Eclectic Reggae with a Message
It’s hard to peg a musician as worldly as Xavier Rudd. The multi-instrumentalist from Australia has trekked the globe originally as a one-man band, toting a hodgepodge of musical tools ranging from didgeridoos to steel guitars. Now the front man of a band aptly named the United Nations, Rudd has an assembly of talented individuals that only add to the diversity of his songwriting. The new project unites musicians from all over the world, including but not limited to those from Australia, South Africa, Samoa, and Germany. Unity is the doctrine by which this band exists and the common theme in their newest installment.
Xavier Rudd and the United Nations’ debut album, Nanna, is a testament to Rudd’s cultural awareness. Although most of the album is rooted in a Marley-esque reggae with which we are all familiar, Rudd draws from a world of different sounds and influences. From African drums to distorted guitars to pan flutes, the spectrum of sounds heard is only limited by the scope of the listener. Hints of folk, indie rock, and traditional music from around the world are prevalent on many tracks.
The album begins strong with “Flag”, a reggae anthem equipped with a potent bass line, distorted guitar hooks, the symphonic wailing of horns, and harmonious female backing vocals calling for justice. The next three tracks follow suit. “While I’m gone” is a love song with a swinging, offbeat rhythm and lyrics that long to be home. In the backdrop, female vocals chant, “My Island, My home”. “Hanalei” and “Come People” are both more up beat, with a jamming syncopation between the guitars and keyboards, and intermittent flute and horn riffs. “Hanalei” refers to the town in Kuaui, Hawaii and Rudd’s admiration for it. “Come People” was released as a single and calls on the masses to help those who are suffering around the world. The title track is fifth on the album and begins solemnly with a fingerpicked electric guitar coupled with echoing female and male vocals singing and chanting in multiple languages. Eventually the song erupts and multiple voices sing in unison “Stand strong and keep the fire burning,” staying true to the central theme of the album.
The rest of the compilation contains notable works including the light hearted and capricious “Rusty Hammer” and the slower jam “Warrior”, which speaks of those that fight for others rights. The album resolves with “Bundagen”, a fingerpicked folk-acoustic introspection, thick with Rudd’s resonating vocals. Xavier Rudd and the United Nations were successful in creating an egalitarian reggae album ripe with global flavors. One might be alienated by Rudd’s radical lyricism, however there is definitely no confusion pertaining to the albums message.