reggae


jamaica-transgender-teen-killing

Jamaican transgender teen’s murder by mob     < Click here to see article

Jesus.   It doesn’t even mention the female name that must’ve been more important to her than just about anything!

And please! Never mind the ‘reason’!! There is never any reason!!!

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
― attributed to Edmund Burke.

In this case, evil ran riot!

[sighs]

Well, it’s nothing new.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center article on ‘murder music’:

Jamaican dancehall star Buju Banton was considered a musical prodigy in 1988 when, at age 15, he recorded what remains one of his best-known tracks, “Boom Bye Bye.” Even in the difficult-to-decipher Jamaican slang known as patois, its chorus evokes violence and dread: Boom bye bye / inna batty bwoy head / Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man / dem haffi dead. (“Boom [the sound of a gunshot], bye-bye, in a faggot’s head / the tough young guys don’t accept fags; they have to die.”)

“For those whose familiarity with Jamaican music begins and ends with Bob Marley, “murder music” — and its stubborn worldwide popularity — will come as a serious shock.

“…According to the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), Jamaica’s only organization promoting LGBT rights, mobs assaulted at least 98 gay men and lesbians between February and July 2007 alone. …

“The source of another oft-repeated statistic, that at least 35 Jamaicans have been killed since 1997 solely for being gay, is unknown…

“In any case, powerful taboos against gays in Jamaica make compiling accurate statistics on anti-gay hate crimes difficult because victims and their families are afraid to come forward….

“Jamaica’s cultural homophobia has deep historical roots. The island’s fundamentalist brand of Christianity and its indigenous Rastafarian religion both condemn homosexuality in the strongest terms…

“Making matters worse, anti-sodomy laws criminalizing sex between men remain on the books in Jamaica and other former British colonies in the Caribbean. As a result, gay men are essentially viewed as criminals, making it nearly impossible for them to bring complaints about violence to the police. Though consensual sex between two women is not illegal, murder music nevertheless includes lesbians in its wrath….

“Even politicians at times have conferred legitimacy on murder music. Dancehall group TOK’s track “Chi Chi Man,” about killing and burning gay men, was the Jamaican Labour Party’s 2001 theme song. Its lyrics: From dem a par inna chi chi man car / Blaze di fire mek we bun dem! From dem a drink inna chi chi man bar / Blaze di fire mek we dun dem! (“Those who gather in a fag’s car / Blaze the fire, let’s burn them! Those who drink in a fag bar / Blaze the fire, let’s kill them!”) The melody of the chorus, ironically, evokes the Christian hymn, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”…”

Jamaica’s Anti-Gay ‘Murder Music’ Carries Violent Message | Southern Poverty Law Center

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This is one of my more popular posts. What can I say? Ya got good taste!

See my “Amy8Trak” reggae and disco playlists on Spotify

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Bunny Wailer Sings The Wailers

This is an excellent set.  If ya na know Bunny Wailer, ya na know reggae. Listen to ‘Rule This Land’

Best Dressed Chicken In Town by Dr. Alimantado.

Listen to ‘Just The Other Day’

Very musical and rhythmical stuff. It chugs along like a clattering, unstoppable train. Like the album by Culture below, it grows on you.

These tunes were put together about 1973-1976. Hard times were coming in Jamaica: the man’s talking ’bout “Poison Flour”, killing all man; or if not that, it’s high prices in “Just The Other Day”; or a gunman backing him up around a corner in “Gimme Mi Gun”, which addressed the growing climate of political terror and violence.

A very dread set, indeed. And this was before drugs, greed, corrupt politics, NAFTA, the World Bank and the long shadow of the US made of JA a wasteland; and of reggae, a pale shadow. Of course, the greed and exploitative nature of the recording industry did not help!

Actually, it was in the resolve, conviction and integrity of  the people and artists such as  these in Jamaica – in the face of such repression and deprivation – that made reggae great, transcendent in it’s “golden era”.

Two Sevens Clash by Culture

Very vital, primal music; funky and rootsy;  like a fresh, pure breeze out of Africa that wipes everything else clean with it’s utter authenticity. I love it’s clattering rhythms and musicality; stylistically similar to the above album by Dr. Alimantado.

Listen to ‘Two Sevens Clash’

The Chanting Dread Inna Fine Style by Big Youth

I love the song “Streets in Africa”, which is sung to the tune of “The World Is A Ghetto”. Big Youth is da bomb!

Listen to ‘Streets of Africa’

Farover by Burning Spear

There’s a note of weary, resigned patience to this set that grew on me.

