(2016 iNatty Records)
Divine Spark can be purchased by going here
Tell me what you’re living for
Why you were even born
Tell me what you want in life
What’s your purpose?
The chorus of “Purpose,” from Natty Nation’s strident and melodically winning new album is an anthemic call for self-examination. In a world that is getting darker every day, in a country that feels like it’s going completely off the rails, its populace becoming more cruel and unattached by the hour, these words serve as a strong reminder of our humanity. With the entire globe being thrown at us in a constant barrage of epic proportions we are reminded to look to ourselves, examine what it is we are here to do, why we were even born.
So goes the thematic concept behind Divine Spark, Natty’s first studio album since 2008’s Reincarnation and their finest to date. Inspired by the teachings of Parmahansa Yogananda, Divine Spark is about finding the higher self within us, tapping into that energy and carrying it forth into the world. Not merely drawing on Rastafarianism, these messages marry elements of metaphysics, esoterica and spirituality. Those familiar with Yogananda know that his approach is a scientific one that has appealed to millions of people because it offers a union of Eastern world philosophy with Western world culture and intellectualism. Decades on, his seminal book Autobiography of a Yogi still resonates with those who search for meaning behind the veiled reality of the world.
Not only are the contents of Divine Spark neatly arranged and produced, the sound quality is excellent. There was a highly collaborative effort between the band and world-renowned recording and sound engineer Errol Brown, who’s worked with all the greats, most notably the Marleys. The result is full of nifty production values, particularly the cleverly timed delays. The mix is dense aand yet spacious; there is room to breathe in these tracks and that allows the lyrical messages to resonate.
Those messages are propelled by the sage wisdom and impressive vocal abilities of Jah Boogie, Madison’s unparalleled reggae music avatar. His voice has never sounded more steady and resonant, and the backing vocals, supplied by Boogie and Aaron Konkol, are superb.
Konkol’s contributions are readily apparent. He co-wrote most of the material with Boogie and serves as the band’s musical director. His passion for music, reggae and hip-hop, is a highly valuable propellant for Boogie to deliver his spiritual goods.
Another common thread here is unknowingness, that we should be humbled by our lack of understanding, that our history is only partially revealed to us – some of this by design – and that we need to learn our true story, ugly as it may be. “In the prophecy written there upon the scrolls / History is forbidden and you must behold / Theology see it culture stole / Archeology discovery of gold / In the marketplace where slaves are sold / History is forbidden and never told / So you never know from days of old,” Boogie sings in “Prophecy,” another very strong track that is driven by the multi-tracked vocals and Konkol’s keyboard stabs and Moog solo. “Civil Rights” is strong social commentary and features a verse contributed by rapper extraordinaire and Madisonian, F. Stokes. The song pays homage to the warriors of the civil rights movement, which we inexplicably still fight: “If it wasn’t for you then there wouldn’t be me / So what has happened to you should not happen to me / And the leaders today there are none left to see / Because they take them down with the FBI and police.” “Negus Negast” takes it a step further: “If we only knew our history / We could see through the lies and solve the mystery / If we only knew our royalty / We can sit on our throne just like the king of kings.” Louka Patenaude’s snaky guitar solo here is especially effective.
The final, title track is the summation of all these notions, a clear and crisp mix accentuating the positivity: “We all have a divine spark / Open up your heart …. / Gnostic Christ is the avatar / Rising out of a distant star.”
Natty Nation began tracking Divine Spark in 2010 and these songs stretch back over time, as far back as 2002-2003, around the time Konkol joined the band. It plays a little bit like a compilation as subtle differences in the sound of the basic tracks can be detected. The album was released in March and it shot to #3 on the Billboard Reggae chart. #3! A fact that was not noted by lackluster music coverage in a city that should be praising this band for what they are: Soldiers in the fight for unity and equality, a beacon in the darkness and one of our city’s most valuable music treasures.