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ForwardEver covers music and life in San Francisco with a heavy dose of reggae. Edited by DJ Tomas, there's links to freelance writing work past and present, plus news and views on culture and politics.

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    Vybz Kartel, the skin-lightened Jamaican deejay who refers to his tatted image as dancehall's "Coloring Book" (video) was recently invited by University of West Indies, Mona Campus professor and author Carolyn Cooper to be a guest lecturer to her class on Reggae Poetry.

    (Read Cooper's dialog with the deejay here.)

    Vybz accepted and the even took place on March 10 in Kingston.

    Some critics have charged that the event was less a lecture than a press conference and therefore lacked academic rigor.

    However, Vybz took several questions from audience members and generally addressed or defended issues related to his skin-lightening (known in Jamaica as "bleaching"), his impact on youth culture and of course his controversial music.

    See a video below and more should be released in the next few days. Visit Dancehall Mobi for more coverage. Watch three segments from the lecture here.


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    UK reggae sing-jay Gappy Ranks was on tour in Japan during the recent 9.0 earthquake. Luckily he survived the quake and was able to send updates on his status via Twitter.

    Gappy tweeted: "I Never Thought That My First Experience In #Japan Would Be #TheWorldsBiggestEarthquake – The People Of Japan Have Been So Strong & Calm..."

    He followed that the next day with, "Fuckkkkkkk - These Aftershocks Are Hard Like The Very First One – #PrayFiJapan..."

    There's an thorough account of his experience and videos from his tour at OKPlayer's Large Up site. Gappy Ranks debuted a new video this week for the song "Could A RunAway" featuring Delly Ranks. (see embed at the bottom of this post.)
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    British reggae MC Smiley Culture died in a police raid Saturday February 26. The cause of death was ruled to be a single stab wound through the heart. The entertainer's family has asked for an inquiry into the bizarre killing and assert that there may have been police misconduct.

    Smiley Culture scored several hits in the late-80s including "Police Officer" and "Cockney Translation" and was a member of the Saxon Sound System. He helped popularize the British "fast chat" style of MCing along with Papa Levi, Asher Senator and others. For a more detailed biography, read the Guardian UK's obit.

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    United Reggae reported the untimely passing of Anthony Doyley from the 1970s roots reggae trio Knowledge. Doley pased Saturday February 6 2011 in London at the age of 55. He was the trio's lead singer and songwriter and penned searing tracks like "A Fool And His Money" on albums such as Hail Dread and Judgment. See a full discography at  Roots Archives. Knowledge was never as well known as their contemporaries Culture, Israel Vibration or The Itals but contributed to Jamaica's fertile 1970s-80s reggae vocal trio era, which also included acts like The Mighty Diamond, Black Uhuru and Cultural Roots.
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    The reggae website of the week is definitely InFineStyle. It's a blog, archive and research portal devoted to telling the story of Jamican cartoon artist and album jacket designer Wilfred Limonious.




    InFineStyle notes: "Limonious was responsible for designing over 150 dancehall reggae album covers and is considered one of the key architects of genre's aesthetic."

    Famous examples of his work include the album cover for Stallag 17-18-19 on Techniques Recordings, which included Tenor Saw's massive hit "Ring The Alarn." Lesser known was Limonious's work as a cartoonist for daily Jamaican newspapers (see example above).
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    A new dancehall movie now in production called Gangstas follows a Jamaican thug as he attempts to expand his operations to the United States. The film's title song features Barrington Levy, Vybz Kartel and Khago (download). The film is currently casting extras and shooting scenes. For more information go  here.
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    Check your record racks for the new set of Lee Scratch Perry rarities, The Return of Sound System Scratch on Pressure Sounds.

    The label describes the project as: "Eighteen tracks that span Lee Perry's time at his Black Ark studio showcasing 'Scratch' at the peak of his creative powers. Special one off exclusive dub plate mixes and super rare 45s that you can't find anywhere else. There are tracks that have never been released before such as Aleas Jube's 'Righteous land' and the dub version of the same song 'Righteous Rocking'; 'Longer dub', which was mixed at King Tubbys studio, is an exclusive remix of Junior Byles 'Long Way'."


    Other new releases due out soon:
    Assassin Most Wanted – VP – March 29, 2011
    Various: The Evolution of Dub Volume 6 – Greensleeves – March 21, 2011 
    SanchezLove You More – VP – May 10
    ChinoChino – VP –May 24
    Various: Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems – Greensleeves – May 31

    And here's Gappy Rank's new video for "Could A RunAway"

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    Accomplished reggae producer and expert keyboardist Steven "Lenky" Marsden has founded a label named after his breakthrough riddim, 2002's Diwali that spawned hits for Sean Paul ("Get Busy") and Wayne Wonder ("No Letting Go"). According to Gerald Belnavis' Examiner article  Diwali Records will be Lenky's platform for new dancehall/reggae projects as well as hip-hop, R&B and pop titles. The article also contains excellent biographical details including Lenky's early life in Kingston, Jamaica's volatile Dunkirk community and Lenky's tour outings with Rita Marley, Lloyd Parkes, Richie Stephens and Buju Banton among many others.

      Daniel “Chino” McGregor has dropped a new single to preview his upcoming self-titled album out May 24 on VP Records. Produced by his talented brother Stephen "Di Genius" McGregor, "Seal The Link" has a King Jammys-style uptempo digital reggae feel and strong melodies. It's a bubbling track that should impact reggae clubs quickly. Chino's other recent  hits  "Pon Yuh Head," "Protected" and "From Mawning" (video) hint at a promising debut album.

     
    Canadian artist Dubmatix has a new sample pack available for producers. Reggae Soundclash is geared toward producers making dancehall, dub, dubstep, experimental or ambient recordings. Choose from Reason, Ableton Live or Apple Loops formats. The loops and samples are made from real instruments played live with some added effects and processing. Hear samples or order packs at Loopmasters.

    Morgan Heritage member Mojo Morgan's new track "Streets Worldwide" is contemporary reggae with an urban twist. Acording to Mojo, "This song is about the reality in our world today and shows that things aren't so different in the different parts of the world." Mojo and his brothers and sister performed
    in the Living Legacy Concert at UN headquarters March 25 for International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.


     Jahdan Blakkamore has his single "All Comes Back To One" remixed by a heavy duty quintet of producers from the electronic dance world. Released on New Yorker Liondub's label, reworks are delivered by Potential Badboy & Liondub, who offer a rolling drum 'n' bass treatment, NYC dubmaster Ticklah (Victor Axelrod from Antibalas), Nate Mars' killer dubstep remix and a roots rub from The Bobos (download). The single is taken from Jahdan's latest album Babylon Nightmare. Hear clips from the remix EP here.
     
    Singer Sledge has covered Dennis Brown's classic “Should I” and it's reached  #7 on the New York Top 30 Singles Chart.  “Being on the Chart gives me a great feeling. It’s like I’m moving in the right direction and that direction is to the people.” says Sledge. Check his full length album release, After The Storm (Builders Music) available now on iTunes or CD in retail stores or at  Ernie B’s Reggae

    Preview the hilarious new Twin of Twins comedy mixtape in which they put Jamaica's most infamous stars on "trial." ToT specialize in pitch perfect impressions of Buju, Bounty, Vybz and, their specialty, Mutabaruka. "Stir It Up Volume 9" is a reggae roast at its best: raw and uncensored Yard humor!

