Reggae & Dancehall #36: Bob Marley, Mavado, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry

The latest from the scene…

Reshma B’s regular column takes us into the reggae and dancehall world…

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After collapsing on stage during his performance at UK’s One Love Festival last month, reggae legend John Holt is speaking out to counteract rumours that he’s suffering from a fatal illness. The 69-year-old singer, who recorded the rock-steady classic ‘The Tide Is High’ with The Paragons, told the Jamaica Observer: “My health is fine. I’m eating, drinking, laughing.” The singer admitted that he may not be singing on stage for now. “I’ll be relaxing and chilling a little,” he added “But I’ll be back.”

The most popular reggae (compilation) album of all time, ‘Legend’ by Bob Marley & The Wailers, marks its 30th anniversary this year. As part of the celebration Ben & Jerry’s introduced a new flavour on 15th September, called Satisfy My Bowl (presumably referring to an ice cream bowl), a blend of chocolate caramel and cookie swirls with banana. Having sold well in excess of 25 million copies worldwide, ‘Legend’ has introduced countless fans to the King of Reggae. If they all got the munchies at once, just imagine how much ice cream Ben & Jerry’s could sell! Proceeds will benefit the Marley family’s 1Love Foundation.

Bob Marley, ‘Is This Love’, from ‘Legend’

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Last time Mavado passed through Platinum Sounds studio in Manhattan he linked up with rap legend LL Cool J to cook up a heatrock called ‘The Hustler’ produced by Jerry Wonda. Now comes the video, directed by Benny Boom.

It’s no small feat to cover a Bunny Wailer classic and do it justice, but with ‘Cool Runnings’ Duane Stephenson rises to the challenge on the lead single from his forthcoming ‘Dangerously Roots’ album.

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There aren’t that many living legends on the planet and you can be sure that Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is one of them. Even at the age of 78, the producer who gave The Wailers their ‘Natural Mystic’ and pioneered dub at his Black Ark studio is still restlessly experimenting with new sounds. He’s been called both a genius and a madman, but if you know one thing about Perry he’s all about instinct and personal chemistry.

His new ‘Vibes’ EP, a collaboration with the Swiss musician Iguana, touches on ska, roots reggae, dancehall and dub with Perry handling vocal duties. “He want to meet me personal to find out if I’m a real thing, or if it was a joke,” Scratch said of his link with Iguana. “From him see me he keep on laughing, and don’t stop laugh. It make him happy and that’s all it is: he want to keep on laughing”.

Another notable Scratch release is ‘Back On The Controls’ for which London-based Rolling Lion team recreated the exact recording equipment and techniques used at the Black Ark to create 15 new tracks with dubs mixed by the master himself. Producer Daniel Boyle started a Kickstarter page to fund the project, saying his goal was to make the album “as authentic as possible”.

But even a carefully researched retro record is just that. “Everything we do together we do it because other people request,” says Scratch, who’s more of a forward-ever-backward-never kind of guy. “So if the people like this, even if it’s not actually going to be my style… Me have to support the people who support me. And whatever them request we haffi join it.“ Clearly Scratch is still not one to follow fashion.

Check out The Upsetter talking about his latest projects and much more:

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One of the hottest riddims in rotation at the moment has to be DJ Frass’s sexy slow-burning ‘How It Feel Riddim’ featuring Mavado with ‘Ben Ova’, I-Octane and Vanessa Bling, with ‘Cyaah Do It’ and Alkaline with the X-rated title cut.

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With every dark cloud there is a silver lining, and on a typical British day full of rain and grey skies, the biggest street festival in Europe went on as planned. You know the drill: every August bank holiday the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea gets taken over by sound systems on every street corner as countless people from across the globe flock in to party for 48 hours of musical mayhem. Once again, we’ve had the Notting Hill Carnival.

There may be no better way to survey the influence of Jamaican sound systems on underground music than to stroll through the Carnival, checking out the different sets flinging down selections. Whether your taste leans towards hip-hop, jungle, drum & bass, grime or EDM, you’ll find it here – and it’s a sure fact that the beat was originated from a yard-style sound system.

For the real Jamaican-style vibe, sound systems like Nasty Rockers had the streets on lock, throwing down some of the best tunes from old to new which they describe as “start to finish music” showcasing a crazy dubplate selection – Shabba, Cobra, Capleton, Chronixx and even a rare Pan Head dub to shut it down.

Or if you weren’t feeling the soggy streets and you managed to get into the Red Bull Music Academy’s exclusive gathering under the Westway, they had Brooklyn-based producer Dre Skull juggling cutting-edge dancehall and EDM hybrids. Home-grown crew Boy Better Know came through with the rhymes and grimy beats and got the crowd hype as they dropped hits like ‘Too Many Men’. Although Wiley couldn’t make it, JME, Skepta and Frisco mashed up the stage – a reminder to anyone that the UK underground scene is bursting with talent.

The lone rootsman representing on the RBMA stage was Protoje who performed a solo set backed by Yardcore, who spun 100% classic Jamaican reggae. The set went over Irie – particularly when Protoje (interviewed) drew for his big collab with Chronixx. As he mentioned to me earlier, “It’s always good to have a song like ‘Who Knows’ in your pocket,” and judging by the crowd reaction he sure knew.

Check out Boy Better Know fresh off the RBMA stage:

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See ya next month!

Words: Reshma B (online / Twitter)

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