“Reggae music unites us… it takes away your troubles and makes you feel good. I want to spread the wisdom and rhythms of reggae across borders of culture, language, and nationality and give my voice to a force that can help create positive change.” That’s the credo of Cecilia Villar Eljuri a conscious and inspired Ecuadorian-born, New York-based singer-songwriter, simply known as Eljuri. And that’s exactly the doctrine she brings to the table on her album ‘Resiste: La Colección Reggae de Eljuri’, released via Manovil Records, and available on major digital platforms. The album set includes original Eljuri songs, including three of them co-written with the legendary Jamaican reggae duo Sly & Robbie.
Alongside her highly rated guitar skills, Eljuri engaged her New York City team of, Alex Alexander on drums and Johnny Pisano on bass, and recorded with Zach Hancock and Juan ‘Saucy’ Peña at Downtown Music NYC. Music that explores all kinds of intricacies about humanity and humility are rarities that deserve to be cherished.
No song sounds like the next, or the one before, on ‘Resiste: La Colección Reggae de Eljuri’, yet they are all tied together by a common, sound, style, theme, and quality, which makes this album more than just a collection of songs by Eljuri.
Though the songs are in Spanish, a quick translation, makes it clear that there is a message in all of the tracks here, which shows how much Eljuri is aware of, and concerned with, what is going on in our society and the world in general. The touching and haunting melody of the opening song “Resiste” just grabs your heart from the first bars, with its funky reggae rhythm.
And from that moment onward Eljuri grabs hold of the listener’s attention, and never let’s go. If you love the Jamaican sound, then “El Aire” will have you up and swaying to the hypnotic bass-driven groove. This is conscious music, for people with something positive on their minds.
On “Una Ola”, Eljuri’s impressive vocal range shows an understanding of structure and melody that repeatedly affects, and infects, with hooks and turns that actually mean something substantial, and despite the Spanish, lodges in our English programmed brains, just the same.
The latinx inflections in both the music and vocals adds an even more captivating dimension to the roots reggae infused rhythms in these songs. The driving rhythm and layered harmonies of “Quiero Saber” shine with passion and zeal, both in its content and production, which oozes an earthy warmth.
What makes this album stand out is Eljuri’s ability to infuse her music with social commentary and cutting insight while still giving it an appeal that sticks in the listeners mind as they sing along. “Bangbang” steps up to the plate with a powerful rhythm, blasting horns, and a fiery guitar solo, for a stirring experience.
“Empuja” sticks to the same powerhouse formula, with a mesmerizing rhythm and an enrapturing vocal performance from Eljuri. This for me is one of the outright best tracks in the collection. ‘Resiste: La Colección Reggae de Eljuri’, closes down with “Una Ola Club Mix”, another irresistible arrangement that will have you reaching for the dancefloor.
This is an album that stands at the head of the pack of modern crossover, reggae-influenced music, and could go down as an album for the ages, as it expands beyond the traditional boundaries of the genre and moves reggae music to a new level of appreciation.