Bobo Ashanti

[B]'Bobo Ashanti'[/B] is a 13-track blast, born of frustration, and deeply steeped in Old Testament lore...

People have kept a safe distance from [a]Sizzla[/a] in recent times. Since he made remarks at an open-air concert to the effect that he doesn’t welcome white people to his shows and would burn them with verbal fire, studios, musical associates and producers have kept the fiery Rastaman at arm’s length.

But the singjay is a hero to hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised ghetto-dwellers in Jamaica, and around the world, and it was always likely he wouldn’t be silenced for long. And what a return he makes here; head unbowed, unrepentant, and with tirades and streams of invective aimed against dissolute lifestyles and the Western world.

‘Bobo Ashanti’ is a 13-track blast, born of frustration, and deeply steeped in Old Testament lore, guaranteed to scare the bejaysus out of any listener not living a righteous, upright, ascetic and almost hermetic life. [a]Sizzla[/a]’s voice is that of a man unhinged and unfettered, who dispenses parables, advice and put-downs over a mixture of modern digital dancehall and old-school roots reggae. Its seems like a spiritually possessed trance, not laziness, guided the improvised vocal performances, with lyrics tumbling straight from his head onto the beats.

‘The World’ starts things off mellowly enough, as [a]Sizzla[/a] sketches out an apocalyptic scene of seals being broken in the biblical book of Revelation. And then the messages and exhortations to ghetto youths (his core constituency) come thick and fast. Never mind that the album lacks the scope, in terms of observation, of ‘Praise Ye Jah’ or the more conventional song structures of 1999’s ‘Royal Son Of Ethiopia’; the sheer power of the Xterminator and Fatis-produced beats and the visceral grain of [a]Sizzla[/a]’s sometimes abrasive voice are a deadly combination.

The plaintiveness of ‘Wicked Naw Go Prosper’ and the calls for divine retribution on ‘Attack’ go down as smoothly as the prayers set to music (‘This Day’), warnings (‘Children Beware’) and commands (‘Grow U Locks’) elsewhere. He even versifies a love song, of sorts, on ‘Good Looking’

Yet, the best way to understand [a]Sizzla[/a] is to note that he is a warrior (hence the Ashanti reference to an imperious and warlike Ghanaian tribe) and a Bobo Dread, who worships Haile Selassie. This tough Jamaican customer, controversial seer and product of centuries of Caribbean history won’t stop invoking thunder, lightning, fire and brimstone until he dies, change comes or biblical prophecies are fulfilled. Whatever happens first.