Tony Rebel Puts His Positive Spin On Reggae With 'Realms'
With "Realms of Rebel," released today (April 24) via RAS Records, Tony Rebel reaffirms why he's revered as one of reggae's true masters of the unique art of sing-jaying -- a blend of rapping and singWith "Realms of Rebel," released today (April 24) via RAS Records, Tony Rebel reaffirms why he's revered as one of reggae's true masters of the unique art of sing-jaying -- a blend of rapping and singing.
"Realms of Rebel" also sees the artist continuing an impassioned mission to implant spiritually uplifting lyrics into a genre that he believes has been marred in recent years by violent, hyper-sexual lyrics -- commonly referred to in the reggae community as "slackness."
Rebel doesn't think that one or even several artists can completely change the face of reggae, but he does believe it is necessary to "create a balance so people will see more than one side of the music."
Rebel adds, "I'm sure the majority of people in the world will choose the positive side right now. I don't impose my religion on people. People must choose; I can only present my concepts. You hear truth. If you want, you accept it. We all have common enemies: disease, war, and poverty."
Rebel's gift for elevation without didacticism is evident throughout "Realms of Rebel," which begins its international run on Friday (April 27) via Big Sur Records (for South America) and CRS Records (for continental Europe). Concise intros precede some of the set's tracks, with Rebel occasionally alerting the listener to particularly heartfelt lyrics that should not "be drowned in the pulsating riddims." The gentle admonition of "Brothers," for example, takes the high road by appealing to men's sense of fair play when it comes to their treatment of the "sisters."
Among the highlights of "Realms of Rebel" is the set-opening "Loyal Soldier," which was issued as a single in Jamaica in early March. It's currently receiving active airplay on local airwaves, thanks to a tough, rousing rhythm track and Rebel's typically positive lyrical spin on friendship.
Another strong moment comes in the form of "One Love," a touching tune that is deftly underlined by the plaintive cry "One love, daughters and sons/Issez [praises] to all and not to some/Who is going to help me love again?"
The melody of "One Love" was given to Rebel by the late singing legend Garnett Silk shortly before he died. "I had it in my head for six years," Rebel explains. "Then I sat down one day and wrote it. The lyrics say that we must learn to love one another. If someone didn't help us to do that, the earth would be the most miserable place imaginable."
Rebel's mission to spread positivity goes back to 1993, when he bowed with the internationally acclaimed "Vibes of the Times" on Chaos/Columbia. Though he was eventually released from the label, the artist has steadily built a global fan base as an artist and producer.
In 1996, Rebel's Lallibella riddim-fueled single "If Jah Is By My Side" struck a chord among reggae loyalists, resonating so strongly that a Spanish-language version of the song, "Si Jah Esta a Lado de Me," is the lead single from "Realms of Rebel." It benefits from a Latin-infused "Latrenggae" track concocted by famed production team and ace rhythm pair Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare.
Wayne Jobson, PD of the Joint, a reggae station on XM Satellite Radio, dubs Rebel "a beacon of consciousness," adding that "Jah" is "probably the best reggae song of all time, and the Spanish version is great."
For Gary "Dr. Dread" Himmelfarb, president/CEO of RAS, working with Rebel is "an honor," he says. [He's] one of the most responsible and intelligent DJs on the scene. We got our feet wet in the Latin community with [Chilean reggae band] Godswanda, and we're ready to take 'Si Jah' there, too."
On April 24, a CD single and 12-inch single of "Si Jah" goes out to college, reggae, and R&B stations. The pressing also features the original recording of "If Jah Is By My Side," as well as several remixes of both the original and the Spanish version.