “Humble”; dancehall star Busy Signal, who was so impressed by the Everlasting recording sessions he is featured on two irresistible tracks, the pop flavored “Would You Love Me”, and the lilting “Live Your Life”, also featuring Compton, California raised reggae star J Boog, who cites Raging Fyah among his favorite bands.
Raging Fyah collectively writes their songs, many conveying personal meaning while simultaneously addressing wider issues. “Wondering” asks how did we get here, seemingly questioning a relationship gone wrong but the song was penned in Haiti as the band considered the descent of the first independent Black nation into one of poorest countries in the western Hemisphere, despite its plentiful resources. While emphasizing personal accomplishments through small achievements “Get Up” was written to motivate the progress of Africans throughout the Diaspora, notwithstanding the lingering effects of historical atrocities: “locked up in captivity, shipped across the Caribbean sea, so many years of slavery I still don’t know my identity”, sings Kumar, the purity of his emotionally wrenching vocals framed by Demar’s classically influenced piano, a representation of the culture imposed on slaves, prior to the segue into an emancipating reggae rhythm. “We put the classical part in to represent colonialism,” Kumar explains, “because the song is about a belief system, the advancement of the Black race, creeping first then walking as a people and taking pride in our history.”
Certain to be one of 2016’s most celebrated releases, Everlasting signifies a milestone in Raging Fyah’s career by raising the bar on their already lofty musical standards. “The challenging lyrics on Everlasting challenged what we were able to do as musicians,” says Demar. “Musically, we kept our roots but went way beyond them because there is not just one shape to fyah, it takes on different forms.”