TROJAN ROOTS REGGAE BOX SET (TJETD296) - You are an outcast - rejected by society. You could be the kid from the next yard, greeted affectionately by all in the neighbourhood as you were growing up; but grow those locks and everything must change. The dawta you grew up with is now snatched from your circle of friends. As Junior Byles sang, "now that I'm a dreadlocks, your daddy says you shouldn't play with me". The pastor who ruffled your hair as you walked by as a child, now views that same, freshly-knotted hair with disdain and a respectably quiet but audible to you kiss of the teeth as he walks by. The hotel that tossed your willing hands a days work here and there during the height of tourist season now hustles you away like you carry typhoid. You are the rootsman, the bongo man, the binghi man. They will call you a madman, a criminal, a tramp, a drug addict and a menace to society. To embrace the roots, therefore, to walk in the way of Jah, is not a move to be taken lightly.

So why do it? Because you feel it is right. Because, as Horace Andy explains on 'Zion's Gate', "I don't want to be outside when Zion gate close". Because you have seen the evils that he goes on to list in the same song, and don't want to be a part of them. Because you have watched your brothers and sisters grow up bright and energetic and willing to conform, and yet they still can't get enough food for their children, let alone a decent home. Because for just a stick of ily you can be beaten and cast into jail and yet up in the hills the rich snort cocaine and drink themselves insensible yet nobody dare whisper a word. Because you know that the preacher tells you to worship a dad, a duppy and a dead man, yet there is a living God who is black like you. Because there is nothing to lose by being outside a society that offers you only sufferation and subjugation.

However, the choice to pursue the path of the rootsman is not purely because of negatives. Once you have rejected those things that were dragging you down and have stopped seeking possessions, you feel freer. Only you and Jah can control your destiny so you can abandon strife and struggle. If you don't want something from someone, what power do they have over you? If you are outside society and have realised that it is so, you are free to speak your mind. Unhampered by the expectation that the government or the teachers or the preachers will make life better, the rootsman and rootswoman are in many ways Jamaica's conscience, able to voice how their people suffer, whether it is in the present moment, the days of slavery or Old Testament times.

They can say the unmentionable, whether asserting the uniqueness and strength of the black experience (as on Frankie Jones' and Tappa Zukie's 'Proud To Be Black', a mighty update of The Heptones' Studio 1 classic 'Be A Man'), praising Selassie I (Linval Thompson's 'Jah Jah Dreader Than Dread') or calling for a return to Africa (Peter & Paul Lewis' 'Ethiopia Land'). From society's reject to society's reminder, central to the pursuit of freedom, justice and equality, that's the rootsman's process. Or as Bob Marley put it "the stone that the builder refused will always be the head cornerstone".

So you have been a sufferer, you have seen the light and now you feel free to say what is really going on. The difficulty is, you might see injustice and stupidity everywhere and have a burning desire to speak out about it, but the Evening News and House of parliament aren't exactly about to throw open their doors to what they see as a raggedy-arsed likkle dreadlocks pickney. So you must find other means to communicate. While the theatre and writing are not barred to you, inevitably the main means of getting your rootical message across is through music. Reggae is the voice of the Jamaican people. If you want to get your word to the biggest audience possible, one who will see the reality of what you are saying, reggae must be your vehicle. Every tenement yard has a sound system, every bar has a hi-f-, every shop has a radio. If your message can't be heard through music, it can't be heard anywhere.

You may start out by singing with a corner shot disco set or chanting ancient harmonies with your bloods in the tenement. But sooner or later you must make your way to the studios of Kingston and try to catch the ear of the producer, who is inevitably the studio's proprietor, always assuming that he hasn't already spotted you as a rising star on the dancehall scene. Should you make it behind the recording mic, your time there will be brief; time is money and five run-throughs with the session band is more than you can realistically hope for. You have maybe half an hour to get your message across -- you had better be ready to deliver it. It's not always like that; Lee Perry would sometimes spend days fiddling with a song in a quest for perfection, but on the other hand, an only half-joking question that was heard in the recording studios of the 70s was that if you had 20 minutes in the studio with a particular accomplished vocalist, what did you do? You recorded two albums with him. Hence the urgency of the performances here. You have something to say, and a limited time to say it. If that doesn't concentrate minds, nothing does.

