Warming Up with Ojba Rasta’s Debut

Reviews

Warming Up with Ojba Rasta’s Debut

Review by Katharina Hauptmann.

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Ojba Rasta was first established in 2009 and describe their music as “Echoing with thick brass and tight riddim driven recordings”—which hits the nail right on the head.

Since its formation, the band has played many live gigs all over Reykjavík and has garnered a great deal of popularity.

On September 18, 2012, Ojba Rasta released their self-titled debut album with Record Records [http://www.recordrecords.is/] Finally.

The public and critics appear to have received the album well; the song 'Baldursbrá' (“ Mayweed”) even made it into the top 30 charts of RÚV’s radio station Rás 2.

Needless to say,  as a reggae band Ojba Rasta are heavily influenced by Jamaican music as well as by other world music (such as Eastern European music and folklore), film music and even ancient Icelandic poetry.

Four siblings form the core of the band plus seven additional musicians: Arnljótur Sigurðsson (bass player, vocals, C-flute and band mastermind), Gylfi Freeland Sigurðsson (drums and percussion), Valgerður Freeland Sigurðardóttir (clarinet and melodica), Teitur Magnússon (vocals and guitar), Hjálmur Ragnarsson (dub master), Unnur Malín Sigurðardóttir (euphonium and vocals), Daníel Þröstur Sigurðarson (trumpet), Snorri Haraldsson (tenor saxophone), Steingrímur Karl Teague (organ, keyboard, synthesizer, piano and vocals), Hrafnkell Gauti Sigurðsson (guitar) and Erling Bang (drums and percussion).

As is usually the case in the Icelandic music scene, most of Ojba Rasta’s members are also engaged in other musical projects such as Retro Stefson, Sin Fang, Moses Hightower.

On a side note, the name Ojba Rasta is a clever word play and a mix of the Icelandic expression ojbarasta and the word Rastafari. Ojbarasta is Icelandic slang and means something like “Ewwwww, gross.” Luckily, there is nothing gross about Ojba Rasta’s music.

But let’s talk about the album.

Ojba Rasta does what a reggae album should do: it lifts your spirits and puts you in a good mood, beginning with opening song 'Gjafir Jarðar'  (“Gifts of the Earth”). Hreppstjórinn (“The District Officer”) and Stjörnuljós (“Starlight”) are equally lively and jolly songs with swaying rock riffs and peppy dub melodies.

'Sólstöður' (“Solstice”) changes the mood. The song is almost entirely instrumental and the slow but constant changes of tempo make it captivating. Definitely my personal favorite of the album.

'Jolly Good' is the only track in English and is another typical, delightful reggae song spreading a laid-back and carefree mood. “It’s all right\I feel jolly good” is the core message and it really does make one feel jolly good listening to it.

The aforementioned track Baldursbrá is, according to Arnljótur Sigurðsson, a personal love song. Even if you don’t understand the beautiful lyrics, the lively melody will tell you all you need to know.

The next song, Jónsmessa (“Midsummer Night”) is a bubbly solely instrumental song with a  trumpet solo that has something eerie about it.

Ojba Rasta’s debut concludes with 'Í ljósaskiptum' (“At Dawn”). Baldvin Þór Magnússon and Birkir Björns Halldórsson join in and rap away in this groovy tune.

All in all, a more than delightful and successful first album. Expect upbeat, fun, feel-good reggae with an Icelandic twist.

I should mention the pretty cover art by artist Ragnar Fjalar Lárusson. Excellent work!

Naturally, when playing reggae music in Iceland, one has to bear comparison to Hjálmar, Iceland’s most famous band of the genre.

Ojba Rasta might not be on the same level as Hjálmar yet but is certainly on its way there.

Three and a half stars for Ojba Rasta!

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If you want to relax during the stressful Christmas time or provide a loved one with musical relief, purchase this album here or here.

Katharina Hauptmann – katha.hauptmann@gmail.com

Katharina Hauptmann is a freelance writer by day and a barmaid by night. The Erasmus student exchange program brought her to Iceland in 2006 and she fell passionately in love with Iceland and made her permanent home in Reykjavik. She spends her time writing, reading and observing people.

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