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Sounds of Reggaemani

Three years ago I started to do my own mixtapes to promote some of my favorite tunes and riddims at the time. The first mixtape was a Summer Vibes, mixtape released in the early Swedish spring of 2010. As the title suggests it contained easy-going and peaceful sounds from the likes of Etana and Luciano. After Summer Vibes I did another 13 mixtapes with various directions.

Unfortunately time has not allowed me to do much on the mixtape front for almost two years. Writing about music for Reggaemani and United Reggae take the lot of my time these days.

When a new mixtape arrives I have no idea. I have plenty of music and ideas, but less time on my hands. So until then you might as well check out the sweet sounds of Reggaemani on either Soundcloud or Mixcloud.

On Soundcloud
From Waterhouse to the World
Dedicated to the works of Michael Rose.

Food For Your Soul
A varied selection of artists and riddims from 2010 and 2011.

Chillin’ in the Cold
On a cold winter weekend in 2010 I put together some warm Jamaican and European reggae sounds.

Riding the Reggae Train in 2010
Another varied selection of artists and riddims from 2010 and 2011.

A One-Drop Hip-Hop Mix
Hip-hop influenced reggae at its best.

Skanking in the 21st Century
A bunch of ska tunes done in a modern style and fashion.

Strictly Roots & Culture – An Irie Ites Special
Dedicated to the works of French production crew the Irie Ites.

On Mixcloud
A Celebration to All Reggae Queens
Two years ago on the International Women’s Day I decided to make a mix with only female artists ranging from the 60’s up until today.

Shakin’ it From the Foundation
Yet another varied selection of artists and riddims from 2010 and 2011.

Spring Mix With Modern Roots
17 tunes dating mainly from 2010.

Summer Vibes – A Sunshine Reggae Mix
My first mixtape, and it contains warm and relaxed sounds, made for a day on the beach.

A Pleasant Roots Mix
For about a year I played records at a bar in Stockholm called Pleasant. I did this mix to promote the first occasion.

A Curtis Lynch Special
Dedicated to the works of UK producer Curtis Lynch.

Revelation Time – Steppin’ it in a UK Style
Hard and mostly UK-produced steppers.

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Reggaemani celebrates Jamaica’s 50th anniversary – 2003-2012

This is the final of a five part list compiled as a celebration of Jamaica’s 50 years of independence. The list contains 50 albums – ten for each decade. Today it’s time for 2003-2012.

Over the last ten years reggae music has changed a lot and there’s partly a new power structure. Today – and for a couple of years – the Jamaican dominance in reggae music has been challenged by producers, artists and labels from the U.S. and Europe.

Million Stylez from Sweden, Gentleman from Germany and Gappy Ranks from the UK have all been very successful for a number of years. And do not forget the thriving reggae scene of the U.S. Virgin Islands, mainly fronted by the small island of St. Croix.

In Europe and the U.S. roots reggae is still the most popular genre, while Jamaica prefers contemporary dancehall, a genre heavily influenced by U.S. R&B and hip-hop along with catchy European house.

However, in the last year or so, there has been a roots resurgence in Jamaica and several live bands have also been formed and play around the island as well as abroad. It will be interesting to follow this trend in Jamaica. I truly hope it sticks.

As with the previous periods, the list doesn’t contain any compilations, but as always with Jamaican albums, some albums are more or less made-up of several previously released singles.

Ras Mac Bean – Pack Up and Leave (2004)
Produced by French reggae heroes Irie Ites who hired UK’s finest riddim section Mafia & Fluxy to lay down the mighty heavy one drop riddims on this stunning debut album. Unfortunately Ras Mac Bean has so far only dropped this album, and it’s not often you hear an artist who is just as comfortable with both deejaying and singing.

Luciano – Serious Times (2004)
Luciano continues to sing his contemplative praises of love and unity over a solid one drop backings. Serious Times is mostly produced by veteran saxophonist Dean Fraser and includes a number of unexpected covers, such as a smoothly skanking take on Harry Nilsson’s Echoes of My Mind and a roots rocking version of José Feliciano’s Come Down Jesus.

