Irie Souljah marches in Barcelona

United Nation of Reggae

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Sunday, March 23, 2014    

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This is the fifth in a 10-part series looking at the impact of dancehall/reggae culture around the world.

SPAIN'S Catalan region is famous for the all-conquering Barcelona football team and Rafael Nadal, the world's number one tennis player.

The country's largest reggae community is also in Barcelona. One of its emerging artistes is singer Joseb 'Irie Souljah' Grau.

The 22-year-old Irie Souljah says he discovered reggae five years ago. He has been in Jamaica since January doing recording sessions and performing on shows like the Dennis Brown tribute in downtown Kingston.

While commercial pop is the sound of choice among his peers, Irie Souljah says the Barcelona reggae scene has grown considerably in the last decade.

He credits one of Jamaica's most popular mediums for this surge.

"The sound system culture is good there. You have dancehall and roots and culture 'sounds' all over the city. There are also some bands coming up," said Irie Souljah.

Although the city of Benicassim hosts the massive Rototom festival annually, Barcelona and Madrid are Spain's biggest reggae markets. According to Irie Souljah, a diverse group of Jamaican artistes have performed in his hometown, including Protoje, Sizzla, Alpha Blondy, the Congos, Abyssinians, Luciano and Israel Vibration.

His personal favourites bridge the generation gap. Dennis Brown, Beres Hammond and Garnet Silk are his biggest influences.

To date, his recording career has been limited to the eight-song album Showcase with his band Mystic Souldier as well as Dem Nuh Know, a solo single.

Like Italian singer Alborosie, Irie Souljah believes for him to get his career as a reggae artiste going, he has to work with Jamaican musicians in Jamaica.

He has already put in some studio time in Kingston and makes it clear his trip to Jamaica is not a vacation.

"I know it's not easy but I want to live here because I feel it's my place. I have a good feeling being here," he said.





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