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!