Our Top 3 Reggae Foundation Chunes

Today, we offer ourselves a last dive into the golden age of reggae with our Top 3 dedicated to the founding pieces of Jamaican music.

The Congos – Fisherman

Fisherman is the first track of the famous album Heart Of the Congos. An album considered as one of the greatest masterpieces of Jamaican music, if not THE greatest. Lee Perry in production and three unique and inimitable voices, those of Cedric Myton, Ashanty Roy and Watty Burnett are the secrets. In the choirs, there is a luxury cast: Gregory Isaacs, Barry Lewellyn, The Meditations or Earl Morgan. The atmosphere that emerges from this track and the album, in general, has never been equaled. The sound is worked on as never before, the harmonies are as neat as possible, and the themes reflect a time when conscious and cultural music was king.

Third World – 96 Degrees in the Shade

The song recounts the famous Morant Bay revolt led by Paul Bogle in 1865. Even if slavery was abolished in Jamaica in 1834, the condition of blacks was not improving. Voting rights remained restricted, and some Blacks continued to be exploited by British settlers. A few incidents between Blacks and Whites following land problems forced a handful of former slaves to revolt, creating riots that cost the lives of some 20 Whites. In response, English Governor Edward Eyre sent a militia that killed 439 blacks directly and captured 354 others who were publicly executed without trial. Another 600 Jamaican blacks were whipped or imprisoned. Third World’s tune tells this story through the story of George William Gordon, an English half-breed who protected Paul Bogle in particular in this story. He was arrested and hanged and took the time before he died to complain about the stifling heat on the day of his execution. Don’t worry; it wasn’t 96°C in the shade! Jamaicans count in Fahrenheit degrees, which corresponds to about 35° Celsius! Released in 1977, this track has become a hymn of reggae roots, THE undisputed hit of Third World and a reference in terms of black music.

Max Romeo – War Ina Babylon

In 1975, Max Romeo recorded an album that would become a landmark in the history of Jamaican music. Together with producer Lee “Scratch” Perry and his group The Upsetters, they created War Ina Babylon in a tense political context. The eponymous title of this album remains one of the most striking of Max Romeo’s career, both for its original composition and its still relevant social commentary almost 40 years after its release. “This song is like a prophecy,” says Romeo. It’s not about any particular place. When I say “the barber doesn’t like the policeman,” it can mean: “the Christian doesn’t like the Muslim and vice versa.” A situation that is now fully recognized. Max was right. The war in Babylon has only just begun!

Our Top 10 women in Reggae

queen ifrica

How many hits have been signed by women? Our Top 10 will make you aware of the important place that female singers hold in this still very masculine environment that is reggae.

Millie Small – My Boy Lollipop

My Boy Lollipop is simply the first Jamaican song to be successful abroad. And it’s a woman who interprets it! After recording a few songs for Coxsone at Yard, Millie Small moved to London. When she arrived there, she recorded this title in 1964, which immediately became a hit on the British island. The rhythm, called blue beat, is one of the premise of ska. First success for Jamaican music and for the Island label… You know the rest!

Marcia Griffiths – Feel Like Jumping

Recorded in 1968 at Studio One, Feel Like Jumping was Marcia’s first hit, later becoming a member of the I-Threes, Bob Marley’s backing singers. Does the riddim mean anything to you? Normal, it is the Boops Riddim, better known as 54-46, the same one that is the hit of Toots and the Maytals… Still active today, Marcia Griffiths is considered the undisputed Queen of Reggae!

Lady G – Nuff Respect

Set in 1988 on Gussie Clark’s powerful Rumours Riddim, which features Gregory Isaacs’ terrible tune, Nuff Respect is a bold title for a time when women were very rare in Jamaica’s music scene, and even more so in dancehall. Lady G stands up for women’s rights and demands loud and clear that they be shown respect with a precise deejay flow and an irresistible Jamaican accent. The tune even gets a clip in the pure 80’s style with the haircuts and clothing that go with it. Listening to this title, we see only one simple thing to say: Nuff respect to yuh Lady G!

Queen Ifrica – Daddy

This is a title that became a cult as soon as it was released. Placed in 2007 on Kemar’s 83 Riddim’Flava’ McGregor for his label No Doubt, Daddy may not be Queen Ifrica’s most musically striking tune, but it is undoubtedly the most striking in terms of writing. The singer dares to break taboos and denounces incest and sexual abuse of children in a fiery and beautifully written plea. She puts herself in the shoes of an abused young girl and delivers touching lyrics: “The long showers I take don’t wash away my memories.” Against all odds, the song will quickly rank at the top of the charts in Jamaica, despite various attempts at censorship. And the money will even be supported by UNICEF, which will hire Queen Ifrica for a few concerts for abused children. The perfect example of a conscious and militant reggae!

