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Empress Akua comes with a roots and culture message in the form of a cautionary tale in “Gwaan (Dutty Babylon)” a single produced by Jah Eye and released February 9, 2018 on the Issachar Muzik label distributed through Tuff Gong International. The song is a follow up to her July 2017 single “Its Cold Out There”. A heavy bass line sounds the alarm for Empress Akua to invoke a command delivered in Jamaican patois to “gwaan” or go on to the symbolic Babylon, “you can go, but you can’t hide.”
The inspiration for the song’s message, sung with the artist’s Soul and African-influenced vibrato phrasing comes from her self identity. Empress Akua explains “As a woman I feel that it is my duty and as a lover of Jah and all livities that promote, joy, peace, happiness, healthy living, love, the opposite of oppression. There is so much going on in this world today it looks like Babylon is winning and there are so many people that have lost hope that just don’t believe things will change, its not going to get better. I almost fell into that, I found myself getting weak, so that is what moved me to write the song, to let people know that ‘Babylon’ you will have your day, because Babylon is a state of mind, its just wickedness and everything evil. It made me stronger, it made me feel better.”
As for the production on the track, Empress Akua recorded in collaboration with Los Angeles-based producer Jah Eye at Unity Works in Los Angeles where the artist is based. Scorching lead guitar by Mark Tyson, deep roots bass and binghi drumming by Haile Maskel, live drums by Carlton “Santa” Davis (Peter Tosh, Ziggy Marley), percussion & bubbling keyboards by Jay Eye with multi layered harmonies and vintage recording techniques that answer the lead vocal’s command to shut down the evil forces. Empress Akua explains her songwriting style of listening to rhythmic concepts and gaining inspiration this way, “I ride bass and I love heavy bass, I am a self-proclaimed ‘bass head’. I was raised from when I was a teen around musicians like bassist Haile Maskel (The Rastafarians) back in the day, he played all this heavy bass, I am influenced by this aspect of roots reggae – heavy bass lines in my songwriting.”
A song full of vivid imagery is ideal for the accompanying music video for Gwaan (Dutty Babylon) that brings the words and vibe to life by telling a story. The music video for Gwaan was directed by Louis Easton, the director of photography is Zarian Hadley with video conceptualization and co-direction by Empress Akua. The vision of Empress Akua for the song was brought forth by scenes from a traditional Nyabinghi Rasta spiritual gathering to drive out Babylon combined with symbolic landscapes, transformation and movement of the characters. Empress Akua explains her intention with the video concept in this way: “We need to go back to the ancient days of our ancestors and prayer, and meditation and get away from the concrete jungle. The video symbolizes the persecution humanity has faced when there are persons that go to different towns and they kill you if you are a Muslim and kill you if you are Christian, they’ll kill you if you believe this, they’ll kill you if you believe that.”
Gwaan (Dutty Babylon) is released by the Issachar Muzik label and is distributed by Tuff Gong International, the iconic label and distribution company founded by the late Bob Marley in Jamaica. The founder of Issachar Muzik, Kingston native, Jah Lloyd “Issachar” Shaw releases new material from roots reggae artists and material that has not been available digitally including unreleased tracks and surprises.
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