    New  dancehall riddims:
    • Vigilante Riddim from Arrows Records featuring I-Octane, Stacious, Spragga Benz. Listen or buy it here.
    • Stadium Buck Riddim from Crash Dummy Records
    • New Begining From Jus Easy Productions featuring new tracks from Mr. Lexx, Red Fox, Ishawna
    • Hungry Dawg produced by Seanizzle with lead single
    "Swaggin" by Mr. G
    • Spazzle (new Mavado "Tumping"), One A Way (new Richie Loop and Cecile) and Problem Riddim (Beenie Man, Kiprich) all from Scikron/Big Yard

    One last note: If you're  ever in SF on a Monday night, be sure to stop by the Skylark Bar on 16th street at Valencia for the killer all-vinyl weekly reggae night Skylarking presented by SF's I&I Vibration Sound. The crew bring Swedish/Jamaican artist Million Stylez to the Rockit Room on April 21. And check their excellent (free) mixtapes:
     

    • Addicted to Muzik featuring Konshens mixed by Beatnok (download)
    • Trillin mixed by Mr. Lucky (download)

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    The San Francisco Bay Area is a reggae lover's paradise. You can be assured on any given night you'll have your pick of reggae, dancehall, roots and rocksteady club nights and live shows to choose from, most with world-renowned DJs and artists.

    Club nights happen Monday through Sunday with live shows popping off on Thursdays through Sundays everywhere from San Francisco and Oakland, up north in Marin and Sonoma, south in San Jose and west over the hills in Santa Cruz. We love it here and our DJs are some of the most active, innovative mixers on the planet. From Club Dread to Dub Mission, Festival 68 to Coo-Yah, Bless Up to King of Kings and Reggae Gold, the Bay has reggae music on lock.

    In that spirit, ForwardEver decided to poll a few of our favorite reggae spinners and see what's rotating at their events. This is a small sampling, but it seems universal that UK singjay Gappy Ranks, singers like Tarrus Riley and Etana, tough emcees like Mavado and Vybz Kartel and riddims like Don Corleon's The Message or dancehall scorchers Dancehall FX and Bus Stop are what's ruling the dances ova yah so. For more on Bay reggae events stop by Dee Cee's Soul Shakedown site.

    Check the charts:

    Selcta Green B (Coo Yah)
    Catch Green B every week at Coo Yah (At SOM Bar) with her DJ partner Daneekah. Fresh dancehall riddims in the mix and regular guest DJs.

    Singles
    Demarco – Love My Life
    Shaggy & Mavado – Girls Dem Love Me
    Kartel – Benz Punnany
    Mavado – Pepper
    Gappy & Russian – Tun Up


    Riddims
    Dancehall FX
    Bus Stop
    The Message
    Dutty Gamez
    Island Vibes


    Irie Dole (Jah Warrior Shelter, KPOO)
    Irie Dole is part of SF's sound clash champion crew Jah Warrior Shelter with Jah Yzer, Ivier and Rocker T. Irie Dole is a tireless supporter of Bay Area reggae artists and bands, many of whom appear on his chart here, and on his Wednesday afternoon (12 - 3 p.m. PST) radio program Rebel Music on KPOO.
     
     


    Singles
    Gappy Ranks & Delly Ranx – Coulda Run Weh
    Soulmedic – The Mixer
    Winstrong – Trippin
    Rocker-T – There With You
    Vital – Don't Say No

    Riddims
    The Message
    O.M.G.
    Run Di Place
    Sweet Corn
    Step By Step

    DJ Smoky (King Of Kings) 
    DJ Smoky's weekly Sunday night event King of Kings (Shattuck Downlow, Berkeley) just celebrated it's 9th anniversary, and with good reason -- it's one of the most consistently packed parties with big name (Cutty Ranks, Don Carlos, Tarrus Riley) guests dropping in on the regular. Hats off to Smoky for building a Bay Area institution.
     
    Singles
    Andrew & Wada Blood – Hammer
    Cutty Ranks – Full Blast
    Tarrus Riley – Shaka Zulu
    Gappy Ranks – I Was There
    Jah Cure, Rick Ross, Mavado – Like I See It

    Riddims
    Currant
    Sad Streetz
    Captain
    Billie Jean 2k11
    My Life

    For more of the KoK vibe check this recent video!

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    Hollie Cook, daughter of British punk icon and Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, is set to be a major star with the release of her forthcoming soul-tinged self-titled album on Mr. Bongo Records.

    Cook's new album features production from Prince Fatty, a relatively new name on the UK reggae scene who nonetheless sounds like a seasoned vet and works with Jamaican greats Winston Francis, Dennis Alcapone, Little Roy, Horseman and others. Cook's nine song recording mixes rich and soulful vocals with dubby roots reggae production.

    Songs like "Milk and Honey," "That Very Night" and "Used To Be" showcase Cook's silky, laid-back delivery while "Sugar Water" features a sweetly re-imagined version of Johnny Osbourne's "Love Is Universal" riddim, famously dubbed by Scientist on his album Scientist Wins The World Cup. Cook's ernest romantic strains on "Cry" recalls great UK lovers rock singers Janet Kaye, Carroll Thompson, or Louisa Mark.

    Rather than imitating a Jamaican inflection Cook brings a distinctly British pop-soul aesthetic to her reggae songs. Hollie's diverse resume includes singing with all-female punk-dub group The Slits, whose charismatic singer Ari Up died unexpectedly in October 2010.

    Other international soul singers have also been dabbling with traditional roots reggae of late. John Legend's cover of Prince Lincoln and the Royal Rasses "Humanity (Love The Way It Should Be)" is a strong highlight on Wake Up, his new album with The Roots. Meanwhile, American R&B vocalist Stephanie McKay recently teamed with Australian producer Katalyst for "Day Into Night," a song that features excellent vintage reggae samples (we think it's John Holt's "No Place Like Home"). Also, in 2008 Jazmine Sullivan sampled The Eternals "Queen of the Minstrels" for her smash "Need U Bad."

    Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals may have famously sung in 1972 that "Reggae Got Soul," but it seems in 2011 soul "got" reggae, finally. Hollie Cook leads the way and her album is due in May on Mr. Bongo.


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  • 05/05/11--16:02: Jazzy Things For Spring
  • Always forward-thinking LA electronic label Plug Research have a new EP from Boom Clap Bachelors titled "Mellem Dine Læber".

    BCB features Robin Hannibal of Quadron, Ronnie Vindahl, Thomas Bisballe, and David Cytryn; with additional vocal contributions from Coco O of Quadron and Liv Lykke and will groove anyone into SA-RA, Bonobo, Josee or Mark de Clive-Lowe's productions. It's mellow future soul with an edge – think daydream, not dead asleep.

    They have a creepy-cool video for "Løb Stop Stå" or grab Boom Clap Bachelors' free MP3 download for this song. And of course, buy the full EP and support Plug Research and this project!
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    Also on the future soul tip, London's Eglo Records, home to Floating Points, have a new video for singer Fatima's "Innervisons" Watch it here. The track is a beat-less mind excursion, produced by FP, and included on Fatima's forthcoming "Follow You" EP.
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    Props to Mark deClive-Lowe on the release of the new "Leaving This Planet" EP. It's four beautifully composed future soul / broken jazzy beat numbers. Listen to the whole thing or buy it at Mashibeats. Oh! And fine other treats, rare cuts and freebies at MdCL's new blog.

    Leaving This Planet EP Tracklisting:
    1. Koko + Lee Roe
    2. Dreams featuring Bembe Segue
    3. What it Is
    4. Leaving this Planet featuring Sharlene Hector
    5. Eight

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    And definitely do not sleep on London's afro-future project Owiny Sigoma Band. Who are they? 

    A London-based music collective that traveled to Kenya in '09 to collaborate with local musicians in Nairobi. A jam session with drummer Charles Owoko and nyatiti player Joseph Nyamungu developed into a unique UK beats-meets-African-rhythms-and-vocals combo with an emphasis on authenticity. 

