March 2008 Archives

It might seem to some to be a stretch to compare Black Metal and Reggae, but both are part of a phenomena that their country of origin produces far too much influential music when you look at the proportion of music created per capita.

I was never brought up to listen to or enjoy Reggae, a fact that surprised me when I finally started to dig into this genre and discovered how much seminal music came out of Jamaica during the same period as the supposedly "classic rock" that I was instead raised on.

Recently I have been pounding the 3 CD collection Big Youth - Natty Universal Dread from Blood and Fire who have for many years consistently been reissuing absolute gems many of which never originally received much exposure outside of their native Jamaica.

One of the deepest joys for me in Jamaican music is how the same riddim gets reused, reworked and recycled over and over again. This is the origin of sampling, of rap music and so much more.

One riddim that has really got me going the past week is Strange Things, originally recorded by John Holt. John is more known as a bit of a crooner but this is a real dark gem. The lyrics are thought provoking and the moody sparseness of the riddim is as powerful as it's solid groove.

In his trademark style, Big Youth had too much to say that he could not just version this riddim once. He really works the space and flow of the original in "Miss Lou Ring A Ding" bringing out all the sorrow and beauty into something that is much stronger than it's constituents. Whereas on "Same Something" hand percussion draws out the spacey dub element of the original groove.

I'm keen to hear other re-interpretations of this great riddim, John Holt is better known for his time with rock steady group the Paragons, who are most famous for their very frequently covered "The Tide Is High" but who also originally performed "Wear you to the ball" which was versioned so expertly by U-Roy in 1969.

In my mind this riddim ranks up there with the Fisherman riddim by the Congoes as both a great riddim and an amazing original track.

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