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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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  • 06/03/13--18:53: Gaudi: Dub Traveler
  • ForwardEver recently interviewed electronic dub artist Gaudi for the music site Bandcamp. Gaudi's new album In Between Times is out now on Six Degrees Records and he'll be playing at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival later in June.

    Read a snippet below, and see the whole article at Bandcamp.
    With his wild tufts of hair and racks of analog synth gear, Italian-born dub and electronic producer Daniele Gaudi is hard to miss on stage. He’s been up there a lot lately, as his globe-spanning performance schedule has accelerated in recent years, taking him from Black Rock desert to Australian beaches to the pyramids of Egypt. Known for chilled-out psychedelic dub beats on albums for  Six DegreesInterchill and other labels, Gaudi has risen to the forefront of eclectic electronic music, alongside artists like Nickodemus, Pathaan, Kaya Project and others.
    Over the past 30 years Gaudi has performed in live rock bands, released a dozen solo albums, remixed Bob Marley, and created an album of original music with unreleased multi-track vocals from Pakistani Qawwali master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Gaudi’s last album, No Prisoners, was released in 2010; he doesn’t rush his output. Instead, traveling and transition are at the heart of his expansive and often collaborative recordings, music that has earned him a devoted international audience.
    Gaudi’s extensive musical achievements, which include commercial productions for Sony, Fiat and Fiorucci, have made him known to both Burning Man types and industry execs alike. Both, apparently, trust his taste and discernment, whether he’s performing on the playa or composing car commercials. So it was no surprise that when I caught up with Gaudi via Skype he was in the green room on the set of the Italian version of The Voice, the famous syndicated TV singing competition, where he was to be a guest judge. MORE>>>

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    Newcomer Leontre sounds great on her confident new one-drop reggae song "Jail House Rock." Her delivery is reminiscent of fellow female roots vocalists Etana or Jah9, and the production is crisp, classic reggae with all-star musicians Robbie Lyn an Kirkledove adding their chops. Watch the video below, and enjoy the song here.


    Lead Vocals: Leontre, Background Vocals: Earl Smith Jr & Maria Smith, Drums: Kirk 'Kirkledove' Bennett, Bass: Donald 'Danny Bassie' Dennis, Acoustic Grand Piano & Hammond B3 Organ: Robbie Lyn, Guitars: Lamont 'Monty' Savory & Ranoy Gordon, Percussion: Denver Smith, Produced by David Scorpion for Gully Bank Musik Ltd
    Recorded at Tuff Gong Studio, Kingston, Jamaica.

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    Big up to United Reggae magazine for publishing my piece with Yellowman anthology compiler Chris O'Brien from VP Records. In this interview we cover the motivation behind assembling the 40-track album and DVD project, and discus dancehall King Yellowman's lasting legacy.

    Read an excerpt below, and the full piece over at United Reggae.

    Young Gifted & Yellow: An Interview with Yellowman Anthology Compiler Chris O'Brien

    In This Is Reggae Music: The Story of Jamaican Music, author Lloyd Bradley accurately sums up how a recording artist like King Yellowman couldn’t have originated from anywhere but JA: “Nowhere else in the entire world could a six-foot plus albino black man survive a childhood spent in orphanages as a virtual outcast, start boasting about how attractive he was to women and become a reggae phenomenon.” Moreover, Yellowman, born Winston Foster, has outlasted the majority of peers in the entertainment world. At age 57, having beaten back cancer via surgery that has left him permanently disfigured, the King remains active and upbeat.

    Fitting, then, that his key work from the 1980s should be reexamined and expanded on, which is what Reggae Anthology: Young, Gifted and Yellow does thoroughly. Over 40 tracks and a DVD with live footage from 1988’s Reggae Sunsplash, the set showcases what Yellowman perfected: riding a riddim–driving it really–with a jovial wit, sharp social perspectives and plenty of bawdy boasts. Gems like “Operation Radication,” on a cut of the Itals “In Dis Ya Time,” the duet “The Girl Is Mine” with Peter Metro or the other crucial collaborations with Fathead and Sister Nancy make this as complete a collection as has ever been assembled... READ MORE.

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    The past several years have brought forth a nice batch of reissues from producer Joe Gibbs highlighting his best 1970s and early-80s productions. These have included Culture and the DJs, Dennis Brown: A Little Bit More and the Reggae Discomix series, showcasing vintage, funky and always danceable sides from both established and lesser heard artists.