    Listen to Owiny Sigoma Band "Wires (Theo Parrish Remix)"  The album is out now on Gilles Peterson's Brownswood label. 

    Also, be on the lookout for the latest Browswood comp, Brownswood Electr*c 2, which can be streamed here!
    It's an all bass affair featuring Jack Dixon, Jus Wan, DJG, Monky, Ta-ku, Synkro & Indigo and DJ Dials!
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    Speaking of previews: Grab this free download of "Priata," a rhythmic new track from Ocote Soul Sounds – Grupo Fantasma's Adrian Quesada and Antibalas' Martín Perna's killer project. Mixing funk, Latin, Ethio grooves and more, "Pirata" is a global funk burner for summer!  The new album Tarrus drops June 7 on ESL. 

    Plus our friends at Fort Knox Recordings have a great Empresarios remix selection on the way.  Sabor Tropical Remixed EP 1. feature remixes from Quincy Jointz, All Good Funk Alliance, Thomas Blondet and of course Fort Knox Five! It's out via Beatport on May 17 and May 31 via all digital retailers and on vinyl. Superb Sabor!

    Our friends at Press Junkie and Fort Knox are offer this freebie to ForwardEver readers! Grab it! Space Selecta (Fort Knox Five Remint)

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    Summer is around the corner and that means clubs, radio stations and music players will be bumping a new batch of reggae tunes. Producers in Jamaica and abroad work hard through the late winter and early spring months so that their music is ready to capture reggae fans' attention in the warmer months.

    Last year Vybz Kartel and Serani had multiple hits, while Gappy Ranks and Duane Stephenson were heating up the roots circuit. Oh, and lickle tune by Gyptian called "Hold Yuh" was starting to pick up steam too. So who will reign supreme this summer? Who will have a summer anthem or the club scorcher?



    Here's a few picks and predictions -- new songs and riddims that look to sweet-up our parties and headphones.

    Pictured above is Brooklyn's Jhaytea, a new artist from the R.B.I. camp. His voice is like a cross between Demarco and Jah Cure - gritty and passionate with an auto-tune sheen added to the higher registers. Two one-drop selections, "No More Bad News" on the Eternity Riddim and "Super Woman" on the Cardiac Bass Riddim, definitely deserve your attention. There's also a slick video for his dancehall track "Closer Baby." Check it!

    Speaking of sweet music, it doesn't getting any sweeter than the one Cocoa Tea. The veteran artist who foresaw the election of Barack Obama with his tribute song is back inna  lovers style with "A Love Like Yours And Mine," produced by Platinum Camp. In addition to a US tour that kicks off June 26 in New York, Cocoa Tea will perform at the 2012 Olympics in London.

    "A Love Like Yours..." is smooth lovers rock reggae with superb background vocals and full live band production that recalls Gregory Isaacs or Freddy McGregor's 1980s material. "Like a ray of summer sunshine" sings Cocoa on the tune, which has definite chart potential. Listen or buy it on iTunes.


    Another reggae icon, William "Bunny Rugs" Clarke, is set to release a new album soon. He's previewing it with three new tracks available now. "Just Cant Deny,"  "Kurfew" and the Sly and Robbie-produced "Love is Blind" are all quality songs from this soulful veteran. Rugs told the Jamaica Observer recently that he's spent three years working on the new project. 

    Both Stephen Marley and Ziggy Marley have new albums out in June. Ziggy's  Wild and Free, his fourth solo album is released June 14 2011 on Tuff Gong Worldwide produced with friend and collaborator Don Was in LA as well as in Jamaica. Stephen's Revelation: The Root of Life (Universal) features guests Capleton, Spragga Benz and Ziggy too. Read ForwardEver's interview with Stephen in United Reggae!

    Other recommended reggae and one-drop singles:

    Anthony B "Sing To Me" (listen) The Bobo Rasta in a reflective, romantic mood.
    Romain Virgo "I Am Rich In Love," (official video) uplifting lovers rock on Lifeline, produced by Niko Browne.
    Ziggy Marley "Foward To Love," (download) funky, positive steppers tune on Tuff Gong.
    Cocoa Tea "Love-Like-Yours and Mine," produced by Platinum Camp.
    Da'Ville "When I'm With You" (download) on the I Believe Riddim from Smart Move Records, UK. 

    Recommended Roots Riddims:  

    Skateland Killer (Maximum Sound) Listen Features Alborosie, Luciano and Tarrus Riley.
    Sweet Wata (Juke Boxx) Peter Morgan, Busy Signal, Queen Ifrica, Tony Rebel and more.
    Step By Step (Rumble Rock) Featuring Anthony B, Fire Star, Black Prophet. Buy on iTunes.
    Gorilla (Necessary Mayhem) Featureing Chucky Star, Cali P, Macka B and more.  Listen.
    Dem Talking (Reggaeland Productions) Featuring Ginjah, Sizzla, Jah Mali and more. Listen

    And here's a few more freebies from our Canadian dub friends!
    Dubmatix “Is This Love Remix” (download)
    Earlyworm "Crawling From The Roots" (download or remix it!)

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    The Template and Jah Army riddims look poised to carry the swing for early summer.

    As big spring productions like Maximum Sounds'  Skateland riddim, Juke Boxx’s Sweet Wata and Necessary Mayhem’s Gorilla version are still bubbling in the dance, selectors are looking for new tunes to rock festival season and outdoor parties. 

     So wah gwaan? 

    First up, PBR Productions (Phatty Boom Room) have a nice mid-tempo one-drop production called the Template Riddim featuring Luciano, Lutan Fyah, Jah Victory, Adena Myrie and J Strutta.

    The combination of new and established artists on this music backdrop works well. Luciano and Lutan offer firm Rastaman perspectives while J Strutta and Adena Myrie deliver excellent modern lovers rock tunes. Watch out for Adena: She’s coming with a style reminiscent of UK greats like Deborahe Glasgow or Louisa Mark – she blends superb R&B tones with a reggae flow.

    Here are the Template Riddim tracks available so far:
    Luciano “Only Love”
    Lutan Fyah Ft. Jah Victory “One At A Time”
    Adena Myrie “I’m Sorry”
    J Strutta “Hold On”

    Stephen Marley’s Ghetto Youths International camp has versioned one of the biggest singles from his latest album Revelation: The Root of Life. The Jah Army  Riddim takes Black Uhuru's  “General Penitentiary” riddim and modernizes the beat. 

    The album track “Jah Army” features Stephen Marley, Jr. Gong and Buju Banton, while the riddim set includes new songs from Gappy Ranks, Tarrus Riley, Jah Cure, Pressure, Ward 21 and Spragga Benz.

    Spragga Benz offers a celebratory ganja anthem while the Chris Ellis (Alton Ellis’ son) and Gappy Ranks combination talks frankly about police harassment. Dead Prez deliver a dose of Black history as only this talented American duo can. (They’ve been touring and working with Stephen Marley a lot recently, which can only lead to good things.)

    The mystic Jah Cure issues a cautionary parable and sings, “look both ways when you cross the road…”

    One more tune (and riddim) starting to make lot of noise since it was released in May is Boom Skeng from FiWi Music. 

    I don’t have a lot of details yet, but the G Whizz title track “Boom Skeng” is great rub-a-dub-inspired modern reggae. See a video preview below. Now – out to the dance!


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    Reggae veteran Freddie McGregor has a lot to smile about. His three sons, Daniel a.k.a. "Chino," Stephen a.k.a "Di Genius" and Kemar "Flava" McGregor are all finding success in the music business like their pops. And beaming Freddie was on a foggy Wednesday June 15 in San Francisco as he took stage with the Millennium Band and blazed through a 90 minute set.

