Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bunny Wailer: Still A Blackheart Man - From NPR

Bunny Wailer: Still A Blackheart Man, story on NPR.

Born Neville Livingston, Bunny is the last living original member of the legendary reggae group The Wailers, which he founded along with Peter Tosh and Bob Marley in the early 1960s.

From his signature composition "Rastaman Chant" to other Wailers classics, and a few new songs as well, Bunny Wailer delivered a powerful trip down memory lane that night, and showed that he's still very much in the reggae game. So what made him tour after all these years?

"Well, the time was calling, you know," he says. "It's a long time I haven't been out, and the fans are calling. The promoters are calling. So what do I do?"

That night in New York, he said he was enjoying the tour so far, despite a few hiccups: "I got little flu. You know you come out sometimes and the weather changes, but I'm getting over that."

This was his first U.S. tour in more than 20 years, though he did have to cancel the last few shows due to illness. The tour was billed as a 40th anniversary celebration of Blackheart Man, his first solo album, released just after he and Peter Tosh left the Wailers.

"Well, the blackheart man is something that is related to our culture, custom and practice," he explains. "There was a kind of nickname that was given to the Rastaman: the blackheart man. Parents used to tell us, 'You be careful where you go. Watch out for the blackheart man.' So we grew up with the blackheart man being that kind of a challenge. Where we are concerned, we still maintain the order of the blackheart man."

As a kid, Bunny was clearly unimpressed by warnings to stay away from Rastas.

"I've been a blackheart man since four years of age," he says. "I used to play in the gullies, and one day we were there playing, and we just saw a foot come out of a manhole — just a foot. And every man, every youth, run from the scene. And when he came out, he had a flour bag shirt. ... He looked at me and said, 'So why you don't run?' I said, 'For what?' And I became a Rastaman from that day. From then on until now, my dreadlocks touch the ground when I stand."

Listening back to early Wailers records like Burnin' and Catch a Fire, you can't miss the vocal chemistry these guys had, with Bunny taking the high tenor voice.

"Bob, Peter and myself, we are totally responsible for the Wailers sound, and what the Wailers brought to the world, and left us a legacy," he says. "The thing about the Wailers is that we are always rehearsing. Always! Until we parted."

All these years on, Bunny Wailer has no plans to retire. In 2013, he released an album called Reincarnated Souls with 50 tracks. They were all new songs, full of rebel politics and old-time Rastafarian religion, set to classic ska, rocksteady and reggae beats.

Here the rest on NPR or below via the player.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Dennis Brown: The Prophet Rides Again On Tribute Album

Freddie McGregor, Maxi Priest, Romain Virgo, Raging Fyah, Jah9, Christopher Ellis, The Green, Katchafire and Jah Cure are just a few of the top flight artists that will put reggae's Crown Prince, Dennis Emmanuel Brown, back in the spotlight.

We Remember Dennis Brown drops June 3 on VP Records and will highlight the Jamaican singer's storied career. Although he he passed away in 1999 (age 42), Brown was a major influence on several generations of artists.

Early in his career he found success covering American R&B hits; his mid-career found him equally successful in roots and especially lovers rock idioms, and toward the end he successfully scored hits in the dancehall arena.

He worked with legendary producers, from Joe Gibbs and Niney The Observer, through Gussie Clarke and King Jammy. In many ways Brown was second only to Bob Marley in his overall impact on reggae, hence his title as it's Crown Prince.

Through rub-a-dub anthems like "Your Love Got A Hold On Me" (covered by Sanchez), or thoughtful conscious numbers like "Wolves and Leopards" (redone by Richie Spice), you get a sense of the scope of the man's work. It was immense and impactful: He rejected violence with "I Don't Want to Be No General," and created uplifting spiritual anthems ("To The Foundation") that receive heartfelt deejay spins to this day.

Few artists receive the posthumous acclaim that Brown has, and in his case, it's more than worthy and warranted.


