Reggae Music Year Review 2010

The year began with sad news…on 12th Jan 2010 the independent musical innovator, Vivian ‘Yabby U’ Jackson passed away. In fact the year was a lousy one for the passing of more foundation artists. Sugar Minott died July 10th and Gregory Isaacs also passed away on October. All three will be dearly missed by reggae fans the world over. Tribute shows poured over the airwaves, and we all felt this sense of loneliness. Yabby, Sugar and Gregory all gave so much to reggae music, they were narrators in our lives, story tellers through song and music. Reggae lives on, may be weaker with their passing, but always moving forward in all parts of the globe.

This year we also saw the demise of more and more reggae stores, especially those that traded in vinyl. CD’s also took a major beating again, making them perhaps the most short-lived format since the 8-track.  Nevertheless, as far as tunes go it was again a great year.

Reggae’s main strength in my humble opinion is its sense of history as a destiny, looking back to go forward. Winston Jarrett still does a cracking live show and his compilation ‘Bushwackers & Gangbangers’  gets cover of the year for me.

And my fave tune from this is ‘Dutty Friday’ – a wicked piece of dancehall commentary which I tend to spin every chance I get to play. Women are often the unsung heroines of reggae and its great to hear new voices out of the UK. My good bredren Leroy Mafia has been working with Adele  Harley for a while now. She possesses a unique voice and ‘Reasons Not To Stay’ sends tingles up the spine. Love it!

One of the most anticipated big budget releases of the year was the collab between Damian ‘Jnr Gong’ Marley & Nas – Distant Relatives. Twenty years back when hybrids emerged between reggae and hip-hop there was a certain novelty-esque element. Leaving aside UK acts like Black Radikal Mk II and SF’s Standout Selector’s last productions for Nicodemus, there was too much here today gone tomorrow to the marriage between the genres. Nas & Damian Marley however cement the marriage perfectly on ‘Land of Promise’.

Dubmatix has been at it as a producer since the late 1980’s making him one of the most prolific and widely respected dub producers worldwide. ‘System Shakedown’  features The Mighty Diamonds, Brother Culture, Tippa Irie, Dennis Alcapone, U Brown, The Ragga Twins, Jay Douglas, Ammoye, Kulcha Ites & Omar Perry. ‘Kingdom of Dub’ shakes the bass bins with righteousness.

Over inna Europe my friend I-Rick from Zona Reggae Radio Show out of Portugal holds a yearly poll. Its good to be in it as artists, in second place, but more of our release later. First place goes to the Outernational bredrens out of Belgrade, FC Apartide Utd

Check ‘African Woman’. FC Apartide Utd make a clear statement that reggae music in its live sounding sense is alive and thriving.

One of my best moments on radio this year was a live interview with Tippa Irie. It took me ages to prepare for this. Where to start from – Tippa has been so prolific over the decades and this year is no exception. ‘Stick to My Roots’ is the title of the release which cleverly lends the chorus lick from Third World’s classic ‘Roots With Quality’ Great video clips as well:

‘Blow Mr Hornsman Blow’  is another standout track and it goes out to all the brass sections the world over. Also from the UK a bredren who has been rising steady for a several years. ‘Walk Like Rasta’ by Solo Banton is a kick ass tune. It has that characteristic ragga dancehall crunch quality – gritty and conscious.

2010 was a year of great tribulation for Buju Banton. Its easy enough for me to say he was framed by the authorities, trapped in a set up coke deal to put the Gargamel behind bars for life. How and why he fell for it remains to be revealed. Despite his release on bail, after a deadlocked jury and the judge declared a mistrial  it was not until December 27th that he gave his first post-prison interview. The release that coincided with his time in prison sounds like prophecy revealed, even though the tracks were recorded before his trails and tribulations behind bars unfolded. ‘Before The Dawn’ is on the whole a great release, on par with ‘Inna Heights’ and tunes like ‘Innocent’ and ‘Struggle Together’ are top knotch Buju statements. I hope Buju Banton is completely freed in 2011, and does not have to spend another day behind bars. One point on Buju’s incarceration, huge support from fans and artists alike contributed to keeping the singer’s spirit strong. Anthony B’s ‘Free Up The General’ was one of the best solidarity with Buju tunes. As for all The Haters…no comment….

I love many riddims and its always good to hear those old classics come back fresh with nowadays singers. ‘Good Old Days’ by Gentleman is a version of “Water Pumping’ and it has such a warm feeling as a song. Check the live version:

Now 2010 was a World Cup Year and Spain cleaned it up in the final against Nederlands. They really wore them down physically and one goal decided it in extra time from Andrés Iniesta. What’s this got to do with reggae? Well everything has got to do with reggae. Manwel T unleashed a free download as a tribute The Vuvuzela. The release came out originally in 2009 with Mind’s Eye . Tunes called ‘Umtha Welanga’ (which means “rise and shine”)  and you can get it here for free – big tune – mighty dub! Funny enough, and I thought I would never say this, I miss the mass buzzing of The Vuvuzela, but thanks to Manwel T, its a regular in my DJ sets now 🙂

Staying the subject of production idrens, this year Dub Caravan and myself released ‘Virtual Oasis’ a CD recorded entirely online. We also toured (and met for the first time) in Cyprus and did a gig together at Theatro Technis in London in late October.

Aside from this Mr Caravan also released the ‘Strike A Blow’ compilation featuring Ras Zacharri, Root Souljahz, Hornsman Coyote, and Shaky Norman and you can get for free by clicking here

Trenchtown Jamaica is where its at musically and it is where it has been at since reggae was created. In 2010 a very special release came out of Trenchtown from an artist who is striving to keep the living jah music alive. Icientcy Mau & The Mau Mau Warriors released ‘When Words Come to Life’. The title track and ‘Struggle’ remind me so much of early Burning Spear – yes it is that good. And if I really had to pick a release of the year this would be it. Bonafide conscious roots reggae music made in JA!

Finally, Bongo Kanny is a roots artist of the highest caliber out of the UK. ‘Hard Road To Travel’ kind of sums up 2010 in a song for me…and there’s more places to get to in 2011.

You can hear all these tunes via the free and downloadable  OuterNational Podcast on Pod-O-Matic

Happy New Year 🙂

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