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Bob Marley: Kaya 40

Nenad Georgievski By

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In recent years there hasn't been a shortage of reissues of various artists as every five years there is some sort of anniversary which is a plausible reason for issuing an avalanche of remastered editions with various bonus materials in different formats. And it's amazing that music from past decades and long gone eras still manages to remind people of its timeless qualities. One of those artists whose music and shadow loom larger with the years is singer and reggae legend Bob Marley whose stature has experienced many resurgences of popularity.

Even after more than 30 years since his untimely passing, his past oeuvre is being reissued in various box sets and his studio work from various eras has found its way to the market. The reason for that is the music's timeless quality as Marley gave the world evocative and outstanding music that is still universal. His name even became a synonym for reggae music. More than this after all these years his songs have found their way into the fabric of people's lives.

The interest has been so huge that there is an avalanche of various editions of his releases, bootlegs, books, documentaries. Even more so his name is now a brand for various outlets other than music—clothing lines, museums, furnishings, resorts. So no wonder that only five years from the 35th-anniversary deluxe edition of Kaya now comes the 40th-anniversary edition which apart from the original remastered album consists of an additional remix and reworking of the whole album done by one of Marley's sons, Stephen Marley.

The story of the album Kaya is connected to previous unfortunate events in the life of Marley with the assassination attempt on him, his family and associates in his home in Jamaica and in the aftermath, the lengthy recording process behind the Exodus album. During the sessions, he recorded a wealth of material that eventually was split into two records, the second of which became Kaya. In the second half of the '70s, Marley became a bigger star—his records sold in more quantities and his concert drew larger and as the decade got to the end, massive audiences. Many fans worldwide looked up to him as a champion of rights and justice. But in many interviews at the time, he declined to cover subjects of current political affairs in great length but preferring to espouse a general philosophy of peace, justice, and Rasta. And in his homeland, he was seen as a political figure which culminated in an assassination attempt at the end of 1976 just a few days before the "Smile Jamaica" concert where he was scheduled to perform at. At the time the country was in a deep political crisis and on the brink of a civil war with waves of political assassinations happening. Two days after the attempt, Marley and the Wailer performed at the concert in front of an enormous crowd and very soon with his family he left Jamaica where they would not return for the next fifteen months.

Before the lengthy recording sessions in London, the band rehearsed extensively in Miami. But the marathon sessions in London proved to be highly productive, with more than album's worth of material. Actually, they had a wealth of material which they divided for the next two albums. The more forceful, grittier songs will be chosen for Exodus and the more mellow material, will be issued as Kaya.

While Exodus was an astounding success with its songs about religion, politics and romance, and is considered a majestic peak in Marley's career, Kaya portrayed a different picture and state of mind which at the time drew lukewarm criticism and accusations of being a sellout. But the album hit number 4 in the UK the week after its release and is the most successful album for Marley chart-wise. The prevailing mood was more peaceful, lighter and less urgent than the predecessor which also featured romantic songs apart from the prevailing political and religious subjects. Obviously, when not dealing with political issues Marley was a man who wrote about love. The album portrayed Marley in a different mood as this was a collection of love songs and songs about the power of ganja. The word "Kaya" is actually a street slang for dope and that is reflected in the slow going vibes that these songs are full of. Clearly, the title track is an anthem for marijuana and with this it is similar to the vast majority of reggae music—it seeks an endorsement for its acceptance and understanding. This song, like others on the record ("Satisfy My Soul" and "Sun Is Shining"), were previously recorded with producer Lee Scratch Perry and were re-recorded again.

Kaya also boasted another timeless and best love songs ever written by any artist "Is This Love." This song seems to arrive from the depths and blossoms quickly into the album's most memorable track, with shimmering guitars and airy percussion as Marley's voice wafts upward in a sweet, sensual haze. Since Kaya was released a month before the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston in 1978 where Marley was supposed to play (a performance that signaled his return home) obviously he was under pressure to release a new record before this event. The sheer musicianship is so tight and first-rate and as a result the songs all bear the stamp of timelessness and sound as fresh as when they were first recorded. For most of the rest of the album, positivity reigns, shining through in a spectrum of colors on song after song.

The 40th-anniversary edition does not contain any previously unreleased songs as on other reissues of this album, but it contains another version of this record. Stephen Marley has dived deep into a pool of recordings from the original sessions and has found many unused vocals and instrumentation and has reconstructed the whole album by using these alternative elements. This approach has nothing to do with what legendary producer Bill Laswell has done previously with his remix and mix translation approach to Bob Marley's songs as heard on Songs of Freedom (Ambient Translations Of Bob Marley In Dub) but more of what rock band the Doors did with the 40th anniversary mixes of their entire past catalogue where they inserted vocal bits and instrumentation from past recording sessions.

And this is not the first time that one of Marley's sons has gone into the vaults to revisit Bob's original session recordings. Singer Ziggy Marley has revisited the sessions and has found previously unused vocals and instrumentation and has helmed a different version of the Exodus album (dubbed as Exodus 40). But what Stephen Marley has done does not stray radically from the original shape of the songs. He is too respectful not to distort the songs and has retained the atmosphere and presentation of the original, and has given it an additional sonic boost. By remixing the songs and by adding different unused instrumental and vocal bits he has refreshed and revitalized the whole picture in a subtle way.

40 years onward, this record is still relevant and fresh, and the great achievement of this double release is the possibility to listen to these new mixes along with the old ones. This will bring so more to the surface of what the musicians have actually recorded during these sessions.

Track Listing: Disc: 1 Easy Skanking (Side A); Kaya (Side A); . Is This Love (Side A); Sun Is Shining (Side A); Satisfy My Soul (Side A); She's Gone (Side B); Misty Morning (Side B); Crisis (Side B); Running Away (Side B); Time Will Tell (Side B); Disc: 2 Easy Skanking (Stephen Marley "Kaya 40" Mix) (Side A); Kaya (Stephen Marley "Kaya 40" Mix) (Side A); Is This Love (Stephen Marley "Kaya 40" Mix) (Side A); Sun Is Shining (Stephen Marley "Kaya 40" Mix) (Side A); Satisfy My Soul (Stephen Marley "Kaya 40" Mix) (Side A); She's Gone (Stephen Marley "Kaya 40" Mix) (Side B); Misty Morning (Stephen Marley "Kaya 40" Mix) (Side B) Crisis (Stephen Marley "Kaya 40" Mix) (Side B); Running Away (Stephen Marley "Kaya 40" Mix) (Side B); Time Will Tell (Stephen Marley "Kaya 40" Mix) (Side B)

Personnel: Bob Marley – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion Aston "Family Man" Barrett – bass, percussion Carlton Barrett – drums, percussion Tyrone "Organ D" Downie – keyboards, percussion Alvin "Seeco" Patterson – percussion Junior Marvin – lead guitar Rita Marley – backing vocals Marcia Griffiths – backing vocals Judy Mowatt – backing vocals Vincent Gordon –Trombone Glen Da Costa – trumpet Winston Grennan - drums

Title: Kaya 40 | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Island Records

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Kaya 40

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2018

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