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Studio One Roots Vol.3 (SJRCD 168 - 2007)

Freddie McKay - (I'm A) Free Man
Jennifer Lara - A Change Is Gonna Come
Alton & Zoot - Oppression
Winston Flames - In A Armagideon
Dillinger - Babylon Fever
The Gladiators - Re Arrange
Vin Gordon - Fullness
Larry Marshall - Better Must Come
Cliff Stewart - Burn Collie
Im & Count Ossie - So Long Rastafari Calling
The Nightingales - What A Situation
Clifton Gibbs & The Selected Few - Brimstone And Fire
Dub Specialist - Musical Science
Prince Jazzbo - Creation Skank
Errol Dunkley - Way Down Low
Lloyd Forest - Where It's At
The Dynamite Four - Let's Make Love
Judah Eskender Tafari - Jah Light
 
The roots music of Studio One is often overlooked, lost amongst the triumphs of a dazzling musical history stretching back to the 1950s (when Sir Coxsone's Downbeat the Ruler soundsystem would clash with Duke Reid), through the ska explosion detonated by The Skatalites, and the birth, long rise and unquestionable pre-eminence of the studio at 13 Brentford Road. Coxsone Dodd imagined what modern Jamaican music might be, before it existed; and then in cataloguing it, he gave foundations and shape to his idea. He gathered so many stellar artists in so many styles that the achievements of Studio One in a particular genre of reggae - say rocksteady, roots, dub, dee-jaying, rub-a-dub - rarely gets the singular attention often lavished on far less accomplished operations. Of course it's no accident that giants of reggae music like The Abyssinians and Burning Spear emerged first - introducing the musical style itself - at Studio One.

Clement Dodd's connection with Rastafarianism, the spiritual and musical source of roots music, had begun long before the arrival of the style as a distinct genre, which occurred at the tail end of the 1960s. From the late 1950s onwards Dodd was making his way to the Wareika Hills Rastafarian compound in the hills by East Kingston, to hear Count Ossie and his drummers. The Skatalites' front line horns - Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, and Johnny Moore - would also often make the journey there, improvising with the drummers long into the night.

The Rastafarian compounds had their origins in the massive urban migrations in the years following World War II, when huge numbers of poor Jamaicans left the countryside in search of employment, and many wound up in the slums of Western Kingston. From the 1930s, these slums were the haunt of the Burru men, a lowly community of criminal outcasts. As the Burru retained the drumming traditions of the Ashanti tribe from whom they had descended, and had a long history of social rebellion and criminality that stretched back to slavery days, the group was thoroughly looked down upon by the island's majority.

Later adapted to create what is called Nyabinghi, Burru music revolves around a trio of hand drums: the huge bass drum is pounded with a large rounded stick; the funde helps keep the bass drum in time with a steady two-beat rhythm; while the smaller kette or repeater drum takes the melodic, improvisation lead. Historically, the Burru have been among the most defiant of Jamaica's people and music was a major component of their defiance. And the Burru held immense appeal for another group of outcasts visible in the ghetto from the early 1930s: the Rastafari.

Rastafari first emerged in Kingston and various rural areas after the crowning of Prince Tafari Makonen in 1930 as Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia. New religious leaders like Marcus Garvey, Leonard P. Howell, Joseph Nathaniel Hibberet and 'Prince' Emmanuel Edwards began to galvanise support for the faith by proclaiming that the rightful place for black Jamaicans was Africa, and sectors of the black peasantry responded enthusiastically. Various forms of Rastafari took root in the early 1930s, all based around the concept that Selassie was a living black Christ.

The different strands of the faith continued to grow, notably among the inhabitants of Kingston's sprawling ghettos, and a fertile intermingling eventually took place amongst the Rastafari and the Burru. The two groups - which both sought to venerate aspects of African culture that was rejected by mainstream society - traded religious indoctrination for musical instruction. A form of the Burru drumming style became the focal point of 'Groundations', the regular reasoning and chanting sessions held at Rasta encampments; and it was these - sometimes also referred to as 'Nyabinghi' - that Coxsone Dodd attended.

Lloyd Knibb, the Skatalires' drummer, was the first musician to adapt Burru rhythms for the kit-drum after playing with Count Ossie; this led to the off-beat rhythm of Ska at the start of the 1960s. Count Ossie was easily the most important creative catalyst of Rastafari drumming. As well as recording for Clement Dodd and a number of other Jamaican producers, he would go on to form The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari alongside saxophonist Cedric Im Brooks at the start of the 1970s.

Roots music grew out of a second explosion of interest in Rastafarianism in Jamaica that occurred as a consequence of the visit of Jah Ras Tafari Makonem, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, King of Kings, Conquering Lion of Judah (H.I.M.) - who came to Kingston and addressed both houses of the Jamaican parliament in 1966. Thousands of Rastafarians greeted him on his arrival at Kingston Airport.

Royalty regularly visited Jamaica in this period: in March Queen Elizabeth II had visited the newly independent island for the first time in thirteen years and in June the previous year Martin Luther King had been given the keys to the city. None of these historic events however could hide the political and economic turmoil that the country was heading into, and on the 2nd October 1966 a state of emergency was declared on account of political gang violence in Western Kingston. instability and a steady decline in the economy continued throughout the remainder of the decade, and by the early 1970s the righteous sermonising of Rastafarianism and roots music had replaced both the optimism of ska and the artistic accommodation of rocksteady to become the sound of both Studio One, and Kingston at large.

This is third in a series of Rastafarian-inspired roots music from Studio One, featuring celebrated foundation artists alongside much less prolific and more obscure singers. Clifton Gibbs, Winston Flames, The New Religion and Lloyd Forest are hardly household names: they recorded barely half a dozen sides between them for the label. But with the involvement of the crack studio house bands - whether the Sound Dimension, the Soul Defenders or the Brentford Road All-Stars - and subject to Clement Dodd's seriously high quality control, all the tracks here compellingly represent the cream of Studio One roots music.

 
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