  1. Iba Mahr, Jesse Royal, Keznamdi, Chronixx, Exco Levi, Kelissa, Jahmiel, Kabaka Pyramid & Rockaz Elements - I Need Your Love (Rasta Children)
  2. Bushman - Don't Want To Be No General
  3. The Green -  Promised Land
  4. Raging Fyah - Milk and Honey
  5. Christopher Ellis - Created By The Father
  6. Mutabaruka & Marla Brown - Words of Wisdom
  7. Chino - Melting Pot
  8. Yahsha - The Existence Of Jah
  9. Jamelody-  Halfway Up, Halfway Down
  10. Freddie McGregor - Little Village
  11. Mykal Rose - Easy Take It Easy
  12. Jah9 - Bloody City
  13. Richie Spice - Wolves and Leopards
  14. Shuga - Black Liberation
  15. VP Hit Team - To The Foundation
  16. Romain Virgo - Caress Me
  17. Marsha Ambrosius - Have You Ever
  18. No Maddz - Rocking Time 
  19. Maxi Preist - Love Me Always 
  20. Jamelody & Ikaya - Love Has Found Its Way
  21. Sanchez - Your Love Got A Hold On Me
  22. Katchafire - If I Had The World
  23. Etana - Should I
  24. Jah Cure - Ghetto Girl
  25. Christopher Martin - Baby Don't Do It
  26. Gyptian - How Can I
  27. Ikaya - For You
  28. Dalton Harris - No More Will I Roam
  29. Jah Vinci - Money in My Pocket
  30. VP Hit Team - Silhouette

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Ska Supergroup Release New Single

True to their name, Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra is both a West Coast-based ensemble and combine hearty 1930s/40s big band jazz touches with lively Jamaican ska arrangements. Their new EP is available now as a limited vinyl release and digital download from Rare Breed Recordings.

WSTSO's cover of Derrick Harriott's "Monkey Ska" features Greg Lee and Alex Desert of Hepcat, while their remake of The Wailers' "Love and Affection" features LA revivalists The Expanders.

The full orchestra consists of jazz musicians who currently perform with the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Luckman Jazz Orchestra, Bob Mintzer’s Big Band, and The Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Get Ready to Rocksteady on Record Store Day!

Get ready to rocksteady! The soulful Jamaican music style sees its 50th anniversary celebrated with a commemorative vinyl 7" box set available on Record Store Day, April 16, 2016.

The collection on 17 North Parade Records (VP Record's archive imprint) features tracks by The Gaylads (pictured left) Hopeton Lewis, Errol Dunklrey, The Heptones, The Paragons, The Ethiopians, The Melodians and more.

The music that followed Jamaican's speedy ska craze famously arrived one very hot summer in 1966 when audiences needed a slower-tempo music to groove to. Many point to Hopeton Lewis' "Take It Easy" as the first rocksteady song, but many can stake a claim as developing soul-drenched, American R&B-influenced genre.

The 14-track, seven-disc vinyl package includes postcards, stickers and other memorabilia in addition to the sought-after tracks. The label will also issues a broader 20-song CD collection for International Reggae Day in July. The set includes versions of songs that haven't easily been available on vinyl for years.

The label describes rocksteady as a music style that "used elements of rhythm and blues (R&B), jazz, ska as well as African and Latin American drumming, [and] was a successor of ska and precursor to reggae."

Indeed, rocksteady has had an enduring legacy, spawning new bands like Hepcat, The Aggrolites and others, movies and even club nights such as San Francisco's popular Festival 68.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Label Profile: Foundation Channel

Labels We Love: Foundation Channel
From ForwardEver's article in XLR8R Magazine
For this imprint’s roster of music makers, it all begins with dub. 