    The elder McGregor has earned Jamaica's Order of Distinction title as well as a global following for his music.  He began recording in the ska music era of the 1960s and released his first album, Bobby Babylon, in 1979. He's been recording and performing live ever since and is considered one of Jamaica's most esteemed vocalists , in a league with greats like Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown and Bob Marley.

    McGregor's appearance at San Francisco's Rockit Room, it was his first visit to the city in more than a decade. And though his locks are thinning and gray, he's lost little of his honeyed vocal tone or joyful stage demeanor .The Millennium Band provided capable support via dual guitars, keys, drum and bass complimented by two fantastic back-up vocalists. McGregor was dressed casually in blue denim, a white collared shirt and gold chain and looked very much the wise captain his ship.

    When he launched in to the Studio One classic "Africa Here I Come" it felt like the start of a special evening. Hits were reeled off immediately, including many of his biggest '80s and 90s singles: "To Be Poor Is A Crime," "Prophecy," "Push Come To Shove," "Stop Loving You" as well as his label's name sake, "Big Ship." These songs emphasized that in addition to his own production, Freddie has worked with nearly every great producer living and dead, from Coxsone Dodd, Linval Thompson and King Jammy to Steelie and Clevie. That experienced translated into a versatile and continually melodious performance.

    Freddie transitioned into a Studio One rocksteady showcase featuring covers of Alton Ellis' "Let Him Try" Dobby Dobson's "Loving Pauper" and McGregor's own "Born A Winner" (a response to Derrick Harriot's earlier hit "The Loser." Freddie also paid due tribute to his dear departed friend Dennis Brown with covers of Brown's  "Here I Come" and "Revolution;" which the audience devoured. Freddie's signature vocal ad-libs ("Whoa-now," "Oh Lord") are his stock and trade, a remnant of Jamaica's R&B and vocal harmony traditions.

    The set continued with dancehall-inspired numbers "You Give Me Fever" (a Horace Andy tune pasted on the Punnany riddim) and "Dont Hurt My Feelings" – but it wasn't until McGregor drew for the tuneful "Key To The City" that he received resounding calls for a "reeeeewind" from the audience. Later he returned to his Studio One roots with "Wine of Violence," "Undying Love" and "Bobby Babylon" (see video below).

    Scattered through the audience were some of SF's most prominent sound system DJs including Jah Warrior Shelter's Irie Dole and Jah Yzer, selectors Billie Culture and Lud Dub and members of Mountain Lion sound, all of whom were in awe of the legend.

    Freddie acknowledged that it had been a long time since he had performed in San Francisco and proceeded to field a few audience requests such as early hit "Revolutionist," "Rastaman Camp" and the excellent "Seek And You Will Find."

    Proving that he has more stamina than many younger artists, McGregor upped the pace toward his set's end with the ska classic "Carry Go Bring Come." What can you say about a singer who effortlessly spans 50-plus years of Jamaican music in an evening while maintaining poise, tone and, most importantly, the audience's attention? That's Freddie, piloting his big ship onward.


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    America's National Public Radio doesn't often discus Jamaican music, except for Marley-related material (Bob or his sons) and the occasional obit of a major star like Gregory Isaacs. It would be fair to say that this major US media outlet is pretty clueless when it comes to analyzing reggae in general, but they did a decent job this past week in analyzing two Peter Tosh album reissues.

    The story, which you can read or hear in full here, included obligatory Roger Stephens pontifications but  balanced those with thoughtful commentary from BBC contributor and excellent author Colin Grant (read FE's previous coverage of Grant).

    Here's an excerpt of what he said to NRP:

    In the 1960s, Tosh was influenced by such civil rights leaders as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X, whose writings were banned in Jamaica. He was arrested for demonstrating against racial murders in southern Africa. Colin Grant, author of a new book about the Wailers, says the dark-skinned Tosh developed Afrocentric pride early on.
    "Even though Jamaica is predominantly a black country," Grant says, "there is a brown and white elite, and I think people took sides and aligned themselves fundamentally with one side or another. Peter aligned himself fundamentally in the black camp."

    Let's hope that NPR continues to include prime-time  coverage of not just the most obvious Jamaican figures but also it's many important ancillary contributors whose music and ideas impact global culture on a daily basis.

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    Tony Rebel and Queen Ifrica – July 9, 2011 at The Rockit Room, San Francisco.

    Reggae royalty paid a visit to the fog-engulfed Inner Richmond venue Rockit Room with the Queen taking center stage. It wasn’t Rita Marley in this case but 36-year old Jamaican vocalist and deejay Ventrice Latora Morgan, also known as Queen Ifrica.

    Morgan is the daughter of ska pioneer Derrick Morgan and she intentionally spells Africa with an “I” in the Rasta speech tradition. She rose to popularity with songs that address taboo topics including incest and political violence while her stylish casual attire and magnetic stage presence evoke Erykah Badu or Lauryn Hill. Morgan charm literally shines through: On stage she’s quick to blast you with huge warm smile that lights up the room.

    Morgan was joined by her partner and fellow cultural deejay Patrick George Anthony Barrett a.k.a. Tony Rebel. Barrett broke through as a performer in 1992 with the album Rebel With A Cause and also founded the popular annual Rebel Salute concert in Jamaica. Like Morgan, Barrett tackles sticky social issues on songs like “I Can’t Recall,” which lambastes political ineptitude while “Another Bill Again” addresses working class economic woes. Morgan and Barrett don’t tour California often, much less mid-sized venues, so this was an anticipated night for the S.F. reggae massive.

    Morgan’s strong rhetoric, modern take on the traditional Rasta lifestyle and rich music repertoire has captured the interest of women in particular. She’s neither a shrinking violet nor a gratuitous sexpot but a potent songwriter whose music transcends gender and lives up to her “Fyah Muma” nickname.

    After opening DJ Vinny Ras did his thing with Coo Yah’s DJ Denekah rousting the crowd on the mike, Morgan made her royal appearance backed by the Gumption Band. Barefoot and draped in an ankle length black gown and chunky red beads, Morgan launched into songs from her 2009 album Montego Bay in rapid succession. Morgan leapt, jumped, bounced and otherwise made the stage seem like a trampoline with her lively delivery. Songs like “Lioness On The Rise,” “Over I” and “Keep It To Yourself” resonated with the crowd of boozed up post-college kids, serious dreads, women dressed up in frilly skirts and three-inch heels and a smattering of ballcap-bedecked DJs.

    Morgan’s set included her anti-skin bleaching anthem “Brown Skin” and she received a heartfelt “reeeeewind” ( a call to start the song over) from the audience when she lunched her current conscious club hit “In Times Like This.” Her delivery alternates between soaring sung choruses and speedy rap couplets that travel twice as fast as the beat. It’s not fast like Chicago rapper Twista, but you get the point. An odd moment came when she performed her anti-incest ode “Daddy” – she had the crowd swaying contently to a song about sexual abuse. She capped things off with “Don’t Sign,” set to the same music as Delroy Wilson’s rocksteady classic “Movie Star.”

    In a stroke of luck we were invited backstage to meet her Highness. Although she projects a stately image on stage, Morgan only stands about 5’3”. However, her genuinely warm personality and thoughtful answers about her California tour, connection with fans and the hopeful and the healing force of her music elevated her to the highest heights in our opinion. She’s a queen for sure.

    Veteran deejay “Tony Rebel” Barrett did not disappoint either. He took stage just minutes after Morgan and fired off the spiritually inspired “Jah Will Never Let Us Down.” His set was more explicitly Rasta, with songs like “If Jah,” and “Know Jah” (a.k.a. “Haile-Haile-Haile-I”) inspiring the crowd praise with him. Barrett was in good spirits too, smiling, explaining the song lyrics for “Sweet Jamdown” and generally pleasing the audience with a tight, professional performance.