Listen to ‘Greetings’

Red by Black Uhuru

A very fiery set. A classic, a masterwork. Some standout tracks are “Sistren”, “Journey”, and “Utterance”. “Youth of Eglington” and “Carbine” warn against gunplay while raising the unasked question, “What’s driving people to it?”

Sandra “Puma” Jones, who sang with the group on this album, was a social worker from South Carolina.

Listen to ‘Sistren’

Sugar Minott, “Good Thing Going”, original 1981 vinyl version

I’m talking strictly about the original 1981 vinyl version which contained these 7 songs (and three more): 1. Good Thing Going 2. Never My Love 3. My Sisters 4. Jasmine 5. Life Without Money 6. Lonely Days 7. Walk On By.

Nice album in original form! and I don’t know why they had to delete some of these crucial songs on subsequent versions and still call it the same album! Yechh!
Sugar Minott, rest in peace, 1956-2010. He had the sweetest, most endearing, slightly off-key lovers rock croon on these songs that ya never gonna hear nowhere else and puts the autotuners to shame, yuh!
So straight from the heart – do yourself a favor, give these songs a listen & let your smile glisten, you’ll soon be a raver

Listen to ‘Good Thing Going’

Here’s a link to Fire Pashon, Sugar Minott’s daughter, doing an inspirational song in the classic reggae style,    “Mek It Inna Life”

Knock Out! by Toots and the Maytals. This is a great album. See my review at the link below.

Listen to ‘Careless Ethiopians’

 See my review here.

Natty Rebel by U-Roy. I haven’t heard the whole album, but the version of “Natty Rebel” is one of my all time favorite songs. See link to my review below.

Listen to ‘Natty Rebel’

 See my review here

Another of my favorites was Jacob Miller with Inner Circle. He used a dynamic quaver or vibrato in his singing to a very expressive effect. “All Night Till Daylight” is a good example.

Steel Pulse have a really smooth sound – great production, singing, melodies etc. Here’s a link to their song   “Your House”  The song was featured in the cool UK film ‘Fish Tank’ about a troubled, tough adolescent girl.

Also recommended: the movies “The Harder They Come” and “Rockers”.

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U-Roy – the Originator, “your ace from outer space” – is one of the first and best of the “toasters”.
This version of Natty Rebel by U-Roy from 1976 is one of my all time favorite songs. He’s toasting over what sounds like a Gladiators’ version of the song “Soul Rebel” (originally done by The Wailers.)
Toasting was an influence in the development of rap and hip-hop and had roots going back to African culture.
I can’t imagine a better example of this style. The killer syncopation of the drums and rhythm section; the understated mellowness of the bass; the tight melodicism and soulfulness of the background singing coming through; the call and response; and the joyful, determined sentiment of the toast – it doesn’t get any better than this.

about U-Roy

I bought this on cassette in the early 80’s. This da one made me a Toots fan forever! It’s an all time feel-good favorite album and goes a long way towards explaining why I’m such a fan of classic reggae.

I’m not familiar with all of Toot’s work, but this album brilliantly illustrates for me how Soul Music and the Memphis sound were influences on Toots. It’s not my original thought; it’s been said elsewhere. What he comes out with is far from derivative – it’s like a brilliant echo. Check out my other postings on Sam and Dave – compare for yourself. And then just think about the influence of reggae on American and world popular music…     Toots, is an originator, yo!

This album seamlessly and slyly incorporates pedal steel guitar on some of the tunes – one of the slickest and most effective uses of the pedal steel I’ve ever heard. It speaks volumes to Toots’ musicianship and his openness to other influences. The production values on this album are a remarkable achievement. There’s lots of well integrated organ playing throughout – very bubbly.

There’s a beautiful cycle of songs about relationships. “Beautiful Woman” is a hilarious tongue in cheek cautionary tale about the perils of beautiful women. In “Spend The Weekend”, he’s fed up and asks his partner to go “spend the weekend with your mother”. “Two Time” is a classic been-done-wrong song, an eloquent mix of smoky anger, paranoia and plaintive vulnerability, using echo to heighten the tension. In “Missing You” Toots gets the heart ache. It’s a beautiful song about heartbreak, as only Toots could sing it. “I Know We Can Make It” is a percolating request for his partner to stick by him… it would be hard to resist!

“Careless Ethiopians”, “Revival Time” and “Never Get Weary” are nice statements about his faith and beliefs. “Never Get Weary” exemplifies the indomitable Jamaican spirit in the face of poverty and racism, a powerful indictment against colonialism’s slavery past.