    That spirit continues with VP's latest release, The Ladies at Joe Gibbs, featuring the beloved Althea & Donna ("Uptown Top Ranking") at their height, and rare cuts from JC Lodge, Hortense Ellis, Marcia Aitken and others. Again, 70s disco and soul influences loom large on these productions, while each artists gives voice to romantic odes and corking the dance alike. Read a synopsis below and check a preview video too.

    The legendary productions of Joe Gibbs have generated many of the reggae genre's biggest hits. The producer/label operated predominately between 1972 and 1984.The Ladies at Joe Gibbs brings together the classic hits from the female artists Gibbs recorded. The songs and riddims are most familiar and underscore why Joe Gibbs productions were at the top of the genre during these prime years. Judy Mowatt and June 'JC' Lodge went on to have major careers in reggae while other names have faded. Some of the re-mastered tracks include previously unreleased extended mixes. Featured tracks include Marcia Aitken "My Man' and 'I'm Still In Love With You' (which scored # 1 Pop in England), June 'JC' Lodge "Someone Loves You Honey" and a special extended version of Althea & Donna's classic rocker 'Uptown Top Ranking'. 

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    Are you ready to Set Up Shop? Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, his brother Stephen "Ragga" Marley and the whole Ghetto Youths International family are preparing to do just that, as they hit the West Coast of the US for a tour, and offer new tunes to fans.

    Ghetto Youths International is the Marley sons' outlet for independent  projects and musical releases. TheSet Up Shop album and single are both ou now worldwide on GYI.

    Along for the tour are special guests Christopher Ellis, son of rocksteady legend Alton Ellis, established dancehall and reggae vocalist Wayne Marshall and newcomers Jo Mersa and Black-Am-I. We have a few tracks to get you warmed up to the vibe–and both are boom shots for real!

    Check these new tunes!(Click link to download)
    Stephen "Ragga" Marley "Bongo Nyah" ft. Spragga Benz & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley
    Wayne Marshal "I Know"

    U.S. Tour Dates:
    Fri. Jun.14 @ MACC in Kahului, HI *
    Sat. Jun.15 @  Kaka'ako Waterfront Park in Honolulu, HI *
    Sun. Jun.16 @  Kilohana in Kauai, HI *
    Wed. Jun. 19 @ Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA
    Fri. Jun 21 @ Cuthbert Amphitheater in Eugene, OR
    Sat. Jun. 22 @ Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in Boonville, CA
    Sun. Jun. 23 @ Avila Beach Resort in Avila Beach, CA
    Tue. Jun. 25 @ Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA ^
    Wed. Jun. 26 @ Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA ^
    Fri. Jun. 28 @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Sound Waves Pool Stage in Las Vegas, NV
    Sat. Jun. 29 @  Santa Barbara Bowl in Santa Barbara, CA
    Sun. Jun. 30 @ Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA
    Tue. Jul. 2 @ Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA ^

    * Dates without Stephen "Ragga" Marley

    ^ Dates are sold out

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    Catch up with the latest reggae news via Clash Magazine's monthly update. The latest edition brings us up to date on Vybz Kartel's criminal cases, Toots's bottling incident, and goes backstage with Lee Scratch Perry and Clive Chin (see below) discussing memories of Randy's Studio in Jamaica.

    And if it's purely dancehall news you're craving, Dancehall USA does a nice job with their up-to-the-minute entertainment updates – Popcaan's new video, Bounty Killer's latest track, and other labrish. The site, however, is heavily ad-supported, so be prepared to navigate around them.

    Urban Islands has a nice report on the new Morgan Heritage album, including a link to Winford Williams' On Stage video interview.

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    Independent reggae artist Mackie Conscious is back with a new free track that promotes environmental, well, consciousness.  You can grab "Plant Some Trees" via Soundcloud.

    The song features an original one-drop riddim with full instrumentation and layered vocals–in other words, quality modern roots!

    Mackie Conscious is a great example of a hard-working artist who is active both on-stage and in the studio, as well as keeping up on his social media outlets.

    Mackie released the following statement along with the track:

    "During these times of inter-planetary and world change, we are facing major challenges facing the whole human family such as food shortage, GMO proliferation; global warming, land deforestation. I wrote a song that is an anthem for generating global food surplus, beginning with a local approach of growing what you eat and eating what you grow. As you listen, please make a commitment to help me plant some seeds right where you are at home, in the backyard, in the garden or kitchen."

