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Ras JaJa puts spin on Cliff's classic

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Thursday, February 20, 2014    

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DUB poet Ras JaJa was recovering from a broken relationship in 1996 when he heard one of pop music's most enduring ballads on the radio.

The song was Jimmy Cliff's Many Rivers to Cross, and he was certain its sombre tones spoke directly to him.

"When mi listen it, is like the same vibes me'd a go through Jimmy Cliff a sing 'bout. It was like me him a talk to," Ras JaJa recalled.

It was not until last year that he covered the song with Toronto-based singer Visionary. Their version is scheduled to be released in March.

According to Ras JaJa, although he added a few lines, there is not much change made to Cliff's 1971 classic.

"Is basically an answer to his song, but the Elder still get all the accolade," he said.

Initially, Ras JaJa planned to record the song with singer Bobby Harris, his colleague in the group Dub Traffickers. In the 1990s, they collaborated on songs like What a Ting and Pon di Plantation.

That project was put on ice until two years ago when he met Visionary at the launch of his (Ras JaJa's) poetry book, The Vibes, in Kingston.

"We started talking about it an' he liked the idea of the song," said Ras JaJa.

Many Rivers to Cross is done to a Nyabinghi beat courtesy of the Uprising Roots Band.

Inspired by dub poets Mutabaruka, Yasus Afari and Cherry Natural, Ras JaJa (real name Cleon Golding) is from the Stony Hill area of St Andrew.

His first serious crack as a performing artiste came with Dub Traffickers, which also included a singer named Jah Bouks.

A graphic artist at the Institute of Jamaica, he continued to write poetry during his break from recording. Some of those poems can be found in The Vibes.

Many Rivers to Cross is a co-production between Motive Production and Vision For Life Productions.





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