Not to be confused with Howard Rosen and Jerry Gordon’s American jazz and blues record label of the same name, Evidence Music is a prolific contemporary reggae label with their recording studio in Geneva, Switzerland, but franchising and presenting many upcoming Jamaican artists. Ergo, while I’ve mentioned before the Swiss valuing archaic origins of reggae, with ska, rock steady and roots subgenres through labels like the fantastic Fruits Records, Helvetia also has a penchant for modern styles of Jamaica’s musical outpourings.
A decade prior to Bob Marley & The Wailers playing Zurich as part of their final Uprising tour, the presence of reggae was oven ready, in the seventies popular Swiss band Rumpelstilz produced Kiosk, with a definite reggae influence. Nowadays, the international market blends their own brand and traditions into reggae, and the Swiss are of no exception. Local artists Dodo and Jo Elle perform in the native tongue, and Zurich’s Rote Fabrik club plays a key role in promoting reggae.
Still though, back across the ocean reggae is never stagnant and rarely dabbles in retrospection. It’s progressive. I look now to Wellington Smart, aka selector Freddy Kruger’s Boot Boy Radio show after my own, to hear the latest trends via his label, Drop Di Bass and what I do hear is similar to Evidence Music’s DJ and producer 808 Delavega, on his self-titled debut album.
In tune with said progression, we’ve come along way from the nineties divide between dancehall and lovers, through the millennial cross-over inclination to include dancehall toasting in US RnB and hip-hop tracks, and we find ourselves today with a sound almost void of offbeat and one-drop riddims antiquatedly associated with the reggae of Marley’s heyday. An era where Damien Marley’s anthological dancehall is more important than his father’s. 808 Delavega embraces this, he’s passionate about hip-hop as well as dancehall, and founded Derrick Sound in the 2000s.
With Nicolas Maître and Nicolas Meury of Little Lion Sound, Derrick Sound was the mainstay for the formation of the Evidence Music label and it fast become Switzerland’s leading urban label. There the team involve themselves in a multitude of projects, 808 Delavega produces popular Jamaican artists such as Sizzla, Capleton, Morgan Heritage and Danitsa. Reflecting back on his excursions to Jamaica, he focussed on the innovative subgenres of afrobeat and trap to produce this fresh debut, and it’s certainly that.
I’m not going to suggest this is for everyone, our retrospective preconceptions of reggae persist, I’m suggesting forward-thinking youth, maybe already partly allied via current pop trends in dancehall which seen Sean Paul featured on a Little Mix track, et all. But in essence this is diverse, experimental, and underground, pulling the boundaries of RnB grind and dancehall even tighter. There can even be intros here which ring of eighties electro and electronica, and relics of garage house; imagine David Morales producing dancehall and you’re somewhere in the light of this interesting blend. How I think this works so well is the splinters of afro-beat, a beguiling genre I’m personally hot under the collar about.
Always held a penchant for dancehall too, though accepting the sparseness of the beats and uncompromising patois can sound alien to European and American audiences. 808 Delavega plays this down. The jargon is not misconstrued, and once the beat kicks in you’ll hear nothing of the of scarcity of millennial dancehall, but riddims which ride along smoothly, like RnB. Dancehall artists established and upcoming feature, yet even when legendary Beenie Man toasts on the subject of election violence, it adopts this ambiently slick tenet. It may be rather glossy but this breaths wide-appeal, beyond reggae aficionados.
Charly Black offers possibly the sparsest track, Eesah perhaps the most sensual. Throughout though it never frenzies and takes it mellowly and euphorically. So yeah, I like it (despite it makes mi waistline feel old!) for its innovativeness, and freshness.