ATX Sound System: December 13, 2018

The Best Reggae Soundtracks, According to Don Letts

When the punk scene was first starting in London, the punks used to hang out at a club called The Roxy. The resident DJ there was none other than the young “rebel dread” himself, Don Letts. Because none of the punk bands had really released any records yet, Letts was left to spin his own music of choice, reggae and dub, and is generally credited as being the guy who turned on the punks (most notably, The Clash) to Jamaican music. 40 years later, Letts is responsible for sparking some heated debate here among the ATX Sound System crew this week with a new list he compiled for the UK-based Dummy Mag: The Ten Best Reggae Film Soundtracks, According to Don Letts. In it, the iconic filmmaker and radio host highlights selections from across the modern history of Jamaican cinema — from the all-time 1972 classic The Harder They Come to this year’s Idris Elba-directed gangster film Yardie. The latter features Fabienne Miranda’s wonderful 1977 roots cut “Prophecy”, which is just one of several tracks we’ve added this week to the Austin Reggae Festival playlist on Spotify. Be sure to check out our latest additions here, and decide for yourself whether Mr. Letts’ list was on-point.

Burna Boy

One of the tracks in heaviest rotation on the ATX Sound System this week is the latest single from Nigerian artist Burna Boy (born Damini Ogulu). A longtime reggae-dancehall singer, Burna Boy’s 2018 album showed a marked shift, incorporating more Afro beat into his sound. (Though he spent a good chunk of his childhood growing up in South London before returning to Lagos, the city where he was born, Burna Boy is no stranger to Nigerian music–his father was Fela Kuti’s manager for many years.) This fusion of styles takes on a subtle but truly addictive form with his newest cut, “On The Low”. In fact, it’s probably one of our favorite tracks of the year. You can hear it for yourself on our Spotify playlist.

Reggae Reading List, Part 2

For the vast majority of American reggae fans, Jamaica’s dancehall culture is almost impenetrable. With its quick-moving trends — from the current dances, to the latest slang, to the hottest new riddims getting played on the sound systems — it’s tough for an outsider to fully comprehend it all. Leave it to an anthropologist (Professor Norman C. Stolzoff of the University of California – Irvine) to unlock the layers of social, political and musical influence so deeply woven into dancehall culture. For his book, Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica, Stolzoff spent a year and a half in Kingston, immersed in his “field work”, and came away with a level of insight rarely found in other dancehall-related texts. Yes, the book can be a tad academic at times but it is more than just a sociological study. Stolzoff conveys an impressive understanding of recording/production techniques, as well as the unique star-making infrastructure that dominates this rich and far-reaching music scene. This result is a real thinking-man’s book for any serious reggae/dancehall enthusiast.

This Week’s Austin Reggae Fest Spotify Playlist

Click here to hear the dub sounds we have been listening to the last few days.