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THE DREAM GOES ON: Bob Marley's enduring influence, in jazz and elsewhere

27 Sep 2010  |  4 min read  |  1

Twenty years after the death of its high priest, reggae still informed the vocabulary of music. Reggae had so thoroughly infiltrated pop, rock, hip hop and electronica, we hardly noticed it any more. Still don't. And if it isn’t in the music itself – the bass lines, off-accent drumming, choppy guitars – then it's in the attitude reggae producers such as Lee Perry,... > Read more

Ernest Ranglin and Monty Alexander: Redemption Song (2004)

BURNING SPEAR INTERVIEWED (2000): Still tending his crop

30 Aug 2010  |  4 min read

Burning Spear lets go a deep, resonant laugh which starts as a chuckle then becomes increasingly full-throated. Savour that moment, it's the only break in his gravitas during this friendly, respectful conversation. Burning Spear - aka Winston Rodney - is the conscience of reggae, keeper of the flame of its roots, and the music's most visible senior statesman. And he takes his role... > Read more

Burning Spear: Hallelujah (from Calling Rastafari, 1999)


16 Aug 2010  |  5 min read

What becomes a legend most? In the case of Ernest Ranglin, good humour and modesty. This legend of Jamaican singlehandedly created ska back in the Fifties; recorded the young Bob Marley; arranged Millie Small’s international hit My Boy Lollipop in 64; enjoyed a jazz career in London, New York and Florida; and in the early-to-mid Nineties captured the ears of a new generation with... > Read more

LEE SCRATCH PERRY IN THE 90s: Getting dub'n'reggae through time tuff

9 Aug 2010  |  4 min read  |  2

By the early 90s - a decade on from the death of Bob Marley - the consciousness reggae movement he headed was floundering internationally. In New Zealand, where reggae is one of the bloodlines, it was disappearing from radio and aside from well attended appearances by Judy Mowatt and Ziggy Marley concerts it really was “time tough,” as Toots once said. But there was also a... > Read more

Lee Scratch Perry: You Thought I Was Dead

JUDY MOWATT INTERVIEWED (1990): The black queen arises

26 Jul 2010  |  5 min read  |  1

Judy Mowatt wears her unofficial title “the queen of reggae" easily. A striking figure of regal bearing, she holds her head high, and, as a member of The Twelve Tribes of Israel, talks as easily about the Queen of Sheba in ancient times as she does about Yellowman, and DJ dancehall stars in Jamaica today – and shows a canny knowledge of chart placings for various reggae... > Read more

Judy Mowatt: Mother Africa

Dub Spencer and Trance Hill: Riding Strange Horses (Echo Beach/Yellow)

27 Jun 2010  |  <1 min read

Those who know their spaghetti westerns and love a bit of dubbery will welcome this new installment from the Swiss band Spencer/Hill (aka bassist Marcel Stalder, guitarist Markus Meier, keyboard player Philipp Greter and drummer Julian Dillier). Opening with Ennio Morricone's harmonica theme (from For a Few Dollars More, I think?) and then a deep dub version of the Clash's London Calling,... > Read more

Spencer/Hill: When I Fall in Love (featuring Ken Boothe)

Youssou N'Dour: Dakar-Kingston (Universal)

11 Apr 2010  |  <1 min read

After decades of almost becoming the biggest star out of Africa and commanding a global audience (support from Peter Gabriel, the 7 Seconds single with Neneh Cherry, Mandela concerts and so on) N'Dour must find it frustrating that he never quite made the leap that Bob Marley did out of Jamaica. His early albums remain his best -- although Egypt recorded in Cairo in 2003 was a late careeer... > Read more

Youssou N Dour: Bamba

Katchafire: Say What You're Thinking (EMI CD/DVD Edition)

14 Mar 2010  |  <1 min read

This will be brief because the original 2008 album (the third by this constantly working New Zealand reggae outfit) was reviewed at Elsewhere here, but just to note this expanded package now comes with extra tracks (two album tracks remixed and two live songs, one being Collie Herbsman off their debut album Revival, the other this album's title track). There is now also a DVD disc which... > Read more

Katchafire: Collie Herbman live

The Skatalites: Anthology (Primo/Southbound)

14 Dec 2009  |  <1 min read

This 35-track double disc pulls together essential Skatalite material alongside work that appeared under the names of some the group's members (Rolando Alphonso, Baba Brooks, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook) and is a primer on the sound of Jamaican ska in the mid Sixties. The rhythm might be the choppy ska style but over the top you can hear the influence of big bands and New Orleans r'n'b (Yard... > Read more

The Skatalites: Strolling In

DubXanne: The Police in Dub (Echo Beach/Yellow Eye)