Michael Rose – African Roots (2005)
Canadian dub master Ryan Moore – nowadays resident in Holland – of Twilight Circus Dub Sound System is responsible for this melancholic dub-infused roots reggae disc with Michael Rose at his best since Black Uhuru.

Lukie D – Deliver Me (2006)
The passionate and soulful vocal talents of Lukie D have never sounded better than over these Frenchie-produced riddims. A blazingly soulful album from start to finish.

Tarrus Riley – Parables (2006)
Tarrus Riley – son of Jamaican singer Jimmy Riley – is one of the most consistent reggae singers in recent years, and his feel for infectious melodies, beautiful arrangements and lush choruses are apparent on an album like Parables.

Chezidek – Inna di Road (2007)
What Chezidek lacks in pitch control he gains in charm and energy. Over the years he has been able to work with some of the best producers around, such as Bobby Konders on this powerful set of songs. It contains the anthemic Call Pon Dem and Inna di Road, on an updated version of Yabby You’s Jah Love riddim.

Franz Job – Babylon is Dead (2009)
On Franz Job’s debut album Babylon is Dead he sings affectionate praises of his native island of Tobago to a sweet skanking back drop. Dougie Conscious mixed the album and put seven of the songs through a dub workout. The result is an organic and positive album, quite different from the usual semi-computerized digi-reggae style he is known for.

Nas & Damian MarleyDistant Relatives (2010)
An album that explores and intertwines roots reggae with hip-hop, dancehall with jazz and soul with African music. It contains plenty of effective samples, rough and tough beats and aggressive percussion work. An urban album made of an equal amount of Kingston, Bamako and New York.

Clinton Fearon – Mi Deh Ya (2010)
Clinton Fearon was responsible for some of the best material recorded by The Gladiators, where he played bass, sung back-up vocals and occasionally lead. He left the band in the 80’s and has in the past ten years recorded albums that are rural, bluesy and infectiously melodic. Just as this one.

AlpheusFrom Creation (2011)
An album by a singer who is in love with 60’s ska and rocksteady and a producer who just doesn’t know the meaning of below par. From the Creation is carefully crafted and an exciting blend of heart, mind and soul. Listen to the haunting Far Away or the stomping We Are Strong. Timeless.

Curious about the albums? Check this Spotify playlist with nine of the albums.

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Reggaemani celebrates Jamaica’s 50th anniversary – 1983-1992

This is the third of a five part list compiled as a celebration of Jamaica’s 50 years of independence. The list contains 50 albums – ten for each decade. Today it’s time for 1983-1992.

The years covered today includes a major shift in reggae music, a shift when the genre went digital with the game-changing anthem Under Mi Sleng Teng by Wayne Smith. And remarkable enough a Casio MT-40 home keyboard managed to change the music completely.

Suddenly live musicians weren’t in demand anymore and a new set of producers and artists stepped in. But some of the old crew also managed to get a slice of the cake by adapting to the new realties on the scene where the computerized sound now reigned.

This major shift in reggae music may not be fully justified by my list, since none of the albums selected are digital to the fullest. Some are semi-computerized though, such as the pumping productions by Sly & Robbie and the futuristic sounds of Augustus “Gussie” Clarke.

As with 1962-1972 and 1973-1982 the list doesn’t contain any compilations, but as always with Jamaican albums, some albums are more or less made-up of several previously released singles.

The MeditationsNo More Friend (1983)
The roots harmonizing courtesy of Ansel Cridland, Danny Clarke and Winston Watson aka The Meditations were taken to a new level when they met up with singer and producer Linval Thompson, responsible for this early dancehall set. Together they managed to carry their sound into a new decade without losing their roots.

