Today we talk to longtime KUTX radio personality Jay Trachtenberg, who is one of Austin’s foremost authorities on reggae, dub and world music. As he notes in the interview below, Trachtenberg is particularly looking forward to the Friday, April 14 lineup at the 2017 Austin Reggae Festival. Click here to buy April 14 single day tickets, as well as Three Day Wristbands and VIP Passes (which allow access to the new Chill Zone).
QUESTION: What band are you most excited about at the 2017 Austin Reggae Festival and why?
I’m most excited about seeing Tarrus Riley with Dean Fraser and the Black Soil Band on Friday, April 14. Riley has been a big hit maker in Jamaica for years and saxman Dean Fraser has played on literally thousands of songs over his decades-long career.
QUESTION: As in previous years, Angela Tharp of Flamingo Cantina helps book talent for the 2017 Austin Reggae Festival. What is the best show you’ve ever attended at Flamingo and why?
Any one of the times the Skatalites have played there when they still had original drummer Lloyd Knibbs and original bassist Lloyd Brevett. When that tandem locked it in, there was nothing else like it.
QUESTION: Above and beyond Flamingo, you’ve been around the reggae / world music scene in Austin for more than three decades. What was the best reggae / world music show you ever saw here and why?
It’s really hard to pick just one but, that said, the first appearance of Burning Spear at Liberty Lunch in the mid-80s stands out for me. He would subsequently play there many times to a packed house but that first visit was only about half full and the music was so deep and so raw and so powerful, especially compared to all the many other bands that had previously played at The Lunch. That night has always stood out in my mind.
QUESTION: The Mau Mau Chaplains perform on Sunday, April 16 at the Austin Reggae Festival. This band originated in the 1980s as the Lotions. Do you remember the first time you saw the Lotions perform?
It was probably back in 1979 or ’80, when I was still in grad school, at one of their Tuesday night residencies at Liberty Lunch. I would see the Lotions many, many times after that. In fact, I recently saw the Mau Maus and they sounded great. For those of us who love the old school, roots sounds, these guys have it nailed down!
QUESTION: How does the reggae / world music scene in Austin in 2017 compare to what was here in the heyday of the Liberty Lunch era?
There is no comparison. Back in the 1980s there seemed to be a world class reggae band from Jamaica or an incredible African band at The Lunch virtually every weekend or at least several times a month. Now we’re fortunate if one such band comes through town in a given month. No comparison.
QUESTION: What was your favorite Austin-based reggae / world music band from that era?
Dan Del Santo led a Fela-like juggernaut for awhile and the Killer Bees had a nice long run. And it was always a party with The Lotions and Pressure.
QUESTION: You have done a lot of writing about reggae / world music for the Austin Chronicle. What was your favorite band to write about and why?
I love writing about the Skatalites because they meld two of my very favorites sound, reggae and jazz.