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  • 06/18/13--22:28: Congo Natty: Revolution
  • Pioneering UK drum & bass artist Congo Natty is back. Headed by the enigmatic and spiritually motivated Mikail Tafari (a.k.a. Rebel MC), Jungle Revolution (out July 9 on Big Dada) will be Congo Natty's highest profile release in years.

    Congo Natty is one of the foremost innovators of "ragga jungle," a sample-heavy and reggae-influenced strain of drum & bass. The new album features guests spots from Tackhead member Skip McDonald and MC Lady Chann plus production assistance from On-U Sound's Adrian Sherwood and drum & bass architect Benny Page.

    "Revolution" starts with a flowing, reggae-dubstep hybrid rhythm, before changing into a drum & bass beat. It's a mission statement of sorts from one of the most influential UK producers of the '90s and '00s.

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  • 06/24/13--23:13: 20th Annual SNWMF In Photos
  • Images from this year's 20th installment of the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival.

    Sister Carol
    Cornell Campbell


    Don Carlos
    Downbeat The Ruler

    Errol Dunkley


    Keith & Tex

    Jah Shaka

    MC Junior Francis

    Prince Fatty Soundsystem

    Protoje & The Indignation Band

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    Biblical references in reggae songs are nothing new. They appear as a apart of the patchwork of African and spiritual traditions that run through Jamaica.

    Always a spiritually-inspired singer, Burning Spear's track "The Wilderness" included on the 1977 Island album Dry & Heavy features the lyric "Birds have their nest, foxes have their hole, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest," a reference to the New Testament (Luke 9:58) parable about the exacting cost of faith. The same topic and parable are also mentioned in a brilliant Delroy Williams track  "Foxhole," produced by Augustus Pablo. Meanwhile the title "The Wilderness" refers to Jesus' 40 days and nights journey into the wilderness where he was tempted.

    One of the definitive live versions of Burning Spear's "The Wilderness" comes from his 1988 concert in Paris. See a clip below. The band includes his all-female incarnation of the Ras Brass horn ensemble, and don't miss the conch shell solo starting around 5:09.

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    Yung Jr., an emerging artist from Junior Reid's One Blood camp, breaks out on his new video, which combines a conscious message with contemporary reggae/dancehall music.

    Produced by Bassick Records, the same crew that gave us Ding Dong, Konshens, I-Octane & Christopher Martin's pop hit "It's a Celebration," the song features clean, modern instrumentation.

    The video's narrative depicts "ragga" cultural youths in a positive light. Watch the video below, and look out for Yung Jr., who like G-Whizz and Romain Virgo represents a positive future for Jamaican music.

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    Junior Reid seems ready to reclaim his roots. Of course prior to his breakthrough as a member of Black Uhuru (after Michael Rose departed), Reid was a stalwart recording artist for none other than Prince Jammy (later to be musicially crowned King Jammy$). Junior Reid's early roots reggae hits included "Boom Shock A Lock," "Poor Man Transportation," Concrete Castle King, and "Jail House," among many others.

    Reid has had his own production company (JR Records) for  several years. He's released dancehall and cross-over tracks and produced for other artists, including his two sons Andrew & Wada Blood

    JR's latest track is a solid return to his roots. "Out Deh" features live band instrumentation and thought-provoking lyrics. The track comes close to the intensity of his most known international hit, "One Blood."

    You can grab it for free right here. Watch the video below.

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    Green Lion Crew, an international sound system, radio and production collective have been causing a stir lately with their latest riddim release titled "Rough Road." The set features contributions from a who's-who of modern roots and conscious Jamaican artists including Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid, Jahdan Blakkamore and Dre Island.

    The unconventional riddim has elements of hip-hop and dubstep underlying it's minor key melodic riff. The bass is a punchy (and slightly wobbly) low-end rumble, while crisp piano and sharp drums drive the beat. It's further evidence of the expansion of the reggae blueprint, as illustrated by artists such as The Courtney John Project or even Stephen Marley, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley & Spragga Benz's recent "Bongo Nyah." Reggae production is now embracing electronic music on its own terms, while sacrificing none of the upfull messages or cultural foundations.

    Listen to David Rodigan on BBC 1-XTRA introduce Chronixx's track on "Rough Road."

