With Jamaica celebrating 50 years of Independence, there has been, quite understandably, a look at what has happened in the country's history. That is no less true of the country's music. This year, The Gleaner has published, on a number of occasions, different aspects of that history. In one 'Story of the Song', a weekly feature produced by Mel Cooke, Toots Hibbert spoke of first coming up with the term 'reggae'. More recently, Edward Seaga spoke about The Heptones being responsible for the first real reggae track. The views are uncountable, but as Jamaica looks at 50 more years of Independence, we continue to look with much curiosity at our past.
WITH over 40 years in the music under their belt, Inner Circle has just about seen and done it all. Recently, the band launched their latest, and arguably, most important, initiative. Their dissatisfaction with contemporary Jamaican music inspired the Saving The Reggae Music campaign. Bass player and founding member Ian Lewis warns that "unless proper steps are taken, then we are going to lose the best thing that we ever had." Lewis says current reggae is too influenced by American hip hop. In light of this trend, the group is pushing their latest song, This Is Reggae Music, a cover of the Zap Pow band's hit song from the early 1970s.
The proven adage of conscious reggae music is the guiding theme of Glen Washington's new 17-track album, Masterpiece (ZHP). Reflecting his personal and artistic commitment to truth, rights and love, Masterpiece shows the mission is fully on course. From serious conscious roots, to playful lovers reggae, Glen Washington lends, not just his voice but his soul to a masterpiece of both music and message. Signature Zion I Kings musical arrangements emphasise layers of sound in which the interplay of percussion, breezy horns and bubbling bass lines tell a story themselves. Here, Washington's husky vocals lead the listener on a reggae journey inspired by soul, mento and gospel. Glen Washington's Masterpiece is available July 10 worldwide on Zion High Productions via A-Train Entertainment (digital), Ernie B Reggae (CD/USA) and August 1 via CRS (CD/Europe).
When Maxi Priest sits down and crosses his legs, his dreadlocks drape and curl around his body, hanging over one ankle and the edge of his chair. Though the singer was born and raised in England, they are a tangible reminder of his Jamaican heritage. He’s combined the two to produce his own distinctive (and very successful) brand of reggae fusion. In Sri Lanka to perform at the Hikkaduwa Music Festival (?) and the opening ceremony of the Sri Lanka Premier League, Maxi is also looking forward to watching some cricket. "I love the 20-20," he adds, "You know who my boy is? The one who bowls like this," he says, doing a creditable imitation of Lasith Malinga’s bowling action. "I think he’s great. He’s exciting. He’s brought a great energy to the game." Right now, Maxi is hot off the June release of his new album, which bears the self-explanatory title of ‘Maximum Collection.’ "It’s 36 songs from way back when to now," he says.
Iconic reggae superstar Bob Marley's too-brief life is chronicled in this documentary lovefest. Though he died from cancer at age 36 in 1981, his music and his influence live on. Loaded with rare footage, performances and interviews, the 2012 film also discusses Marley’s infidelities, even though it’s made with his family’s cooperation. It’s directed by Kevin Macdonald, best known for his dramas "The Last King of Scotland" and "State of Play." Macdonald set out to make a film that would inform the Marley children and grandchildren about Bob's life, which led to Billboard posing the question to Ziggy Marley about which stories he had never heard. One concerned his father's concern about his fair skin, the other about the song "Small Axe," which has long been seen as a song about taking down corrupt governments. In reality, it was about specific people in the Jamaican music industry. PG-13, 145 minutes. Extras: interviews, photos and director commentary. From Magnolia Home Entertainment. Released Aug. 7.
Grammy-winning reggae icon Lee "Scratch" Perry has some unfinished business that has just been completed. The renowned dub and reggae pioneer will release his next album, entitled Master Piece on September 11, 2012. The album will contain a few tracks that were initially released in 2010. See Of Sound, the record label releasing the new album, says the tracks that have been reworked for Master Piece were originally issued in an "unfinished" state. The upcoming release Master Piece offfers ten tracks from the Mad Professor that are mixed with the inclusion of lounge-dub, hip hop, jazz and trance. Produced by Born Free and The Next Room, the album is a distinct, if not extreme, departure from virtually all of Perry's past works.
The City Council will declare Aug. 7 Bob Marley Day in Los Angeles, honoring the late iconic Jamaican reggae singer-songwriter in connection with the DVD release of the documentary “Marley.” Two of Marley’s children, Ziggy and Karen, will accept a proclamation from Councilman Tom LaBonge announcing Bob Marley Day in Los Angeles. Born Feb. 6, 1945, in the rural community of Nine Miles in the mountainous terrain of the Jamaican parish of St. Ann, Marley went on to become the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the ska, rocksteady and reggae bands The Wailers and Bob Marley & and The Wailers.
Marvin Gaye may have protested more elegantly, but “What a Gwaan,” the first single off Tosh’s fifth album, has conviction born of lineage. It’s an anthem that is as applicable to the plight of Trench Town as it is to the Greek financial crisis — a forceful, defining chant that is vintage old school reggae from the scion of one of the founders of the genre. “It is about Jamaica, but it’s really what’s happening all over the world — no money, blood running, people getting killed and exploited by the greedy,” says Tosh, the 45-year-old son of late reggae legend Peter Tosh, in an interview. The album, Eye to I, will be released this fall. Tosh who looks and sounds remarkably like his father, will preview it when he plays Toronto’s Jambana festival at Downsview Park on Aug. 6, a commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence. But in 50 years of freedom, Tosh is still singing songs of protest — of economic slavery and exploitation — that his father, who taught Bob Marley how to play guitar, sang so passionately about.
Reggae icon Bob Marley, in his highly acclaimed Redemption Song, exhorted listeners: "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds."Most fans attribute the saying to him. Only a relative few are aware that Marley was quoting from a 1937 speech given by pan-African visionary Marcus Mosiah Garvey. The ultimate irony is that they don't know because they have never read Marcus Garvey, the philosophical fountainhead for Marley.Were it not for Marley's clever musical cloaking of this profound idea, it would never have gained such popularity. And this speaks to two unfortunate truths which may be limiting the career achievements of a lot of people. Both reveal why many people, while celebrating the Jamaica 50 Jubilee, remain mentally enslaved to states such as fear, ignorance, low self-esteem, self-doubt and pessimism.
"Reggae is only what you hear and think is reggae," Peter Tosh pronounces at the beginning of Heartland Reggae (1980)—and a lot of what sounds like just that is playing at BAMcinématek during the long-weekend program Do the Reggae, which ends on the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence. Concert documentary Heartland Reggae, to give one essential example, is an effort to record the music's Woodstock or Wattstax, cherry-picking performances from 1978's One Love Peace Concert, arranged to squash beef between Jamaica's then-warring political parties. Homecoming headliner Bob Marley is supported by Tosh, performing an interminable "Legalize It," along with 11-year-old dynamo Little Junior Tucker, doing his best James Brown, and exuberantly shirtless Jacob Miller, antagonizing the police presence with a wielded spliff. (Miller died in 1980, while his bandmates, Inner Circle, later found running-dog fame with "Bad Boys," the theme song from COPS.)