Phyllis Dillon – Don’t Stay Away

The rocksteady was probably the period when female artists were most prominent in Jamaica. With singers like Nora Dean, Marcia Griffiths, Doreen Shaffer, Joya Landis, The Soulettes or The Gaylettes, love songs took on a new dimension. Phyllis Dillon mourns the departure of her soul mate on an absolutely must-see rocksteady riddim composed and played by Tommy McCook & The Supersonics. Don’t Stay Away was released in 1967 on Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label. This is the first original song recorded by Phyllis Dillon, so far limited to covers of American standards such as Bettye Swann’s Make Me Yours or Stephen Phills’ Love the One You’re With. However, she was only 19 years old when this title was released. Propelled to the top of the charts, Phyllis nevertheless made a short career that she stopped in 1971.

women in reggae

Nora Dean – Barbwire

“The other day, I met this guy who had barbed wire in his underwear…” Nora Dean tells the story of a young girl being picked up by a young man who is a little too enterprising. But she doesn’t disarm, hits him on the head and runs to his mother, calling for help: “Oh Mama, my ma ma ma!” It was precisely this gimmick that made the title popular. Nora Dean will have had a quick career, almost unnoticed if this 1969 title produced by Duke Reid had not been released. She is known for her grippy titles and this one will further shape her reputation. A track released in 1969 that prefigures in a way the slackness of today….

Dawn Penn – No No No (You Don’t Love Me)

Classic among the classics! Many know this Dawn Penn tune, but few know that it is inspired by two American songs. No No No No includes lyrics and some musical elements from the track You Don’t Love Me recorded by Willie Cobbs in 1961 and itself inspired by Bo Diddley’s 1955 title She’s Fine She’s Mine. As the producer Coxsone often travelled to the United States to bring back records, it was not uncommon in the 1960s for some songs recorded in Jamaica to be covers of American rhythms and blues. This No No No No No is part of it. First recorded by Studio One in 1967 on a rocksteady riddim (on which Prince Jazzbo will deliver a superb cut deejay), it became a global hit in 1994 when Steely & Clevie had the good idea to base Dawn Penn on a more modern version (which will even get her clip). Since then, the famous “No No No No” has been sampled and covered dozens of times by American artists such as Rihanna or Beyoncé. Party of the States and return to the States… The loop is closed!

Judy Mowatt – Black Woman

“Black woman, to you I dedicate my song”. A song by a woman for women! Judy Mowatt is a former Gaylettes when she started her solo career in the early 1970s. However, it was not until she joined another trio – the I-Threes alongside Marcia Griffiths and Rita Marley – that her solo titles would resonate. Black Woman is one of his most successful songs. Eponymous title of a female solo artist’s first reggae album (produced by herself!), it conveys an emotion that we feel more than sincere expressed in an irresistible soul voice and served by a beautiful riddim.

Althea & Donna – Uptown Top Ranking

One of the most famous reggae songs in the world. It has been used dozens of times, appears in films, video games, series…. When it was released in 1977, the title sounded like a bomb in England. Uptown Top Ranking immediately ranks at the top of the charts making the two teenage Althea & Donna the youngest women to have entered the English charts. They were only 18 when they recorded this song for Joe Gibbs. The riddim is in fact a recut of the 1967 instrument, Alton Ellis’ I’m Still In Love. Althea & Donna answer in this song to the deejay Trinity who had recorded Three Piece Suit on the same riddim two years earlier.

Tany Stephens – It’s a Pity

Adultery is often encouraged in modern Jamaican music. Dancehall artists, whether male or female, do not hesitate to boast of the increasing number of conquests in recent times. But in 2004, a dancehall singer known for her sulphurous side dared to approach the subject in a different way. It’s a Pity is Tanya Stephens’ hit of choice. Rather used to dancehall at the time, she finally settled on a 100% reggae riddim particularly chaloupant. It is Doctor’s Darling Riddim, a huge recruit from Gregory Isaacs’ Night Nurse, played by the German group Seeed. On the version, Tanya tells an impossible love story between two lovers already taken. But instead of encouraging action, the Jamaican singer wisely closes the song and neither of them skip the step! That’s why we can make hits while remaining moral…

Buju Banton: his 1st show in Jamaica

buju banton live

Saturday, March 16 was a historic date in Jamaica. The largest musical show ever held at the National Kingston Stadium welcomed 35,000 people to attend Buju Banton’s first show since his release from prison last December. The latter was not alone far from there. His performance was preceded by a number of tributes and mini shows from Jamaican reggae legends such as Berres Hamond, Cocoa Tea, but also from younger artists such as Agent Sasco, Chronixx, Koffee and many others!

Slideshow of the most beautiful photos of our reporter!

Some live videos are also included below.