    A highlight of the set was “Fire” that rides the Tamlins reggae cover of Randy Newman’s tune “Baltimore,” which Barrett also sung. His set also included the nosy-neighbor complaint “Chatty Chatty” and an ad-libbed cover of Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel” (“I’m a rebel, Tony Rebel”…). Overall, the crowd was into it start to finish and Barrett proved that he deserved his Jamaican star stature.

    The Rockit Room has become the go-to spot for touring reggae acts, recently hosting up-and-coming Jamaican outfit Rootz Underground and reggae legend Freddie McGregor in the past month. And although Billboard and iTunes sales charts have been dominated by US “college reggae” groups like Rebelution, SOJA, Matisyahu this show proved that there’s still a passionate following for Jamaica’s indigenous musical output.

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    Who is Kabaka Pyramid? Don't be surprised if you hear people asking that question over the next several months. Arriving with Rebel Music, his free debut EP on Bebble Music, Kabaka Pyramid sounds like a smooth fusion of Damian Jr. Gong Marley, Gappy Ranks and Jahdan Blakkamore – in other words, a strong DJ with street-wise swagger and mainstream potential. His confident vocal presence and crisp backing riddims make this is one of the brightest new reggae offerings of 2011.
    A thoroughly a 21st century artist, with a web presence on Facebook, Twitter and Bandcamp and links with Don Corleon-endorsed artist Protoje, Kabaka Pyramid's music is also solidly built and blends hip-hop rhythms with melodious reggae one-drop riffs. In between the cracking drum programs, innovative keys and samples is Kabaka's vocal flow, one that gallops ahead of the beat, then settles back in time for the choruses.

    The EP starts with a bang on the Steel Pulse "Blues Dance Raid"-sampling "Feel Di Vibes," a joyous party anthem that celebrates all things good: herb, women and music. If the riddim sounds a little familar, it's because J. Cole and Kanye West's "Looking for Trouble" also lifts from the Steel Pulse tune, but "Feel Di Vibes" is a better fit. Title song "Rebel Music" is an 85 BPM jam with a groove similar to "Welcome To Jamrock" – serious lyrics that indict the poor state of music and offer biographical details into Kabaka's sober livity – "I used to bun the weed a lot, now I try and read a lot" he sings.
    The EP's middle tracks, "Prophecy" and "Betta Muss Come" lean more toward hip-hop but still feature a decidedly Jamaican feel – like an update on The Fugee's The Score album or the roughneck reggae-infused hip-hop of Brooklyn's  Smif N Wessun. The aforementioned breakout artist Protoje appears on "Warrior," which has Nyahbinghi drumming and lush, cinematic synths reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's evocative productions. The song is a positive example of how taking risks can pay-off in Jamaican music.
    Kabaka Pyramid is offering Rebel Musicthe full 10-song EP for free right now. If you want a taste of the future, visit this Pyramid.


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  • 08/14/11--22:33: One Drop Vibein'
  • One-Drop Reggae: It's been a good summer for traditional roots reggae, often referred to as one-drop. Quality releases from labels like Maximum Sound UK and Juke Boxx, and artists like I-Wayne, Gappy Ranks, Alborosie and many others have been ringing in the clubs.

    The always consistent Soul of the Lion label brings another excellent roots entry forward with Dread & Alive: The Lost Tapes Volume 7, which dropped on August 9.

    In addition to solid reggae tunes by Ken Bob and Dub Down, you'll hear a surprising heavy rock 'n' roll number by Fear Nuttin featuring Bushman and reggae en español by Alerta Kamarada.

    Below, enjoy a preview of Perfect Giddimani's tribute to Buju Banton, which is also a great introduction to his just released album Back For The First Time on Lustre Kings Productions too!

    The Lost Tapes Volume 7:
    Perfect – “Hold On (Buju)” (download)
    Ken Bob – “Shot Poor Johnny”
    Irie Love – “Freedom”
    Dub Down – “Flatfoot Hustling”
    Fear Nuttin Band ft Bushman – “Living Together ”
    Alerta Kamarada – “Historias De Pueblo”

    Hawaiian reggae band The Green has signed to New York's Easy Star Records. The Green's music has topped the iTunes reggae download charts and the band recently completed a well-received West Coast tour. As "Islander Reggae" catches steam with artists like J-Boog and Fiji, The Green is poised for big things. 

    Their full-length album Ways & Means drops in October, while the Love & Affection EP, featuring four tracks from the upcoming record along with a bonus dub mix, is available digitally on August 9.

    The Green also secured a slot on the just released high profile Greensleeves compilation The Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems 2011. The comp includes strictly roots tracks from St. Croix's Midnite, Jamaica's I-Wayne, Gyptian, I-Wayne and even a one-drop tune ("Spend Time Dubb'n") from Vybz Katel.  Check this free download for a taste of The Green's song “Love & Affection” 

    Our friends at Lafamillie Music in Spain have released another impressive, dubby roots EP from Neblina Sound

    The release is titled Neblina Sound y Lafamille Music Presents: U-Rie and features a heady selection of digital-reggae and dub-infused roots tracks produced by Puppashan and performed live by Bass Culture Digital Posse. Its modern reggae with a retro-feel that never gets too nostalgic -- think On-U Sound meets Iration Steppas and your in the right direction. 

    Best of all, ForwardEver is able to offer you the full preview for download. Make sure big up Neblina Sound and La Familia on your mixtapes, radio shows and Facebook pages when you're rocking these tracks!

    And speaking of On-U Sound : the label celebrates it's 30th Anniversary in San Francisco when dubmaster Adrian Sherwood and MC  Brother Culture (Mungo's Hi-Fi) perform live at Dub Mission SF on Sunday September 4

    ForwardEver spoke to Sherwood about his visit and we'll post a link to the article about the show and On-U's 30th year on this blog soon!



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    British dub producer Adrian Sherwood is celebrating his label On-U Sound's 30th anniversary. 

    Read a preview of ForwardEver's piece in the SF Weekly below. Then scroll down for out-takes and additional material!
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    British producer Adrian Sherwood's life and music have come full circle. Thirty years ago, London's streets were wracked by inner-city riots. Then as now, police harassment and a grim economy drove citizens to revolt. By 1981, punk was in its death throes as New Wave pop and post-punk music rushed in to fill the void. In the shadows stood Adrian Sherwood, a part-time record distributor and music fanatic who launched On-U Sound as a vehicle to promote experimental dub productions.

