Cause and Effect presents:
Thats right ill be teaching ya’ll the rites of reggae and where its going nd where its been!
HERE IS THE FACTSHEET
Mento draws from many of Jamaica’s folk music styles, and primarily began as the music of slaves on the plantations – it was the sound of rural Jamaica in the 1940s, and can be said to resemble Trinidadian calypso. Many of the recordings we have today are thanks to Stanley Motta who in the 1950s identified the popularity of calypso, and therefore the potential popularity of mento, and so recorded artists such as Count Lasher, George Moxey and Lord Fly.
The first Jamaican recording studio opened in 1951 and recorded “mento” music, a fusion of European and African folk dance music. The island was awash in rhythm’n’blues records imported by the so called “sound systems”, eccentric traveling dance-halls run by no less eccentric disc-jockeys such as Clement Dodd (the “Downbeat”) and Duke Reid (the “Trojan”). The poor people of the Jamaican ghettos, who could not afford to hire a band for their parties, had to content themselves with these “sound systems”. The “selectors”, the Jamaican disc-jockeys who operated those sound systems, became the real entertainers. The selector would spin the records and would “toast” over them. The art of “toasting”, that usually consisted in rhyming vocal patterns and soon evolved in social commentary, became as important as the music that was being played.
In 1954 Ken Khouri started Jamaica’s first record label, “Federal Records”. He inspired Reid and Dodd, who began to record local artists for their sound system. Towards the end of the 1950s, amateurs began to form bands that played Caribbean music and New Orleans’ rhythm’n’blues, besides the local mento. This led to the “bluebeat” groups, which basically were Jamaica’s version of the New Orleans sound. They usually featured saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, drums and bass. Soon the bass became the dominant instrument, and the sound evolved into the “ska”. The “ska” beat had actually been invented by Roscoe Gordon, a Memphis pianist, with No More Doggin’ (1951). Ska songs boasted an upbeat tempo, a horn section, Afro-American vocal harmonies, jazzy riffs and staccato guitar notes.
Theophilus Beckford cut the first “ska” record, Easy Snapping, in 1959, but Prince Buster (Cecil Campbell), owner of the sound system “Voice of the People”, was the one who, around 1961, defined ska’s somatic traits once and forever (he and his guitarist Jah Jerry).
The Wailers, featuring the young Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, slowed down the beat in Simmer Down (1963). Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop (1964) was the first worldwide ska hit. The charismatic leaders of the ska movement were the Skatalites, a group of veteran ex-jazzmen led by saxophonist Tommy McCook and featuring virtuoso trombonist Don Drummond and tenor saxophonist Rolando Alphonso, that formally existed only between 1964 and 1965 (Ball O’ Fire, 1965; Phoenix City, 1966; the instrumental Guns Of Navarone, 1967), but ska’s star was Desmond Dekker (Dacres),
in this track you can hear that the bass has become more important, and the rhythm guitar is playing a steady off-beat – something that would develop into an important feature of reggae.
whose Israelites (1968) launched the even faster “poppa-top”, and whose 007 Shanty Town (1967) and Rude Boy Train fueled the mythology of the “rude boy”. Ska
music was relatively serene and optimist, a natural soundtrack to that age of peace and wealth, somewhat akin to the music of the “swinging London”.
Jamaica had become an independent country in 1962, but social problems had multiplied. During the mid Sixties, ska music evolved into “rock steady”, a languid style, named after Alton Ellis’ hit Rock Steady (1966), that emphasized sociopolitical themes, adopted electric instruments, replaced the horns with the guitars, and promoted the bass to lead instrument (virtually obliterating the drums). In other words, ska mutated under the influence of soul music. Rock steady was identified with the crowd of young delinquents (the “rude boys”) who mimicked the British “mods” and the American “punks”. Its generational anthems were Judge Dread (1967) by Prince Buster, John Holt’s The Tide Is High (1966) by the Paragons, Rivers Of Babylon (1969) by the Melodians. The music took the back seat to the vocal harmonies. This helped bring about the supremacy of vocal groups: Wailers, Paragons, Maytals (the new name of the Vikings of the ska hit Halleluja, 1963), Pioneers, Melodians, Heptones, etc
The word “reggae” was coined around 1960 in Jamaica to identify a “ragged” style of dance music, that still had its roots in New Orleans rhythm’n’blues. However, reggae soon acquired the lament-like style of chanting and emphasized the syncopated beat. It also made explicit the relationship with the underworld of the “Rastafarians” (adepts of a millenary African faith, revived Marcus Garvey who advocated a mass emigration back to Africa), both in the lyrics and in the appropriation of the African nyah-bingi drumming style (a style that mimicks the heartbeat with its pattern of “thump-thump, pause, thump-thump”). Compared with rock music, reggae music basically inverted the role of bass and guitar: the former was the lead, the latter beat the typical hiccupping pattern. The paradox of reggae, of course, is that this music “unique to Jamaica” is actually not Jamaican at all, having its foundations in the USA and Africa.