Charlie Chaplin – One of a Kind (1983)
Maybe not as well-known as his contemporary rivals Yellowman and Josey Wales, but equal, or above, their standard. Always conscious and always with a leisure melodic flow, and this set shows him in excellent form with gems such as the title track and Sturgav Special, a combination with the late Jim Kelly.

Ini Kamoze – Ini Kamoze (1984)
A strong debut album and an album with vocal cuts followed by a dub version. Ini Kamoze has yet to repeat this solid effort and if you listen to the album you’ll recognize World a Music as the riddim Damian Marley used for his smash hit Welcome to Jamrock two decades later.

Brigadier Jerry – Jamaica, Jamaica (1985)
The sadly very under recorded Brigadier Jerry – whose sister is the female deejay Sister Nancy – spent more time performing for the Jah Love sound system rather than hanging around the Kingston studios. This is his debut studio album and includes a mighty version of Bunny Wailer’s Armagideon.

Half pint – Greetings (1985)
The energetic singing style of Half Pint was very well-suited for these boisterous George Phang-produced riddims provided by Sly & Robbie. The anthemic title track stands out along with Brotherly Love and the bouncy Level the Vibes.

Dennis Brown – Brown Sugar (1986)
Includes seven vocal tracks followed by its dub version and Dennis Brown was at the time at the peak of his career. The set is produced by Sly & Robbie and the riddims are organic, powerful and fresh with Revolution and Sitting and Watching being particularly tasty.

Mighty Diamonds – The Real Enemy (1987)
Released just as the influential Jamaican producer Augustus “Gussie” Clarke had started to experiment with his intricate semi-computerized riddims. The Mighty Diamonds sound as eloquent as they did in the 70’s and their harmonizing is as gorgeous as ever.

Gregory Isaacs – Red Rose for Gregory (1988)
On this groundbreaking and ground shaking set Gregory Isaacs teamed up with producer Augustus “Gussie” Clarke for another album. The dark high-tech sound is innovative, and tunes like Rumours, Mind Yu Dis and Rough Neck sounds as fresh today as they did more than 20 years ago.

Garnett Silk – It’s Growing (1992)
When Garnett Silk arrived on the scene in the early 90’s his conscious lyrics and fresh gospel-tinged vocals were almost the antithesis to the gruff gun-praising deejays of the day. This is his first and only studio album, since he died in a gas accident only 28 years old. It’s Growing shows a great talent, a great performer and a great singer. And he was only warming up on this landmark in modern roots reggae.

 Yami Bolo – Up Life Street (1992)
The waterhouse style was started by Michael Rose in the 70’s and has since been developed by singers such as Junior Reid and Yami Bolo, and Yami Bolo’s passionate crying vocals flows nicely over the hard riddims on his third album Up Life Street, produced by Trevor “Leggo” Douglas.

Curious about the albums? Check this Spotify playlist that includes eight of the albums above.

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Reggaemani celebrates Jamaica’s 50th anniversary – 1962-1972

This is the first of a five part list compiled as a celebration of Jamaica’s 50 years of independence. The list contains 50 albums – ten for each decade. Today it’s time for the first ten albums and the period covering 1962-1972.

It all started back in the early 60’s when ska was born. The music itself was a mix of R&B, swing, mento and latin and the genre’s prime ambassadors was The Skatalites, a group of brilliant instrumentalists that backed most of the top singers of the day as well as recorded dazzling instrumentals.

And it’s only fair to kick-off the list with a top-notch ska album recorded for the Top Deck label. Ska changed after a few years and evolved into the smoother, glossier and more soul-influenced rocksteady.

The only straight rocksteady album on the list is The Paragons’ On the Beach.

The sound of rocksteady –just as ska – only lasted a few years, and around 1968 reggae took the island, and later the world, by storm.

 The rest of the list contains albums in the early reggae – sometimes labeled skinhead reggae – vein with albums put out between 1968 and 1972, even though some of the albums cover a period when rocksteady transmuted into reggae.