    Three decades and hundreds of releases later, On-U Sound is revered by generations of dub, industrial, and electronic music aficionados and lauded by critics as one of the U.K.'s most important independent labels, its output and influence comparable to Rough Trade or Factory.
    The label has released reggae projects by Dub Syndicate and Lee "Scratch" Perry; psychedelic world grooves by African Head Charge; plus edgy industrial hip-hop and dance beats by Mark Stewart, Tackhead, and Strange Parcels. Sherwood has also produced and remixed Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, worked withSugar Hill Gang's rhythm section, and recorded two albums for Peter Gabriel's Real Worldimprint. He remains active in the studio and onstage mixing live dub sessions that feature British reggae artist Brother Culture on the mic.
    For On-U Sound's 30th Anniversary tour, Sherwood and Culture join San Francisco's DJ Sep Ghadishah to celebrate another milestone: Dub Mission's 15th year of weekly dub, dubstep, roots, and dancehall sessions at the Elbo Room. Ghadishah says she wanted to invite a guest who directly influenced her DJ work. "[On-U Sound] took me from the music I loved — post-punk, indie, experimental — to the music I came to love even more: dub, reggae, and electronic," she says. "It helped grow my musical tastes exponentially."
    Other music experts concur that On-U Sound has made a significant impact. Steve Barrow, Blood and Fire Records cofounder and coauthor o fReggae: The Rough Guide, says that Sherwood laid much of the U.K. dub scene's foundations. Likewise, Dub.com's DJ Dublinator reckons that anyone who has heard On-U's '80s and '90s sample-delic DIY productions knows the impact the label had on artists like M/A/R/R/S, Coldcut, or even Aphex Twin. "On-U Sound may be small in name recognition," he says, "but it's huge in influence."
    Over the years, Sherwood has endured disastrous distribution deals and the deaths of key On-U Sound artists, including Michael "Prince Far-I" Williams and Jarret Lloyd Vincent (aka Bim Sherman)."I've got some very fond memories of the last 30 years and also some very sad ones, friends who've died and all sorts of things that have gone on," he says. "But the job is to keep the creative fire burning and do good works. That's my agenda."  Read the rest of the post here.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    SHERWOOD ON HIS US VISIT: "I’ve neglected in the States or a number of years. It’s almost like I’ve died out there. I’m looking forward to being there for the anniversary. I’m also going to go over to New York to work on other things while I’m out there. I might do some studio work. I’m doing a workshop in New York and I’m going to see the people from Eventide to get some more equipment."
    ON MEETING BROTHER CULTURE: "We’ve been working together now for well over a decade. The first tune Brother Culture recorded was done at my studio with the singer Little Roy. I’ve known him quite a while. We’ve been everywhere from Italy to Mexico and Brazil – all over the place."
    ON BRITAIN'S RECENT CIVIL UNREST:
    "Historically, from the '50s through the '90s there have been riots. The social set up in England has a disproportionate sharing of wealth. Now, the result of Thatcherism, the price of living in England is impossible. One room might cost you $1400 a month. For one fucking room! They’ve sold all the housing stock and created this crazy imbalance. They’ve sold all the youth clubs off and started this thing called ‘Stop and Search’ -- basically a re-introduction of the Sus [suspected person] laws from the ‘70s, which means a lot of Black and Asian youth get stopped and searched a lot. Any excuse to have a go, you can see what happens. It’s an expression of people who have nothing to look forward to."

    SHERWOOD ON PRINCE FAR-I:
    "He was fantastic. He loved ultra-slow one-drop [reggae rhythms], that was his whole vibe – really heavy, minimalist songs because he knew that suited his voice. I tried to compliment it. He would do unexpected things like Elvis impressions and other things, he liked a good laugh. But he had another side where he thought people were working witchcraft on him."



    SHERWOOD ON BIM SHERMAN:
    "I was his number one fan. I actually brought him to England in 1979. His voice was like nothing I had ever heard and I love his lyrics and thought he was an amazing artist. We forged a long friendship. He recorded several songs for me but his main body of work was on his own label, Century. He was a very fiercely proud independent producer as well. He was softly spoken but he could curse someone out the same way. He was a lovely bloke."


    SHERWOOD ON LEE "SCRATCH" PERRY:
    "Lee is fantastic. He believes if you go into the studio something magical is going to happen, something spiritual; he believes it’s God’s work. I don’t know many artists with that attitude. Lee will light candles in the studio all around the room to create that ambiance that something magical will occur and that’s how he lives his whole life. I call him the Salvador Dali of dub; everything he does is work of art. You know you’re going to get something interesting even if you get the worst of him or he does a rubbish gig. When he’s good, it’s like shivers-up-the-back good. He’s got the spirit of a child, and that comes through in his work. Children love Lee Perry stuff because of the mad, silly little things going on."
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    Steve Barrow (Blood & Fire Records) Favorite On-U Releases:
    North Of The River Thames, which is an affectionate Pablo pastiche from 1984, and the late Bim Sherman's set Miracle. The latter is a beautiful 'fusion' record that actually works by combining disparate elements into a coherent whole, and establishes a new sub-genre: acoustic drum-less reggae with Indian playback strings!
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Mark Stewart 
    An Interview with the man behind The Pop Group and contributor to On-U's Singers & Players, Mark Stewart & The Mafia.

    FE: Describe the recording session for Learning To Cope With Cowardice, what was it like to work with Adrian then?

    Mark Stewart: I had already started working with Dennis Bovell on Cowardice. But hooking up with Adrian’s open mindedness and my sense that nothing is sacred allowed us to sculpt some Gustav Metzger-like constructs beyond the limits of time and space. Taste is a form of personal censorship.

    On-U sound recordings inspired many other dub, punk and industrial music generations. How do you feel about that legacy?

    When you crash genres and sounds people run off with alchemical sparks in different directions. 

    What artists inspire you?
    I feed on nutrients as diverse as Keith Levine’s guitar, who I’ve just had the pleasure of working with again and [filmmaker] Kenneth Anger, another hero I’ve just worked with, to Lee Perry, again another collab, so it’s a bit like passing around the other.

    What new projects are you working on?
    Art interventions and viral xplosions in the heart of the commodity. Plus a big new album in Feb.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Look for these 2011 On-U Sound Reissues and releases

    New Age Steppers – New Age Steppers (On-U's first release) reissue
    Creation Rebel Starship Africa (A seminal psychedelic dub album) reissue
    Singers & Players – Singers & Players reissue
    African Head Charge Off The Beaten Track reissue
    African Head Charge Voodoo Of The Godsent (A new album from this stalwart On-U act)

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  • 10/31/11--21:52: Still A Forward On
  • Where's the blog been? Yes, it's been a while since our last post, but ForwardEver is still deh ya!


    There's a lot to catch up on -- and we will in future posts -- from new reissues for Sugar Minott and Gregory Isaacs, to Dubmatix latest remix album and singles galore.


    In the meantime, please check the recent piece on Shaggy I wrote for Magnifier. And if you sign up for a Music Beta account from Google, you'll get a couple of free tunes as well. Same goes for this Don Corleon feature.


    Pictured to the left is singjay Lutan Fyah, who many reggae fans feel is at the top of his game right now. Check out his latest track "Mi A Ras" and catch him live in California in November. Find Bay Area dates for Lutan, and also St. Croix's premier roots group Midnite over at DeeCee's Soul Shakedown site.




    Speaking of Midnite (pictured below) -- their new album Kings Bell drops Tuesday November 1 on I Grade Records, and from the preview we've heard, it's brilliant.  The group is foremost know for its pensive, meditative songs that glide a long unhurriedly. By contrast, several numbers on the new album are up-tempo, but no less intellectually rootsy than what fans have come to expect. Expect to be pleased and surprised.


    Finally, if you haven't picked up Colin Grant's excellent recent book I&I: The Natural Mystics (read and excerpt), it's absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in Jamaican history, Marcus Garvey or the original Wailers trio, Bob, Bunny and Peter. Check this video interview for a taste.





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    Just when you thought Serato and digital DJing would completely take over,  Digikiller Records has been quietly balancing the scales with dozens of high quality reggae reissues on vinyl.


    Sure, the name is cheeky, but their craft is deadly serious. These are well-pressed singles on 7", 10" and 12" vinyl that offer many crucial missing pieces to reggae enthusiasts who love Jamaica's fertile 1970s and '80s sounds.


    A recent glance at the Digikiller blog revealed the following new (reissue) titles:





    DKR-064-JJ - CLARENCE PARKS - THINGS A COME UP TO BUMP / DUB 10"
    DKR-080-JJ - DON ANGELO - GENERAL / MIX DOWN STYLE VERSION 7"
    DKR-081-JJ - JOHN HOLT / REVOLUTIONARIES - LOVE & UNDERSTANDING / PEACE 10"
    DKR-082-JJ - LEROY SMART - OH MARCUS / VERSION 7"
    DKR-083-JJ - I-ROY - TRIBUTE TO MARCUS GARVEY / VERSION 7"


    But grab these while they're hot -- retailers like Ernie B can't keep them in stock. 


