City Paper is not for tourists
Standout Track: No. 3, “Business of Confusion,” a dramatic, sociopolitical roots-reggae track from D.C.-based, U.S. Virgin Islands-born singer Christopher Smith, aka Puma Ptah. Best known as a vocalist with Thievery Corporation, Ptah is also a former member of Archives, a traditional D.C. reggae band. “Business of Confusion,” from Ptah’s first official solo release, In One Accord, opens and closes with gentle, unhurried piano runs from keyboardist Scott Schoem underneath Ptah’s deep, ardent vocals. Recorded at Honest Music in Adelphi, the tune also features a concise guitar solo from Gregory “Tanash” Tanyi.
Musical Motivation: The song slams people who purposely deceive others through misinterpreted religious texts and commercial messages, like in the ads for skin-bleaching products featuring Bollywood stars Ptah saw in India. “There is no shame in their game,” Ptah sings, linking such manipulation to “the evolution of slavery.” Historically, he says, people all over the world have obeyed the commands of priests, emperors, kings, scribes, and pharaohs who warned of supernatural punishment for earthly deeds.
On His Own: Working as a solo lead with supporting musicians rather than as part of Thievery Corporation gave Ptah more creative freedom. “I can say exactly what I wanted to and how I wanted to,” he says. “With Thievery Corporation, I’m not drastically limited, but I just have to be mindful that there [are] many other players, especially vocalists. I have to make sure what I’m bringing is consistent and compatible.” Here, Ptah is in charge of both lyrics and melody, and his other players help flesh out his island-rooted vision.
Puma Ptah plays Carter Barron on July 24. Listen to “Business of Confusion” after the jump.