TROJAN ROOTS & CULTURE BOX SET (TJETD226) - What you hold in your hand is a remarkable collection of tunes that evoke one of music's, not just Reggae's most potent periods. It's a time capsule, and like the name - Roots - that rounds it up and describes it at the same time, it conveys depth, solidity, something from which to grow.

The best way to understand what 'Roots & Culture' was about and why it had such an impact on musicians in Jamaica and around the globe is, of course, to listen to it. There may be a few lyrical references that haven't transferred to the 21st century altogether successfully, especially those drawn from the island's once hugely influential Rastafarian movement. But the sincerity of the messages, the energy and creativity of the music, and it's sheer scale and quality hit the listener like a cultural Tsunami. With it's sheer verve and difference, this is the sound, meditated through international stars like Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, which motivated the likes of Eric Clapton, The Stones and Sting to get involved.

Like Che Guevara before, and Ethiopian famine relief a decade later, this was a struggle that everyone in music signed up for. At its core was a set of beliefs that was distinctly Caribbean-African. Its themes of honour, justice and equality are timeless. To Jamaicans and other islanders in the area this music movement was a response to the very real social issues faced every day; to outsiders its frequent anger provided a tone that Rock & Roll had all but lost. In Roots and Culture, music had its conscience back.

So where did it come from, this new force in Reggae?

If we think of music being like a cultural river, we can plot its course in Jamaica through history quite neatly. A new river is full of verve, reacting to its surroundings, coursing quickly. As it matures it begins to cut its own path, then it slows, meanders and spreads itself nice and broad. So in the 1960s Reggae went from the rush of Ska, through Rocksteady, to the dawn of the 1970s with a sound that was more relaxed, at ease with itself and looking to slow down and broaden its horizons. The festive Sixties sound of Ska and Rocksteady reflected an aspect of Caribbean culture that extended the folk traditions of Mento and Calypso. Reggae would take from the latter the bitter social comment that the reality of life in 20th century Jamaica demanded.

Let's look back. Jamaica: colonised and filled with slave workers from Africa by the British government and its white plantation owners. Jamaicans: enslaved and impoverished, brutally put down by the British Army in the Morant Bay slave rebellion in 1865; 30 years after the abolition of slavery, 500 Jamaicans were killed protesting about conditions. Seventy years later, economic crisis, unrest and more killings produced the first trade union under Alexander Bustamente, from which emerged both of the island's feuding political parties, the PNP and the JLP.

In the 1940s the island's inhabitants helped and harboured a notorious Robin Hood-style outlaw, Rhygin, during his ongoing gun battles with police. The establishment was still despised. Independence in August 1962 merely shifted power from a white colonist to the island's light-skinned elite. Poverty still bit deep while the poor danced to songs of love and happiness. All that would change in the face of enormous political changes beyond the control of the common man.

The presence of Cuba. a fiercely independent and anti-American Caribbean neighbour encouraged a sense that change could be brought about. One political party, the JLP, implicitly backed Cuban leader Fidel Castro's stance; the PNP naturally opposed it. This helped draw up battle lines that would turn neighbourhood against neighbourhood, and family against family, throughout the 1970s. Jamaican society is still riven by the divide to this day.

One significant response came from the island's growing Afrocentric religious groups, Rastafarians. To outsiders Rastafari meant growing 'dreadlocks', smoking 'ganja' (marijuana) and strumming a guitar on a chair in the hills above Ocho Rios. To adherents it was an all-encompassing belief system based on turning the extreme negative of slavery and the unjust remnants of the past into a positive approach to the present. Interpretation of the Christian bible imbued their language and imagery. Western capitalism was characterised as 'Babylon'. This became a nickname for the police, viewed as agents of the oppression of poor people.

The sarcastic playfulness of Rasta language is audible in nearly all the tracks on this album. Parts of colonial English words were neatly twisted round. Oppression ('uppression' as pronounced by a Jamaican) became downpression. When Rastas said 'Science' they referred to witchcraft. 'Divisive' words like you, me and we, preferring the more communal 'I and I' so unity, for example, became i-nity. The West's many disruptive-isms (socialism, capitalism) were derided as 'izm and skizm'.

The awesome power of the holy was embodied in liberal use of the word dread. Growing hair into dreadlocks rendered the owner a dread, and a disciple of an ancient black God, Jah. Rastas believed in repatriation to the 'land of milk and honey', Africa, and more specifically Ethiopia. They held that Jamaicans were chosen people exiled from Zion. They looked to a faith that didn't have a white Christ at its head. Orthodox Coptic Christianity provided guidance and mystique, and an enigmatic 1924 publication, the 'Holy Piby', aka the black man's bible, had a massive influence on the movement. Out of all this and more grew early-70s Roots and Culture, one of the most creative periods in Reggae.

Many of those who'd crooned in Rocksteady vocal groups, including Cornel Campbell (the Sensations), Ronnie Davis (the Tenors) and Prince Lincoln Thompson (formerly of the Tartans, with Cedric 'Im' Brooks, Devon Russell), grew their locks and joined the faith. Thompson, who died in 1999, remained one of the great voices of Roots music.

The brilliant, prolific Dennis Brown successfully straddled both camps and 'To The Foundation' is one of the best examples of his late-70s output. Less long-term converts were former Flames leader, Alton Ellis, and Heptones Leroy Sibbles, the bassist behind so many Studio One hits.

