When Jonathan Rattos took a trip to Kenya in summer 2019, he didn’t know it would be the last time he’d get to venture out into the world for two years. As a professional musician, he and his brothers – including Ryan and Craig, who with him make up The Dub Chronicles – had played regular gigs multiple times a week for years in and around their hometown of Toronto. But when COVID hit, everything stopped suddenly, and these professional musicians started looking to other avenues within the industry to push their art and share their music with the world.
For Jonathan, that once-in-a-lifetime trip to a part of the world that was not only home to his girlfriend and her family, but which also serves as one of the places his own family had come from before migrating to Canada many years prior, became the inspirational foundation for a new album. The end result is The Dub Chronicles’ latest album, Simba (Return to the Throne), which went live across all digital streaming platforms on April 23.
The 18-song album is the perfect package for this group’s modern/vintage roots that blend reggae and dub with flourishes of bebop and jazz. Fans of dub and reggae will especially appreciate that the first nine songs on Simba are vocal versions of the songs, while the second nine tracks are dub versions, complete with extra echoes/delays and spring reverb/ phaser effects mixed expertly by Casey Burnett of Burnett Town Sound. And while The Dub Chronicles have created other albums in the past, Simba is the first project that they produced, mixed and mastered all on their own.
“It’s a project that we’re really proud of and excited to share with the world,” said Craig Rattos, who serves as the band’s drummer. “It’s a collection of songs that are uplifting works for people to gravitate toward. It’s a mixture of upbeat and downtempo roots reggae rhythms, which have an uplifting positive vibe that will put a smile on your face, with contrasts that will also give you feelings of perseverance through struggle and adversity. Every cloud has a silver lining.”
Craig went on to say that the album has a lot of “reggae educational concepts” that take place organically throughout the album. Songs like “Herbsman,” for instance, in combination with lyrics written by Kumar, use reggae as a platform to educate listeners on building up their immune systems naturally and embracing a more “natural and healthy” way of life. Other songs, such as “Pack Your Bags” or “All Your Days a Breeze,” are a little more relatable to the average listener and will cater to a wider audience, he said. But even those songs will, in some way, encourage audiences to look at themselves in the mirror and persevere through tough times.
One of the most attractive things about the album is all the little nuances of sound that come in unexpected and delightful ways. Alongside Craig on drums and Ryan on guitar, Jonathan brings a variety of instrumental sounds – including the left-handed Moog Bass, keyboards, organs, piano, melodica, spin sounds, and he controls all the dub effects when performing in a live setting. This is perhaps highlighted most strongly on the standout single “All Your Days a Breeze,” which features fellow Toronto artist Tash Lorayne. As the fifth track on the album, the upbeat groove works perfectly with Lorayne’s reggae/jazz lilting vocals as she tells the story of a man and a woman working on their relationship and bettering each other and themselves along the way.
“It’s a love song, essentially,” Jonathan said. “But it’s a love song that’s told from a female’s perspective. In this day and age – with equal rights and gender equality being of the utmost importance – it’s refreshing to hear a love song that puts women in a position of power. And Tash was perfect for this song. In fact, we didn’t know we were going to be featuring her on the album at all – the initial idea was to just release this rhythm as an instrumental. But her vocal performance was so well done that we were absolutely blown away, and knew it had to be on the album, and we knew it needed to be the lead single.”
The instrumental version of this song is still included as track 8 on Simba, while track 17 is the dub version. It is called “Lovers Magic” – a name that nods to a sub-genre of reggae called “lovers rock” that was made popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s along with dub. The sounds became extremely popular in Jamaica and the United Kingdom during that time, and Craig said it’s a sound that The Dub Chronicles wanted to highlight in a special way with this new project.
As Simba continues to gain traction, the Rattos brothers are looking forward to sharing it with an ever-widening audience base over the summer. They will have vinyl copies available as well – toward the end of the summer.
To listen to The Dub Chronicles’ music, or to follow them on social media, please visit the following links:
NEW ALBUM on all digital platforms – The Dub Chronicles – Simba (Return to the Throne)