IN the era of dancehall and remixes, traditional roots-reggae has lost favour among Jamaican youth. In California, however, the sound has a legion of fans thanks to diehard artistes such as Ras Teo.
The singer returns to the scene on June 4 with the release of Celestial Rockers, an eight-track EP that would make dub legends like King Tubby proud. It is produced by Zion I Kings, a collective which specialises in that sound.
“We have been doing hard-core roots ever since Ras Teo - Entah, which came out 2009. I an' I is more focus now on raising the standard of reggae music with consistent roots music,” Ras Teo told the Jamaica Observer.
Zion I Kings' principals include Laurent “Tippy I” Aldred, whose I Grade Records out of St Croix has produced songs by a number of artistes from that country as well as Jamaican acts like Jah9 and Jesse Royal. Andrew “Moon” Bain and David “Jah D” Goldfine are also members of the group.
Ras Teo agreed to collaborate with them after an introduction by Goldfine, who played bass on his previous project.
“While reasoning with Jah D on a video call he introduced me to some of his works, which sparked some interest and brought forth four vocal [songs] and four dubs for Celestial Rockers,” he disclosed.
Andrew “Drew Keys” Stoch, a keyboardist who played on Celestial Rockers, died in December. He had also toured with Common Kings, a leading band on the California reggae circuit.
Ras Teo has an interesting history. Born Teodik Hartoonian in Uppsala, Sweden to Armenian parents, he grew up in Los Angeles where he discovered Jamaican roots-reggae by listening to acts like Fred Locks and Sizzla.
To date he has released seven albums, working mainly with European producers. Ras Teo's previous album, the 24-song Ten Thousand Lions, was produced by Robert Sanchez of Spain.