Tag Archives: Toots & The Maytals

Reggae Grammy nominees announced

grammyIn the past weeks a list of entries to the Grammy Award for best reggae album has circulated. The list contained a total of 53 entries and had its fair bit of highs and lows. Yesterday the actual nominees were announced and unfortunately only one of five nominees is a real gem.

The total list of 53 entries contained several great albums, for example Busy Signal’s Reggae Music Again, Courtney John’s From Letters To Words, I Octane’s Crying to the Nation, Konshens’ Mental Maintenance, Singing Melody’s They Call Me Mr. Melody and Jimmy Cliff’s Rebirth. The only one that made to the final round was Rebirth.

But there is good news. Rebirth is by far the strongest nominee. It’s accompanied by The Original Wailers’ Miracle, Sean Paul’s Tomahawk Technique, Sly & Robbie & The Ram Masters’ New Legend and Toots Hibbert’s Unplugged At Strawberry Hill.

Rebirth is Jimmy Cliff’s strongest album since his heydays in the 60’s and 70’s and if there’s any justice in the world and the jury knows anything about reggae music; it will be a landslide victory for Jimmy Cliff.

The winners of the 55th Grammy Award will be presented on February 10, 2013.

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Toots Hibbert boards the acoustic train

Over the past months Tarrus Riley and Clinton Fearon have put out acoustic albums and Richie Spice has announced he has one on the stove as well.

Now they’re joined by iconic gritty soulful reggae singer Toots Hibbert. His first ever acoustic set Unplugged on Strawberry Hill dropped on August 6 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Jamaican Independence Day.

The Grammy award-winning Toots Hibbert has recorded some immortal reggae, ska and rocksteady tunes, and some of these are now re-done with sparse laid-back rock arrangements using only acoustic guitar, bass, percussion and vocals – Toots Hibbert on lead and his two daughters on back-up.

Unplugged on Strawberry Hill was recorded at Chris Blackwell’s sun kissed property in Jamaica and includes twelve tracks mostly covering the 60’s and 70’s with gems such as 54-46 and Funky Kingston as well as Pressure Drop and Sweet and Dandy, also included on the classic soundtrack to the cult motion picture The Harder They Come.

Toots’ bruised singing is as memorable as ever and is luckily enough given plenty of space to present these songs in a fresh context.

The album also includes the bonus DVD documentary Reggae Got Soul, containing rare live footage from Toots’ performance at Rockpalast in 1981, interviews with other artists and liner notes contributed by modeling singer Grace Jones.

Below you can check an edited version of the documentary featuring Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Willie Nelson along with Toots himself.

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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
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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Reggaemanis årskrönika – så mycket musik, så lite tid

För knappt en månad sedan skrev Jamaican Gleaner om den allt sämre försäljningen av reggaealbum. Tidningen refererar till en undersökning som visar bistra försäljningssiffror för reggaeskivor i USA under årets tio första månader. Sean Pauls Imperial Blaze har exempelvis sålt i strax över 70 000 exemplar, att jämföra med över tre miljoner för hans förra platta The Trinity.

Samma tidskrift citerar två veckor senare Randy Chin, marknadschef på VP Records. Han menar att skivor via digital nedladdning säljer bra, men motsvarar inte minskningen av antalet sålda cd-skivor.

Bilden av marknaden för reggaealbum verkar alltså dystrare än någonsin, i alla fall om man endast kikar på försäljningssiffror.

Samtidigt har lagliga nedladdningssajter som iTunes och eMusic möjliggjort att enskilda artister utan världstäckande distributionskanaler kan sprida sin musik. Sociala communityn Myspace och musiktjänsten Spotify har också gjort underverk för mindre artister att nå stora målgrupper.

Personligen omfamnar jag de nya distributionskanalerna. Jag har aldrig tidigare upptäckt så mycket ny musik som jag gjort under 2009. Men jag har märkt att det produceras många dåliga riddims som voicas av etablerade artister. Ta exempelvis Lutan Fyah som under 2009 släppt hela fyra fullängdare – African Be Proud, Justice, Music och The King’s Son – samt medverkat på mängder av riddim-plattor.

Reggaen har ända sedan begynnelsen på 60-talet präglats av osannolikt hög utgivningstakt, och inget tyder några förändringar på den punkten. Tipset är helt enkelt att provlyssna så mycket det går och lyssna på initierade källor som lyckas hänga med i racet. Källorna tillsammans med skivbolagens A&R-representanter kommer att visa vilken reggae som verkligen håller måttet.

Saxat från året som gått

•    Fajten mellan Vybz Kartel och Mavado är över. I början av december meddelades att de båda lägren slutit fred och att deras verbala fajter nu är ett minne blott.
•    Buju Banton greps i december i Miami med fem kilo kokain. Han riskerar nu 20 års fängelse.
•    I mars rapporterades att Ninjaman åtalats för mord, anstiftan till mord och olaga vapeninnehav.
•    Wycliffe ”Steely” Johnson avled tidigt i höstas. Wycliffe Johnson var ena halvan av duon Steely & Cleevie som medverkat på otaliga reggaemästerverk.

Tre förhoppningar inför 2010
•    Att auto-tune missbruket kriminaliseras.
•    Att Toots & The Maytals kommer till Uppsala Reggae Festival.
•    Fler vägvisare till den bästa reggaen, exempelvis bloggar, forum och communities som hjälper till att sålla bort bruset och hitta guldkornen.

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Mannen bakom Toots & The Maytals har avlidit

Jamaican Gleaner skriver att producenten och managern Warwick Lyn avlidit i sviterna av bland annat prostatacancer.

Warwick Lyn var mannen i kulisserna. Han var aldrig en särskilt synlig person, trots att han arbetade tillsammans med stjärnproducenter som Leslie Kong och Tommy Cowan.

Funky KingstonMen många har säkert Warwick Lyn att tacka för mycket. Bland annat Toots & The Maytals, som hade honom bakom spakarna på klassiska skivorna Funky Kingston från 1973 och Reggae got soul från 1976. Många har säkert hört Louie Louie och Pomps and pride samt titelspåret från Funky Kingston. Buju Bantons senaste albums parafras till Reggae got soul skvallrar om den skivans status.

Samarbetet med Tommy Cowan bör också ha varit framgångsrikt. Tillsammans arbetade de i Tommy Cowans managementbolag Talent Corporation. I stallet fanns några av 70-talets storstjärnor, bland annat John Holt och Inner Circle.

Warwick Lyn har inte varit aktiv i skivindustrin sedan 80-talet. Men det är ändå tråkigt när en person som arbetat med att lyfta fram och producera reggae ända sedan 60-talet avlider.

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