Alpha Steppa / Pupajim “Dear Friend” (not yet released)

I cannot take it anymore! This is the first time, I think, that I write about a tune that’s not even released yet. Today, roughly 12 hours ago Ben “Alpha Steppa” put out a facebook post introducing what I think will be known as a landmark tune of these days and which will be on heavy, heavy rotation for years to come! Cho! For the last five hours I played this at work, I played it on my headphones on my way home, I played it at home and I shall listen to it again on my way to work tomorrow! The last time I felt this kind of excitement and upliftment was when Dubkasm’s “Victory” finally got released in 2013 after watching the video of Aba Shanti-I playing it as a dubplate back at the Notting Hill Carnival of 2012, for what feels like, hundreds and hundreds of times.

So your question after this exuberant introduction will probably be: “OK? So … exactly what is it about this one?!”. Behold: When “Victory” was released, there was this blog post on the “wordsoundandpower” blog that perfectly summarized my feelings back then:

And then, Aba plays it. “Victory” – such a perfect name.

During the few seconds of build-up, everyone holds their breath until the horns kick in. Then the rhythm begins – the trumpet and saxophone reaching to the higher levels.

And Aba finally releases the bass. At that point, nothing else matters. For the remainder of the dance, Babylon is no more. The sound system is victorious.

That description expressed exactly what I was feeling: This tune was a pure, emotional deliverance if you stood in front of a sound system with others! And that’s exactly what I feel when listening to “Dear Friend” – on home speakers though, not even on a sound system.

The tune starts with a short, skanking intro and after a short while we hear an incredible Pupajim coming in superbly with some heavy lyrics (clear voice, wicked intonation and, as always, a unique voice that gives you the chills). I’m not sure whether I understood every word correctly, yet even if some words are slightly different, you’ll get the gist:

Dear friend, our problem is so deep (or “difficult”?)

The mountain we are hiking is so steep

I doubt that we can get there in time

But we carry on to climb

And here it gets interesting in terms of what exactly it is, that makes this tune give you the feeling of lifting the weights off your shoulders, a feeling of upliftment and hope, especially when amplified through a proper sound system: On “Victory” the victory over… shall we call it “Babylon” … is assumed to have already been achieved or at at least within reach very soon. Even more so on Luciano’s “Jah Victory” where “Jah” was to give us the means for victory. On “Dear Friend” however, the lyrics start more desperate. Continuously he describes how fucked up the world is and how big the challenge is these days to save humanity from its own destruction. But this time it’s us, not “Jah”. Personally, as an agnostic, I like that notion. We shall be keeping on climbing – working towards a better world! He says:

It’s too late … […] … it’s too late I’m afraid.

But:

… even if I want to to quit, we’ll carry on to climb!

Yes… things are fucked and sometimes one might get close to despair when having a look at society going down the drain and destroying what could be a paradise for everybody (or at least far worse than now), if we just worked together instead of against eachother. That becomes oh so clear… if we – altogether, now, in front of the sound system but also anywhere else – carry on to climb!

And that’s only the part of the tune that appeals to the the heart. Apart from that it’s also a heavyweight production. Alpha Steppa made a riddim that, in its roughness, yet also simplicity, perfectly accomodates the monotone voice of Pupajim. Monotone, by the way, is meant positive here as it fits just perfectly! Without this monotonicity, the bursts of his voice to higher tones wouldn’t have that much of an emotional impact. And such a powerful and warm bassline, very distinct skanks and sharp snares and crashes. I’m already wondering what kind of dubwise version there will be. There’s oh so much potential!

If anybody has any further information (release dates, dubplates… anything!) just add a comment below. Until then we’ll all be keeping this video on heavy rotation until there is a heavyweight vinyl release.

Thomas Dalichow

TwizzyDizzy

About TwizzyDizzy

Linux systems engineer by day, music junkie by night. Into reggae since 1998, into dub since some years later. Soundsystem fanatic & bass fetishist, jazz lover and Chopin admirer.