    And the genius behind this label is that they don't just offer hits but also deal out obscure yet still laudable titles by artists such as Prince Junior, Black Oney and Reggae George -- performers who were hard to find back then. It's a bit like reggae anthropology, tracing all the connections between the artists and labels, but music is the reward.

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    The good folks at Deadly Dragon Sound have an excellent NY dancehall mix out now.

    The mix, Deadly Dragon Sound, NYC Vibes Vol 1: The Bad Bwoy Years, was debuted on Large Up for their Mixtape Mondays series. The mix focuses on New York's fertile late-80s/ early 90s period that boasted respected labels like Witty, Gyasi, Shelly Power. Check the miniplayer below to listen right now.

    ForwardEver DJ'ed recently at Dragon's weekly radio program on East Village Radio and the vibes of course were niiiice!
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    Singer Wayne Wonder is back in true form on the lush, modern lovers rock tune "Love Gets Sweeter." Wayne sounds poised to re-live his "No Letting Go" period with strong tunes like this. 

    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    Although released without much fanfare on August 16, 2011, Israel Vibration's new album Reggae Knights has been nominated for a 2012 Grammy in the Reggae category. As the video for "My Master's Will" illustrates, this is more meaningful, rootsy music from Cecil "Skelly" Spence and Lascelle "Wiss" Bulgin -- two-thirds of the original IV trio, and reggae royalty in their own right.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    A great Jamaican producer has left us. Philip "Fattis" Burrell, the founder of the Xterminator label and the man behind some of the biggest hits by Sizzla, Berres Hammond, Luciano, Capleton, has died in hospital after suffering a stroke. It was only a few months ago -- after a hiatus from music -- that new Xterminator material by Sizzla and Jesse Royal started to surface -- great music. His sound and technique will be missed. Read Howard Campbell from the Jamaica Observer's reflection.











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    Although producer Phil Pratt has never received the same wide acclaim as King Tubby, Joe Gibbs or Lee Perry, his roots and dub productions rank among some of the late 1970s and early ‘80s best. Early on though, Pratt sang with Ken Boothe in a vocal combo and cut sides such as Reach Out for Ken Lack's Caltone label and later worked with influential producer Bunny “Striker” Lee. Pratt eventually set up the prolific Sunshot label and recorded Dennis BrownBig YouthAl CampbellHorace Andy,Linval ThompsonPat KellyBobby Kalphat and other stars in the mid-to-late ‘70s. Pratt had plenty of rhythms to experiment with from those abundant sessions and Pressure Sounds’ reissue showcases his subtle studio mastery in the dub arena.

    This edition of 'Dial M For Murder' features the vinyl album’s original 10 tracks plus four additional dubs recorded around 1979-80 at Channel One. The players include “Riddim Twins”Sly and Robbie on drum and bass, the aforementioned Kalphat and Ansel Collins on keys and piano, Rad Brian on guitar andTommy McCook and Herman Marquis on horns. Like Sly and Robbie’s other recordings as the Revolutionaries (Dawn of Creation,Reaction In Dub), the compositions emphasize Sly’s choppy ta-tat-tat-tat snare flourishes and steady four-four kick drum patterns. Robbie’s bass is commanding while serious organ stabs and eerie reverb-laden guitars fill in the corners and crevices. Pratt exercises austere restraint in the effects and delay department, allowing only minimal snippets of organ, voice, horn or guitar to drift in over the foundational rhythm streams. The effect is mesmerizing.
    Songs like Don’t Watch My SizeWalking Razor, or Stinger are classic steppers roots creations -- the kind of sides Jah Shaka is famous for playing at his sessions. The latter is a version of Ken Boothe’s oft covered You’re No Good (originally recorded by R&B starBetty Everett) and is mixed with dramatic peaks and valleys. Tracks like Natty Culture(a fantastic Big Youth version) and Dr. Bash have a bluesy, earthy feel featuring haunting organ runs, while the overall studio mix sounds as pressurized as an inclement storm system. The drums are perpetually submerged in a foggy reverb and vocals just barely emerge for air. In short, this is a dread affair that features glorious Sly and Robbie musicianship and Phil Pratt’s expert touch. No need to call the police, it’s a musical murder them a charge for. 
    Review by ForwardEver, originally published in United Reggae.

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    1. Sizzla Kalonji "What's wrong with the picture?" (Xterminator) It's fitting that we'd choose one of extraordinary producer Philip "Fatis" Burrell's last creations as this year's top reggae song.  Burell passed unexpectedly this month leaving a void in the conscious roots reggae community. One of Burrell's final productions, the Danger In Your Face riddim, features Sizzla is at his very best. Kolonji exhibits fearless singjay lyrics, hitting every vocal octave and decalring, "What's wrong with the picture? They only paint it to trick ya...Burrell conjured inspired musicianship for this production -- bubbling organs, crisp, bluesy guitar riffs and soaring backing vocals. It stands as proof that the Fatis/Sizzla combination was one that couldn't be beat. We're going to miss him. But Sizzla's tune stands as a testament to his powers. 

    2. Kabaka Pyramid  "Free From Chains" ForwardEver recently profiled Kabaka Pyramid, one of the most promising and versatile DJs to enter the scene this in  2011. His Rebel Music EP effortlessly blends modern one-drop reggae and hip-hop vibes. Definitely a talent to watch out for in 2012.
                           

    3. Daweh Congo "In This World" (JahYouth) Certain producers have the ability to get the most out of Daweh Congo's uniquely eerie and mystic vocal style. Jah Youth Productions does just that on a track that features an extended mix, drifting dub echo effects and a full-band instrumentation. Congo's lyrics examine the "atomic elements" that allow life to continue while contrasting it with historical events. Intellectual roots, indeed.
               

    4. Anthony B  "Sing To Me" (SSI Media) Anthony B plaintively sings "This one's for you my empress, so royal, so loyal..." before lamenting that he didn't realize that the woman he was with was really was the one, the one that sings to his heart. Although Anthony B's socially and politically potent music are his best know numbers, he's also the master of the romantic tune as well.

      
    5. Pressure  "Jah Love" (Don Corleon) 2011 was a big year for the Don. Pressure's track on Corleon's The Message riddim was just one reason. Million Stylez "Brighter Day," Cecile's "Rise Up" and  Vybz "Poor People Land" were also top tracks from this riddim set. But Virgin Islands-born Pressure Bus Pipe is a force to be reckoned with. He always drops four or five memorable and lyrically conscious tracks each year and "Jah Love" was his best in 2011.

    6. Alborosie "Jahnhoy" and Tarrus Riley "Rebel" (Maximum Sound) Producer Frenchie lends a new school reggae production approach to his 80s rub-a-dub sounding Skateland Killer riddim, featuring Dean Fraser's live saxophone melodies. Sicilian-born Alborosie sings out for "holy I-thiopia," while Tarrus Riley calls on listeners to rebel against wickedness.


    7. Stephen Marley "Jah Army" (Tuff Gong/ Universal) This song actually dropped late December 2010, but remained hot all throughout 2011 thanks to combination re-licks featuring Buju Banton and Damien "Jr. Gong" Marley. Stephen’s album, Revelation: TheRoot of Life, on which "Jah Army" also appears, proved to be one of his strongest yet, and the Jah Army riddim set, featuring cuts from Spragga Benz, Jah Cure kept interest strong in this heavy riddim.


