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Friday, 30 September 2016

Ancient Future, Protoje - Album Review


Protoje's studio album, Ancient Future is an aptly named, searing look into Jamaica's history and what can be surmised about the nation's future based on the mistakes of the past. This message comes home starkly in the track “Criminal” with its reference to the murder of musical and social icon, Peter Tosh.



The sentiment is echoed in the collaborative single “Sudden Flight” with Jesse Royal and songstress Sevana, which highlights the dangers and hypocrisy of garrison politics[1].



More than that, the eleven songs on this album, with references to Walter Rodney and Marcus Garvey ,but also to notorious gang leaders like Claude Massop, weave intriguing and insightful stories that expertly analyse the complexity of the nation's strengths and weaknesses; her frailty and beauty. This beauty is on full display in the video for the smash hit “Who Knows”, performed with Protoje’s compatriot, Chronixx.



Above all, the concept of Ancient Future is a musical exploration between the past and present that pays homage to the Jamaican musicians that paved the way for Protoje and his colleagues. This respect, coupled with Protoje's skilful storytelling is seen most obviously in his infectious contemporary take on Prince Buster's "Girl Answer to Your Name".



There is an open and raw element to this album that shines through from its inception with the song "Protection" and in the reflective, "All Will Have to Change". This is further expressed through the tales of love-lost heard in "Love Gone Cold” and “Stylin'".


Rastafari culture imbues every song on the album. However, its presence is most prominent in the marijuana-centric, “Bubblin’” and the introspective “The Flame.” “The Flame” provides an intimate window into the soul of the man behind the music. It demonstrates that his passion and dedication to this art form are paramount:

I rather be spiritually attained than critically acclaimed. Put that pon you brain, systematically drained. Whatever that dem saying, whoever that dem claim; coulda never know my pain and never bear my strain. Dem a study weh me sing, me ah sit and do me thing. Application ah within, supplication ah to Him. Then it becomes less about the tune dem weh ah spin, but the knowing that the work was the best it coulda been. Having the team deh pon the road ah tour with me, nuh mean a thing if the message nuh have the purity. And so me stay substance over hype.

Protoje's lyricism and musical dexterity have made him one of the most dynamic voices in a highly talented new generation of conscious reggae performers. His Coachella performance this spring was the product of hard work, diligence and commitment to his craft. It is clear from Ancient Future that his popularity and the power of his music will only intensify. There is certainly no way that Babylon can out this flame.  





[1] Since Jamaica’s independence in 1962, governance has been dominated by two political parties: the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). In the late 1960s both parties began to create “garrison communities” to secure political votes and seats in parliament. Garrison communities were towns and neighbourhoods controlled by gang leaders or “dons” who ensured the community’s loyalty to a specific political party through extortion and violence towards its residents. In return, these “dons” received financial rewards from the political party with which they were affiliated, and thus maintained a profound level of power within the community. According to Rupert Lewis in “Party Politics and the Extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke”:
Some 20 per cent of all constituencies and approximately 60 per cent of all urban constituencies have already been fully or partially garrisoned. Within a political constituency, a garrison is an area controlled by a leader or don who dispenses scarce benefits and violence in order to keep the constituents aligned to a particular party. This control enables an electoral candidate to win the seat by a large majority and become the Member of Parliament. Garrisons are therefore a central part of the political system because they provide “safe” political seats. Moreover, garrison constituents may assist in the task of political mobilization in other constituencies. Tivoli Gardens has been the main symbol of a garrison, but it is one of several and was deemed special, largely because it was well-armed and organized, had its own mechanisms for dispensing justice, and was informally outside the purview of the state until May 2010. The extradition of Coke and the subordination of Tivoli Gardens to the rule of law are the first major assaults on garrison politics and the power of dons whose financial and gun power give them influence, putting them in a position to significantly determine the outcomes of both local and national politics. (p.41)
Source: Lewis, Rupert. “Party Politics in Jamaica and the Extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke”. The Global South 6.1 (2012): 38–54. << http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/globalsouth.6.1.38 >>

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