Album Review: Meta And The Cornerstones - Dia
by Gardy Stein
“My music is about peace, love and harmony. It is the language of the free soul.” (Meta Dia)
The better an album is, I imagine, the more challenging it is for an artist to release a next one after it, what with all the expectations and anticipations that abound. Take Buju for instance – who would have thought that his phenomenal 1995 'Til Shiloh could ever be topped? And then came Inna Heights… and then Unchained Spirit... and then Friends For Life. In contrast to the one-hit-wonders, it is probably the essential characteristic of great performers to surpass themselves in the course of their career, again and again.
Falling in that category is singer, songwriter and composer Meta Dia, an artist who just keeps excelling with each subsequent oeuvre. Hira, released 2017, has received accolades from all over and can be considered a milestone in the global Roots Reggae output, but his new album blazes the fire equally hot, if not hotter. Entitled simply Dia, it is a joint venture with the musicians from The Cornerstones once more, instrumentalists who definitely know what they are doing and created 11 amazing tracks, many of them from scratch. And here they are, the heros of the Dia sound: Kubix (lead guitar), Ilon Ba (rhythm guitar), Cyril Colling Mouloud (piano), Fayce Belmokadem (organ), Daniel Adelaide (keys), Saymon Roger (drums) and Abou Coulibaly (bass), with additional input by Elie Mercier (percussion), Stepper and Troy Mobius (sax) as well as Didier (trumpet & trombone).
Five more songs were contributed by producers Tuviel Levi (Riser), The YoungBoyz (Try Me), Netherland's The Skankin’ Monks (Trespass) and Sidney Mills, who co-produced both Red Eyes and Concrete Jungle. The latter is a musically rather uninspired re-make of Bob Marley's original, including a peeving, high-pitched synthie that spoils the track for me. It is however brought to life by the great voices of Dia and Marley's son Julian, weaving their way around the original lyrics, and by a surprising spoken poetry addition of Malik Work, a New York based artist who is currently making waves with his "Verses @ Work"-tour.
The "coeur de grandeur" of the album, however, are the band's own contributions. Starting with the rocky, guitar-dominated Liberation, the stage is set for an instrumental joyride, and Meta brings his charismatic personality to the table at once, convincing with a powerful vocal delivery of African rising. No roadblock!
"Play music and heal all men…" Oh what a fine image Two Pockets conjures up! We all know that music can be a healer indeed, but so many people out there just seem to hear the wrong songs. Well, at least we are here to listen to Meta's teachings (in this case a metaphorical tale of two pockets, one of which is broken and seems to swallow whatever you put in), so make sure you pass the flame on!
Conqueror is Meta And The Cornerstones at their best. The grooving rhythm for one, inviting joyful movement, coupled with the expressive voice of Meta and the message of trust in daily renewal and victory are pure bliss. And that change of tempo at 4:05! Make sure you listen until the end to experience the steady acceleration of the whole band until they are back at initial speed. Masterly!
With Majesty and Free, two more singers are introduced: SummeRR and Mirna Haje, respectively, feature on the spiritual tracks that bring different flavors to the whole. While Majesty speaks of the deep love for the elegant queen that's the singers' "favourite place to be", Free is a decelerated, exotic musical carpet on which Meta delivers some fine Dub Poetry to the backdrop of Mirna's spherical ad-libs.
Boomerang Love, By Your Side and Love In The Ghetto contribute different facets to the subject of love, arranged with as differing musical influences as deep Roots, Rocksteady, Country and Gospel. Playing on his incredible vocal range, Meta sounds extremely vulnerable in Cells, a track that praises Jah and the incredible creation we are. "Like an eagle in the air, be the victory you are!" With clever wordplay, Victory encourages us to stay focused and follow the long road to success.
Ever since I saw the simple but powerful video, my personal favorite is Breeze. It shows the band assembled around a mic, recording the backing choir, and Meta, singing his heart out in the studio. Of course, the sheer quality of the track does its stint as well. A multilayered composition, it starts with Nyabinghi-drums, develops into a driving Reggae skank and even has a Dancehall interlude. The lyrics now, despite the well-worn "fyah pon Babylon" theme, speak of buffalo spirit, revolution and universal love. "Forgiveness will make us heal!"
Dia cements the extraordinary position Meta And The Cornerstones already have in the Reggae world, enriching said world with a diversity of songs, skillfully mixed by Shane Brown and mastered by Christopher Scott. The magic of Meta's music lies both in the gripping, emotive and unique voice he commands, his thought-provoking lyrics and the musical authenticity of his band, combining heartfelt Roots Reggae with elements of Jazz, Rock, World Beats and the distinct West African touch of his homeland Senegal. Bëgg naa!!!
Meta And The Cornerstones - Dia
DIGITAL RELEASE [Metarize Music Group]
Release date: 09/17/2021
02. Two Pockets
04. Majesty feat. SumeRR
06. Boomerang Love
07. By Your Side
08. Concrete Jungle feat. Julian Marley & Malik Work
09. Try Me
10. Love In The Ghetto
13. Red Eyes
15. Trespass feat. The Skankin' Monks
16. Free feat. Mirna Haje