Ken Boothe ‘Inna de Yard’ (Chapter Two/Wagram) 5/5

A kind of trend can be seen from the recent-ish ‘Inna De Yard’ contributions, a large number of which started as gatherings in Earl Chinna Smith’s ‘yard’ from legends The Mighty Diamonds, Junior Murvin and Kiddus I. In part this has come as a reaction to all the sameness of the machines, the auto tune effects and producers who have reduced some of the music out of Jamaica to chipmunk sounding braggers and boasters chatting foolishness, lacking the depth and meaning of Reggae’s roots and cultural heritage. The acoustic sound in reggae goes way back to Count Ossie and The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, Cedric “Im” Brooks and The Light of Sabah, Ras Michael and The Sons of Negus and countless Nyabingi chants recorded and released on vinyl from back in the day.

So approaching the latest release from Ken Boothe with all this in mind, an artist who has been in the world of making music for over 50 years, conjures up a special aura of expectation, largely because Ken can really sing and he is a significant artist in not just Reggae but music worldwide. ‘Inna de Yard’ is Ken Boothe acoustic and unplugged, mixed in a natural environment with the power and character of his characteristic voice shining through on every track. Many of these songs are known the world over, such as ‘Artibella’, ‘When I Fall in Love’ and ‘Speak Softly’ (yes of ‘Godfather’ fame!). But it’s not that they are just great covers of well-known songs but the manner in which Boothe makes them his, reinterprets them with his own imprint. This, however is not just an acoustic release – it’s Ken Boothe elevating across a song called ‘Rastaman Chant’ (not the Bob Marley tune). Here the soulful voice floats and glides, rasping, flying high, and defiant, articulating so much emotion. It’s the perfect remedy for contemplation on a day like this in Babylon. The perfect remedy, that no matter how bad things get, Jah music will always provide redemption and understanding. To quote from Ken himself “Slavery has done so much wickedness to people. My grandmother was American – she came to Jamaica because of slavery. My voice comes from my mother and when I sing I feel my ancestors – it’s like memory. When a person truly expresses themselves that’s what I call soul.”

Haji Mike