Roots, rock reggae!

Howard Campbell

Friday, October 05, 2012

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BOB Marley was still reggae's standard-bearer internationally at the dawn of the 1990s, but the brand of roots-reggae he helped patent in the 1970s had taken a backseat to raunchy artistes like Shabba Ranks and Ninja Man.

Slackness, as it was called, dominated dancehall throughout the 1980s and spilled over into the new decade. In 1993, a new wave of roots-reggae acts emerged from central Jamaica, led by deejay Tony Rebel and singer Garnet Silk from Manchester, and dub poet Yasus Afari.

Songs like I Can See Clearly Now (by Silk and Afari) and Rebel's Fresh Vegetable, signalled a roots renaissance and influenced a new day for message performers like Everton Blender, Kulcha Knox and Luciano.

Artistes who had made a name with bawdy songs, like Capleton and Buju Banton, also embraced Rastafari. The latter's 1995 album, 'Til Shiloh, is arguably the decade's best album and ranks among the finest in the annals of reggae.

Bridgett Anderson managed several roots acts including Silk, who died tragically in a fire at his mother's Manchester home in December 1994. She credits the resurgence of Rasta in dancehall for restoring stability, not only to Jamaica music, but society.

"It brought some civility and sobriety to the whole nation, I am sure the crime and everything was down at that time," Anderson told Splash. "With the advent of people like Garnet and Everton Blender, it affected the whole energy in Jamaica."

The roots revival peaked in the late-1990s when record companies, particularly in the United States, showed a bias to more flamboyant acts like Beenie Man and Shaggy. But for a period in the decade, it seemed like the 1970s all over again.




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