    8. Chukki Starr "Locked Down” (Necessary Mayhem) Producer Curtis "Necessary Mayhem" Lynch is quickly making a name for himself with hi-tech roots rhythms like the Gorilla Riddim. Watch Lynch at work making the riddim.  ForwardEver favored Chukki Starr's ode to brothers in prison, but also check for Cali P's "Herbalist" and Mr. Williamz 


    9. Louie Culture "Judgement Fi Babylon" (True Sounds) Like Kabaka Pyramid's "Free From Chains" and hip-hop remixes of the Billie Jean riddim, True Sounds came out of the gate with this nice 90 bpm uptempo roots-hip-hop number.


    10. Courtney John  "Never Keep You Waiting" (Itation Records) Great production from the Itation crew outta California, and Jamaica's Courtney John (formerly Yogie) goes from strength-to-strength on this romantic reggae track, perfect for Valentine's Day (when it was originally released) or any time you want to get close to your beloved.


    11. Lutan Fyah  "Burn This AFire" (In The Streets) Produced by Byron Murray and released in July on the Hold U Medz riddim set, conscious roots singjay Lutan Fyah sounds as confident and powerful as always atop this uptempo melody. 


    12. G Whizz "Boom Skeng" (Fiwi Music) A nice rub-a-dub revival-type riddim and a young talent making the most of it. G Whizz burst on the scene in 2008 back with the hit "Life," and recreates some of that magic on this positive, danceable reggae track.


    13. Peter Spence  "Lovely Here" (Smart Move Records) Lee Francis, owner and producer of Smart Move Records, and son of Studio One great Winston Francis has been on the rise for the past several years with crisp, melody-drenched singles like Peter Spence's "Lovely Here" on the Second Chance riddim (released in 2010, but still lively in 2011). Rumor has it the song may be tapped for use by the Jamaican tourist board, and you can hear why -- the song speaks of the islands pleasures over a relaxed beat. You can feel the tension melt away. Here's to a big year for the Smart Move crew in 2012.


    14. Singing Melody "Collide" (VP) Singing Melody is a proficient romantic reggae singer in his own right as well as being one-fourth of the super group L.U.S.T. (comprised of  Lukie D, Thriller U, Singing Melody and Tony Curtis). Melody has often taken on R&B and pop covers and continues that trend with this excellent rendition of Howie Day's 2003 top-40 track "Collide." Watch the poignant full length video below.


    15. Ziggy Marley "Foward To Love" Ziggy is the only Marley child to have officially performed at the US White House (in 2009). He's also perennially nominated for the reggae Grammy award, including in 2012 for his most recent album Wild and Free. "Forward To Love" is a folksy four-four rockers reggae tune with a exceedingly catchy chorus. Not the most challenging reggae, but good soup for the soul nonetheless.



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    Fact: The electronic dance music sub-genre dubstep would not exist with out reggae, and specifically instrumental dub reggae. 


    Although that's obvious to those familiar with dubstep's decade-plus evolution, for the younger generation, this connection is less apparent thanks in part to newer artists such as Skrillex and 12th Planet whose productions throw dubby electronica into a hardcore mosh-pit. 


    And no grudge there -- youth have a tendency of irreverently kicking the rust out of music styles that have grown stagnant. Punk did just that to rock 'n' roll in the late-70s and rave sub-genres like acid house and breakbeat techno, themselves dubstep precursors, up-ended the Euro-dance and house music status quo. 


    But separating dubstep entirely from traditional Jamaican dub music would be like disowning an esteemed family member. Fittingly, a pair of recent comps sets dubstep firmly back in the context of Jamaican sound system music traditions. 


    Greensleeves Dubstep Chapter 1, released in November 2011, features original Greensleeves label recordings transformed by some of London's best producers, including The Bug, Coki (pictured right) and Mala of Digital Mystikz, Goth-Trad and Horsepower Productions. It's appropriate that longtime British reggae imprint Greensleeves, a staple through the 1980s and '90s, should hand the keys to its deep vaults over to some of the UKs best dubstep producers, many of whom grew up listening to reggae pirate radio stations playing the label's original releases by Yellowman, Barrington Levy and Scientist


    The producers involved took to the catalog without reservations and the results are refreshingly forward-thinking. Notable tracks include Cluekid's (pictured left) subby, minimal treatment of ragga MC Junior Cat's "Caan Eat Mi Out," (a true bass-bin shaker!) while V.I.V.E.K. brings a rootsy steppers arrangement to Johnny Osbourne's "Fally Rankin'," a version that UK dub traditionalists like Manasseh or Aba-Shanti could use in their sets. Other highlights: the inclusion of Coki's remix of Mavado's "Weh Dem A Do" (out for years on white label) and dubstep originators Horsepower Productions' bouncy, tropical treatment of Yellowman's "Zungguzungguguzungguzeng." (get this track free when you Like the Greensleeves Facebook page.) Overall, the full range of current underground dubstep styles -- from jazzy to experimental -- are explored.

    For those asking the question, "What took Greensleeves so long?" Bankruptcies and changes of ownership are the answer. In the time between dubstep's birth in the early '00s until now Greensleeves was sold twice, eventually acquired by US company VP Records in 2008. That said, Greensleeves Dubstep Volume 1 is a confident step in the right direction. In the past, UK dance music and foundation reggae walked similar but parallel paths, showing mutual nods of respect when they met. A set like this is a firm handshake between the two relatives, with hopefully many more to come.

    GREENSLEEVES CHAPTER 1 : Track Listing:01. Busy Signal and Mavado – Badman Place (Coki-Digital Mystikz remix)02. Ding Dong – Badman Forward Badman Pull Up (The Bug ft. Flow Dan remix)03. Yellowman – Zungguzugguguzungguzeng (Horsepower Productions remix)04. Johnny Osbourne – Fally Ranking (V.I.V.E.K. remix)05. Sizzla – One Love (Mala-Digital Mystikz remix)05. Mavado – Weh Dem A Do (Coki-Digital Mystikz and Undeground Ice remix)07. Admiral Bailey – Jump Up (Terror Danjah remix)08. Gappy Ranks – Stinking Rich (TMSV remix)09. Gyptian – Nah Let Go (LDD remix)10. Pampidoo – Synthesizer Voice (Goth-Trad remix)11. Vybz Kartel – Emergency (Coki-Digital Mystikz remix)12. Junior Cat – Caan Eat Mi Out (Cluekid remix)13. QQ – Tek It To Them (Kalbata remix)14. Barrington Levy – Here I Come (Kromestar remix)


    Another compilation showcasing a traditional dub reggae-centered take on dubstep and other electronic bass styles comes from the Renegade Media camp and Canadian dub producer Dubmatix.


    Dubmatix Presents Clash of the Titans: The System Shakedown Remixes, sees an international cast remix tracks from Dubmatix's 2010 album System Shakedown. The original album featured his organic dub versions and vocal collaborations with Jamaican pros like U-Brown, The Mighty Diamonds and Dennis Alcapone as well as UK heavies The Ragga Twins and Brother Culture


    The set is by no means a strictly a dubstep remix collection. Instead, like the aftershocks of a mighty earthquake, this selection illustrates dubstep and dub-electronic related sub-genres' further transformations. Birmingham's G-Corp do, in fact, bring a UK dubstep vibe to "Wobble Webble," mixed with hints of their signature downtempo beat aesthetic. Drum & bass producer Marcus Visionary delivers an absolutely cracking, in-the-pocket jungle flex on "Rough Likkle Sound," while Victor Rice and Zion Train trod in four-four steppers territory.  Scotland's Mungo's Hi-Fi and New York's Nate Wize also represent the heavier side of dubstep. Both, however, daub their dubs with organic eggae horn blasts, guitar chops,  echoes and effects. The spirit of Jamaican dub is alive and well in their hands. Hear for yourself below.


     Clash of the Titans - The System Shakedown Remixes by dubmatix 

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