Sael & Friends

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Sael & Friends serves up dancehall/raggamuffin in French that follows the Raggasonic blueprint in using classic Jamaican riddims as the musical foundation. The overall tone is light and upbeat, with solid craftsmanship certainly dominating over an ambitious push toward any kind of stylistic breakthough. The opening "C'est Party" is peppy enough and "Le Prod" puts Junior Byles' "Fade Away" rhythm in a dancehall context with prominent organ. But then again, virtually every song sounds familiar musically -- "Tchimbé Raid Pa Moli" works off another classic rhythm flavored by gentle sax fills with Sael singing quite professionally over it. The sound turns punchier and more minimal when Sael shares the lead vocals with the hip-hop-slanted Jacky and Pit Baccardi on "Un Peu D'Espoir" and more electronic when Valley and Lieutenant do the vocal honors on "Le Plan." Sael is obviously the singer in this crew and "Hello Mama" is directed at Africa, with salutes to King Selassie I over another familiar rhythm. The lack of true originality is the main drawback to Sael & Friends, but then again, Raggasonic started off the same way and their second CD proved to be a major advance. The suspicion is that much of the appeal of Sael for his audience is the chance to hear the music you love in your own language with lyrics that reflect some of the social realities you're living in.