MONDAY, MAY 25, 2015
WEEK 21: ROOTS & DUB
Early reggaes transition to roots was like the blending of brown into black paint, the gradual change going practically unnoticed until The Wailers Catch A Fire opened the commercial door with a little help from an overdubbed rock guitar. Roots put an emphasis on Rastafari, Africa, black deliverance and redemption, calling on the youth to put their consciousness into action and be warriors, whether they were musicians or not. From the start it was rebel music.
Big Youth’s Screaming Target wasn’t the first roots record, but it was one of the first to be conceived as a whole, and one that became something of a yardstick for roots style. With a raw, instinctive energy, the 23 year old pushed the whole idea of toasting onwards and upwards by addressing heavier, harder hitting issues. He was also the first to display the dreadlocks that had been noticeably absent in The Harder They Come.
Toasting apart, the second key element of roots was dub as an end in itself. Gradually evolving from the instrumentals used to accompany DJ’s in the late sixties, the increasingly advanced studio technology of the seventies allowed the creation of genuinely dread tracks that bore little resemblance to original song structures. One of the first dub albums was The Upsetters Blackboard Jungle Dub, a startling clash of Lee Perry rhythms and King Tubby sorcery, but the most notable example of the art by far was Augusto Pablo’s King Tubby meets Rockers Uptown.
Under the influence of such luminaries as Don Letts, John Lydon and The Clash, one youth culture that became inextricably linked to roots reggae was punk. Strengthening the bond forged by ska in the early sixties, roots message of resistance chimed perfectly with the early punk ethos. As I remember it, War Inna Babylon, Natty Rebel, Heart Of The Congos, Tappa Zukie’s In Dub, Police And Thieves and most of all Cultures prophesy toting Two Sevens Clash, an album built on it’s genius anthemic title track, were the most essential purchases of the times, but they were just the tip of a massive cultural surge. By 1977, reggae was threatening to break out of Jamaica for good, mainly because of the islands one, truly global superstar.
In most modern music romance is dying, politics is fatal and God is dead yet Bob Marley never shied away from covering all of them; the sexual, the political and the spiritual. Somehow, he was able to take Jamaica’s mixed up history; a jumble of such disparate concepts as Rastafari, Haile Selassie, Marcus Garvey, rebellion, herb and Trenchtown and with staggering dedication and commitment, rebuild them into a concerned, intricate, focused music.
It would be too easy to say the roots movement died with him on 11th May 1981. The truth is, reggae had already moved on without him. The idea of roots going international in the wake of his phenomenal success had forced Jamaican musicians to re-evaluate the reasoning behind their motivation and belief. Technological advances were changing the way music was being made, making it both easier and cheaper, and there was a new, younger generation determined to reclaim the islands music for themselves, to try something different. And that something was dancehall.
01 BIG YOUTH ‘Screaming Target’ (Screaming Target LP March 1973)
02 THE UPSETTERS ‘Drum Rock’ (14 Dub Blackboard Jungle LP August 1973)
03 THE WAILERS ‘Get Up Stand Up’ (Burnin’ LP November 1973)
04 KING TUBBY ‘The Immortal Dub’ (The Roots Of Dub LP July 1974)
05 BURNING SPEAR ‘Marcus Garvey’ (Marcus Garvey LP December 1975)
06 MIGHTY DIAMONDS ‘Why Me Black Brother Why?’ (Right Time LP April 1975)
07 MAX ROMEO ‘War Ina Babylon’ (War Ina Babylon LP March 1976)
08 U ROY ‘Natty Rebel’ (Natty Rebel LP June 1976)
09 DILLINGER ‘Cocaine In My Brain’ (CB 200 LP July 1976)
10 THE CONGOS ‘Children Crying’ (Heart Of The Congos LP July 1976)
11 TAPPA ZUKIE ‘Dub MPLA’ (Tappa Zukie In Dub LP November 1976)
12 CULTURE ‘Two Sevens Clash’ (Two Sevens Clash LP March 1977)
13 JUNIOR MURVIN ‘Police And Thieves’ (Police And Thieves LP April 1977)
14 AUGUSTUS PABLO ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’ (King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown LP July 1977)
15 PRINCE FAR I ‘Young Generation’ (Under Heavy Manners LP October 1977)
16 ISRAEL VIBRATION ‘Why Worry’ (The Same Song LP July 1978)
17 DR ALIMANTADO ‘Poison Flour’ (Best Dressed Chicken In Town LP March 1978)
18 WILLIE WILLIAMS ‘Armagideon Time’ (Armagideon Time LP March 1979)
19 I ROY ‘African Herbsman’ (African Herbsman LP October 1979)
20 SCIENTIST ‘Seconds Away’ (Heavyweight Dub Champion LP July 1980)
21 MIKEY DREAD ‘Mental Slavery’ (World War III LP August 1980)