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Sizzla - Praise Ye Jah

I first met Sizzla when he was still at high school. Homer Harris introduced me to him at Grove rehearsal studios in Kingston in 1993 and said that he'd named him Sizzla "because this youth here is going to be the hottest deejay in Jamaica." It was a bold claim for someone so young, and yet entirely justified given what happened in future.

There’s a new breed of Rasta youth coming out of Jamaica. They are the messengers; intent upon reclaiming not only the roots of their music, but also their history. These Kings Of The Earth are currently taking reggae music by storm. Leading the charge is a young sing-jay called Sizzla, whose fiery brand of truth and rights has made him the most talked about artist on the island.

It’s not often we can witness the birth of a legend, but we knew he was serious when he asked “Will a white man’s God save me from white man oppression?”on “True God”; the record that first put him on the map during 1994/5. Tracks like "I’m Not Sure”, “Judgment Morning", “We Nuh Fear” and "Blaspheme" tumbled after, quickly followed by his debut album “Burning Up”. All were produced by Fatis Burrell for Xterminator, Jamaica’s foremost contemporary roots and culture label. He was soon touring with the Xterminator Crew, who include Island Jamaica star Luciano and Mikey General, both of whom have appeared with him on hit combinations.

Yet Sizzla had been around the Kingston scene for a while before being discovered by Fatis. Born Miguel Collins and raised in August Town, he’d shown a gift for writing whilst still at school, and was soon penning original lyrics of his own. He then dee-hayed on a sound named Caveman Hi-Fi before recording for Zagalou and Digital B, although little progress was made until master sax player Dean Fraser introduced him to Xterminator, who now release his superb second album “Praise Ye Jah”.

There are no short-cuts to making music like this. It is majestic in scope, the riddims having the feel and the sound of classic roots reggae, but with an unmistakable Nineties stamp. No better vehicle for his deeply spiritual talents can be imagined. Ancient teachings’ course through his songs, yet the message remains ever relevant, and the wisdom contained within it astonishing for one still so young. Sizzla wasn't an artist who switched from slackness to culture; he's cultural from birth. Nor is his chanted vocal style like any other. It embraces both singing and dee-jaying (hence the term “sing-jay”) and he improvises all the while, his voice an instrument in its own right as it journeys through a range of feelings extraordinary in their passion and intensity.

Lyrically of course, he’s outstanding. Whether healing the broken-hearted on “Homeless”; addressing his race on “Blackness” or voicing praise on “Haile Selassie”, “No Other Like Jah” and the awesome title track, his turn of phrase and shades of meaning single him out as the most inspired and inspiring artist of his generation. Guided by righteousness, he’s fearless in the face of oppression too, as songs like “Dem A Wonder”, “Ina Dem Face”, “Greedy Joe” and “Babylon Cowboy” prove only too well. Yet on others he preaches a love for humanity that carries with it such urgency, all God-hearted must take note.

These are just some of the reasons why his music is having such an impact today. Whilst playing this album over and over again as you surely must, you’ll find untold others for yourself.

John Masouri

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