Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | March 27, 2011
Home : Entertainment
Uprising Roots lights a 'Skyfiya'
Uprising Roots Band members Lloyd 'Akinsanyah' Palmer (left), Ruel 'Pot-a-Rice' Ashburn (second left), Rashaun 'Blackush' McAnuff (second right) and Joseph 'Junior Congo' Sutherland at their Fairbourne Avenue, east Kingston, headquarters. The band has released its debut album, Skyfiya. - Photo by Mel Cooke

Within a neat border of similarly sized white stones, a fire smoulders at the Fairbourne Avenue, east Kingston, base of Uprising Roots Band. The three logs currently serving their final glowing hours are shifted intermittently with a long metal pole, curved at the end which goes into the fire, by band members.

There have been many logs before those heading steadily towards ash close to midday on Tuesday, as the fire was lit on December 3, 2008, and has never been out since. That was almost a year before the band did Know Yourself, the first song completed for their debut album Skyfiya, which was officially launched on Monday, March 14.

And just as they intend to feed as many logs as necessary to the fire to keep it burning, Uprising Roots' members plan any number of albums - all for themselves.

Band members Rashaun 'Blackush' McAnuff (lead vocals, drums), Lloyd 'Akinsanyah' Palmer (dub poet, keyboards), Ruel 'Pot-a-Rice' Ashburn (bass, engineer) and Joseph 'Congo Jr' Sutherland (percussions) are comfortable close to the fire as they explain the making of Skyfiya. Jeffrey 'Keyzy' also plays keyboards and Vania 'Colours' Isaacs does harmony.

Blackush says the idea of doing an album was broached by the band's manager after they did 'Breakfast with the Stars' at CTV when Jimmy Cliff was the featured guest. The matter was put in stark terms - that they had better do an album because musicians were at risk for suffering.

Frustration and 'suffaration'

"Him say one of you learn to sing," Blackush said. "Me did love vocals. Akinsanyah was in his dub poetry." Pot-a-Rice says there was also a guitarist, Mojo, who was upset that the group didn't have an album for themselves.

Uprising Roots had already experienced the frustration - and 'suffaration' - of investing their time and talent with an artiste, only to be left behind when the income-generating tours came. Akinsanyah points out that the quality of some artistes, including Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Tarrus Riley, is directly related to the band members. Also, Uprising Roots had sought for a lead singer in vain. "From we start we always a look for a artiste to tour with, to lead I an' I," Blackush said.

So they came together and did Know Yourself, the other 12 tracks on Skyfiya evolving from the band as a unit subsequently. Blackush steps from under the shade of the mango tree into the sunlight and spreads his arms as he explains the solar origins of Skyfiya.

"We assassinate we ego," Blackush said of the unified approach to the project.

And they also established a specific routine. Blackush said "In the beginning when we decided to do an album, we had a serious discipline for 52 days." That included getting up at 4 a.m. each day "before the glory of the morning come" and walking out to Rockfort Mineral Bath.

They would watch the sun rise over the mountains, Brightest Light coming from that experience.

Steamers is rooted in the experience around the fire.

The horns on Uprising Roots' debut album are especially striking and Pot-a-Rice says that Steamers was first done with synthesiser horns. Then it was done over with Jamaican hornsmen, along with Skyfia and Brightest Light.

However, although they wanted more songs to get the wind instrument treatment they could not pay for it.

Special moment

Then someone from France-based Makasound, with whom Uprising Roots already had connections, heard the tracks that were already done when he visited Uprising Roots' base. He carried a copy of the songs back to France, where Fiya Horns player Rico got interested in the album, eventually paying his way to Jamaica to record on the set.

"When Rico come is the hardest me ever work as a engineer. Me have to beg him mercy," Pot-a-Rice said. He played several horn tracks and also flute on Blessings.

Then Rico asked for tracks to take back home and played on those as well.

"The horns make the album different, make it special," Pot-a-Rice said.

And the band sees itself as part of a special moment in Jamaican music, pointing out that there are a number of other bands working as self-contained units. Among them are Dubtonic, Raging Fyah, Rootz Underground and I-Cient-Cy Mau and the Mau Mau Warriors.

"What we see is a positive movement coming forward with the musicians as artistes," Akinsanyah said.

Blackush quoted the scripture, that "the players and singers of instruments will be there", but quipped "some singer a gwaan like a singer alone. Them no learn 'bout equal rights and justice".

Uprising Roots plays the Negril One Love series next Tuesday, along with Third World. Akinsanyah says the band is now "very selective" about playing as a backing band.

"We not committed to that anymore," he said.

And Pot-a-Rice said "We ready fe record right now. We going do a whole heap a album and release them as time go on."

- MC

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