The Illest reggae fusion album released

NOELLE NICOLLS and ALESHA CADET report for the Bahamas’ Tribune.

Last Thursday was no ordinary performance night for the Bahamas’ rising stars, reggae fusion band The Illest. Down the road from their ordinary gig, the band launched their debut album, the self-titled “The Illest”, bringing a long-time vision to life.

“We had a great turnout at the release party. New fans and those loyal, recognisable fans that have been supporting us from the beginning were there, so the turnout was exactly as we expected. We perform and enjoy music with these people every week (at Bahama Joe’s). To see them all at the launch was dred,” said front man Willis Knowles, the band’s lead male vocalist.

The new album cements the group’s iconic reggae style, said band manager Charmaine Bourbon. The nine tracks feature a mixture of genres, including Rock’n Roll, and Jazz and Blues, but reggae remains the root.

The last vocal track on the album, “Natty-Jam”, has a contemporary sound that brings out the rock influence of the group and features the punchy rap vocals of Bahamian artist Rapp Quelle.

The group’s R&B flavour comes out in the slow jam “Empress”, a soulful love song written by Mr Knowles and lead female vocalist Mandisa Kerr. The pair are credited as writers for the entire album.

The group’s Rastafari inspired percussion rhythms come out on the culture track “Truth Search”.

“This album is a musical portrait of what our music is and represents, so we thought that it was only appropriate to self-title the album. People can expect to press play and listen to any favourite Illest original. New or old, fans will be able to connect with the tunes and ride the music in the album from start to finish,” said Mr Knowles.

At the album launch on Thursday, The Illest also debuted their new music video for “Hey”, a fan favourite for the group. The video portrayed a soulful Willis walking away from a torn relationship.

Many of the scenes were filmed in recognisable downtown locations, like the new shopping plaza Elizabeth on Bay and the new straw market. The Junkanoo flavoured Fredrick Street mural by Maya Hayuk added a vibrant sense of colour and contrast to the video’s visuals.

“(The single) ‘Hey’ was one of the most well-received from the album whenever we performed it, so we decided to run that one first, and we will be working and producing more videos and media to go with our music,” said Mr Knowles.

“It was great to hear fans sing our songs along with us and see the positivity in the people during the show,” he said.

The local video production was attributed to Shantz Collymore of Evolution Film and Media and Valentino Lloyd of Capture 242 Media. The video is currently making its rounds on Facebook, YouTube and the band’s official website.

While the band’s lead guitarist Fernand “Nano” Miramontes was absent from the stage during the launch performance, Mr Knowles said Nano is still very much a part of the crew. He is currently receiving therapy for an injury to his arm, so he handled the sound system with musician Nasson Poople. Guitarist Ashley Algreen plugged all the gaps.

Thieves struck the group the night of the performance, stealing important equipment about an hour before the event, but the band managed to overcome the technical difficulties and play on.

For the rest of the year and beyond, the group is looking to conquer the music scene with “great energy, new music and hopefully some awesome performances locally and abroad”.

On December 23, The Illest is performing at “Jingle Bells Rock”, a Christmas concert at the Botanical Gardens. The new album is available in select stores in Nassau, on the band’s website and iTunes. It will also be available at future shows.

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