The evolution of reggae sound

Tyler Cole

The following is the opening dialogue recited by a Rastafari Bushman in the 1978 film Rockers:

“Greetings and love. To one and all. In I presence I-preme coverage of I heights. Love for everyone everywhere. It is known that the cooperation of all colors of people voice the decision of I heights. Free everyone and liberate fully everywhere. Now everyone just cooperate with the love of I heights to survive. Knowing that in this world, war is explosive. The ways of the One solve the problem in the heights of I coverage in full. So it is I-rey. Loveful heights.”

Out of the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, a new type of music fueled by the Rastafari movement began to emerge in the 1970s and left the world with a message that needs to be heard.

The sound and lyrics in these records show that even though these people dealt with the toughest of situations, they weren’t going to let Babylon enslave them. They are known as Rockers, but more than anything, these artists represent the leading voice of a positive cause that all mankind needs to hear.

Roots reggae is the manifestation of the Rasta way of life into a musical form. Themes of the music dealt with the everyday life of the poor in Kingston, repatriation of the black man, and the overall struggle of human kind.

Bob Marley and the Wailers are roots reggae, and deserve every right to be known as the fathers of reggae. But, they are not the only ones.

The following list is five influential artist (other then Bob Marley and any of the Wailers) to come out of Kingston during that time. The artists on this list best represent the sound and message that is roots reggae.

The first band is The Congo’s. Comprised of “Ashanti” Roy Johnson and Cedric Myton, their album Heart of the Congos, is a staple roots record. Released in 1977, the album is charged by Rastari lyrics and the classic kitchen sink production sound of Lee “Scratch” Perry. The record also features Gregory Isaacs, The Meditations, and The Heptones. It is a must own for anyone that wants to seriously get into reggae music.

Secondly, there is Sugar Minott. As part of The African Brothers, Minott was one of the first artist in the music scene of Jamaica with clearly Rastafari influenced lyrics. As a solo artist Minott got hooked up with famed Studio One and began working with producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. Where he released Live Loving and Showcase in 1978 and 79 before leaving. Also released in 79, Black Roots and Ghett-ology, round out the four best roots albums Minott pressed. Minott continues to tour and has released over some 60 albums or so.

Third is The Gladiators. From the same neighborhood in Kingston, Albert Griffiths, Clinton Fearon, Errol Grandison, and David Webber, are The Gladiators. The band got its first taste of success in 1968, but soon after members Webber and Grandison left and Gallimore Sutherland joined.

And it is those three members that went on to record albums like Trenchtown Mix, Proverbial Reggae, Naturality, and Sweet So Till in the late ’70s. They continue to record great roots reggae to this day. The best of the best ladies and gentlemen.

No. 4 on the list is another Studio One artist, Andy laid vocals down for producers like Phil Pratt, King Tubby, and Prince Jammy. Andy’s style is unique and captivating. He began recording in the late 1960s and released You are My Angel and In the Light in the ’70s, both fine roots albums. Andy is still recording today and plays around the world.

Last but not least, there is Don Carlos. Coming out of the tough Waterhouse district of Western Kingston (the same that the great King Tubby is from) Don Carlos was one of the original members of Black Uhuru. With Garth Dennis and Derrick Simpson, the group released Love Crisis in 1977. Produced by Prince Jammy this album is another masterpiece to come out of the Jamaican recording studios in the 1970s. Carlos would go to have a successful solo career and still tours today. Carlos’ song Laser Beam was covered with great success by Long Beach’s Sublime in the early ’90s (the recording can be found on some of Sublime’s bootleg albums).

Also checkout Jacob Miller, Inner Circle, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Burning Spear, U-Roy, The Ethiopians, Johnny Osbourne, Junior Reid, Twinkle Brothers, and the movie Rockers.

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