An independent label, Island, distributed Jamaican records in the UK throughout the 1960s, but reggae became popular in the UK only when Prince Buster’s Al Capone (1967) started a brief “dance craze”. Jamaican music was very much a ghetto phenomenon, associated with gang-style violence, but Jimmy Cliff’s Wonderful World Beautiful People (1969) wed reggae with the “peace and love” philosophy of the hippies, an association that would not die away. In the USA, Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine (1967) was the first reggae hit by a pop musician. Shortly afterwards, Johnny Nash’s Hold Me Tight (1968) propelled reggae onto the charts. Do The Reggay (1968) by Toots (Hibbert) And The Maytals was the record that gave the music its name. Fredrick Toots Hibbert’s vocal style was actually closer to gospel, as proved by their other hits (54-46, 1967; Monkey Man, 1969; Pressure Drop, 1970).
A little noticed event would have far-reaching consequences: in 1967, the Jamaican disc-jockey Rudolph “Ruddy” Redwood had begun recording instrumental versions of reggae hits. The success of his dance club was entirely due to that idea. Duke Reid, who was now the owner of the Trojan label, was the first one to capitalize on the idea: he began releasing singles with two sides: the original song and, on the back, the instrumental remix. This phenomenon elevated the status of dozens of recording engineers.
More and more studio engineers were re-mixing B-sides of reggae 45 RPM singles, dropping out the vocals and emphasizing the instrumental texture of the song. The purpose was to allow disc-jockeys to “toast” over the record. Engineers became more and more skilled at refining the instrumental textures, especially when they began to employ sophisticated studio devices. Eventually, “dub” became an art on its own. The first dub singles appeared in 1971, but the man generally credited with “inventing” the genre is Osbourne Ruddock, better known asKing Tubby (2), a recording engineer who in 1970 had accidentally discovered the appeal of stripping a song of its vocal track, and who engineered the first dub record, Carl Patterson’s Psalm Of Dub (1971). When he got together with producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, Blackboard Jungle (1973) was born: the first stereo “dub” album. It was a Copernican revolution: the engineer and the producer had become more important than the composer. It also marked the terminal point of the “slowing down” of Jamaican music, a process that had led from ska to reggae to rock steady. Compared with the original, dub was like a slow-motion version. a collaboration with melodica player Augustus Pablo led to another seminal work, King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (1976).
“Rapping” originated from the complementary tradition of the “talk-over”. The disc-jockeys of the sound systems used to accompany the dance tracks with impromptu melodic and spoken-word vocals, often simply to add enthusiasm to the dance. This eventually became an art in itself. U-Roy (Edwart Beckford) was possibly the first great talk-over artist, the man who turned dub into a highly-effective vehicle for agit-prop messages (Dynamic Fashion Way, 1969; Runaway Girl, 1976; Wake the Town, Wear You to the Ball). Other pioneers of rapping were Dennis “Alcapone” Smith, with Forever Version (1971), Prince Jazzbo and I Roy. Big Youth (Manley Buchanan) upped the ante with his wild sociopolitical raps (S-90 Skank, 1972; The Killer, 1973; House Of Dread Locks, 1975; Every Nigger Is A Star, 1976), most effectively on Dreadlocks Dread (1975). Originally, the technique of these “toaster” consisted in remixing other people’s songs, removing the original vocals, emphasizing the rhythmic base, and overdubbing their own rhyming stories on the resulting track.
Playlist temporarily unavailable.
Posted In: Music Shows