Album Review: Tribal Seeds - Ancient Blood
by Gardy Stein
Every single person living on this planet right now has come a long way: in an uninterrupted line, we all are connected to the very first living organisms that ever existed. Over millions of years, our ancestors have managed to survive natural disasters, climate change, war, hunger or sickness and, more importantly, made sure their offspring do, too. It is thus a rightful claim that there is ancient blood running through our veins, and the Mexican-Californian band Tribal Seeds has made this claim their album title.
Ancient Blood is their sixth album in 19 years (not counting the two EPs), and it dives deep into the ethnic roots of the group's founders, brothers Steve I and Tony Ray Jacobo, and the musical traditions they have made their home. The title track is an especially fine example of this fusion, as it combines zesty Cumbia riddims (contributed by producers Los Daddys & El Dusty) with a barely recognizable underlying off-beat and the signature voice of singer Steve I, some Spanish bars thrown in by featured artist Chiquis Lozoya. So amazing! But let's not rush ahead…
"Run to the rivers or you run to the rocks, gone and seek refuge in the four corners." The album starts with a roots banger called Bondage, a beautifully crafted piece that showcases both the band's excellent instrumental skills and Steve's intelligent songwriting. On top of that, the song features none other than the legendary Norman Grant of the Twinkle Brothers, who adds a fervent plea to scrub your mind from Babylon brainwash.
Similarly serious in tone are several other songs, featuring some of Jamaica's most conscious artists. Wicked & Riled is introduced by the words of a Native elder called Floyd Red Crow Westerman who says: "We were told we would see America come and go. In a sense, America is dying from within, because they forgot the instructions on how to live on earth!" (special delivery to Mr. Trump!). With her usual militant vigor, Hempress Sativa throws herself onto the track, chanting about how a firm conviction in Rastafarian faith is a revolution in these times. Kabaka Pyramid joins Steve on the vocals in Nice Up, and the two of them reflect on the positive impact that singers and players of instruments have on the world. "We spiritually firm and musically gifted!". Both tracks contain a bunch of highly interesting samples that lend a special ethnic touch to the music, with drumming and chanting and adorable flutes.
Down Bad Vibes continues the spiritual stance thus taken, and featured artist Suckarie reminds us of all the knowledge that has been lost because many ancient scrolls were stolen or burnt (special shout-out to the instrumentalists creating the second part of this track!). The subsequent Fallen Kings elaborates on the subject thus touched, talking about the many great men and women of the past. Worth mentioning is that several musicians have been brought in the studio for this one to record the strings section.
While some songs have been composed and recorded with the Tribal Seeds band, most productions were done by Tony Ray aka Maad T-Ray. His finesse is displayed, for instance, in the multi-layered Breathe Easy, which he adorned with several sonic surprises: a full stop at 1:08, a chord ascent at 3:34 and several ragga parts throughout the song make the listening experience a discovery trip. Not only did he provide the riddim though, he also contributes a verse alongside Joshua Swain of the US-band The Movement (other American colleagues, The Elovaters, can be heard in Mellow Mood).
Having thus arrived in the less serious, rather playful section of the album, we have to mention Irie Up, a fine contribution to the big bad Ganjaville riddim selection, and Dusk Till Dawn, a track recorded while the band was touring with Jamaican singer Hector Roots Lewis. "Bring Reggae music outside, bring more vibrance! Still many obstacles to climb, we haffi take life to a next heights!"
More vibrance is definitely brought in by the Ska-tinged Tokyo, a reflection of the Japan travels of singer Steve I, and by the bright modern roots piece One Time, featuring Romain Virgo and an impressive horns section added by Cade and Warren on trumpet and sax. Similar to the foundation roots vibes the album started with, Till I and Tempest add more of that musical sugar as well as a lover's point of view, a perspective picked up by the sweet voices of Hollie Cook in Time To Time and Argentinia's Natalia Doco, who features in the last track In Love.
A final highlight is Aya, a livication to the South American culture in general and the ayahuasca-ceremony in particular. Pat Boy, a very special featured artist, brings to our attention how the Mayan language sounds, as he is a well-known rapper from Yucatán. From all those amazing features to the quality of the17 songs included to the album cover art, there is a lot to discover indeed!
The press release promises Ancient Blood to be "a sonic odyssey that transcends genres", and I would add to this statement that it shines a light on the importance of passing on ancient knowledge and indigenous traditions. Thank you, team Tribal Seeds, for this creative, thoguht-provoking gem – let's all make sure to acknowledge and celebrate where we come from!
Tribal Seeds - Ancient Blood
DIGITAL RELEASE [Tribal Seeds Music]
Release date: 02/09/2024
01. Bondage feat. The Twinkle Brothers
02. One Time feat. Romain Virgo
04. Dusk Till Dawn feat. Hector Roots Lewis
05. Time To Time feat. Hollie Cook
06. Irie Up feat. Maad T-Ray & Gonzo
07. Till I
08. Down Bad Vibes feat. Suckarie
09. Fallen Kings
10. Wicked & Riled feat. Hempress Sativa
12. Mellow Mood feat. The Elovaters
13. Breathe Easy feat. The Movement & Maad T-Ray
14. Nice Up feat. Kabaka Pyramid
15. Aya feat. Pat Boy
16. Ancient Blood feat. Eddie "Chiquis" Lozoya & Chucho Ponce
17. In Love feat. Natalia Doco