Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: Keznamdi - Bridging the Gap EP

Some folks are simply destined to follow in their family’s footsteps. Whether it’s the proud son following his father into the family restaurant business or a family legacy like the Williams, where Senior begat Junior who begat Holly and Hank III, sometimes it’s just bound to happen. Such is the case with up and coming reggae star, Keznamdi.

Keznamdi is the child of the lead singers of the internationally known reggae troupe, Chakula, and, for as long as the artist can remember, music has been a part of his life. He spent his “early years touring the world and (was) present while they were recording their ten albums in the recording studio located in his own home” which was found on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica. In fact, he recorded his first song at the ripe young age of five, entitled “Mix a Color,” “an educational song about color mixing” that he then performed at his mother’s release tours for her children’s album, Save the World.

Music schools dominated the lives of Keznamdi and his sisters growing up and each child took to the arts in their own way, his sister marrying reggae artist, Jah Cure, and recording with established artists such as Calico while his other sister pursued her musical dreams in Kingston. A three year stint in Tanzania as well as the completion of high school in Ethiopia would hone Keznamdi’s ears that much more and once he landed at St. Mary’s College in northern California, the artist was set to take his sound to the next level.

“This is not a choice or hobby for me; music chose me,” the artist shares of his path into music. “It’s a way of life and the only thing I have ever known.”

And that path looks mighty promising from the early sounds coming from the artist’s debut EP, Bridging the Gap. Featuring six songs that cull aspects from the artist’s influences, boasting vibes that hint at elements of Damian and Stephen Marley and ranging from dancehall reggae, R&B, and hip-hop, Keznamdi is an artist set to carve his own way through the musical landscape.

“I Don’t Wanna” kicks things off with a smooth island breeze, layered singsong rhythms and an acoustic backdrop leaving listeners with the scent of the ocean on their ears while “My Love” is a pop/hip-hop inflected jam that would play fine on the radio, bookended by tracks by Bruno Mars and Usher. The artist’s voice is smooth and soulful and the backing track follows suit, making this one of the highlights of the collection.

A bit of hip-hop flow colors “Darkness,” a moody jam that lends some different textures before those rap notes grow even more with “Is This Love.” Buoyed by a solid horn section, Kez showcases a nice blend of traditional reggae tones with modern sensibilities while he takes things back to that traditional element with the upbeat and encouraging “Just Vibe.” Another classic, laid-back reggae roll, it keeps the artist anchored into his roots.

Saving the best for last, “Weekend” closes the EP out, each and every element coming together just right. Kez’s vocals are spot on, whether singing or flowing out tight rhymes, and the unique blend of musical influences blends together solidly, making this yet another standout. And once again, it’s a track that’s ready-made for radio play without any tweaks.

In short, Keznamdi is the real deal. Boasting a great pedigree as well as a boatload of influences, both personal and musical, he’s an artist who’s gifted not only with experience but with pure talent. His rich vocals, uplifting lyics, and ear for a catchy hook and melody help make this debut something that should and, dare we say, will be heard around the world. It’s quality music that deserves a listening ear. Here’s to hoping he gets just that.

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