Music may have evolved initially as a devotional expression but as it moved into the modern era it has always been more about entertainment. And industry rather than a cause. A means to an end rather than an act of faith. The one exception to this has always been reggae music. Reggae music has never forgotten its roots and its close connection with Rastafarian beliefs. And as such, it is rare in the world of today in that it is, on some levels, a commercial venture but a spiritual calling on others.
And Guide Me Jah, the latest release from Link & Chain, is the perfect collision point of that commerciality and spirituality. Yes, it is full of infectious reggae grooves, skanking, off-beat guitars and sumptuous vocals, all the things that make such music so popular, and so sellable, but it is also, at its very core, a prayer, a call to a higher power for guidance, a cry in dark times for enlightenment.
The one thing that reggae music in general and Jamaican culture in particular does, is blur the lines between faith and music, one is a conduit for the other, and the result is always the most joyous of experiences, music with its feet firmly on the ground yet with a much higher purpose. And if you want to know what that sounds like, Guide Me Jah is the perfect example.
It is both old-school, employing the familiar traits of the genre that have been with us since the seventies, but it is also full of freshness and flavour, the perfect blend of past and present, or, more properly, the past being brought into the present to keep the genre alive and relevant for its most recent audience. You can hear the echoes of the past running through its musical veins, bands such as The Wailers and Steel Pulse spring to mind but it is where the band are going which is much more interesting. This is no mere pastiche of the past, no sitting on the sonic laurels of what has gone before, this is the sound of a genre striding confidently into a bright new future.
It’s also the sound of four long-term friends and musical acquaintances doing what they do best. It comes as no surprise that Link & Chain have been creating together for a long time, over three decades in fact, and you can hear it in the music that they make. And long may they continue.