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BOB MARLEY FOR BEGINNERS (2012): Bob's business is big business

12 Dec 2012  |  2 min read  |  1

With the DVD release of the doco Marley by Kevin MacDonald, interest is again ignited in this musical, political and religious figure who is often lazily billed as "the first Third World superstar". So maybe it's timely to offer those coming late to Marley -- who has been dead for over 30 years -- a quick guide into the music of this legendary figure, one that goes further than... > Read more


2 Sep 2012  |  3 min read  |  1

When Herbs emerged at the start of the 1980s they were a very different band from the avuncular, mainstream entertainers they became. The original five-piece was managed by the former president of the radical Polynesian Panthers, and the cover of their landmark EP Whats' Be Happen, released in July '81 during the Springbok tour, was an aerial photo of police evicting protesters occupying... > Read more

Dragons and Demons

Easy Star All-Stars: Thrillah (Easy Star)

24 Aug 2012  |  <1 min read

And of all the tributes to Michael Jackson, this might be the most expected. Easy Star All-Stars make a habit of taking classic rock and giving it the reggae/dub treatment (Beatles, Radiohead, two stabs at Dark Side of the Moon, see here for the second) but here they kick in with a very interesting African jive version of Wanna Be Starting Somethin' which aims towards Afrobeat in its... > Read more

Thriller (ft Mikey General and Spragga Benz)

Dennis Bovell: Mek It Run (Pressure Sounds)

13 Aug 2012  |  <1 min read  |  1

For a very long time from the mid Seventies bassist/producer Dennis Bovell was the go-to guy when British artists wanted an authentic deep dub sound. His work with poet Linton Kewsi Johnson has been the seminal associaition of his career, but he also recorded extensively under his own name, with Matumbi and sometimes as Blackbeard. In the past decade or so however his name has rarely been... > Read more

Binghi Man

Lee Perry and the Upsetters: High Plains Drifter (Pressure Sounds)

27 Feb 2012  |  1 min read

This 20 track collection of Jamaican singles picked up from 1968 to '75 catches producer Lee "Scratch" Perry at an especially productive and innovative period. And, with his Upsetters band (which included future Wailers Aston and Carlton Barrett, saxophonist Tommy McCook, guitarist Reggie Lewis and others), he was crafting strange proto-reggae singles for the likes of Count Sticky,... > Read more

Next to You

Zionhill: Inside of You (Moko)

19 Jan 2012  |  1 min read

Too many New Zealand reggae bands, once they have got the rhythm and melody down, rarely have much to say lyrically which doesn't default to soft notions about home and family, or a bunch of tick-the-box Rasta cliches about Babylon and Jah. It is as if the political contract which was outlined by Bob Marley (and on home turf, very early Herbs) proves too difficult, although there is... > Read more

Foot Soldier

Chris Macro: Macro-Dubplates Vol III; Brooklyn vs Kingston (

3 Oct 2011  |  <1 min read

Those who like a good mash-up won't want to go past this collection by New Zealand producer Chris Macro, formerly of the excellent but short-lived Dubious Brothers (just one album, the excellent Trade Secrets of 2002). Here -- as the title implies -- are implosions which include Ol' Dirty Bastard and Dawn Penn, Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, the great Congos and U-Roy with Blackmoon, Busta Rhymes and... > Read more

Brooklyn Slow Motion

JAMAICA'S STUDIO ONE AND CLEMENT DODD: The focal point of reggae

21 Aug 2011  |  2 min read

King Stitt is something to see all right. His glazed eyes appear to look in different directions. There are huge bags beneath them, his greying dreadlocks are tucked under a huge tea cosy, his wiry beard unkempt. But his most distinctive features are a bottom lip the size of a sausage and a single sharp tooth which projects out of his otherwise empty gums. When he speaks you wish for... > Read more

Sugar Minott: Jah Jah Children

Ziggy Marley: Wild and Free (Tuff Gong)

18 Jul 2011  |  <1 min read

After a faltering start with the Melody Makers, Ziggy (now 42) uncoupled his music from overly familiar reggae rhythms and incorporated African sounds, hooked up with rap artists, kept a political agenda and all the while didn't veer too far from his father's path and sometimes the classic sound. Here his collaborators include Woody Harrelson on the title track (“I see hemp... > Read more

Roads Less Traveled

Bob Marley and the Wailers: Live Forever (Universal)

25 Mar 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

Some albums are accorded greater cachet because of the circumstances of their creation. Does anyone really think George Harrison would have won a Grammy for his instrumental Marwa Blues if he had been around to collect it? That was a vote driven by sentiment -- and probably regret and embarrassment that his contribution to music post-Beatles hadn't been more widely acknowledged in his... > Read more

Bob Marley and the Wailers: The Heathen

House of Shem: Island Vibration (Isaac)

