Sizzla ‘In Gambia’ (VP) 3/5

Reggae musicians have at regular intervals toured Africa, most notably Culture and Pete Tosh, while no less than Bob Marley himself famously performed at the independence celebrations for Zimbabwe in 1980. Dancehall singers have been a good deal fewer on the ground, though in recent years Sizzla has shifted markedly to a more cultural stance. This new album is not in fact a live recording, but rather one recorded in a studio in Gambia, then mixed in Jamaica. One does wonder what served as the inspiration for the stay and why there was no collaboration with local musicians which is something of a lost opportunity. Several of the songs allude to being in Gambia, but somewhere along the line Sizzla decides that he is more interested in a performing a hybrid of contemporary r‘n’b and reggae rather than in fusing reggae and African styles. The singer is at his strongest on the uplifting lyrics and roots feel of ‘Blackman rise’ and on the falsetto-led vocals of ‘Feed the children’. Thereafter, Sizzla seems to lose the plot on ‘Woman of creation’ and ‘Where is the love?’ Does he want to record a whole album of this nu-soul material? If so, fine, but it does sit oddly here. A mixed bag of an album and not all in the reggae idiom.

Tim Stenhouse