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    Neo-soul stars Syleena Johnson (daughter of legend Syl Johnson) and Musiq Soulchild have teamed up with Jamaican producer Kemar "Flava" McGregor for their own authentic reggae collaboration. The new album titled 9ine is out September 10 on Shanachie Entertainment.

    Watch Syleena & Musiq discus the project in the studio.

    Reggae R&B covers and remixes are nothing new. Think Singing Melody's Mario remake, or Alicia Key's "You Don't Know My Name" remix.

    Of course Jamaican artists have been influenced by American R&B going back decades, from the first Jamaican recordings' New Orleans boogie shuffle influence, through early Bob Marley & the Wailers covers of the Impressions. More rare are American R&B artists adopting the reggae format for their own original music. That's what Syleena and Musiq have done, and judging by the strong first single, it might be a trend worth repeating.

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  • 08/01/13--16:38: Kabaka Pyramid Inna Cali
  •  New reggae phenom Kabaka Pyramid passed through the San Francisco Bay Area this week doing a series of sound system track shows that proved why he's such an in-demand roots revival artist now.

    In 2011 Kingston-based Kabaka burst on the scene with theRebel Music album, which he offered for free via Bandcamp. The recording was more than enough to get him noticed.

    These days he's turned up on a number of high profile singles and riddims, including Green Lion Crew's new Rough Road riddim set,  Silly Walks' Honey Pot Riddim, and Royal Order Music's hit "Selassie I Soldiers."  Check the clips from his recent shows below.

    "Free From Chains" at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz

    "Selassie I Lead The Way" at Milk SF

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    Tom Chasteen from Los Angeles' Dub Club crew along with Stones Throw records have released Foundation Come Again, a 20-track compilation of classic Jamaican DJs on heavyweight rub-a-dub riddims.

    We interviewed Chasteen recently for United Reggae Magazine– that piece will be published soon. In the meantime, check this preview and out takes from the interview!

    Dub Club: Shake The Foundation (excerpt)

    "In music, time doesn’t really exist. If it sounds good, it sounds good. If humans could dance to this music at one point in time, they can dance to it at another point in time." -Tom Chasteen

    Tippa Lee
    Since artists were now regularly rolling through the Dub Club for shows, Chasteen would make time to record them on his rhythms, building up a stockpile of tracks. “As artists would visit like Big Youth, Brigadier Jerry or Tristan Palma, I would record their vocals on these instrumentals. I was tracking them all the time.” The idea for a compilation project was floated to Chasteen’s friend and Stones Throw Records founder Chris Manak (a.k.a. Peanut Butter Wolf), and the album was given the green light.

    “At a certain point Tippa Lee made a trip to Jamaica,” says Chasteen. “He brought the instrumentals down and organized recording sessions at Mixing Lab studio in Kingston. It was a lot of rarely heard artists, and people that can’t travel to the US,” he says of the collection’s deep line up of vintage toasters. “That’s how we ended up with people like Errol Scorcher, Tullo T and Little Joe.”

    Be checking United Reggae for the full interview soon!

    (L-R) Trinity, Chasteen, Ranking Joe
    Dub Club Interview Outtakes:

    What’s been the reaction of the artists to getting to perform at the Dub Club?

    For a lot of them, it’s their first show in California so it is special, but they’ve toured other places. A lot of them play in Japan and Europe regularly. There are fans who come to the shows who have been collecting their records, and they stand there and can’t believe it, their hearing this voice they’ve heard for 30 years and he sounds just like it. 

    Honestly, a lot of people who come to the club don’t know the artists, not like a DJ or record collector but they just love seeing the artists because it’s great music. The music just grabs you right away. And these artists are really superb performers too. Like Trinity– that’s an entertainer! He starts off with an amazingly dramatic Yabba You song; then later, when he plays “Three Piece Suit,” he just jumps into the crowd and singing the song out on the dance floor.

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    You can now read the full article about Dub Club and Foundation Come Again over at United Reggae!

    Here's an excerpt to get you started!

    Shaking The Foundation

    It’s Wednesday night at the Echo-Plex music hall, situated in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The venue is dark save a few red stage lights and twinkling bulbs around the bar. Decked in a blazer and denim, with his straight, shoulder-length hair falling over his eyes, DJ Tom Chasteen is getting things set up for another edition of the Dub Club, a weekly reggae party running since 2000. Flight cases and crates filled with vinyl LPs and boxes crammed with 45s are hefted up on stage as the club’s resident MCs Jah Faith and Ras Benji mill about backstage.

