Reggie for "beginners" – a playlist

Arnljótur Sigurðsson, musician and member of the Reggie-band Ojba Rasta, chose 10 Reggie songs for readers who are interested in Reggie but don‘t know where to start…

If Reggie is like cheese, then Bob Marley is the regular "Gotti" which everyone puts on their bread. I highly recommend Gotti because there are so many other tasty things to try. I want to wholeheartedly recommend all the musicians I mention here. I chose the music that first came to mind, and the list is not exhaustive (much less in “correct” order).

Many other things may be searched for and found within the trend. Curiously-few women made this list. That is unfortunate. Reggae is commonly very male oriented and homophobic. One could think it was caused by literal faith, lack of education and the poverty in Jamaica. But surely a lot of exciting music was created on this small island which is ten times smaller than Iceland. Tracing the effects of the musical fertility between 1970 and 1980 on Jamaica which affected other trends and flows around the world would be material for another article. Enjoy.

The Congos – Fisherman

One of those incredible albums which is difficult to believe it was created in the first place, Heart of the Congos. Fisherman is the first song on the album. Lee Perry produces one of the most lethal and mystical package that I know of. It’s as if this album was one of the gospels in the Bible. I think they were very certain of their message. They almost persuaded me with this kind prattle. The song is multilayered and always drags me in again in spite of sadness in between.

Israel Vibration – I’ll go through

Polio-stricken orphans sing. Aside from boasting the best drumming in Reggae history, this song is so incredibly beautiful and the singing style is unique. It’s the only Reggae song I would want to take with me on a desert island. Preferably a desert island outside Ethiopia than in the Caribbean sea. Rastas would possibly agree with me.

Willi Williams – No Hiding Place

Seldom does one hear such a ballad. Wistful song about the end of the world. Where will you go when the world ends? Willi can possibly help you with making up your mind. It will at least be impossible to hide.  It’s this relaxed and carefree singing about serious material which put this song on the list.

Horace Andy & Big Youth – Love is the Light

Two canons put together. Unbelievable performers with an especially personal style. It’s interesting how differently they ramble over the same beat; poetic on one hand, and melodic on the other. They could be compared to Björk/Einar Örn in Sykurmolar and Kukl, Gunnar/Baldur in Grísalappalísa and Sigurjón Kjartansson/Óttarr Proppé in HAM. Then I remind you of Sister Nancy as well, which composed the accompaniment (riddim) in marble with her performance in the song Bam Bam.

Roots Train – Junior Murvin

I guess I’m always willing to listen to this song. I don’t remember feeling otherwise. Junior Murvin was inspired by the visit of Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions to Jamaica, like other singers in his time. The singing of Junior Murvin (otherwise an accompanist with Lee Perry) in falsetto made him eternal.

Young Generation – Musical youth

The young generation will crush us old fools in the end, whatever it does. I hope so, anyway. There’s something in the audacity of this band that I can really relate to in this song. Moreover, the young generation needs its representative.

Love Thy Neighbour (Version) – Yabby U & King Tubby

Dub with a rough attitude, nothing held back. It kind of works out, although I doubt the creators had heard anything like this in their time. The studio is used to the fullest; a degree of accuracy consists in the song. I don’t want to recount more clichés here; just listen.

Dub Revolution pt. 1 – Lee Perry

One of the first Reggae songs I listened to. I think it’s better today than when I heard it first. Relaxed and open, funky and unforgiving. The drum beats are irresistible and a good singalong. Lee Perry is like no other.

Raggamuffin Hip Hop – Asher D & Daddy Freddy

Reggae had great, ever-increasing and comprehensive influence in various ways. Reggae is without a doubt responsible for many things that happened in Hip Hop and electronic music.
The studio and sound system approach caused a crisis for other musicians who viewed this stance as a role model. It’s sufficient to note the documentary Dub Echoes to support my argument. A raw and simple song. Very strong and the collective performance of Asher D and Daddy Freddy is incredibly fun.

Yellowman – Mr.Chin

Let’s wrap this up, I have too much difficulty choosing between songs. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to some but it’s interesting how they grow with you. I’ve gotten bored of few. I wanted to name many more which I don’t have room for here. Yellowman was an Albino, an orphan and poor. He sang or rapped about girls and love. 

Good times, life only gets better ☺

Yours sincerely,

Arnljótur Sigurðsson

Photo: Håkon Broder Lund

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