21 Mar 2011  |  1 min read

If it's true, as I am told, this album went to number one on the New Zealand charts it confirms two things: in this part of the Pacific we love them familiar summertime reggae grooves; and also that we have an indiscriminate love of them familar summertime reggae grooves to the point of ignoring the obvious. The obvious here is that House of Shem deliver little more -- I'd actually say... > Read more

House of Shem: Move Along Together

SLY DUNBAR INTERVIEWED (2003): Pull up to the drummer, baby

13 Mar 2011  |  5 min read

Silly question maybe, but you have to start by asking drummer Sly Dunbar -- one half of the legendary Sly'n'Robbie rhythm section alongside bassist Robbie Shakespeare -- what he's been up to lately. In the past couple of years the formidable Riddum Twins have played on No Doubt's career-reviving Rock Steady album, shared equal billing on an album with Jamaican-born jazz pianist Monty... > Read more

Wailing Souls with Sly'n'Robbie: Old Broom (from the album Sly and Robbie Present Taxi, 1981)

TOUGHER THAN TOUGH: The 1994 box set of Jamaican music considered

6 Mar 2011  |  4 min read  |  1

One of the most exciting things about popular music is that you can never anticipate where the next wave will come from. Could you have predicted Chicago in Forties, Memphis in the Fifties, Hamburg and Liverpool clubs in the Sixties, Berlin or the Bronx in the Seventies and early Eighties? Or Seattle, Havana, the deserts of the sub-Sahara . . . You could have? Great, a couple of... > Read more

The Folkes Brothers: Oh Carolina (1960)

BOB MARLEY; RASTAMAN VIBRATION RECONSIDERED: The legacy is music and the message

12 Feb 2011  |  4 min read  |  1

The bassist with Hamilton reggae band Katchafire, Ara Adams-Tamatea, said it: "You go to parties now and they are still playing the same '70s Bob albums 20 and 30 years later. Why is that? Because Bob's message is still alive and the things he was singing about are still relevant." The Bob in question is dread rebel Bob Marley, whose music spoke to many in this country more deeply... > Read more

Bob Marley: Positive Vibration

BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH INTERVIEWED (2000): The people's poet laureate

6 Dec 2010  |  4 min read

Britain's most popular serious performance poet for more than two decades, Benjamin Zephaniah, laughs as he recalls hating poetry as a kid. If you said you liked it, it was as if you were filled with angst. And for a boy of Jamaican parents growing up in Birmingham, it was all a bit dead-white-male. Yet, at 42, the much-published, dreadlocked Rasta is a writer whose work has captured... > Read more

Benjamin Zephaniah: Neighbourhood Watch

The Heptones: Sweet Talking (Studio One)

29 Nov 2010  |  <1 min read

Produced by the legendary Clement Dodd and fronted by the sweet voice of Leroy Sibbles, the Heptones were one of the great Jamaican vocal trios who brought in soulful harmonies borrowed from 50s bands like the Drifters. This 18-track collection of mid-60s tracks (most in stereo remixes not previously released on CD) includes their covers of the pop hit Only Sixteen, and Message from a... > Read more

The Heptones: Pretty Looks Isn't All

Easy Star All-Stars: Dubber Side of the Moon (Easy Star/Southbound)

31 Oct 2010  |  <1 min read

Almost a decade ago the Dub Side of the Moon album appeared and through word of mouth, then touring shows and a live DVD, the thing -- a dub take on Pink Floyd's milestone/millstone in rock -- became a sub-cultural phenomenon. And, as is the nature of such things, it now undergoes another reworking as "The Dubber Side" because various remixers (Dubmatix, Groove Corporation,... > Read more

Easy Star All-Stars: Time (Groove Corporation remix)

Katchafire: On the Road Again (EMI)

18 Oct 2010  |  1 min read

The title song/opener here is appropriate: for most of the past decade this hard-working band have been playing everywhere from small town bars and main centres around New Zealand to “London, Scotland, Ireland, Hawaii, Vegas, Cali, LA . . .” and more, which they tick off on the promise of “Fire layin' it down” in your town. Now on their fourth album, their... > Read more

Katchafire: Lead Us

KATCHAFIRE (2005): Slow burning their way to consciousness

11 Oct 2010  |  5 min read

Reggae is one of the bloodlines of New Zealand music. It is there whenever an acoustic guitar comes out on the marae or suburban barbeque, and you can hear it in the hi-tech dub incarnation in clubland and dance music like that from Salmonella Dub, Trinity Roots, Pitch Black and the many bands out of Wellington. Yet since indigenous reggae burst onto the scene after the arrival of its... > Read more

BOB MARLEY; TALKIN' BLUES: The Rastaman chanting down Babylon in 1973

30 Sep 2010  |  3 min read

Shortly after Bob Marley died in May ‘81 a journalist asked former-Wailer Peter Tosh what the passing of this charismatic reggae figure meant. Tosh considered the matter carefully, then offered this insightful -- but eloquently, unusually -- observation: “No more music from Bob.” Rasta/Zen reduction right there. And nearly right. Two years after Brother Bob’s... > Read more

Bob Marley: Rastaman Chant