Gangs of Jamaica: Babylonian Wars

Gangs of Jamaica

Calling all reggae fans, dancehall fans, Jamaicans, American tourists, Americans in general, hippies, policemen, gangsters, journalists, politicians and academics: If you belong in any one of these groups, then you’ll find something in Thibault Ehrengardt’s book Gangs of Jamaica: Babylonian Wars that will make you angry. If you can hold back the bile, though, you’ll also find this book highly entertaining. read more »

Peter Tosh: Many people will fight you down when you see Jah light

Many people will fight you down
When you see Jah light

There’s a whole world of reggae fans who see Bob Marley as a musician who sold out his career to make pop songs. Others observe that after an attempted assassination attempt, it was natural for Marley to row back on his more militant politics. Peter Tosh also suffered for his crusading views, and took physical and emotional beatings for his works, but it only made him more determined. Even Tosh’s friends were inclined to describe him as bigheaded, arrogant and eccentric – but was Tosh only trying to protect his integrity in a world awash with pretenders? John Masouri has just produced  the first biography of the reggae star in The Life of Peter Tosh: Steppin’ Razor.

Tosh was much loved as a musician and singer but UK writer John Masouri’s biography sometimes makes for uncomfortable reading, though it’s a welcome addition to the library of serious music fans. Even those who loved Tosh found him to be difficult but Tosh had little time for ceremony in a world that he considered fundamentally unjust. Its subject proves to be a complex and unforgiving character with little of the ‘Redemption Song’ vibe that warms the hearts of Marley fans. “[Bob] was singing commercial songs acceptable in a commercial world” says Tosh, “but I sing songs of protest.” The book is generously leavened with anecdotes and juicy incidents, and readers will approach Tosh’s music with an extra layer of appreciation. read more »

A secret sadness lurks behind the 21st century’s forced smile

Is this another way of talking about the meaning of dub? The reggae scene, perhaps especially the dub scene, is quite an insular business and this is also reflected in what’s written about the music. Yet some of the best writing about reggae comes from broader musical culture. For those of you interested in sound system culture, there’s not much written that can touch the reggae chapter in Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton’s ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’. (Just read in the promo notes that the Nazis invented clubbing. Don’t remember reading that part before). So we’re going to be sharing some weird and wonderful stuff from the world of music.

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new Reggae spot in Warsaw !

Volcano Hi Fi revisited

On the cover, you’ll see Volcano Hi Fi selecter Danny Dread and Burro Banto prepare for a session in autumn 1983 during the short lived reign of Henry Junjo Lawes soundsystem. The journalists behind the Finnish magazine Cool Runnings spent a few months with the Volcano crew and their book Volcano Revisited is a treasure of a story. They caught a moment when the music in Jamaica was changing, as Coxsone departed to New York and the record companies had abandoned Jamaica. Lawes and the Roots Radics were defining the future of dancehall music. The regular Volcano DJs and singers included Barrington Levi, Burro Banton, Josie Wales, Tony Tuff and Charlie Chaplin.  Irie Up talks to author Pekka Vuorinen about a special piece of reggae history. more in issue 10

Mystery Babylon

Babylon, more accurately ‘Mystery Babylon’, is a central theme in reggae music, but what exactly is it? Some people think it’s the police, others say it’s the Vatican, and others say it’s a state of mind – a mental slavery, so to speak. But is ‘Mystery Babylon’ a symbol of something else, or does it actually exist? The signs are all around us that ‘Mystery Babylon’ does indeed exist, and the mass media is its biggest and most successful project.

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