And with life in Kingston often brutally short, that limited amount of time may be even less than expected. Inner Circle's Jacob Miller, who sings 'The Truth Has Come Again', '80,000 Careless Ethiopians' and 'Standing Firm' on this collection, lived long enough to briefly eclipse Bob Marley as Jamaica's biggest star before a car crash claimed him in 1980 at the tender age of 25. Likewise, illness took Dennis Brown, Lincoln and junior Delgado before their work was done.

Of course, a singer might be accepted by a producer yet not be allowed to speak his mind on record. Some producers banned Rastafari lyrics from their premises - Duke Reid was one such. The burly ex-cop was definitely part of the establishment, and his failure to get to grips with roots boom contributed to the steep decline of his status in early 1970s music.

Not every reggae artist is a rootsman, who arrives in the recording studio locksed-up. Many reggae stars find their way to roots lyrics after years of working in a more mainstream field. Among them are some of the most celebrated singers of reality lyrics in Jamaican music, such as Dennis Brown, Johnny Clarke and Freddie McGregor. And while Linval Thompson, Cornell Campbell and Gregory Isaacs may alternate between what the latter calls 'Rasta Business' and lovers lyrics, they are two sides of the same coin. Jah is a lion, nut Jah is also love. Life is a journey and none of us is born fully-formed. Most reggae artists will arrive at roots music sooner or later.

The Trojan Roots Reggae Box Set concentrates on the original period of reggae music when roots ran tings practically unchallenged. Roots songs had been around since the dawn of ska: Jamaican calypsonian Bongo Man made several rootsy tunes in the early 19600s (most famously 'Marcus Garvey', the b-side of ska smash 'Guns Of Navarone'): The Ethiopians, represented here by the Binghi powered 1977 classic 'Slave Call', were pioneers of the roots attitude and style in the mid-60s: The Wailers and Prince Buster both sang early examples of roots lyrics, despite Buster's conversion to Islam. But for Rasta music to really take over, it required the ascent to power of producers who understood roots music, who had fought their way up from the ghetto, often taking the mic themselves to document the lives of the poor. The early 70s were the foundation for the style, with talents like Niney The Observer, Lee Perry and Bunny Lee driving the music forward with their big personalities and new, heavier sound. A new generation of singers rose to the challenge of this rough new style. The likes of Johnny Clarke and Cornell Campbell (for Bunny Lee), Dennis Brown and Leroy Smart (for Niney) and Junior Murvin and Junior Delgado (for Lee Perry) all brought a refreshing sound and attitude to reggae music. The mid-to-late 1970s also saw socialist president Michael Manley in power in Jamaica, which was significant in that Jamaica's image at the time, certainly in America's eyes, was that of a Cuba-sympathetic, potentially rebellious state. Hence reggae's roots and rebellion reflected Jamaican society as a whole in a way it never had before.

While they may have been products of their time, the passing years have confirmed these tunes' classic status. Even those by artists that remain obscure despite the dedicated work of reggae historians, such as Glasford Manning of The Jewels, who recorded for Niney, the excellent Knowledge, who were protégé's of DJ-producer Tappa zukie, and Evans Jones, who apparently made a solitary record for Lee Perry, retain a magnetic allure and clear lyrical integrity.

The roots era furnished some older, more established singers with an extended engagement with their public. Ronnie Davis and Wilfrid 'Jackie' Edwards were among them. The former had endured nasty rip-offs as a member of The Tenors in the 1960s, and the latter had written two UK chart No. 1s for the Spencer Davis Group without finding fame in his own right. Producer Bunny Lee recognised their potential in the new style. With the awesome brooding 'Jah Jah Jahovia', over a searing cut of the 'Drum Song' riddim, Ronnie Davis established himself as a true rootsman, and a stunning, King Tubby-mixed lick of Burning Spear's 'Invasion' meant the world heard Jackie Edwards in a way it had never envisaged him before.

