Malasimbo Music Festival happening from March 1-3 this year in Puerto Galera will be headlined by two of the biggest names in reggae and the blues and a supergroup of sorts in local ethnic music. Let’s see how their latest releases measure up to the blah behind the music.
Two years ago, the first reggae superstar, Jimmy Cliff, was inducted to the Rock and Roll of Fame. Jimmy who, you say? Well, Cliff just happened to star in the film and play in the soundtrack to the classic movie “The Harder They Come.” He came out with all guns blazing in that 1971 flick, some three years before guitar god Eric Clapton gave island rhythm its biggest push by way of a Bob Marley cover.
In the song “Reggae Music” on his latest album, Cliff describes his early involvement in introducing reggae to the rest of the world. He recalls a meeting in 1962 with jazzman Les McCann who invited him to Beverly Hills to record the music in the style of ska. Cliff then goes on to pay tribute to the sound that makes him feel good and that all is right with the world.
Reggae may be joyous dance music but after playing the music for 50 odd years, Cliff has not forgotten that it is rooted in the search for change by an oppressed people. In time with the carnival-esque sway of album opener "World Upside Down" is a pained plea for love in an era of “too much injustice, tyranny and religious hypocrisy.” In "Children’s Bread," he places prosperous Wall Street on the same page with hungry children and pampered dogs.
Cliff remakes The Clash’s "Guns of Brixton" into an un-punk yet poignant appeal for heroic deeds. Distress amidst merriment also haunts his moving rendition of “Ruby Soho” originally done by US punks Rancid whose main man Tim Armstrong produced "Rebirth."
Reggae, punk and human affairs turn the album into a potent elixir, enough to resurrect the legacy of the music’s greatest living legend. Jimmy Cliff unpacks the magic of roots, rocks and reggae ‘round midnight on March 2, the second day of Malasimbo Festival 2013.
"The Soul Sessions Vol. 2"
Blues babe Joss Stone has always been likened to Janis Joplin, or at best to the female Rod Stewart before his voice got mugged by Hollywood.
Stone would enjoy artistic and commercial success after the release of her breakthrough debut The Soul Sessions in 2003 where she re-imagined soul as the new blues. A spate of follow-up albums founded on rootsy blues failed to match the supernova of her first release though Stone remained a bright light in the alt-music scene albeit one quietly moving in the sidelines in the wake of prefab shooting stars.
Rather than fade away, she takes another stab at re-wiring soul and rock numbers to her blues heart and on her second "Soul Sessions," she retains much of the luminous quality that turned Vol. 1 into a classic recording. Her covers of songs originally done by The Chi-Lites, Womack & Womack, The Dells and Sylvia Robinson acquire a funkier groove while the makeovers of tunes by contemporaries Broken Bells and The White Stripes reconfigure the rock and roll abrasion to a hot soulful strut.
It’s difficult to shower hosannas on alternate versions of people’s songs but in Josh Stone’s impressive pipes, the magnificent ones get a second chance at showing the essence of their greatness. Joss Stone bares her bluesy soul on the final night of Malasimbo Festival 2013.
Grace Nono-Bob Aves Group
The husband and wife team behind Tao Music label will topbill the opening night of the Festival. Nono is best known for her personal and scholarly pursuit of re-discovering musical traditions across the country. Berkeley trained musician Aves is keen on seeding Pinoy strains into the world’s avant jazz/post-rock terrain. Together and in cooperation with kindred souls, their flagship musical outfit should resound with Tao Music’s avowed mission to “unveil the role of music as an expression of the sacredness of life.” Life is music, indeed.