Some labels are intrinsically motivated by a mission. For the Portland- and Detroit-based Foundation Channel, that quest is to preserve and promote electronic music’s dub roots. They go at it with the zeal of faith healers anointing listeners with material drawing from original roots-reggae instrumentation and vocals, augmented with both analog and digital dub mixing techniques. They’ve christened their eclectic brand of bass music “subwise,” and have released compilations and EPs devoted to expanding on their sonic palette.
In 2012, label co-founder Evan Glicker, who records as Satta Don Dada, began reaching out to his dub producer peers to connect and trade music. But as the Detroit native’s contact list grew, his focus turned to assembling a compilation that would showcase fresh talent representing the kind of earthy, echo-drenched sounds he favored, and reintroduce reggae DNA into bass music’s increasingly aggressive, alien structure. At the time, mainstream “brostep” had reached a popular apex in the U.S.—and Glicker aimed to counter the trend.
Glicker contacted his eventual label partner, Portland resident Douglas Keeney (a.k.a. Modi Bardo),to contribute a track. At the time, Keeney had been working for producer DZ’s Badman Press label, and knew the ins and outs of the music business. Keeney also had a deep appreciation for all things dub, so joining Foundation Channel’s missionary activities made perfect sense. “We were both into dubstep and slow-and-low reggae-influenced bass music,” Keeney explains. “At the time, the reggae sound [in dubstep] was on its way out.”

Originally planned as a series of casual posts to Soundcloud, the project became a serious venture after the label secured tracks from U.K. talents DJ Madd and Cotti, plus American heavies Roommate, Djunya, Matty G and Dubsworth. Foundation Channel Volume 1 was released July 2013. Proceeds from the collection were donated to Street Child Africa, a conscious move to connect the label’s sounds to greater social issues. “We wanted to do the compilation as a charity-based project,” says Glicker. “The idea was to get the general gist of the label out there and tie it in with something deeper, to give back to something foundational as well.”
“Whether it’s a future-sounding track, or an expansion on the remix concept, the roots [of what we do] are always in dub.”
Things moved fast from there with the Foundation Channel Remixes collection hitting the streets at the start of 2015, followed by several new EPs, albums and remixes. Contributing to their rapid output was Glicker and Keeney’s mutual agreement on the label’s core sound and where they want to take it. Both share the view that electronic music and remix culture have their origins in dub; the Jamaican music innovation is the centerpiece for all their releases. “All our releases and everyone we sign to the label has that same idea,” says Keeney. “Whether it’s a future-sounding track, or an expansion on the remix concept, the roots [of what we do] are always in dub.”
From that base, Foundation Channel’s releases expand into diverse electronic styles, from Golden Eye’s G-funk-tinged dubstep to Tusk One’s ethereal, minimalist tracks, to Glicker and Keeney’s own low-end bass work. As Keeney sees it, although the label was set up to pay homage to everything dub, they want to keep things open to experimentation. Recently, the label has started working closer with vocalists, including Canada’s Collinjahand Jamaica’s Carlton Livingston, to name a few.
“We really want to work with the originators,” explains Keeney. “In fact, Golden Eye and myself recently just put a free track on Soundcloud called “Run Dem” featuring Ranking Joe.” A veteran of Jamaican sound systems like Ray Symbolic Hi-Fi since the ’70s, Ranking Joe lent his distinctive toasting style to the track. Glicker says the label is exploring releases with other original Jamaican icons, including Horace Andy, but they’re just as motivated to feature newer vocal talents. “We have a track that Doug made with Canada’s Clinton Slywe’re excited about and hoping to get out in the new year,” says Glicker. “I had a track in works with U.K. singer Rod Azlan, but he’s just so busy right now that it will be a while before that one comes out.”
The pair have been devoting so much energy to collaborative projects and EPs by other artists that they haven’t had time to execute their own releases recently. They’re looking to change that soon. “I would like to see a Modi and Satta album in 2016,” Keeney says. “We have a lot of tracks started, so we’re definitely moving in that direction. Ultimately, our aim is to keep exploring within in our own sound—and see how far we can take it.”
Building The Foundation: Key Releases

