Kabaka Pyramid, Collie Budz, Alborosie and Anthony B
The California Roots Music and Art Festival - popularly known as Cali Roots - is the first music and arts festival in the Americas to have its own eponymous 'riddim-driven' project, and the producers, Ineffable Records, are hugely proud of this accomplishment. Dubbed the largest reggae-rock festival in the world, Cali Roots has, since its inception in 2010, hosted some of the biggest names in reggae, rock, hip hop and folk. And, naturally, the project features some of the artistes who have performed on the Cali Roots stage.
"The goal of the project is to expose the US reggae audience to riddim culture", Adam Gross, VP of Ineffable Records, told The Gleaner, adding that for some listeners, this is a novelty. "People have been asking me 'What is a riddim?', because they really don't know", he said.
The first compilation was released last year in the midst of COVID-19 shutting down the world, having been conceptualised from 2019. "It rolled out right in the thick of things during the pandemic. It was a time when people were unsure of whether or not to hold back their albums or release it, but we went ahead and released ours", he added.
Ineffable Records' parent company Ineffable Music Group is a partner in the festival, and the aim of both is to share music influenced by reggae with the rest of the world using artistes from across the globe who comprise this reggae ecosystem. The producers are delighted that last year's version, Cali Roots Riddim 2020, has surpassed 26 million plays on Spotify alone.
"This new album continues an ongoing effort by both Ineffable and Cali Roots to expose Jamaican culture and music to the American reggae scene. It is also to bridge the gap between reggae-infused music from around the world and have artistes from all parts of the globe promoting each other's music together", Gross said of the 26-track album. He spoke at length about the unity that the project has created among the various artistes and noted that this approach could very well be the future of music.
Some of the artistes featured on Cali Roots Riddim 2021 are Alborosie, Anthony B, Blvk H3ro, Demarco, Kabaka Pyramid with Medisun, Konshens, Turbulence, Ballyhoo! Cas Haley, Groundation, Iration, Naaman, New Kingston, Passafire, Surfer Girl and The Expanders
The compilation is promoted as "a global riddim project", and the rhythm itself was originally produced by roots reggae singer Collie Buddz, with the assistance of Jason 'J-Vibe' Farmer. Johnny Cosmic, super producer/multi-instrumentalist and touring guitarist in Californian reggae band, Stick Figure, then took the rhythm, added his own take to it, and mixed it.
For Johnny Cosmic, this was a tremendous learning experience and a great challenge that he embraced wholeheartedly. He explained that the Jamaican artistes definitely had a different approach from the Californian reggae contingent. He spoke highly of the "fearlessness" in their delivery of the music and the energy that these artistes put in their songs.
"It has been enriching. Trying to balance so many different approaches and tastes was demanding, and I learnt so much. The Jamaicans use lots of ad-libs, then they have the melody and a set of words and then there are these extra words and melodies to complement the main melody. Some artistes have the approach that says, 'I have to sing it this way', but the Jamaicans really expand outside of that box, and it is a great technique, and a lot of us can learn from it", Johnny Cosmic stated.
Igor Katz, Ineffable co-founder and manager for Collie Buddz, shared that last year it was Anthony B's single, Chill Out, that did best, and naturally, the artiste who has performed on the Cali Roots Festival is on the new compilation, set for release on May 28. In a testament to the reach of the project, he noted with a smile that there were persons who were excited about this song from "a new reggae artiste named Anthony B".
Katz was quite forthright in his expectations for this project. "My expectations are extremely high. We have spent time devising the best release plan. We are focused on mood over genre in getting the songs on various playlists. It could be an exercise playlist that usually wouldn't look at reggae, but we are pitching mood", he emphasised.
This time around, music videos will be released for some of the songs, in acknowledgement of the fact that "in some parts of the world, it's music videos that work best, in others, it may be Pandora". The visuals for Demarco's song, Stuck On You, premiered May 6.
The Cali Roots festival is traditionally held around Memorial Day. A pandemic-induced hiatus sees the next staging May 26 - May 29, 2022, at the Monterey County Fair and Event Center, featuring, among others: Jimmy Cliff, Ice Cube, Stephen Marley, Protoje, featuring Lila Ike and Sevana, Brother Ali, Sa-Roc, Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution, Atmosphere, Chronixx, Damian Marley, Sean Paul and Sublime With Rome.