The list doesn’t contain any compilations, but as always with Jamaican albums, some albums are more or less made-up of several previously released singles.

The Skatalites – Ska Boo Da-Ba (1966)
The all-star ensemble of The Skatalites – with instrumentalists such as Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, Jackie Mittoo and Roland Alphonso – has released numerous of immortal ska tunes, and this set collects twelve instrumentals, including Lawless Street and Confucius.

The Paragons – On the Beach (1967)
Classic rocksteady album recorded at Treasure Isle with John Holt on lead vocals. Contains almost exclusively hit songs – Only a Smile, Happy Go Lucky and The Tide is High, later coved by U.S. pop/rock group Blondie with great success.

Prince Buster – Rough Rider (1968)
More or less a collection of singles issued on Bluebeat, but what great singles. Contains both fast-paced instrumentals and slower ballads. Highlights include the title track, the aptly titled Scorcher and Taxation, with its memorable brass.

Ken Boothe – A Man and His Hits (1968)
Ken Boothe started in the ska era with Stranger Cole as the duo Stranger & Ken. He reached solo success in the 70’s with his album and single Everything I Own. A Man and His Hits was recorded at Studio One in the rocksteady vein and is filled with his gritty singing style.

The Heptones – On Top (1968)
The trio’s second album, recorded at Studio One with Coxsone Dodd handling the production. Includes beautiful harmonizing and immortal and much versioned riddims – Pretty Looks isn’t All and I Hold the Handle can still be heard to this day.

The Pioneers – Long Shot (1969)
The late Leslie Kong is without a doubt one of the best Jamaican producers of all time. This early reggae album was produced by him and includes up-tempo scorchers such as the title track and the Jamaican hit Samfie Man.

The Ethiopians – Reggae Power (1969)
The much overlooked Jamaican producer J.J Johnson is responsible for this set in the early reggae vein. His productions have a very distinct sound with picking guitar in an almost country and western style, with Gun Man and Woman a Capture Man being two prime examples.

Desmond Dekker – This Is (1969)
Another set produced by the great Leslie Kong and with backing supplemented by the always consistent Beverly’s All Stars. Not a weak or boring moment, and you can’t go wrong with a collection that includes the monster hit 007 (Shanty Town) along with less known gems such as Beautiful & Dangerous and Hey Grandma.

Bob Andy – Song Book (1970)
A stunning collection of songs from this sometimes overlooked artist in the course of Jamaican singers. Bob Andy is a versatile and gifted song writer and arranger and had a smash hit a few years later with a cover of Nina Simone’s Young, Gifted & Black, made as a combination with Marcia Griffiths.

Junior Byles – Beat Down Babylon (1972)
The unique voice of Junior Byles contains a sublime mix of vulnerability and rebelliousness. This Lee Perry-produced set includes ten tracks with mostly social themes.

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Reggaemani celebrates Jamaica’s 50th anniversary

On August 6th 1962 the island nation of Jamaica attained full independence from Britain, and as a celebration of the 50th year of independence Reggaemani has put together a list of 50 favorite reggae albums, one for each decade.

This wide-ranging list doesn’t aim to provide a full picture of the country’s musical evolution, since it’s my personal favorites, which means the list leans towards the rootsier side of reggae.

I fell in love with reggae about 15 years ago, actually through punk rock and bands such as NOFX and Rancid. These bands incorporated ska in their music, and I loved the energy and intensity in both ska and punk.

I did some research, found The Skatalites and haven’t looked back since. I was immediately hooked and have travelled from ska and rocksteady via roots reggae and early dancehall to ragga and modern one drop. I guess you can say the ingenious sounds of Jamaica have made a lasting impression on me.

My 50 years of reggae music capture almost every sub-genre over the past five decades and the list includes game-changing albums, pivotal artists, crucial producers and massive anthems. It’s a journey through an innovative genre that has influenced popular culture, a genre that has made an undeniable mark on the global music map with its seminal sounds.