“Will You Be Kind” is an eloquent plea to remember the less fortunate that is sure to get under your skin. It would make a good anthem for today, as relevant as it ever was in 1981, as more and more people get left behind economically:

“You left me so far behind when you know I didn’t have a dime / ‘So sorry, sonny’ / You left me so far behind – tell me, why you so unkind? / Will you be kind, will you be kind… while eating your belly full?!”

All of these songs can be purchased as MP3s at Amazon and found on YouTube or MySpace. The CD is sadly out of print and it can only be hoped that the powers that be are persuaded to re-release this lost masterpiece – with decent mixes. It hangs together seamlessly as a whole and the sum effect is greater than the parts. They sure named this album right, though – this album is a Knock Out!

“Never Get Weary”

I was down in the valley for a very long time and I never get weary yet

I was born and raised in a little earth shack with my poor family

I was from before     Christopher Columbus

And I was from before     the Arawak Indians

Trodding creation      before this nation

I’ll always remember    I can’t forget

I was walking on the shore when they put me on the ship

and they threw me overboard

And I swum right out of the belly of the whale

and I never get weary yet

They put me in jail and I did not do no wrong

and I never get weary yet

With a special thanks to Maia, a poet-teacher friend – a muse, even. She suggested that I edit out some harsher self-judgmental words – and leave in some of the ones I was squeamish about. It was a lesson in itself.

I tagged and categorized this under “muse” because it’s a good example of how I sometimes work out my grief/depression/confusion through prose or poetry. It often serves to clarify issues, codify ideas and concepts. Writing gives us time to reflect. We find ways to say things that we might otherwise be unable to express.

I have strong opinions about the romantic notion that art can only be produced  through great suffering.  From my own perspective as a survivor and Buddhist believer in the holiness of life, I came to the conclusion/rule-of-thumb that the art is never more important than the artist.

Which is quite different from saying one who suffers can’t or shouldn’t attempt art – there should be more art in our lives, not less. My love of classic reggae has taught me about that connection. One’s problems are often a great muse, a spark, a great starting point; as long as one doesn’t wallow in it; as long as it doesn’t become the object itself.

I question the wisdom of seeking the derangement of the senses as a muse (a la the popular conception about Rimbaud.) I’ve managed to do quite enough of that, without actually making a point of it. I suggest taking healthy risks as an alternative – like risking an unpopular opinion, or being thought foolish…

I seek for my muse to come from a higher life-condition, from more positive things – kindness and the sanctity of life. Art for me is a spiritual thing – or a function of spirituality.

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Memorial Day

Driving home in my truck
on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, 2006
after a job
risking my neck for something that seems so silly –
Well… money’s not silly!

But for clean windows?

I caught myself, mourning the passing of the oil age
No one’s troubling with the design of new cars, as much…
What’s the point, for an object so soon to be obsolete?
But then, I thought – oh! A return, for us, to god’s green earth
– a chance at regeneration for our much-maligned planet
and thus, humankind’s inadvertent partial redemption

Then, shortly after that, the blues tried to sneak back in on me
oh! They’re so insistent!
What is it this time!?

On my way home – to what?
Loneliness? An awful aloneness, so unconscious of itself…
Another transition in the structure of my day…
Is this what my freedom – being self-employed – gets me?
– Because it will force me to look
– at where in life – my actions have led me…
Yes, alone with my own thoughts – how bleak is that?!

Now, making a detour of one or two blocks
so that I can see the horizon
and have a guess at tomorrow’s weather
I’m lucky to be able to see the western horizon,
so close to home…
There’s so precious few places that one can do that…
A treat for this grizzled old sea-bitch
How long before something so soulful as the horizon is gone?
Replaced by higher buildings – apartments and progress…

Oh, god! Remembering another Memorial Day,
so many years ago, when I was 19
a huge, tacky Iron Cross around my neck
I think it said 1914 on it
painted pink on one side from fingernail polish
catching a bus, downtown
accusing stares, that made me remember what day it was
of which I had been so oblivious…
Ah! I had much to learn!
You pay a price for such youthful folly!…
Oh! The awful uncomfortableness of myself!
The shame I felt, to be in my skin!
And oh! The awful ignorance of that cross, worn in the name of hipness.

Did those German hordes not yearn for glory, too?
Were they so unlike us, today?

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footnote: one sign of my spiritual/personal growth/recovery was the day that the loneliness I felt when returning home alone changed into a pleasant realization that my home had actually welcomed me into its warm embrace…