Album Review: Hempress Sativa - Charka
by Gardy Stein
With her debut album Unconquerebel, she has made a bold statement: Hempress Sativa is an artist that stands up for herself, for her African heritage, for the feminine gender - and for reggae music! Six years later, her sophomore album Charka is released on an equally fierce note, combining excellent musical creations by executive producer Chris Lion (Conquering Lion Records) and Jallanzo with fiery lyrics. Those are not easy to digest, as she often addresses circumstances or practices that we resign ourselves to, questioning the status quo we have come to accept.
The opening track, Freedom, is a prime example of this militancy, confronting us with her own vision of what the track's title means to her. "Freedom will never come light... every generation has to win their own freedom, again and again!" Despite (or in addition to) these challenging words, it is a joy listening to her songs, as every single one of them is such a masterpiece of sonic art. Already the first is a powerful, decelerated instrumental that will grab your attention from start to finish, and the subsequent Sound The Trumpet continues this vibe. Mighty bass, steady drums, sparse guitar as well as melodica and synthie highlights lay the foundation here, and when the dub parts take over in the second half, it's pure meditation. The experience is made complete by Hempress' richly modulated voice, telling us to get ready for the spiritual war we're in.
Ghetto Life, in part autobiographic, is livicated to all ghetto youths. It comes on a very different instrumental, as does the subsequent The Best - more modern, but somewhat less impressive music-wise than the preceding tracks. Worth mentioning is the voice of Sativa's mother that we hear on the latter, a fact mirrored by the inclusion of her father Albert "Ilawi" Malawi as guest vocalist on Give Me Loving.
On an Afro-Pop-infused beat, Take Me Home expresses the old yearning of displaced people for their place of origin, of leaving Babylon in search of a better future, and both the singer and featured artist Kelissa mention several places that are definitely worth a visit in the Motherland. Reflecting on the wrongdoings of greedy world leaders, the Babylon theme is again elaborated upon in Time Has Come, set on a pacy steppas riddim.
True to her name, there is a herb anthem as well, a relaxed guitar, bass & drum conversation called Ganja Hustling on which compatriot Keida picks up the mic, too. More female power comes in on Top Ranking Queens, an instant favourite. Featuring Sister Nancy and Sister Carol, the riddim floods us with sweet nostalgia as it comes on a groovy '90s Dancehall vibe. Together, the three queens just take the tune to another level. "See what I mean?"
Original same way, Strickly Roots brings "reggae in a rub-a-dub style", conjuring images of joyful outdoor sessions with a big soundsystem set up and people skanking in unison. Good thing summer is here and this vision becomes a reality very soon!
With spiritual teachings, Wisdom and None But Jah round off the album, the latter shining in the glory of a splendid riddim produced by Marco Aiello. Delivered with a cover image of her three-year-old self, Charka represents in a nutshell what Hempress Sativa is about – firm convictions, Rastafarian faith and undeniable talent!
Hempress Sativa - Charka
DIGITAL RELEASE [Conquering Lion Records]
Release date: 06/16/2023
02. Sound The Trumpet
03. Give Me Loving feat. Albert ILawi Malawi
04. Ghetto Life
05. The Best
06. Take Me Home feat. Kelissa
07. Ganja Hustling feat. Keida
08. Top Rank Queens feat. Sister Carol & Sister Nancy
09. Strickly Roots
11. Time Has Come
12. None But Jah