The 50 albums I have selected celebrate the momentous achievements in the past and I hope for an equally glorious future.

The list will be presented through five different articles, one for each decade. On Monday June 11 it’s 1962-1972, on Tuesday 1973-1982, on Wednesday 1983-1992, on Thursday 1993-2002 and on Friday 2003-2012.

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General reggae highlights 2011

This year has been an rewarding one. There has been a lot of interesting releases – both reissues and new recordings– and great riddims as well as spectacular live performances.

Earlier this week I summarized 21 of my favorite tunes released in 2011, and the list below are more of general highlights. The next list will be covering the biggest albums put out in 2011.

Best mash-up
AdeleRolling in the Deep (Jr. Blender Reggae Remix). This song of probably one of my favorite non-reggae tunes this year, and hearing Adele on top of a riddim is no lack of quality.

Best riddim
Skateland Killer. All riddims from Maximum Sound were great this year, and this one was particularly tasty.

Biggest surprise
Reggae’s Gone Country. I made a joke about this album on Twitter when I first read about it, but when I heard it I changed my mind. It’s actually a lot better than I thought.

Best book
The Album Cover Art of Studio One Records. Soul Jazz Records has started to release Studio One material again, and this is a good start of the relationship.

Best live performance
Mr. Vegas at Uppsala Reggae Festival. Devastating energy.

Best producer
Frenchie of Maximum Sound. Always reliable.

Best box set
The Story of Trojan Records. A sweet blend of classics, rare releases and unreleased tunes alongside knowledgeable liner notes.

Best reissue
Nitty Gritty – General Penitentiary. A semi-digital showcase album from the late and great Nitty Gritty.

Best compilation
Rub a Dub Showcase Part II. Tough riddims, inspired vocals and devastating dubs.

Best EP
Jimmy Cliff – Sacred Fire. Good old Jimmy has a new found attitude together with punk rocker Tim Armstrong.

Best mixtape
JahmaliSounds with Purpose. The severly underrecorded Jahmali rides old and new riddims in a blazin’ style.

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Reggaemani celebrates two year anniversary

Time flies fast. It has been two years since I started Reggaemani with the aim of giving broader perspectives on reggae music. The idea was, and still is, to write well researched articles that give more than just a glance of the music I have been in love with for the past 14 years.

Since my first article on March 20th 2009 I have written about 350 articles for Reggaemani and about 20 for other web sites and magazines. These include United Reggae, Irie Up, Svereggae, Rebelmusic, Reggae Galore and Skivkoll as well as an article for Woofah that is about to be published. I started writing in Swedish, but switched to English in June last year.

In the early years I mainly focused on columns and news. After a few months I started doing interviews with people involved in reggae. I also begun to regularly review records, concerts and books.

My first interview was with legendary reggae writer and photographer Beth Lesser. That was in May 2009. Since then I have interviewed a broad range of people in reggae, including David Rodigan, Romain Virgo, Etana, Lady Saw, Toussaint, Junior Kelly, Pete Holdsworth, Busy Signal, T.O.K, Chezidek, Luciano, Jahdan Blakkamoore, Ray Hurford, Alpheus, Roberto Sanchéz, Irie Ites, Frenchie, Tippy Alfred, Lustre Kings, Gappy Ranks and a bunch of others.

I have reviewed over a hundred records. Most of them have been pleasant acquaintances, like Chezidek’s Judgement Time, United States of Africa by Luciano and Mi Deh Ya from Clinton Fearon.

I have also attended and reviewed many concerts. Most memorable are Sizzla, Tarrus Riley and Nas & Damian Marley.

Since April of last year I have also started to produce short mixes to promote the music I’m currently listening to. It has been 13 so far, and more will come. Be sure to check them out at either Soundcloud or Mixcloud.

If you don’t have the time to check in here everyday you can always follow Reggaemani on both Facebook and Twitter.

Two years have passed and I will hopefully be able to continue for at least another two years. Many thanks for the support so far. Together we can keep reggae music and reggae culture alive.

