Izania: Cool Breeze

- Cool Breeze is the debut album from newly formed Brisbane six-piece reggae band Izania.

The name is derived from the Greek word “Azania” which refers to the south-eastern areas of Africa and more recently and particularly to the liberated South Africa, after it through of the shackles of the apartheid regime. Here it's forged into a portamanteau with the Rastafarian term “I”, which denotes equality. It has specific connections for the band's members: keyboardist Anton Gurira is from Zimbabwe and Sam Rizk was born in Senegal with bassist Phil Emmanuel raised in Tanzania.

With vocalist/guitarist Mike Hakaraia and drummer Wiremu Pihema both from New Zealand it’s hardly surprising reggae music is where Izania is at, the Carribean music has a common currency in both ends of the world. Oh and by the way Paul Banks is the Aussie component in the band, playing guitar: thinking globally, token locally.

Cool Breeze takes in ten tracks of soulful, roots reggae music very much in line with the likes of a lot of New Zealand bands such as House Of Shem or Sons Of Zion.

Hakaraia’s vocals are at their strongest on tracks such as People Are You Ready, Swimming With Sharks and The Message. He has a timbre that's high and sweet, clean with just a quiver of energetic vibrato.

However they fall away on other tracks such as One World, Jah Love and Tumbling Down, not really playing to the strengths of his bright tenor and not making up for it with theatricality or showmanship. This is further compounded by lyrical content filled with rather bland reggae clichés which are OK so long as you've got something else to focus on, but tedious when you don't.

With solid production, excellent musicianship and smooth riddims being its strengths Cool Breeze is a good but not great start for Izania. There's a wealth of natural talent here and the band need the courage to put it to work: to let go of stock reggae standards and strike out for a voice that's genuinely their own. All the liberty and equality in the world don't mean much if you don't do something with them. Izania have that potential and I can't wait to hear them make good on it.

- Basmati Kassar.

Album Details

Album Title: Cool Breeze
Artist: Izania
Record Label: (Indie)