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ATX Sound System: January 18, 2019

New Album: Eye Judah
Glued to the ATX Sound turntable this week is the debut LP from Ghana’s rising reggae star Eye Judah, entitled Genesis. Since first emerging in 2015, Eye Judah (real name Bernard Okaiteh) has been regularly name-dropped by such Ghanaian reggae royalty as Samini (who guests on one of the tracks here) and Stonebwoy. While the album shares multiple producers, the most notable tracks here are the ones produced by Vincent Mensah. Better known as Beatz Dakay, Mensah was previously the beatmaker behind many of Stonebwoy’s bigger hits. His production style is unexpectedly spare, with a surprising amount of space left between the beats and the instruments. The resulting effect is thoroughly intriguing: The beats feel remarkably rhythmic and percussive, and yet they contain far less actual percussion than your typical reggae riddim. The track “Nuh Play” is a perfect example. Be sure to check it out on the Austin Reggae Fest Playlist on Spotify.

 

Classic Album: Freddie McGregor

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at classic tracks and LPs recorded by artists performing at Austin Reggae Festival 2019. We kick it off this week with the timeless Freddie McGregor and his 1981 album, Big Ship. McGregor was, and remains, a devout Rastafarian who wasn’t afraid to address religious or social concerns in his music. But he could also channel his love of American R&B to deliver some of the sweetest Lovers Rock. Here, the two sides of McGregor combine seamlessly to create probably our favorite album in the Jamaican legend’s catalog. Credit also goes to the team behind this recording: The Roots Radics band, producer Lynval Thompson and mixer Scientist. Fans of Scientist will know that some of his most iconic output in the early 80s utilized Roots Radics sessions produced by Thompson, so the young King Tubby protege is right at home adding his magic touch here. It’s especially evident during the fadeouts and on the drum tracks, which reverberate throughout the album as though they were recorded at the bottom of a well. Wonderful stuff. At one point or another, McGregor would work with every notable producer in the game–from Coxsone Dodd at Studio One to Winston “Niney The Observer” Holness–but Thompson (an artist-turned-producer who, a the time, had only recently returned to Jamaica after completing a studio engineering course in New York) delivers a bonafide classic with Big Ship. In fact, McGregor would end up naming his record label after it! You can check out both original and dub versions from these sessions on the Austin Reggae Fest Playlist on Spotify.

 

This Week’s Austin Reggae Fest Spotify Playlist

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

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Reggae News You Can Use For Jan 17, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Thursday, January 17!

Bob Marley estate to sell CBD-Infused drinks
“Famalay” jumps to the top of iTunes most downloaded reggae list
Lee Scratch Perry to celebrate birthday with special UK show

Also, mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival. Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 1.

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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Reggae News You Can Use For Jan 15, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Tuesday, January 15!

Etana secures US media appearances ahead of Grammys
Flyaway to Jamaica via Santigold contest
Her new single “Ready” is generating buzz for Schen

Also, mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival. Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 1.

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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ATX Sound System: January 11, 2019

Double Barrell

This week, we’ve had the surprise new mixtape from Deadly Dragon Sound in heavy rotation. Deadly Dragon is a sound system that originated in Chicago in the 1990s before relocating to New York City in the 2000s. Their Chinatown record shop was a mecca for serious collectors and selectors (before rising rents forced its closure in 2016), and their weekly residencies at various downtown clubs became a centerpiece of New York’s reggae scene. Thankfully, Deadly Dragon’s founder, Scratch Famous, still dips into his massive collection a few times each year to bless us with a new mixtape. Several years ago, he created one devoted to so-called “gunman” tunes called “Year of The Gun”. While gun imagery goes way back in Jamaica (think: “The Harder They Come” film), it certainly hit a peak in the 90s when dancehall began taking cues from American gangsta rap. Scratch’s “gun tune” mix was both popular and controversial upon its release in 2004. Some challenged that he was glorifying Jamaica’s pervasive gun violence, while others commended its’ in-depth chronicle of this long-running theme in Jamaican music. Well, it seems Scratch decided to start off 2019 with a bang (ahem), surprising everyone with a follow-up mix, some 15 years later, called “Year of the Gun Part 2”. For this one, he’s dug even deeper than before, assembling a collection of rare gunman vinyl cuts from artists such as Junior Cat, Spragga Benz and Ricky General that is all at once silly, scary, entertaining and fascinating.

 

Rude Boy No Powder

Despite the entertainment factor of gunman tunes, gun violence is also a deadly serious (and often glorified) fact of life in Jamaica, and has been so ever since the days of “Johnny Too Bad” and the outlaw legend Ivanhoe (aka “Rhyging“). Nobody is immune to it: From Peter Tosh and Prince Far-I to King Tubby and Winston Riley (to name but a few), numerous Jamaican recording stars and producers have been the fatal victim of someone wielding a gun. Heck, even Bob Marley only just narrowly escaped being shot to death. Ironically, Winston Riley, the man behind Sister Nancy’s legendary “Bam Bam”, was also the writer of one of reggae’s first big international hits, “Double Barrel” (by Dave and Ansell Collins). The DJ and writer S.h. Fernando, Jr. takes an intriguing look at this phenomenon in his piece “Murder Dem: The Turbulent Saga of Reggae Stars and Violent Crime”. It’s a sobering reality check that you can read while listening to the mix of gun tunes above. In it, he asks why so many prominent Jamaican artists have been killed or incarcerated. One month on from Buju Banton’s early release from prison (and following another year in which an imprisoned Vybz Kartel continued to rule the Jamaican charts), it remains a potent question. One prominent theory is echoed in the piece by On-U Sound founder (ad Prince Far-I collaborator) Adrian Sherwood, who points to pervasive poverty and the fact that Jamaica’s young people “respect the gunman, because they have little to no opportunity otherwise.”

