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About-2

about
 
From the opening sounds of the night insects outside Keith Richards' villa in the hills above Ocho Rios, where Wingless Angels was recorded live in a spirit of devotion, this Rastafarian drum and chant session embraces you in healing meditation.

Wingless Angels are a group of five Nyabinghi Rastafarian drummers and their beloved Sister Maureen, aided and abetted by their long-time friend, Keith Richards. He coined the name Wingless Angels because, "They sing like angels, but they can't fly." They call him "Brother Keith."

Wingless Angels all come from a remote, lofty village called Steertown, perched high above the blue Caribbean. Their best known member is ska legend Justin Hines, whose Dominoes were one of the island's greatest vocal harmony trios back in the 60s, with songs like “Carry Go Bring Come.”

If you dig Talking Heads or Bad Brains, you might be aware of another Angel who's performed with both bands; Winston Thomas, the man they call Black Skull. But the remaining Angels are stars who have so far only shone only within their community for their creativity and hearts: drummaker and fisherman Bongo Locksie, his thick grey Dreads tumbling to his waist; the mellow Warren Williamson, who carves birds from coconut shells; and Bongo Neville, the reliable guardian of the drums.

On this recording, we also hear an angel who did take wing and fly, Bongo Jackie, also known as Iron Lion, a crucial member of the group who tragically passed on after this music was recorded.

The most recent group member is Sister Maureen, who co-wrote many of these traditionally-based chants. She first found her voice miraculously when moved to sing with the Angels' drums in a Steertown bar one night, and adds a rich texture.

After Richards had laid down his subtle, complementary guitar, fine as lace, he called in the wandering Irish musician Frankie Gavin, who enriched the music with his soulful fiddle and drones, tracing ancestral Afro-Celtic empathy that began in prehistory. Rob Fraboni was the engineer whose sound savvy was able to capture the depth and delicacy of this musical exchange in a living room; even unto the affectionate chat between tracks that makes you feel like singing along.

The intimacy you hear drawing you in to their circle of prayer has been evolved over the years, since Richards recorded the Stones’ Goat's Head Soup in Kingston\'s Dynamic Sound Studios in 1972.

Over the years, each time Richards visited the island, he would drum and chant with his Rasta bred'ren.

The Nyabinghi sect to which the Angels belong follow the Biblical dietary laws and prohibitions against the cutting of their hair that are common to all Rasta sects. But they are best known for their solemn, one-drop drumbeat, as distinctive as salsa\'s Clave, over which they "chant down Babylon" (the oppressive system), at "grounation" sessions lasting days and nights.

The funde, the bass drum and the kete repeater are the African Drum trinity, of such potency that during the days of slavery, those who made or played the drum could die for the offense. The righteous power of the drums is presented here in a subtly different setting, as Wingless Angels weave a very Jamaican blend of Africa, Great Britain, and African America. The melodies and text of the slavemesters' Wesleyan hymns blend with the sonorous drumbeats and the gospel tinge of "Roll Jordan Roll" and "Morning Train" so naturally that it validates the Jamaican national motto, "Out of Many, One People."

Thus, even as they sing the praises of their King of Kings, Jah Rastafari, on tracks like "Keyman" and the "Bright Sword," there is a universal spirituality on Wingless Angels. Our Rasta brothers and sisters remind us to "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think," on the chant of that name, prompted by Iron Lion's passing, a message Sister Maureen sums up as, "We should do all the good we can, as long as we can." The affirmation in "I Write My Name" is that all our names may be written down in the Book of Life as chosen ones. And we all can identify with the sheer joie de vivre of the effervescent "Good Morning." As Wingless Angels sing of a heavenly light on "No Dark There," the listener instinctively understands the meaning that Justin Hines Articulates: "When we feel we’re right with the Almighty, it's just light all the way - happiness, y'know?