Walshy Fire sounds the horn with ‘ABENG’
Using his platform as producer, international DJ and member of the globe-trotting mega music group Major Lazer, Walshy Fire has undertaken the gargantuan task of pulling together Caribbean and African artistes in an inspired compilation album called ABENG. Set to be released on June 7 on the Mad Decent record label, ABENG is a layered project, from its title to Walshy’s seamless pairing of recording artistes far removed from each other in location but nearly identical in cultures mannerisms and sound.
Last week Friday, the pervasive producer dropped the first single and music video from the album project. Entitled No Negative Vibes, it features Jamaican dancehall artiste Alkaline and Nigerian Afrobeat star Runtown.
“I don’t even want to start telling anyone how difficult it is to do a compilation album with so many artistes, but I’m so blessed that it’s finally coming together and it’s finally out,” Walshy Fire told The Gleaner.
In addition to No Negative Vibes, ABENG also features a remix of Walshy Fire’s debut single, Bend Down Pause, featuring Wizkid (Nigeria), Runtown and Machel Montano (Trinidad). Other artistes featured on ABENG include Nigerians Mr Eazi, Ice Prince, Adekunle Gold, Ketchup, Shizzi and Stonebwoy; from Trinidad, Bunji Garlin and Nailah Blackman; Vanessa Mdee (Tanzania), Timeka Marshall (Guyana); Efya (Ghana); WurlD (United States/Nigeria); and Demarco, Masicka and Christopher Martin representing for Jamaica.
On the brand-new mid-tempo summer jam No Negative Vibes, Walshy’s sentiments seem to ring true as the differences between the attitudes of Runtown and Alkaline are purely stylistic, perhaps because of the inextricable similarities Walshy describes or the Nigerian’s exposure to Jamaican music.
The Jamaican dancehall and soca audiences are already familiar with the Nigerian, whose Mad Over You has settled on disc jockey’s playlists. “When I was a kid, my dad used to play Bob Marley on vinyl. He used to blast Buffalo Soldier and One Love. My siblings and I used to love hearing Bob Marley blasting through our house in Nigeria,” Runtown told The Gleaner. His consumption didn’t stop there. Among his current favourites, Runtown lists Marley, along with Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Vybz Kartel, Mavado and Spice. “I’m definitely a fan of Alkaline’s work. My favourite song of his is Champion Boy,” he revealed.
Describing himself as an international artiste, Runtown is a fitting opener for the compilation. “I definitely make music for my Jamaican listeners and my Nigerian listeners, but truly, my music is for everyone. I feel that Bend Down Pause and Mad Over You gave my Jamaican listeners a little bit of who I am musically. I hope No Negative Vibes will show them another side. I feel that the message in No Negative Vibes is worldwide; anyone from any place in the world can vibe to it because it spreads a positive message,” Runtown said.
Walshy Fire revealed that the idea for ABENG had been alive for years, but it was a twist of unfortunate fate that turned the thought into action. As the MC for Major Lazer, Walshy has regularly toured Africa over the last five years, and this has allowed him to make connections between the regions and the broader African diaspora. But losing a friend was the deciding factor, the spark that got the ball rolling.
“I had a brethren whose name was Abeng. I loved his name; I thought it was amazing. And when he told me what the name meant, which is a horn used to communicate long distances, I thought it was just too good, and I couldn’t get the name out of my head. Then he ended up passing. After he passed, I was like, that’s it. I had it in my brain for a while to name the album ‘Abeng’ because of all of those things,” Walshy shared.
In local Maroon communities, the abeng, a horn instrument brought over from Ghana to Jamaica and used by slaves to communicate across long distances, is still used to this day. For this project, ABENG has become an eleven-track-long compilation album pairing some of the biggest names in Afrobeat and Afropop with top reggae, dancehall and soca artistes from the Caribbean.
Walshy explained: “For me, ‘Abeng’ means exactly what he told me it meant: communicating long distances, especially since it’s an African and Caribbean project, being able to communicate through music and get the ideas across both regions to fully be engulfed and to get it. That was the idea behind it. The intention is to make the Caribbean and Africa have a conversation that is louder and in the same studio or the same stage at the same time.”
Walshy believes the marriage of Caribbean and African artistes is very important because based on his observations, the regions’ differences are minute. “I think that we look at each other as different, as them over there [look at] us over here. And I think that this kind of project will hopefully make everyone fully realise – you might not have travelled to Africa, you might not have met an African, they may not have travelled to Jamaica – but when I tell you, every single thing about the two are exactly the same, with very little differences. We are them. They are us,” Walshy affirmed.