Alpha Steppa ‘3rd Kingdom’ (Steppas) 4/5

‘Outernational’ as a word cannot be found in most official dictionaries but it is a vital concept to Dub music. Two key elements of Dub which drew me in decades ago are borderless and that other worldly element. It can sound like something from out of space and yet can sound so earthy when rooted to sound system culture. Alpha Steppa is one lucky youth. Having spent the last year touring the world he comes back with his new release bringing together people from different parts of the globe who he had encountered whilst making ‘3rd Kingdom’. Dub comes from everywhere now more than ever. It’s a real worldwide force and Alpha Steppa takes it forward through the tradition of the music with some influences of dubstep and world music. 12 tunes and 12 dubs on the double CD release keeps you busy selecting through the night and there are some mighty collaborations as well. ‘Jah Jah Creation’ is one of them. I was fortunate enough a few weeks ago to spend a day with the humble giant of a mic chanter known as Ras Tinny reasoning on his plot of land, which he farms in Bally Castle, County Mayo, Ireland.

Tinny, originally from Surinam, has one of the most original voices and vocal deliveries heard in ages and he smiled when I mentioned ‘Jah Jah Creation’ the tune he is featured on alongside Jonah Dan and Dan Fe. Having spent that day with him, I must say the lyrics on this song ring true to his daily life on that beautiful land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. ‘Liberation’ is the most experimental tune on the LP. Building up into an alternative bass-heavy groover. It shuffles along with all kinds of sounds and samples, a chicken perhaps, a dog breathing, bells clanging and the odd kind of syncopation leads you back to the top for another play (I have to figure a way to drop this into a DJ set somehow).

‘Heart Made of Stone’ is based around The Viceroys’ classic and is covered well by Sista Iwa. But this is also a slight weakness of the release. While this cover works well having a charm of its own, some other songs tend to rely on familiar melodies which don’t work as well vocally. Also while experimentation is good, the dips into dubstep tend to sound a bit mechanical and processed – i.e. ‘Soulfire’. But ‘Prophecies Unfold’ featuring Cologne balances things out a bit more. It is experimental as well but in a different kind of organic and minimal way, which draws you into drop the dub version as well and venture more forward on the galactic journey.

Haji Mike