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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ranking Sounds: A Tour Through the Best Reggae DJs with Programmer Gabriele Caroti

Trinity and Dillinger
"No matter what the people say/These sounds lead the way/It's the order of the day/From your boss deejay I King Stitt! Haul it from the top/To the very last drop!"

Rap was invented in Jamaica. A bold statement, perhaps? Not really. The practice of rhyming or talking over records at “sound systems” (outdoor mobile discotheques) began on the small Caribbean island in the 50s. Influenced by American rhythm & blues radio DJs talking jive over records, reggae DJs took it one step further and “toasted” (rapped) over pre-existing instrumental tracks of the hits of the day. The public’s reaction was ecstatic, so subsequently, records of these DJs “riding the riddims” were released. Partly due to the incessant experimentation of the producers, and partly due to the economic necessity of reusing pre-existing music, DJ “versions” were created.

This mix below gives a nice “lickle” primer of the DJ in Jamaica – from foundation DJ King Stitt’s kinetic “Fire Corner” (over Clancy Eccles’ “Shoo Be Doo”) and U-Roy’s major leap in vocal styling, his version of The Paragons’ “Wear You to the Ball,” to the 80s with superstar DJ Yellowman’s “Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt” and DJ duo Clint Eastwood and British-born General Saint’s “Hey Mr. DJ.” Between these are fantastic performances of superstar rasta Big Youth (who, at his height, rivaled Bob Marley in popularity), the erudite cinephile I-Roy with “Buck and the Preacher” about the eponymous Sidney Poitier film, Trinity’s monster “Three Piece Suit,” a desert island disc if there ever was one, and Tappa Zukie’s militant/back to Africa anthem “MPLA” (named after Angola’s ruling political party) with lines such as “So Natty fling away your sorrow/Natty leaving on the Black Star Liner tomorrow” (the Black Star Line was Marcus Garvey’s all African-American owned ship line in the 1910s/20s).

Some non-DJ cuts are included, with their respective DJ versions (Gregory Isaacs’ “My Religion” and Dr. Alimantado’s “Unitone Skank”), but one without, because it’s one of my favorite reggae tunes ever: Linval Thompson’s “Don’t Cut Off Your Dreadlocks.” And finally, Ranking Joe, who will be performing at BAM tonight with Deadly Dragon after Rockers, has a reggae trinity of three tunes, including a dub instrumental that he produced. Take a listen, and you’ll get a sense of the unstoppable creativity of these dreads on the mic. “So right now you can feel my vibration/as you read the design for the young and the old generation/Musical sound that was created from creation as you can hear original soundtrack...”

Do the Reggae mixxxxxxx by BAM on Grooveshark

Do the Reggae, a 14-film series celebrating 50 years of Jamaican independence, runs August 2 to 6. Find the full line-up here.

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