Other singers were clearly naturals for the roots age. Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs both polished their reputations by tackling roughneck riddims in different fashions. Dennis took on Niney and Upsetter-mixed 'Wolf And Leopards' by emoting powerfully over it, while Gregory floated cooly on the mix of 'Slave Master' even while delivering the most incendiary lyric since producer Niney's own incendiary breakthrough, 'Blood And Fire'. Cornell Campbell had been recording since the early days of ska, yet came into his own in the roots era, switching effortlessly between love lyrics and sufferer's songs, whether working for Bunny Lee on 'Jah Jah A Go Beat Dem' and 'Give Me strength O Jah' or Niney for 'I Heart Is Clean'. Fil Callendar's band, The In Crowd, and Jacob miller with Inner Circle found it equally easy to alternate between smooth dancefloor styles and rougher roots lyrics -- the rootsman may have been an outsider, but that didn't stop the people rocking to his works. And while there is none rootsier or with a less orthodox vocal talent than Prince Lincoln, that didn't stop his 'Humanity' from loving up the blues dances forever onwards after 1975. "Whatever happened to the love they are still talking about?" he asks -- a true roots lament.

So open your heart to the rootsman. Hear his riddims and marvel at his ingenuity; who else could turn 'Take Five' into a comment on the wicked ways of mankind, as Horace Andy does on 'This Must Be Hell? Break bread with him and meditate on his reasoning's. He is the foundation stone for so much of Jamaican music, the conscience that halts society's excesses. Call him a madman, a criminal or a menace to society; it matters not. While there is injustice, he will always be around, talking reality and pricking the bubble of self-satisfied Babylon with music that tears up the rulebook and speaks the truth as only the outcast can see it.

Ian McCann




Wolf And Leopards (Extended Mix)
Dennis Brown
Blood Dunza (Extended Mix)
Johnny Clarke
Sons Of Slaves
Junior Delgado
Proud To Be Black (Extended Mix)
Frankie Jones And Tapper Zukie
Gregory Isaacs
Zion Gate (Extended Mix)
Horace Andy And The Sticks
Philistines On The Land (Extended Mix)
Junior Murvin
80,000 Careless Ethiopians
The Inner Circle
Every Natty (AKA We Want To Go Home)
Leroy Smart
Jah Jah A Go Beat Them (The Wicked)
Cornell Campbell
Born In Ethiopia
The In Crowd
Can You Feel It (Sufferation Everyday)(Extended Mix)
Junior Byles
Jah Jah Jehoviah (Extended Mix)
Ronnie Davis
Come Along
The Bluebells
Jah Jah Dreader Than Dread (Extended Mix)
Linval Thompson
Prophecy Call (Extended Mix)
Glasford Manning

Declaration Of Rights (Extended Version)
Johnny Clarke
Temptation, Botheration And Tribulation
The Heptones
Standing Firm
Jacob Miller And The Inner Circle
Ethiopia Land (Extended Mix)
Peter And Paul Lewis
Invasion (Wa Da Da) (Extended Mix)
Jackie Edwards And The Aggrovators
I Heart Is Clean (Extended Mix)
Cornell Campbell
Rasta Business (Extended Mix)
Gregory Isaacs
Jah Jah Is The Conqueror (Extended Mix)
Linval Thompson
Africa (Extended Mix)
Dennis Brown
Jah Jah Say
unior Delgado
Freedom (Extended Mix)
Earl Sixteen
No Wicked Shall Enter The Kingdom Of Zion
Barry Brown
Rastaman Camp
Freddie McGregor
Liberation Struggle (Extended Version)
Tapper Zukie
Dedicated To Jah
The In Crowd

Touch Not My Locks
Little Roy
Chant Down Babylon
Freddie McGregor
Every Knee Shall Bow (Extended Mix)
Johnny Clarke And U Roy
Four And Twenty Dreadlocks (Extended Mix)
Evan Jones
Hail Dread
So Long (Rastafari Calling)(Extended Mix)
Dennis Brown
The Raiders (Extended Mix)
Junior Delgado
When Jah Come
Devon Irons
Prince Lincoln And The Royal Rasses
Slave Call
The Ethiopians
This Must Be Hell (Extended Mix)
Horace Andy And Hedley Bennett
Psalms 20 (Extended Mix)
James Brown
Rasta Man No Evil
The In Crowd
Jah Is My Light/Wicked Eat Dirt
Leroy Smart And I Roy
Give Me strength Oh Jah
Cornell Campbell
African Style
The Black Notes
The Truth Has Come Again
Jacob Miller

Time - 78:48

Time - 77:34

Time - 78:55

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