10 Songs, 41 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

The St. Croix–based roots outfit Midnite is almost frighteningly prolific, having made more than 40 full-length albums since its debut (the proudly lo-fi Ras Mek Peace) appeared in 1999. Still more surprising than Midnite’s formidable work ethic is the remarkably consistent quality of its output. Each release is firmly based in the rhythms and textures of classic roots reggae, particularly the heavily percussive, deeply devotional style known as Nyabinghi. Yet the group is eclectic enough to embrace an array of other styles. Be Strong’s title track, for example, opens with a hypnotic cascade of arpeggiated thumb piano. That gives way to a complex polyrhythmic arrangement that owes as much to the desert blues of Malian virtuosos like Ali Farka Touré as it does to classic reggae. “Dirt and Clay” combines a classic steppers’ rhythm with violin flourishes, folksy guitar, and a militant brass arrangement. Midnite’s willingness to incorporate such diverse elements into its work makes it one of the most compelling contemporary roots acts, and Be Strong is one of its most intriguing recent releases.

EDITORS’ NOTES

The St. Croix–based roots outfit Midnite is almost frighteningly prolific, having made more than 40 full-length albums since its debut (the proudly lo-fi Ras Mek Peace) appeared in 1999. Still more surprising than Midnite’s formidable work ethic is the remarkably consistent quality of its output. Each release is firmly based in the rhythms and textures of classic roots reggae, particularly the heavily percussive, deeply devotional style known as Nyabinghi. Yet the group is eclectic enough to embrace an array of other styles. Be Strong’s title track, for example, opens with a hypnotic cascade of arpeggiated thumb piano. That gives way to a complex polyrhythmic arrangement that owes as much to the desert blues of Malian virtuosos like Ali Farka Touré as it does to classic reggae. “Dirt and Clay” combines a classic steppers’ rhythm with violin flourishes, folksy guitar, and a militant brass arrangement. Midnite’s willingness to incorporate such diverse elements into its work makes it one of the most compelling contemporary roots acts, and Be Strong is one of its most intriguing recent releases.

TITLE TIME
2:46
4:32
4:06
4:17
4:57
4:49
3:49
4:21
3:39
3:58

About Midnite

The brainchild of brothers Ron and Vaughn Benjamin, Midnite formed in the Virgin Islands island of St. Croix in 1989. The quintet members have included Dion Hopkins (drums), Joe Straws (bass), Trippa (guitar), Ron (keyboards), and Vaughn (lead vocals). They're popular in St. Croix, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and the East Coast of the States, where they have gigged for a number of years. A well-received three-week South Africa engagement represents their longest trek to date. Other than the Benjamins, the members' identities are a comparative mystery: Straws (aka Big Bass) has been around for many years, but Hopkins, acclaimed for his one-drop foundation, and Trippa, for his tight backbeat skank, are relative newcomers; Vaughn has been the main songwriter, with Ron serving as the musical director. Steel Pulse, Barrington Levy, Hugh Masekela, and Gladys Knight & the Pips are among the artists Midnite have shared the stage with at various concerts. Their popularity extends to college campuses, including Rutgers, Temple, Johnson C. Smith, Clark-Atlanta University, and many more. Albums like Ras Mek Peace (1999), Vijan (2003), and Treasure (2011) represent their political bent and their dancehall flavor. ~ Andrew Hamilton

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