Busy Signalís deserved reputation as a hardcore dancehall deejay often overshadows his bringing a fresh tunefulness to the genre in recent years, expanding its scope and extending songsí longevity. With Reggae Music Again he builds on all the clever musicality of 2010ís D.O.B. to produce an album that, appropriately for the 50th anniversary of Jamaicaís independence, immerses itself in reggae music heritage.
It works because rather than attempting to do traditional reggae, Busy brings the musicís ideas and attitudes into his world, performing with confidence and invention without leaving his comfort zone. He and his musicians totally understand the vibes connecting the musicís various aspects with its audience, and (re)create them in an entirely modern setting. Thus his singjay vocals can be more sing than jay this time without any compromise.
Two tunes sum up this approach. On its surface 119 is pure dancehall, all sharp edges and brisk tempo; but itís pulled back a couple of decades by subliminal touches of echo and a drum pattern which could be a bassline. Kingston Town, meanwhile, talks of a dark side of the city far removed from Lord Creatorís version, presenting itself as a spooky repurposing of dub technique and deejay toasting.
By using everything the modern studio has to offer the album stays contemporary, yet by employing musicians such as Robbie Lyn, Dean Fraser and Kirk Bennett for a more traditional feel, Reggae Music Again bridges Jamaican musicís digital divide. Modern Day Slavery and Fire Ball are multi-layered roots music: the former builds on a clever organ and tops off with understated spin echo; the latter uses horns to bring an underlying swing to the sequenced beats.
Lovers rock is present and updated with Royal Night, stitched together with a killer guitar line, and on Jah Love, which adds an intriguing choral element to some cool beats. Pop reggae gets a brightíníbreezy look in with the title track and Run Weh, while Comfort Zone is a delicate acoustic mix that Busyís righteous vocal keeps rooted in the dancehall.
The only time anything sounds at all derivative is when Wicked Men draws heavily on Lee Perry and Niney, and Part of Life conjures up vintage Black Uhuru. But thereís enough updating to make these pieces his own.
Really, Reggae Music Again is far more than what it seems to be billed as, namely "Busy Signal changes style". Itís an important evolution of dancehall, connecting it to the timeline of Jamaican music, then pushing forwards into the 21st century.