Golden Eye Mutual EP
The EP sees brooding reggae-fueled dubstep and brassy West Coast G-funk spread over four tracks, each revealing a varied take on the formula. “Hustlin’ and “Mutual Dub” are clean, synth-lead numbers that sound like an exquisitely stoned Dr. Dre making dubstep.”Fully Loaded” has a vintage Dub Police or Tempa quality to it, while “Saturate” is jazz chillstep reminiscent of Silkie’s R&B-tinged work. Keeney describes Golden Eye as a “really interesting guy” who lives off the grid, deep in the Northern California wilderness. “He’s got a serious analog studio with tape machines, vintage EQ units and stuff he’s built from kits,” he says, noting that the artist’s style is a culmination of things he grew up with: West Coast gangster music and reggae. “He’s got a really
clear, clean sound that’s still dirty at the same time, Keeney describes. “It has that analog stink on it.”
Professor Stone Bush Dubs (The Ital Collection)
Spatial, minimal dub, with live and electronic instrumentation from a prolific American producer. Think Deadbeat remixing On-U Sound label.
Tusk One Rite of Passage EPTusk One explores expansive foreign territories on sparse, moody bass tracks that blend in intricate minimal beats, ethnic percussion and atmospheric field recordings. If electronic experimentalists Muslimgauze or Pole were remixed by Digital Mystikz it might sounds like this. Tusk started his music endeavors under the guise DJ Porkchop. Keeney remembers hearing a set in ‘09 while he was “quite medicated”. “He went from super-deep dubwise to artists like Martyn and 2562, to really grimey garage, to 8-bit, to jungle-meets-world-meets-dub stuff,” Keeney recalls. “He blew my mind. I connected with him and his sound had developed a lot; it’s not restricted to any tempo. It sounds like he’s drawing from Rhythm & Sound, Basic Channel to heavier dubstep or footwork sounds. He’s an exciting addition to our family.”
Satta Don Dada & Modi Bardo The Coolie Rockers EP
Dub samples get chopped, edited and radically reshaped on this essential Foundation Channel release. Imagine snippets of King Tubby reel–to-reel tapes fed into a glitchy sampler. Add echo and mix. The result is fresh take on original roots dub that captures the original’s fervent spirit and adds its own futurist twist. Label cofounders Glicker and Keeney serve various original mixes while Professor Stone, Matt Green and Golden Eye add prodigious versions of their own.

Carlton Livingston & Modi Bardo “Country Livin'”
This forthcoming track features Jamaican singer Carlton Livingston, left, whose 1983 track “100 Weight of Collie Weed” is an all time ganja-smokers classic. Livingston’s soft vocals add a gentle counterpoint to Modi Bardo’s weighty, reggae-infused bass backdrop. Glicker connected with the reggae icon via Twitter, sent over some of Doug’s tracks to the now Brooklyn-based artist and the tune quickly came together. Keeney notes that when Satta eventually met Carlton in Brooklyn to shoot a video, the artists generously introduced him to the local reggae community, offered tips on distribution, and opened his network to the label.
Modi Bardo & Collinjah “Ganja Ting”This upcoming track features Jamaica-born and Canada-based singer Collinjah, right. Keeney describes him as a versatile artist with a command of dancehall lyrics, uplifting roots vocals and dub chanting. “The work we’ve done with him sounds explosive,” Keeney enthuses. “He really gets both the dub aesthetic and hip-hop and is able to join them. Ultimately dub and electronic is where we started with the label, but we’re also stretching out,” say Keeney who adds that the collaboration see his own early-90s hip-hop production ideas mixed with Collinjah dancehall and dub background. “It was just what naturally happened when we mixed our sounds.”
Follow Foundation Channel on the label’s blog, hear the tunes at Soundcloud; and buy the music via Bandcamp.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Top Ten Reggae Albums 2015

The year in reggae 2015 was a fertile one, with modern roots reggae and crucial vintage reissues keeping pace with previous years, as some exciting new breakthrough artists added vibrancy to an already resplendent body of music.

Familiar labels, including VP, Pressure Sounds and Easy Star released some of the year’s best offerings indies like Jah Youth Productions, Nowtime Sound, Hot Milk and others did a fine job at releasing strong titles.

I was happy to see many of my favorites align with veteran industry player Rob Kenner at Billboard’s Reggae Top Ten for 2015. Generally, my tastes are closer to the independent titles covered into Reggaeville and United Reggae. The former publication is polling its readers on your favorite releases of the past year (voting ends January 10). In coming days I'll be adding comments and background information about some of these releases. For now,  scan your favorite music services for clips and enjoy this cool and deadly selection.