    But it’s not just another night for the 13-year running weekly event, instead, they’re celebrating the release of Foundation Come Again, Dub Club’s new 20 track compilation on Stones Throw Records. Soon, veteran Jamaican toasters Trinity, Ranking Joe and Tippa Lee will be on stage, offering classic roots and rub-a-dub lyrics to a capacity crowd. Dub Club has showcased many similarly historic performances, including Tappa Zukie, Little John, Mad Professor Anthony B and Scientist, as well as Johnny Osbourne, Ranking Trevor, Tristan Palma, Ras Michael, Shinehead, and hundreds more.

    It’s unusual for a mid-sized club to host as many high profile acts as this night has – the honor is usually reserved for festivals, and large venues like House of Blues. But Chasteen and partners Boss Harmony, Dungeon Master and Roy Corduroy are all serious vinyl collectors and students of Jamaican music. They do research and legwork to track down significant and often unheralded artists. The new compilation represents Dub Club’s intense interest in preserving reggae music’s cornerstone artists and sounds. 

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    Veteran sing-jay Chuck Fenda, known as the "Living Fire" for his often pointed political rhetoric, is back with one of his most solid albums in a while.

    Jah Elements (John John Records, distributed by Zojak, available at iTunes and Google Play) was produced at the legendary King Jammy$ studio in Jamaica as well as TruckBack studio and others, by a stellar cast including Jammy$' sons John John and Baby G, Wayne "Unga" Thompson of Notice Productions, and Steve "Truckback" Locke.

    The album is a real Waterhouse affair with stellar guest appearances from Leroy Smart, Junior Reid and even the "warlord" Bounty Killer. "Spiritual Warfare" (produced by Locke) featuring the aforementioned Mr. Reid is a particular highlight with it's re-licked vintage steppers roots riddim and vibrant combination lyrics. Listen below.

    The album features a holistic balance of studio and live instrumentation, traditional and moderns roots style rhythms and Fenda's militant "Can't Cool, Can't Quench" vocal delivery.

    Featured musicians include: Sly Dunbar, Squidly Cole, Kirk Bennett and Trevor 'Baby G" James on drums; Chinna Smith and Courtland 'Gizmo' White on guitar, Andre 'Spider' Dennis on keyboards.

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    Similar in scope to another project we blogged about recently, the Dub Club's Foundation Come Again album, Tel Aviv, Israel producers Kalbata & Mixmonster have produced a set of original analog backing tracks and recorded some of Jamaica's greatest original DJs on their versions.

    Legends like Jah Thomas, Little John, Trinity, Echo Minott, Mutabaruka are all on the project.

    Watch a video of their journey below, and look for the new album, Congo Beat The Drum out soon on Freestyle Records.

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    Club Dread, the San Francisco Bay Area's first ever and longest running weekly reggae club night, has, in recent years, turned its attention to promoting quality sound clash events. The 9th Annual Club Dread Soundclash will take place at Vinyl at The Venue in Oakland, CA. and features three sound crews going head-to-head with musical selections.

    Hosted by LA sound master DJ JFX and local radio favorite Robert Rankin from KKUP's Solid Foundation program, the clash features Bay Area stalwart TNT Sound Station with selector Dougie, a veteran of local clashes whose sound box contains many dubplates featuring artists that are either no longer recording or no longer with us.

    Also on the bill are Super Gold Sound (Jamaica/Atlanta/Texas) and King Shiloh (New York). At stake are a trophy, cash and bragging rights – the crowd will determine the winner. Expect big tunes and big chat from these experienced sound vets.

    For more on sound clas and sound system culture and history, visit Irish & Chin's Sound Chat Radio, a great resource for all things sound clash!

    Sat. Oct. 19, 2013 Club Dread's 9th Annual Sound Clash

    TNT Sound Station(Trinidad/Oakland)

    Super Gold Sound (Jamaica/Atlanta)

    King Shiloh Sound (New York)

    Hosted By: DJ JFX and Robert Rankin (Honorary Host)

    Early Warm sets: DJ JFX & DJ Brandi Plus Special Guest Dj General Patton & Irie Selecta

    Doors 9:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m. [Clash time: 11:30 p.m.] $10 before 10 p.m. $20 after.
    Vinyl @ The Venue, 420 14th Street, Oakland, CA

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