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Album Review

One thing that tends to set non-Jamaican reggae artists apart from their Yardie counterparts is their comfort in a whole variety of reggae subgenres. Whereas Jamaican performers may be seen by their home audiences as "dancehall" or "roots" or "ragga" or "Bobo" artists, if you're from, say, Tenerife your local audience is just going to think of you as a reggae dude and may not be prepared to draw fine distinctions. This frees you up to jump from digital dancehall to rockers to one-drop roots and culture whenever you feel like it. That seems to be the situation for Dactah Chando, a native of the Canary Islands and clearly a deep and longtime student of the whole spectrum of reggae verities. His debut album demonstrates several things about him: he's a very fine singer and songwriter, he's made friends with all the right people (guests include Tanya Stephens, Luciano, Gyptian, and Alborosie, among others), and he was wise to listen to the surf buddy who recommended that he team up with Cologne-based producer Guido Craveiro. Craveiro's rhythms are varied in style but consistently both heavy and sharp, at times pleasantly frayed around the edges with dubwise effects, at others burnished with an electro sheen that nicely sets off Chando's voice. Chando gets extra points for consistently singing and chatting in Canarian Spanish rather than trying to imitate Jamaican English — but he loses a point or two for not knowing when to shut up. At 80 minutes, Clara is about 20 or 30 minutes too long; pleasant but unexceptional tracks like "Punto Com" and "Power Fi Chant" could have been reserved for B-side use, the better to accentuate the impact of real winners like "Wansagain," "Todo Es Jah," and "Abusadores" (which features the cameo appearance by Tanya Stephens). The dub mixes tacked onto the end are also all pretty pedestrian. Still, there's a solid hour of world-class reggae on this album, and it would seem churlish to complain too much about the makeweight material.

Clara, Dactah Chando
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