Madu are a brother and sister duo, Salim and Aminah Dastan who make a lovely sunshine reggae sound and who are augmented by some of the finest musicians around, this is their debut CD From the Elders Yard which is a feast of electronic, downtempo and rich Jamaican sounds. Aminah and Salim are of Malaysian descent but have been based in Dublin for many years, this CD serves as fruition of Salim’s electronic, percussive and DJ skills and Amina’s warm and soulful vocals to create a lasting and enduring recording. I presume Salim is the groups bass player as well as being the electronics man whilst Amina already has a CD, Caravan trail under her belt and has been part of Donal Dineen’s Parish for the last few years.
From the Elders Yard encompasses many different styles, some tracks use an electronica ambiance that wouldn’t sound out of place on a King Tubby dub record from the 1970s, but also sounds modern enough to come from the trip hop downtempo 90s period of Massive Attack and Leftfield, tracks like the opener Striking Gold, Calling and the Sly and Robbie influenced The Ticket.
Aminah has a sweet vocal, soulful but folk tinged and chilled out, perfect for a care fee and spiritual feel good vibe. The range of horns players, guest vocalists and session musicians create a rich tapestry that matches the beautiful artwork of the CD cover.
Liam O’ Maonlai provides a nice counterpoint to Aminah and Philomena’s vocal (presumably Aminah’s sister) on track two The Lucky One, one of the more folkier numbers which develops into a class rock steady groove. The excellent horns contributions from saxophonist Simon Wall, trumpeter Ridzuan ‘Weed’ Shaffi and trombonist Aidil Fitri give that added seal to tracks like Foundation, Striking Gold, The Ticket and is almost on par with the horns you would hear in most of the Linton Kwesi Johnson records with the Dennis Bovell dub band.
Finding My Own way (track 3), this has great vocal harmonies and that trademark reggae skank or bounce which is most important when you want to make a dent in the reggae market, I am glad to say Madu has this in buckets.
One of the most commercial sounding and probably most likely to be a single is We Are Many (track 4), made all the more authentic with the inclusion of the melodica played by Jereme Moussaid and giving it a timely Agustus Pablo feel. Also with this track I cannot help thinking that it reminded me of early Bob Marley and the Wailers, but more like the Soul Shakedown feeling than their later stuff.
Track 5 The Deceiver adopts a more of a funk feel with the excellent keys of Daniel Rostrup, Salim’s D n’B roots come through on this track with subtle light beats in the undercurrent.
The Ticket (track 6) This sounds like something from the dub reggae vaults but with a gleaned future edge to it, technology meets tribal, it has touches of electro funk that could have been inspired by Sly & Robbie’s opus Stripped to the Bone remixed by Howie B, but with enough of a backbone and excellent percussion to keep it rootsy.
Sunshine (Track 7) Invites you to a rock steady beat, summery uplifting reggae which effortlessly changes into a jazzy laid back lull and sinks into a downtempo burner.
Killaloe track 8 I wonder if this is about the town in County Clare. This has a classic Pulp Fictionish Spaghetti Western feel to it, jarring guitar strings, tinkling pianos and a timely 60s ska sound.
Calling (track 9) This has a nice downtempo reggae bounce to it, Rostrup’s keyboards are exemplary on this along with Aminah’s vocals and Salim’s bass and electronic atmospherics, are you playing guitar too Salim? Nice stuff.
Foundation (track 10) This is a classic rock steady style with crystal clear drumming, skanky guitars and blissful horns. Over half way through a banjo (Frank Tate) joins the mix to create an eclectic folksy roots reggae number.
Shine (track 11) This is a jolly summery bouncy number with heavenly horns and nice smattering of interesting electronics from the switch doctor Salim. Aminah’s voice sounds suitably psychedelic during the chorus of shine, like it would be criminal if the band had to perform this on a open air stage during a torrential storm. it just wouldn’t be fair. So this song should get a similar status as Caribou’s Sun, which brought the sun out at Forbidden Fruit festival in Dublin last June.
Madu is a nice addition to Ireland’s reggae scene along with Galway’s Intinn and having played at the Body and Soul festival this year this CD should guarantee them a busier schedule over the next year.
Madu are playing in Dublin tonight at The Workman’s Club 2nd October, three nights in Bristol at The Old England 7th October, The Full Moon 8th October, Cosies 9th October. They return to Galway to play the Rowing Club in Woodquay 12th November.