|Female reggae artists are still a rare breed, even after all these years. Sure, Sister Carol, Tanya Stephens, Lady Saw and a few others have gained the sort of notoriety needed to maintain a successful career, but the number of women in reggae is certainly disproportionate in comparison with their male counterparts. A new face is on the scene, however, and what makes her appearance even more unique is that she is from Jerusalem.|
Queen Makedah's debut on Oriyah Music, "The Awakening," isn't straight ahead reggae, or even reggae with an African flavor (a la Lucky Dube). Rather, it's a collection of mature tunes with Caribbean influence and touches of R&B and adult contemporary sounds. Makedah has a great voice and the support from Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus improves the overall package.
While the production on the album isn't the most engaging that I've heard, Makedah's voice is soulful enough to keep things interesting. Ras Michael adds his vocals on a few cuts, adding flavor to `Love is a Universal Language' and `On the Day that Babylon Falls.'
The best cut on the album is `Deliver Us,' a positive, upbeat roots tune written by Makedah and Tuviel Levi. While all of the tracks on the album carry an uplifting, spiritual message, `Deliver Us' works better all-around with the help of the best instrumentation of the disc. `My Heart is In Zion' is similarly powerful and also comes in an instrumental version at the end of the disc.
While the songs on "The Awakening" are all relatively strong, I can't help but feel that there's some potential not being explored here. I think the "adult contemporary" route is the wrong one to take, especially with a message as spiritual as what Queen Makedah has to offer. I think that for her sophomore effort, she and her crew should take a closer look at songs like `Deliver Us,' `My Heart is In Zion,' and `I Lost Everything.' Ultimately, Queen Makedah works best when she's doing straight-up reggae; I think she would also do well to fuse in some traditional Israeli music.
But, when all is said and done, the fact is that Queen Makedah has still delivered one of the best performances from a female reggae singer in recent years. There's a lot of talent here, and I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more from her in the future. For more information, visit www.queenmakedah.com.