1. Jah Cure – The Cure (VP)
2. Mr. Vegas – Lovers Rock & Soul (MV Music)
3. Exco Levi – Country Man (Penthouse)
4. Morgan Heritage – Strictly Roots (CTBC Music Group / EMPIRE)
5. Michah Shemiah – Original Dread (Descendant Music)
6. Protoje – Ancient Future ( March, In.Digg.Nation Collective / Overstand)
7. New Kingston – Kingston City (Easy Star)
8. Mark Wonder – Scrolls of the Levite ( Nowtime Sound)
9. Alborosie – Dub of Thrones (Greensleeves/ VP Records)
10. Million Stylez –  Revelation Time (Adonai Music)

1. Keida – Ebb and Flow (Great Whyte Entertainment)
2. RC – Boss Man EP (K and R Production)
3. Gentleman’s Dub Club – The Big Smoke (Easy Star/ Ranking Records)
4. Mellow Mood – 2 the World (La Tempesta Dischi)
5. Anthony Que – Terrence Matthie (Black and Yellow Entertainment)

Music Works' Gussie Clark

1. Jimmy Riley – Live To Know It (Pressure Sounds)
2. Various Artists – Reggae Anthology: Gussie Clarke - From The Foundation (VP Records)
3. Mr. Spaulding – Twelve Tribe of Israel: Anthology (Hot Milk Records)
4. Black Symbol – Black Symbol (Bristol Archive)
5. Byron Lee & The Dragonaires – Uptown Top Ranking (VP)
6. Various Artists – Sherwood At The Controls: Volume 1 1979 - 1984 (On-U Sound)
7. Various Artists – Bunny 'Striker' Lee & Friends: Next Cut! Dub Plates, Rare Sides & Unreleased Cuts 
8. Various Artists – Reggae Anthology: King Jammy's Roots, Reality and Sleng Teng
9. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Easy Skanking in Boston '78 (The Island Def Jam Music Group)
10. Lynn Taitt & The Jetts and Beverlys All Stars – Hot & Rich Rocksteady (tie) / Hopeton Lewis – Take It Easy With The Rock Steady Beat (Dub Store)

1. Jah Sun & House of Riddim – New Paradigm (House of Riddim)
2. Rampalion – Inside The Kete Heart (Drug Recordings / VPAL Music)
3. Hot Rain – It Crazy But It Life (We Dem People)
4. E.N Young - Live Love Stay Up (Roots Musician Records)
5. Humble Servant Band – Greatest Gift ( One Way Records & Jah Youth Productions)
6. Earth Beat Movement – Right Road (Earth Beat Movement)
7. Mixed Culture – Movement In Roots (New World Sounds & Jah Youth Productions)
8. Blend Mishkin & Roots Evolution – Survival of the Fittest (Nice Up!)
9. Dubbest – Light Flashes (Dubbest)
10.  Lion D – Heartical Soul ( Bizzarri Records Srl)

Monday, August 31, 2015

"Well Done" – Kabaka Pyramid's New Video Produced by Jr. Gong

Watch the new video by rising singjay Kabaka Pyramid for "Well Done," produced by Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley. The tune is on Ghetto Youth International's On The Corner riddim.

In the song, Kabaka calls out careless, corrupt politicians and leaders who've ruined the world for personal gain.

While the track has a serious message the rhythm track is bubbling and danceable, a potent combination from an artist who is setting a high bar for conscious, thoughtful reggae. Check the video below.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Portland In Dub: Sound System Seekers

Gulls Rhythm Force
Here's an excerpt from my Bandcamp profile of Portland, Oregon's Boomarm Nation label, which delves into the City of Roses' thriving indie dub and electronic bass movement. Read the full piece over on Bandcamp.

The stereotype is that on a visit to Portland, Oregon, you can expect to drink robust coffee, experience drizzly weather, and see a city teaming with single-gear bikes. But you can add another, perhaps unexpected, distinction to the City of Roses: dub capital of the United States. That’s right, the sound of Portland ripples with echo, and hefty bass loops emanate from studios, music venues, and living rooms all over town.