3 Aug 2009  |  1 min read  |  2

This is how I like my Police. Without Sting. As with that yelping guy in Yes and few others, I find Sting's voice very hard to take. Although I concede that when I consider their album sales (45 million and rising) as well concert ticket sales I am in a very small minority. So be it. Always quite liked the music, rarely liked Sting's singing. So this could be my album: 13 Police songs... > Read more

DubXanne: Can't Stand Losing You Dub

DAMIAN MARLEY INTERVIEWED (2006): Maintaining the family standard

29 Mar 2009  |  6 min read

The most common complaint from those who have stardom thrust upon them -- the tabloid coverage and paparazzi, the private chef serving you rather than some kid on minimum wage -- is that nothing prepares you for this life. Okay, it’s tough at the top -- it’s not that easy at the bottom however -- and no, you can’t go to school to learn how to be famous. But there is... > Read more

Damian Marley: We're Gonna Make It

ZIGGY MARLEY INTERVIEWED (1990): The son also rises

15 Jan 2009  |  7 min read  |  1

Ziggy Marley’s throat is dry and he sounds tired. It’s nearly midnight at the Mayflower Hotel in New York and a day of photo sessions and interviews is almost behind him. But he’s going back to Jamaica soon – back to Tuff Gong Headquarters, his father’s home in old colonial style which now houses the Bob Marley Museum. These days Ziggy Marley spends little... > Read more

Ziggy Marley: Look Who's Dancing (Jazzie B remix)


5 Jan 2009  |  5 min read  |  1

Jimmy Cliff – the fundamental reggae pioneer -- could have been a contender.  Never quite the crown prince of reggae, a title taken without struggle by Bob Marley, Cliff nevertheless stacked up the kind of profile early in his career that marked him out as someone special. He’s still doing it, still making fine music and by his own account on the road about six months... > Read more

BOB MARLEY ON THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS DEATH (ESSAY, 1991): Legacy of a righteous rebel

1 Sep 2008  |  9 min read

There are no written records of the event, but we can speculate: the interior of the Tuff Gong Studio in Jamaica on a hot afternoon in 1980. Bob Marley and the Wailers are putting the final tracks together for the album to be called Uprising. Urged on by Chris Blackwell, boss of Island Records, Marley has gone back into the studio to add something more. He is sitting alone with his acoustic... > Read more

The Specials: The Best of the Specials (EMI)

1 May 2008  |  <1 min read

Listening to this 20-track compilation (which comes with an excellent DVD of videos and film footage) reminds you just how reductive the recent ska revivalist bands have been. In the late 70s/early 80s the Specials out of Coventry delivered more than just that kickin' good time dance music which covers bands have recently picked up on. The Specials were a band with layered and politicised... > Read more

Tahuna Breaks: Reflections (Chewy/Rhythmethod)

12 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read  |  1

While I understand the wide appeal of Fat Freddy's Drop -- a laidback distillation of reggae, soul and so forth -- it is too mellow for my taste. Tahuna Breaks -- who also distill elements of soul and reggae but have an urgent rock attack too -- are much more my kind of thing. Vocalist Marty Greentree often sings like his life depends on it and, being driven by a kind of live drum'n'bass... > Read more

Tahuna Breaks: Crisis

Katchafire: Say What You're Thinking (EMI)

4 Aug 2007  |  1 min read

About six years ago I first encountered Hamilton reggae band Katchafire playing in a pretty ropey provincial bar. I'd met them backstage beforehand -- actually in a room full of beer barrels -- and I knew within minutes these guys could be huge. They were genuinely nice people and had a repertoire of almost 200 songs -- mostly covers, and of them a swag by Bob Marley -- which they later... > Read more

Katchafire: Pain

TIGI NESS INTERVIEWED (2003): From street warrior to natural mystic

2 Aug 2007  |  9 min read  |  1

The high-rise skyline shimmers in the summer heat beyond the faded iron roofs of Auckland's inner-city suburbs. Tigi Ness sits on the back porch of his Grey Lynn home, in the foreground a tended and productive garden, far beyond those gleaming towers of greed.At 47, Ness is the patriarch of Aotearoa reggae. A Rastafarian for 20 years, the years allow him to smile at his own mis-steps on life's... > Read more

Unity Pacific: Into the Dread (Moving Productions/EMI)

28 Jul 2007  |  1 min read

When the documentary about the life of Unity Pacific's singer-songwriter Tigi Ness made it to the small screen on Maori TV and the Film Festival many in the country had their introduction to a modest man and his remarkable life. Now 52, Ness is something of late bloomer in making albums: his debut From Street to Sky (also the name of the doco) came four year ago and went past most people.... > Read more

Unity Pacific: A Poor Man (Saveth a City)