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Reggaemani on holiday leave

This year has come to an end and I’m leaving a cold and dark Sweden for a warmer place for three weeks. Next article will be published in mid January. In the meantime, feel free to wander around and discover Reggaemani. You can also visit Soundcloud and listen to my eight reggae mixes,

I hope that you’ve had as fun reading the articles as I’ve had writing them. Happy holidays and a happy new year!

Cheers / Erik

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Reggaemani presents – Chillin’ in the Cold

Chillin’ in the Cold is my latest reggae mix and I have chosen tunes that have been keeping me warm these last couple of weeks. Since the temperature in Stockholm has been down to -15 ºC (5 ºF) recently, I have been listening to rather a lot of music to keep me sane.

Riding the Reggae Train 2010 was my previous mix. That one was a diverse excursion into one drop reggae, dancehall and dubstep.

I really enjoyed making it, so Chillin in the Cold is really eclectic and gathers many different styles. You have one drop reggae, dancehall, nyabinghi and some very, very pop influenced reggae.

The last seven songs on Chillin’ in the Cold are as close to pop music reggae can get. Any of these could easily make it into the top lists with the right promotion campaign.

Yes, I might have gone a bit soft on this one. But, I guess you have to broaden your horizons some times and not only go for the obvious roots reggae or dancehall.

The mix only contains tunes from 2010. Some are brand new, for example Jahdan Blakkamoore’s All Comes Back to One and J-Boog’s Waiting on the Rain.

As usual – Chillin’ in the Cold is a continuous mix with no full tracks and some added sound samples. If you like what you hear, please support the artists, producers and labels and purchase the tunes. Most of them are easily available as mp3, CD or vinyl.

Listen in the player below and download by clicking the link (right click, save as). You can also listen and download via Soundcloud. Enjoy!

Reggaemani presents – Chillin’ in the Cold

Artist – song title (label – riddim)

1. Junior Kelly – Same Way (Soul Vybz – Same Way)
2. Luciano – Save Us Oh Jah (Soul Vybz – Same Way)
3. Soul Vybz All Stars – Same Way Riddim (Soul Vybz – Same Way)
4. Ras Mac Bean – Brighter Day (Rubaskapeù Prod – Brighter Day)
5. Queen Omega – Last Days (Rubaskapeù Prod – Brighter Day)
6. Babyclone Band & IkaRooTs MuZik – Brighter Day Riddim (Rubaskapeù Prod – Brighter Day)
7. Subatomic Sound System & Nomadic Wax & Anthony B – Dem Can’t Stop We From Talk (Subatomic Sound)
8. Subatomic Sound System & Nomadic Wax & Jahdan Blakkamoore – Real Authentic Vibes (Subatomic Sound)
9. Subatomic Sound System & Nomadic Wax – NYC-2 Africa (Subatomic Sound)
10. Fantan Mojah – Hungry Again (Special Delivery – Westside)
11. Konshens – Crossfire (Special Delivery – Westside)
12. Chris Martin – As I Walk Away (Young Veterans – Jah Protect)
13. Konshens – Watch Me Fade (Young Veterans – Jah Protect)
14. Perfect – Work Hard (Young Veterans – Jah Protect)
15. Jahdan Blakkamoore – All Comes back to One (Lustre Kings)
16. Protoje & Ky-Mani Marley – Rasta Love (Don Corleon)
17. J-Boog – Waiting on the Rain (Don Corleon)
18. Mighty Howard – Home (Mighty Works)

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Technical upgrade on Reggaemani

In case you’re wondering why this blog doesn’t look like it used to, it’s beacuse Reggaemani is undergoing some technical maintenance. This should be fixed in a couple of days.

The editorial content isn’t affected and Reggaemani will be updated as usual. Look forward to a review of Romain Virgo’s concert in Stockholm, a new mix, a review of the new Dennis Brown anthology and a comment on the Reggae Grammy nominees.

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