How did a musical style that originated in Jamaica gain a zealous following in the Pacific Northwest? Like London, Paris, and a few other locales, Portland has gradually developed a tight-knit community of dub and sound system culture-influenced labels, producers, and club nights. Portland natives have also embraced Jamaica’s DIY approach to studios, distribution, and dubplates. Visit PDXInDub, curated by Portland DJ Craig “Monkeytek” Morton, to find a cadre of imprints, podcasters, graphic designers, mastering engineers, and craftspeople, all making the dub heartbeat pump.

It’s also fitting that the city, which has a thriving, grassroots, indie/punk scene (think house shows, alternative venues, collaborative artist projects), would adopt an avant-garde approach to the genre. Theirs is dub music on the razor’s edge: a confluence of styles affected as much by Adrian Sherwood’s post-punk-influenced On-U Sounds or London dubstep crew Digital Mystikz, as it is by African music and the legendary Jamaican producer King Tubby. These sounds, along with drum & bass, UK steppers dub, garage house and other hybrid bass-driven musics, are unified under the international umbrella of “sound system culture,” a movement that galvanizes Portland’s disparate dub practitioners. Along with eclectic global influences, PDX producers embrace old and new technology, and formats, too—releasing tracks digitally, as well as on 7″ vinyl and cassette.

This expansive environment proved the ideal space for multi-instrumentalist/producer and Portland native Jesse Munro Johnson (a.k.a. Gulls) to launch the Boomarm Nationlabel in 2010. Founded as a blog two years prior, Johnson drew inspiration from similar sites devoted to exotic, worldly sounds like Awesome Tapes From Africa and Glowing Raw, along with emerging labels trading in global dance beats, such as Bersa Discos,ZZK, and Dutty Artz. Johnson juggles running the label with raising two sons, working his day job as freelance mixing engineer, performing live, and working for a friend’s food truck.

“I started the label as a means to release some of my own music in a series of 12″ records,” says Johnson. “Our first official release in 2010 was Gulls’ Mean Sound 12″, and as a label we very quickly grew into a more collaborative international affair.” Back in 2011, Boomarm collaborated with Portland’s Sahel Sounds and brought together a crew of producers to remix the Music For Saharan Cellphones compilation. Some of those producers, like Turkey-based El Mahdy Jr. and iSKELETOR, would later release solo projects on the label.

Continuing their international outlook, Boomarm Nation’s latest release,Her.Imperial.Majesty, is by mysterious Filipino collective Seekersinternational (SKRS), and exemplifies Johnson’s knack for finding subversive talent from anywhere in the world. Her.Imperial.Majesty is chock-full of arresting sound-clash samples, tape snippets, and skittering electronic beats—anchored by errant bass programming that somehow keeps the whole swerving concoction on the rails. Even the album’s title is subversive, taking a reverential reference to Ethiopian king and Rastafarian patriarch Haile Selassie and transforming it into what Johnson calls “a respectful nod to the power of the feminine energy and its root within us all.” Continue reading on Bandcamp

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Kabaka Pyramid & Iba Mahr Tour the US

Jamaica's Kabaka Pyramid and Iba Mahr embark on the "Young Lions" tour, taking their conscious revolutionary messages across the US from June 11 to July 13 2015. Backed by Kabaka's band "The Bebble Rockers," each artist heartically represents the roots revival movement with conscious lyrics and crucial music that echoes foundation reggae artists like Burning Spear, Don Carlos or Black Uhuru.

Hear a clip from Kabaka's latest single "Well Done" below, and check Iba's great "Haile" and "Great Is HIM" tracks out now.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Noisy Goes 2Tone

Are you ready to skank again? Do you remember The Specials, The (English) Beat, The Selector or Madness? No? Don't worry, VICE Magazine music affiliate Noisy has rolled out their latest historical music documentary: Under The Influence: 2 Tone Ska.

The presentation covers British 2Tone ska music's broad impact on the wider world, from skinheads in China and stadium-bands in Mexico to America's "Thirds Wave" ska bands and today's practitioners. Rancid's Tim Armstrong narrates the proceedings, an apt choice given his front-row seat in 2Tone's evolution as a member of influential Berkeley ska-punk band Operation Ivy.

Punk vet Don Letts, The Beat's Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger and other seminal figures reflect on the music that would bring the races together via 2Tone's emphatic, political upbeat rhythm.