Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Record Review: “Amor Planeta” by Pacifika

Alt-Rock, Bossa Nova, Dance Pop, Indie Pop, Latin, Pop, Psychedelic, Record Reviews, Reggae, Rock, World Music No Comments »


On their third release, the Vancouver-based trio formed by vocalist Silvana Kane, guitarist/producer Adam Popowitz and bassist Toby Peter seem to be taking the music into a deeper, more psychedelic direction without completely losing touch with their Latin, Middle Eastern and electronic roots. The songs are still framed by near-whispered vocals and nylon-guitar-framed textures alongside multi-tracked instruments and vocals sung mostly in Spanish, but the trio seems to have found a more organic approach to their sound. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Green/Bottom Lounge

Reggae, World Music No Comments »


Save for balladeer Jack Johnson or the late Iz, few Hawaii-based artists seem to get much attention in the mainland no matter how big they might be on the island. Luckily for Oahu-born The Green, that trend does not hold true. Their mellow, optimistic take on reggae seems to have struck a chord with mainstream fans, and from their self-titled 2010 debut onward they have been able to get the attention of reggae radio stations with reach far beyond Hawaiian locals. Their third release, “Hawai’i ’13,” (out on Easy Star) is proof of that. Read the rest of this entry »

Guttural Rhythms: The Science of Ted Sirota’s Heavyweight Dub

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Reggae 1 Comment »

By Dave Cantor

09.20 Ted Sirota @ wrld music fest

Photo: Michael Jackson

Honing in on sounds drawn from Jamaica invariably abut America’s jazz tradition. Drummer Ted Sirota’s more than vaguely familiar with both. But his estrangement from reggae and dub didn’t occur because of lacking fealty. The drummer just found himself more easily insinuated into jazz ensembles.

“I’m rediscovering the whole thing,” Sirota says of Chicago’s Jamaican music scene, after spending the better part of the last two decades working in jazz mode across the city, including a regular date at the Green Mill as Sabertooth’s backbone.

Earlier in his career, the percussionist did time in David Byrd’s ensemble, which at one point included a former Black Uhuru guitarist. Other well-known guests weren’t too uncommon, either.

“Sometimes we’d play gigs where Hamid Drake would do percussion,” Sirota says. “He’d bring a djembe, and I’d play drums—we’d switch off a little.” Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Legend Remixed” by Bob Marley & The Wailers

Record Reviews, Reggae, World Music No Comments »


When music magazines make “best albums of all time” lists, Bob Marley & The Wailers’ “Legend” often makes the top fifty or 100. Given that Bob Marley’s music seems to win over fans who were not even around when cancer took him away from us in 1981, it feels right for the music to receive a face-lift through a dedicated remix of the entire disc in the hands of his sons Ziggy and Stephen plus a roster of MCs that include Thievery Corporation and Jason Bentley. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Nhojj/Center on Halsted

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Indie Pop, New Music, Pop, R&B, Reggae, Soul, World Music No Comments »

Photo: Rod Patrick Risbrook


This Guyana born, Chicago-based singer-songwriter is an artist of many facets. Though his music is heavily inspired by neo-soul, he also draws inspiration from the sounds from his native country and the Caribbean. For instance, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” and the activist “The Gay Warrior” song have a reggae-like flavor, while “I Like That” could be described as an American soul tune with a Latin vibe.

His approach toward music focuses on the music first: “Usually I start with a track, and then I develop the melody and the words that belong to the song,” he explained in a telephone interview. “If it feels sad, happy, encouraging or like a love song, I feel like songs are alive. I think I’m more in tune with this stage of music—I’m listening more to what the music tells me instead of trying to force things.”

Nhojj is also very vocal in his activism on gay rights and bullying. He believes that acceptance toward alternative lifestyles (he is openly gay) is a slow process, but that is how things are sometimes. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Easy Star’s Thrillah” by Easy Star All-Stars

Record Reviews, Reggae, World Music No Comments »

Since their first Pink Floyd tribute “The Dub Side of the Moon” was launched in 2003, The Easy Star All-Stars have regularly put out other albums honoring Radiohead ( 2006’s “Radiodread”) and The Beatles (2009’s “Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band”) in addition to discs with their own original material.

This time around, they have come together to take on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” one of the biggest-selling pop albums of all time in the United States. It is not an easy task, considering how ingrained many of the songs are in fans’ memories—it is little wonder that so few artists have recorded covers of tunes like “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” over the years. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Barrington Levy/Shrine

Dancehall, Reggae No Comments »


Beginning his singing career before most guys start shaving on a daily basis isn’t the most notable aspect of Barrington Levy’s time in music. By the time he was sixteen, the singer had released at least five albums—and that’s not including singles and one-off dub plates. Part of Levy’s early success was the result of working with producer Junjo Lawes, engineer Scientist and the backing group Roots Radics Band. But all these remarkable musicians in one room wouldn’t have mattered much if Levy’s voice weren’t one of the most unique in Jamaican music. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Lee Perry/Lincoln Hall

Reggae, Ska No Comments »


It seems that every year a new compilation gets sewn together displaying a unique slice of Lee Perry’s career—and somehow, each is entertaining. There are apparently so many different mixes and unreleased tracks in Perry’s history—even though his Kingston studio burned down and took tapes with it—that the deluge of albums isn’t set to slow. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad/Martyrs’

Reggae, World Music No Comments »


Upstate New York’s given the world a number of acts that defy place and time–Ithaca’s John Brown’s Body, for one. Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad isn’t as prolific, but has been a substantial voice in the hippified reggae scene over the last half-decade. The Rochester-based band’s first offering, “Slow Down,” was an anemic attempt to wrestle a bit of personality from a genre that has very little to do with the collective GPGDS experience in America. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Pinstripes/Beat Kitchen

Reggae, Ska No Comments »

Photo: Caroline Tompkins


There are places with a deeper connection to Jamaican music than Cincinnati, Ohio. The city, with its downtown area spilling over into Kentucky, feels like the gateway to the South. Doormen at shows can sport significant accents and there’re bound to be more than a handful of folks who eat nothing other than fried foods. Of course, Cincy counts Bootsy Collins as one of its best exports and Mood issued some of the most engaging hip-hop of the Rawkus era, pulling in Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek as accomplices. The Pinstripes, though, sit outside of that history. Read the rest of this entry »