AMID the paranoia of COVID-19, veteran band Jahmark and The Soulshakers had their most successful song, aptly titled Happiness. Two years after strong reception to that single and an album of the same name, they are back with Vigilance, their sixth album.
Released in July, it has 15 songs and is released by Banana Boat Records. Mark "Jahmark" DaCosta, leader of the sextet, said Vigilance has a distinctly different tone than Happiness.
"Happiness was recorded before the 'plandemic'. It was for the most part a collection of upbeat, radio-friendly, easy-listening songs, many of which had crossover hit potential, while Vigilance was created not only while the 'rona' was raging but also in the midst of the unfolding Black Lives Matter protests here in the US. Therefore, Vigilance naturally and organically has a more militant edge while still managing to remain upbeat and positive as the album unfolds from song to song," he told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.
Jahmark, who is from central Kingston, started the Soulshakers there in the 1980s. They did a stint in Japan before settling permanently in Southern California during the 1990s.
Typical of reggae bands from that region, their fan base are diehard roots-reggae fans. Two years ago, however, a remixed version of Happiness was embraced by hip hop college radio on the US West Coast.
While pleased with the response to what is considered the band's breakthrough single, Jahmark insists no effort was made to duplicate Happiness on Vigilance.
"When it comes to songwriting and producing, it's about what's percolating in my heart and soul at the moment. I never try to copy the feel or pulse of a previous song or album because, obviously, in this case in particular, the world was a much, much different place between the time when Happiness was produced in 2018 and when Vigilance finally made its appearance at the end of July 2022," he explained. "I am a people person and as my songwriting abilities continue to grow, I have learned throughout the years how to 'edutain' my audience, that is to educate while simultaneously entertaining."
Jahmark does have faith in City of Angels, lead song from Vigilance. A mid-tempo reggae track laced with rock guitar, it is a homage to Los Angeles, the band's hometown.
"Even though I wrote the song based on the vibes that I get from living in the Los Angeles area for the past 30 years, the lyrics and vibe of this song could easily apply to any major city throughout the world, including Kingston, New York, Accra, London, Tokyo, Mexico City, Miami, Lagos, Toronto, Sydney, etc," he said.