Malaka Youth – Tanto Por Ver
Malaka Youth is a reggae band from Málaga, Southern Spain (Andalusia). They made a way for themselves since about 2010, out of their sincere love for Jamaican Roots Reggae. The band members themselves say they love both the classic Roots Reggae, as well as New Roots. These main Jamaican influences, they mix with other ones, including Latin American reggae from a band like Chile’s Gondwana, as well as South Spanish Flamenco music. The band name refers to the origins of the name Málaga, etymologically of Phoenician origin.
REGGAE IN SPAIN
The city of Málaga in Andalusia has about 500.000 inhabitants, and as other parts of Spain, the reggae scene expanded there in recent decades. Interesting Reggae artists like Little Pepe also hail from Málaga, often including local, Andalusian (Flamenco) influences in the vocals, giving it an own touch. Elsewhere in Spain, veteran reggae artists like Morodo and Cañaman, both from Madrid, showed Reggae’s strengthened presence in Spain, in turn influencing newer bands, appearing now also more outside the Madrid or Barcelona areas, such as Malaka Youth.
Malaka Youth further carry that “Reggae Torch” in Málaga, in South Spain. Started, as said, around 2010, they recorded songs and released their first EP, “Olas De Cambio” (meaning: Waves Of Change) in 2014. Soon after, also in 2014, their debut LP was released, called “Te Doy Mi Fuego” (I Give You My Fire). Three years after this, in 2017, came this album “Tanto Por Ver” (So Much To See). By then, they had been touring Spain for years, until they performed in the prestigious International Reggae Festival, Rototom Sunplash, held in Spain in 2017, including songs in their set from this “Tanto Por Ver” album.
SO MUCH TO SEE
“Tanto Por Ver” (“So Much To See”), Malaka Youth’s 2017 album, is perhaps a more “mature” album than their earlier two ones. Their style, whether matured or not, as evident on Tanto Por Ver, took some getting used to for me. It is musically a kind of “mellow” reggae, with some Ska influences as well. Other aspects show Latin American and Flamenco influences. Mostly, though, they musically follow a quite conventional reggae pattern, harkening back to the Roots Reggae heydays of the 1970s, along with a modern sound, reminding me a bit of British Reggae.
That sound is okay, to be sure, and quite “mellow” on “Tanto Por Ver”. Maybe a bit “too” mellow, though. Instrumentally and vocally it could overall be more “powerful”, in my opinion, as well as a bit more (rhythmically) “pumping”. This applies also to the nice, but somewhat soft and “nasal” vocals by the band’s singer Nacho Meliveo.. That nasal (and melismatic) singing is common in Hispanic culture, said to be a heritage of South Spain’s Moorish/Islamic history. Their fellow-Málaga singer Little Pepe take that Flamenco vocal influence further, though.
Most songs are nice, anyway, with catchy melodies throughout. Some songs with very catchy choruses, like the atmospheric “Siéntete Bien” (Feel Good), the title track, and “Barreras” (Barriers), are even so catchy that they even have a bit of (relative) “hit” potential, only that also their rhythmic flow could be a bit more powerful, in my opinion. The song “Siéntete Bien” also has a pleasant, positive message, if you understand Spanish, saying in its chorus “Feel good with yourself”..
All this, here and there combined with nice musical additions, from keys or small percussion, make certain songs by themselves nice and enjoyable. Some of these are partly in English, and there is also a combination with British reggae singer Donovan Kingjay, rendering a strong song here in English, called “Put Down Your Gun”. Other good songs on the album include the catchy title track, the already mentioned, “Siéntete Bien” and “Barreras”, and also “No Es Drama”, and “Warriors” are good. These songs mostly have socially conscious lyrics, possibly even translating through the language barrier.
In part, the sound of the album “Tanto Por Ver”, is the result of some production choices, perhaps partly mistaken. The “reverb” sound effect on the singer’s voice was I think not necessary. His natural voice fitted the songs better, as shown in the live concerts of the band. It all sounds a bit “too digital”, despite the live instruments backing. I also note an emphasis on higher notes, and guitar and keys, over a bass and drum-drive. The drum and bass could have been emphasized more – I argue – and would have given these songs a bit more “drive”. Also a pity, because the drummer of Malaka Youth, Edu Fernández, seems quite creative with his drum patterns.
Upon closer listening, most songs are okay, with nice and catchy melodies. They also have interesting social and philosophical lyrics (about both the inner and outer world), for who understands them. Some of these songs, however, simply don’t “grab” one immediately. Somewhat boring and simple songs like “Cuál Es La Razón” hardly could keep my attention. The bouncy, ska-ish song “Tony” – with a catchy chorus – is somewhat better, as is the nice, but further unspectacular, song “Meditation”.
Overall, a nice, “mellow” album, with several nice songs, and nice, catchy melodies. It is however not always “spectacular”, or as engaging rhythmically, as it could have been..