City of Jah: Sizzla x Bambas Dois “Only Jah Love (Raggatu)”

Words by Eddie STATS Houghton

Sometime last year, Sizzla Kalonji linked up with Brazilians Eduardo “Bid” Bidlovski and Gustah Sola while they were in Jamaica voicing riddims from Northeast Brazil for their Bamba Dois music project. The result was “Only Jah Love (Raggatu)”–one of the strongest Sizzla excursions in recent memory and something unique in the current spectrum of reggae. If there’s been a conspicuous absence in the auto-tuned world of nowadays one drop, it is the rejection of parallel sounds from the African diaspora in favor of a one-way transmission of influence from American pop, lacking even the occasional licks of Bollywood and Latin American rhythm that animated dancehall into the early 2000s. Part of the problem maybe that one drop has itself been so influential in the Third World that it often remains weirdly segregated from the local musics it plays alongside in Latin America and Africa. Or as Bidlovski put it to the Jamaica Gleaner: “This is the first time anyone came to Jamaica from Brazil with a riddim.”

In fact reggae has played a seminal–if not central–role in the evolution of Brazilian music over the years. Samba-reggae–a hybrid genre that found a perfect home for the Rasta philosophy of global superstar Bob Marley within local Afro-Brazilian rhythms–was instrumental in paving the way for Axé, which is now widely recognized as the signature sound of Bahia and Northeast Brazil, almost as synonymous with carnival there as samba is in Rio. The new-brand video for “Only Jah Love ” (above) nicely captures the natural Afro-connections between the musics while simultaneously showcasing the versatility of musicians on both sides of the equation, the singjay’s trademark breathless flow sliding from ghetto-rough to falsetto in time with the fluid maraca tu rhythm. Sola & Bidlovski also voiced Luciano, Queen Ifrica, U-Roy, The Heptones, Tony Rebel, Ky-Mani Marley and dub poet Oku Onura over Brazilian riddims ranging from forro to hastape (see below), so we can only hope that the synergy here is a little less unique by this time next year.