 

This Week’s Austin Reggae Fest Spotify Playlist

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

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Reggae News You Can Use For Jan 10, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Thursday, January 10!

Bugle featured on Grammy-nominated Black Uhuru album
Gawvy says that Marcus Garvey is his inspiration
Jamaica remains top tourist stop for so many reasons

Also, mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival. Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 1.

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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Reggae News You Can Use For Jan 9, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Wednesday, January 9!

Dillgin set for EP release in Jamaica on February 13
Roots & Tings is the new project from Lateef the Truth Speaker
South African Music Awards adds new reggae category

Also, mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival. Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 1.

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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Reggae News You Can Use For Jan 4, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Friday, January 4!

Etana continues to make reggae history
United Reggae publishes their list of 60 best songs of 2018
Young Voices releases 2018’s top dancehall tracks

Also, mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival. Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 1.

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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ATX Sound System: January 3, 2019

Pressure Sounds Hits 100

One of the pioneering reggae reissue labels, Pressure Sounds began in London in the mid-90s as an offshoot of Adrian Sherwood’s hard-dubbing On-U Sound label. On-U co-conspirator Pete Holbrook soon took over the label. He would go on to procure and release some of the most interesting and hard-to-find titles in the reggae/dub canon (from artists and producers such as Yabby You, King Tubby, Bunny Lee, Joe Higgs, Jimmy Riley and Lee “Scratch” Perry). In 2018, Pressure Sounds celebrated its’ 100th release (with a long-lost 1982 album by I-Mo-Jah, more on which below). In a new interview for Vinyl Factory, DJ/producer/dub aficionado Wrong Tom and label owner Holbrook talk about the history of Pressure Sounds and how Holbrook’s punk/DIY roots inform the fiercely-independent approach he has taken to running Pressure Sounds (and working with Jamaican artists) over the last 20+ years. Read it here: Independence Dub: Pressure Sounds at 100. We’ve also marked the occasion by adding some of our favorite Pressure Sounds tracks to the Austin Reggae Fest Playlist on Spotify.

 

The Legend of I-Mo-Jah

The 100th release on Pressure Sounds was certainly a notable one: Rockers From The Land of Reggae is an album by the group I-Mo-Jah that was released on a small label in 1982 but had disappeared into obscurity. Fetching triple-digit figures on Discogs, it had become, in the words of Wrong Tom, “almost mythical.” Not only was it musically unique, but it was the one and only album released by I-Mo-Jah, a group formed by Phillip Fullwood with Winston McKenzie and American vocalist Cassandra Jenkins. A devout Rastafarian, Fullwood was no stranger to Niyabinghi chanting, and its’ influence is evident in the songs here. There’s a bit of rocksteady and Motown, too, but make no mistake: This is a roots album. Meanwhile, Fullwood’s circle of friends (he had previously worked with Burning Spear and Freddie McKay, among others) would lead to an impressive supporting cast on the album’s backing tracks: Sly and Robbie, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Errol “Flabba” Holt and Studio One drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, to name a few. Legend has it that Fullwood moved to the US and retired from music shortly after the release of this album. But, at last, it’s now available for all to enjoy. You can check out a couple of tracks for yourself on the Austin Reggae Fest Playlist.

 

Time for Y-Bayani’s Band of Enlightenment, Reason and Love

Y-Bayani (pronounced “why buy-anee”) is a roots reggae artist hailing not from Jamaica but from Ghana, in West Africa. In January of last year he released a curious little 7-inch on the Berlin-based Philophon label that not only caught our attention but ended up on our 2018 best-of list. Therefor, we were excited to learn that January 2019 sees the release of a brand new single (along with news of a possible album in the works, too) from the newly-christened Y-Bayani and His Band of Enlightenment, Reason And Love. The singer was discovered by Philophon’s founder and in-house producer, Max Weissenfeldt, while visiting the home of another Ghanaian musician, Roy X, in the town of Saltpond, Ghana. Y-Bayani was staying at Roy’s house following the closure of his clock repair business (a casualty of mobile phones, apparently). The serendipitous timing would lead to a guest vocal with The Polyversal Souls and a series of singles that will please any old-skool reggae fan, as they feature Y-Bayani’s hypnotic Fanti language vocals sung over authentically-recorded, analog instrumentals. We’ll add the new track to our Austin Reggae Fest Playlist as soon as it’s out, but you can get a sneak preview of it here.

 

This Week’s Austin Reggae Fest Spotify Playlist

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

Continue Reading

Reggae News You Can Use For Jan 2, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Wednesday, January 2!

One Love Festival in Tel Aviv will mark Bob Marley’s 74th birthday
Raging Fyah names Odean Journey Rickets as new lead singer
Samini’s “Untamed” album debuts at No 8 on Billboard reggae charts

Also, mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival. Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 1.

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

Continue Reading

Reggae News You Can Use For Dec 31, 2018

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Monday, December 31!

After a 12 year hiatus, Reggae Sunsplash aiming for a comeback
Dancehall reggae reigned supreme in Jamaica in 2018
Winky D cancels Zimbabwe show due to security concerns

Also, mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival. Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 1.

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

Continue Reading