Others, Like Tristan Palma, Fil Callender (lead singer with the In Crowd), Barrington Levy, Gregory Isaacs, and Sugar Minott established themselves as powerful new forces for the first time, though Dancehall, not Roots, would form the bread-and-butter of their later music successes. Palma's glory would be restricted to Reggae anthems such as 'I'm Ready' and 'Entertainment'. Isaacs became the 'cool ruler' of romantic Lover's Rock. But Minott, who formed part of Roots music's seminal but short-lived outfit, the African Brothers, and Levy had worldwide pop triumphs with 'Good Thing Going' and 'Here I Come' respectively to accompany their extensive repertoire of home hits.

Asthma-sufferer, Barry Brown, who died after banging his head in an accident in June 2004, rarely ventured far from the sound that he helped launch - he'd recently recorded the 'Roots And Culture' album at Studio One with Coxsone Dodd, who coincidentally passed on a matter of weeks before him. Gossamer-voiced Roots specialist, Bim Sherman enjoyed cult popularity considerably later, especially for his Nineties collaborations with UK producer Adrian Sherwood. Likewise, Horace 'Sleepy' Andy, a former Studio One and Roots legend emerged from his 1990s collaborations with Massive Attack reborn as a cult singer with a following of his own for 'Skylarking', 'Money Money' and other pithy social commentaries.

Any serious compilation of this music benefits from the presence of the quintessential Roots vocal group, the Mighty Diamonds 9whose 'Pass The kutchie' was sanitised and made into a UK hit by Musical Youth). There are top DJs on this collection too, including the great rivals I-Roy and U-Roy Jah Woosh often wore his Rasta cred at a jaunty angle, and so it is with hi contribution here.

In the new mood of righteous creativity, vocal groups including the Viceroys and Israel Vibration, took on a less slick, more edgy quality. Younger producers emerged to replace the US R&B-schooled generation. The key technical contributors on this CD are Lee Perry (who always had something of a love-hate relationship with Rastafari), Winston 'Niney The Observer' Holness, Bunny aka 'Striker' Lee, Linval Thompson and Channel One's Mike Brooks. Brooks and Thompson sat both sides of the studio glass but excelled as two of the most stylish producers of the maturing late-70s Roots sound. Brooks' 'What A Gathering', featured here, is one of the iconic and enduring sounds of the Roots scene.

Perry would credit anonymous groups for a lot of the work he wasn't sure about, but as examples such as Sons Of Light's underexposed track here shows, it didn't mean any lack of quality. The music's energy and power intoxicated white rock artists and spawned adoption and imitation with mixed results. Perry, Lee and Holness share the distinction, along with King Tubby, of being practitioners at the birth of Roots music's contemplative sibling, Dub. It was part of the shakedown that Roots music wrought. Bob Marley used the sound as a launch-pad to change the face of world pop.

Eighties Dancehall's forcefulness grew from the militancy and edginess of Roots music. And its message still shoots through the current work of Sizzla, Luciano and Buju Banton like a stick of rock. But here's where it all began. So sit back, enjoy iy, and remember what music was like when it still had a conscience.

Rick Glanvill




Don't Cut Off Your Dreadlocks
Linval Thompson
Joyful Locks
U Roy
Beautiful Africa
Gregory Isaacs
Satta Dread
Wayne Jarrett
I Roy
Babylon De Pon Fire
Truth, Fact And Correct
Dreadlocks Man
Prince Lincoln & The Royal Rasses
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
Michael Rose
Natty Alright
Jah Woosh
Jah Forgive Them
Leroy Smart
Johnny Clarke
Winston Heywood & The Hombres
Black Harmony Killer
Jah Stitch
Rasta Train
Doctor Alimantado & Raphael Green
Last War (Jah Jah Children Arise)
Zap Pow
Open The Gate
Watty Burnett
An African Child
The Heptones

Zion Chant
Freddie McGregor
African World Wide
Roman Soldiers Of Babylon
The Inner Circle
Tapper Zukie
Confusion In A Babylon (AKA Mutiny)
Niney & The Observers
Land Of Love
The Sons Of Light
(Stop Your) Brutality
Horace Andy
Free Up The Prisoners
Lee Perry
What A Gathering
Mike Brooks
Glasford manning
To The Foundations (Extended Version)
Dennis Brown
Forward With Jah Orthodox
Mystic I
Blessed Are They
Cornel Campbell
Eyes On Africa
The Mighty Diamonds
Trod With Jah
Barrington Levy

Protect Them
Barry Brown
Give Thanks And Praise
Jimmy Riley
Marcus Garvey's Back In Town
The In Crowd
The Children Are Crying
Alton Ellis
Brother Noah
The Black Shadows
Lightning And Thunder
Bim Sherman
Dreader Than Dread
Sugar Minott
Jah Far I On A Pinnacle
Leroy Sibbles
Free Up Rasta
Al Campbell
Who No (Wa'an Come)
The Wailing Souls
Tristan Palmer
Jah Footsteps
Prince Far I
Jah Jah (The Intelligence Of Your Mind)
The Viceroys
Jah Love
Anthony Johnson
Why You So Craven
Israel Vibration
Bring The Sensi Come
Johnny Osbourne
Charlie Chaplin

Time - 62:28

Time - 76:38

Time - 67:52

All material Copyright Trojan Records