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First Listen: Signal Fire – Conquering Lion ft. Kenyatta Hill

Back in October, Rootfire premiered  the track “Lift Up,” from Wilmington, NC’s Signal Fire. Last month, we featured a Throwback Thursday article about the Jamaican roots reggae vanguards, Culture.

What do these two bands have in common? For one, Signal Fire keyboardist, Carl Blackmon, has toured with Culture and is a friend of Kenyatta Hill, the son of the late Joseph Hill, founder and lead singer of the band.

Additionally, Signal Fire’s primary songwriter and singer, Sean Gregory, has been a fan of Culture for years. As such, he loosely modeled the band’s latest single, “Conquering Lion,” after a crucial Culture track, “See Them A Come.” Today, Rootfire brings you a first listen of this latest single, featuring Kenyatta Hill.

Considering Kenyatta’s prowess for mixing Culture’s recent music, the North Carolina quartet thought it might be cool to invite him down to their studio to work with them on the track. In addition to assistance with mixing, Kenyatta ended up contributing vocals to the tune, delivering a performance tremendously reminiscent of his father.

This serendipitous collaboration has birthed a delightful song with an invigorating message and melody to match. The quick steppers beat underlies lively keys and a cheerful guitar lead, with a catchy, upful chorus:  

For we know that love is the greatest power, and we know that love can conquer all.

Synth flute and Hill’s vocal punctuations provide further accents that altogether result in a sound that deftly resembles the music of Culture.

“At the time I wrote it, I had no idea we would end up having Kenyatta sing a verse on it,” Gregory tells Rootfire. “He really gives it that Culture spirit and sound. For that whole thing to come full circle is pretty cool.”

“Conquering Lion,” is, of course, named for the Lion of Judah. The most prevalent symbol in Rastafarian culture, it represents Haile Seslassie, whom the Rastas worship as the messiah. In a more historical Christian context, the Lion of Judah also represents Jesus. Given the biblical imagery of Jesus and his equivalency to love, the title “Conquering Lion” is aptly suited for a song with a refrain focussed on this greatest universal power.

Signal Fire with Kenyatta Hill

While the most obvious sentiment simply extols the virtues of loving one another, digging a little more deeply, the following verse clearly responds to the current political leadership of our country:

Watch them come and I’ve watched them go 
But I’ve always known
Said they were a wolf (Deceivers and backbiters) 
In sheep clothing (We see dem, We see dem) 

Lying to the people
It don’t make no sense 
But the information’s stacking up against ya now 
We gonna rise up 
Said we gonna rise up 

Despite the constant spew of falsities, negativity and veiled bigotry that fan the flames of divisiveness amongst the populace, taking a cue from the Biblically rooted, politically conscious music of Culture, Signal Fire, along with Kenyatta Hill, rebel against the darkness by rising to the light of unity and positivity, creating a jubilant song capable of getting even the most rigid of sorts shaking their hips and feeling good.


Signal Fire’s latest single “Conquering Lion” feat. Kenyatta Hill is available everywhere April 20 on Lift Up Records.

 

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Ever since becoming deeply moved and then essentially obsessed with reggae music as a teenager, Dave has always strove to learn as much as possible about the history and culture of reggae music, Jamaica and Rastafari, the ideology and lifestyle intertwined with reggae. 

Over the years, he has interviewed many personalities throughout the reggae world including Ziggy Marley, Burning Spear, Lucky Dube, Bradley Nowell and many artists in the progressive roots scene.

Dave has also written and published a novel, “The Cosmic Burrito,” a tale of two friends who drive across the USA in search of the ultimate burrito. He plays ice hockey weekly for a recreational team he founded and manages, Team Rasta.

Reggae music has filled his life with a richness for which he will forever be grateful, and he gives thanks to musicians far and wide, past and present, whether they perform roots, dub, dancehall, skinhead, rocksteady or ska, whether their tools are analog or digital, as well as the producers, promoters, soundsystems, selectors and the reggae massive at large who comprise the international reggae community.

You can follow Dave on Instagram at @rootsdude and Twitter at @ElCosmicBurrito.