Congos make it official

Congos make it official

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Monday, November 25, 2019

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Officially, The Congos are not nominated for a 2020 Grammy Award. Yet, Ashanti Roy, singer and co-founder of the roots-reggae group, says contributing to The Final Battle: Sly and Robbie vs Roots Radics is enough recognition.

That album, produced by Argentinian Hernon Sforzini, is one of five nominees for Best Reggae Album. It contains 12 songs by veteran roots artistes backed by Sly and Robbie's Taxi Gang and the Roots Radics band.

“Mi feel great, is one of our greatest wishes (to be nominated for a Grammy). Wi work wid people like Sly and Robbie an' Roots Radics fi years, so is a family thing wid all of us,” Ashanti Roy told the Jamaica Observer.

The Taxi Gang and Roots Radics played on Things Must Get Better, The Congos' contribution to 'The Final Battle', which was released in April by Sforzini's label, Serious Reggae. It also includes songs from Michael Rose, Horace Andy, Lee “Scratch” Perry, The Mighty Diamonds, Toots And The Maytals, Luciano, and Freddie McGregor.

Ironically, Perry produced The Congos' best known work, Heart of The Congos, an outstanding album released in 1977. Perry has won the Best Reggae Album category once as an artiste.

Sforzini, 45, said he first listened to Heart of The Congos as a 20-year-old. The seeds for The Final Battle were planted at Ashanti Roy's recording studio in Christian Pen, Gregory Park last year.

Ashanti Roy (real name Roydel Johnson) and Cedric Myton founded The Congos in the mid-1970s. Their 1977 sessions with Perry at his famed Black Ark studio in Kingston resulted in Heart of The Congos which was released by Island Records.

One of the harmony singers on the album was Watty Burnett, who became an official member shortly after its release. Along with Kenroy Ffyffe, another long-time member, The Congos tour often; they recently completed a five-week tour of Europe and leave this week for three shows in Brazil.

The Hanover-born Ashanti Roy credits a unique sound for their endurance.

“Cedric is soprano, I man is tenor an' Watty is bass an' baritone. Di only group come close to dat is The Abyssinans…people all over di world love it,” he said.

Morning Star, The Congos' last album, was released in 2018 by Belgian company Lost Ark Music/Pura Vida.
Rapture by Koffee, As I Am (Julian Marley), Mass Manipulation (Steel Pulse) and Third World's More Work to be Done are also contenders for Best Reggae Album at the Grammy Awards which will be held January 26 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

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