Tag Archives: Ken Boothe

Preparing for Uppsala Reggae Festival

This Thursday it’s time for the eleventh edition of Uppsala Reggae Festival – a three day celebration of the music I love.

This year the promoters have managed to get two of my all-time favorite singers to attend the festival – gritty singers Toots Hibbert and Ken Boothe. These veterans have written and performed some of the best reggae tunes ever made.

You know what I’m talking about, right? 54-46 Was My Number, Freedom Street, Funky Kingston, Crying Over You and so forth. The list could go on and on and on.

Apart from these two, there are many more artists to see and listen to. Since I’m still very much fond of old school reggae I’m looking forward to Johnny Clarke and The Heptones. Hopefully I’m treated tunes like Mr. President and Ites Green and Gold.

If I would chose some of the more current acts, it would be Queen Ifrica, Richie Spice, Protoje and the upcoming king of contemporary lovers rock – Romain Virgo.

To contain my excitement over Uppsala Reggae Festival I’ve compiled a playlist using Spotify – a streaming service very easy to use and download, and available in the U.S. for a few weeks now.

The playlist includes almost 70 tunes from the artists mentioned above, plus a bunch of others that are performing this weekend. Just click this link and download the playlist to your computer or smart phone. And I hope to see you in Uppsala.

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Uppsala Reggae Festival ventures into a dance festival

Uppsala Reggae Festival is Northern Europe’s largest reggae festival and has been held since 2001. Each year the festival presents some of the world’s most famous reggae artists and legends – both Swedish and international acts – this year boasting Toots & The Maytals, Gyptian and Ken Boothe, among several others.

Last year – the festival’s tenth anniversary – was a kind of a best of the best festival. This year there is less of the more established artists and more of newcomers with acts representing dancehall, modern roots reggae and reggae fusion, and includes performers such as Elephant Man, Queen Ifrica, Mr.Vegas, Pressure and Protoje.

“What I’m most looking forward to is Toots & The Maytals, Ken Boothe and Johnny Clarke because they have such a tight sound and are always great live. I’m also looking forward to our venture into the dance scene with all the invited dancers and dancehall artists. I’m hoping for lots of energy and joy,” says Yared Tekeste, founder of Uppsala Reggae Festival, to Reggaemani.

The dance venture that Yared Tekeste is looking forward to is a new step for Uppsala Reggae Festival, and, according to the press release, a giant step into the new decade with a focus on street dance, dance performances and dance parties.

“There is a positive and innovative up-tempo energy within the international reggae scene that we also want to spread to Sweden. This year we have devoted ourselves to offering both a music festival and a dance festival to celebrate all the joy there is in both the more established and newer forms of reggae”, says Yared Tekeste.

Each year the festival attracts audiences of 15,000–20,000 people. The mission is to make reggae music accessible to more people and to be a melting pot for people to come together to experience love and a feeling of belonging.

“Whether you’re a reggae lover or not, we want to be a meeting spot for people that want to experience love and solidarity – oneness. This year’s festival is also special because the Life is Great theme gets a new expression through our new focus on dance. The audience will receive both classic and contemporary roots reggae, but also lots of energetic dancehall. The overall impression is awesome,” concludes Yared Tekeste.

This year Uppsala Reggae Festival takes place on 4-6 August.

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Reggae needs more gritty singers



A few weeks ago I wrote a review of Absolutely Rock Steady by The Uniques, a group lead by silky falsetto Keith “Slim” Smith. He’s one of Jamaica’s many beloved voices. And some of the most acclaimed reggae singers are in the smoother style, for example Horace Andy, Alton Ellis and Delroy Wilson.

There are of course other popular singers not quite as smooth, and in another vein, sometimes referred to as the “country school”. Pupils were stars such as Winston “Pipe” Matthews of The Wailing Souls, Albert Griffiths of The Gladiators, Justin Hinds and Bob Marley.

However, two of my favorite singers had a different education. Their vocals are raw, unpolished and loud. Simply brilliant.

I’m talking about Ken Boothe and Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, front man of The Maytals back in the 60’s and 70’s. Their voices are expressive and distinct, borrowing heavily from American southern soul, but without losing their own style. They’re not mere imitators. Far from it.

Instead of being influenced by Curtis Mayfield and Al Green, Ken Boothe and Toots Hibbert turned their ears towards record label Stax and Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Rufus Thomas.

Both Ken Boothe and Toots Hibbert have a nice gospel tinged vocals. They’re shouting like Little Richard, but it’s not all about the growling. It’s the sublime blend of gritty vocals and a deep soulful style.

Few – if any – contemporary Jamaican singers have followed in their footsteps. The silky smooth style reigns in Jamaica and have inspired singers like Jah Cure, Romain Virgo and Sanchez. I believe a singer like Tarrus Riley has it in him; he just has to let it out.

Both Ken Boothe and Toots Hibbert are in their sixties and someone needs to step in and take their place. Their legacy will forever live on, but I’d be nice if some singers continued in their vein.

I want more coarse and rough singers. Not another crooner. Please.

To prove my point I’ve compiled a very simple, yet effective, eight minute mix of Ken Boothe’s and Toots Hibbert’s most gritty vocals. Listen in the player below.

Top five Ken Boothe gritty vocals:
The One I Love
Can’t See You
Hallelujah
Satisfaction
Is It Because I’m Black?

Top five Toots & The Maytals gritty vocals:
54-46 Was My Number (reggae version)
Johnny Coolman
Louie Louie
Sit Right Down
Funky Kingston

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