Still a Youth at heart

Observer senior writer

Thursday, December 27, 2018

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A standard-bearer for the roots-reggae explosion of the 1970s, Big Youth is still sought by show promoters around the world. But don't call him an oldies artiste.

“Mi nuh join dat, yuh nuh — dem oldies ting. People want mi pon di show dem 'cause mi bring a certain vibes,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

The evergreen deejay plans to bring more of those “vibes” on January 5 to Lloyd Parks and We The People Band's 44th anniversary show at Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre.

This has been a relatively quiet year for the 69-year-old toaster. He said it was time for a break from the road after a hectic 2017 when he toured Europe, playing major festivals such as Rototom Sunsplash in Spain and Ostroda in Poland.

“Yuh haffi tek a likkle break an' mek di people long fi si yuh. Yuh cyaan prostitute yuh talent, yuh get mi?”

Big Youth was on the road a bit this year. He performed in Brazil as part of the Rockers 40th anniversary tour and did spot dates in the United States.

On each show, he performs the songs that made him a force during the 1970s, including I Pray Thee, S90 Skank, Hit The Road Jack, and Every Nigger Is A Star. His animated act has made him popular with fans whose parents grew up listening to those songs.

“Is a professional thing, an' yuh haffi study di system. Is like a powerful element from di Almighty mek I shine,” he said.

Originally from Rae Town in central Kingston, Big Youth (given name Manley Buchanan) grew up in west Kingston listening to the rap of pioneer deejays like Count Matchukie and U Roy. In 1971 he recorded Moving Man, his first song, which was produced by Gregory Isaacs for the fledgling African Museum label.

The following year, Big Youth hit the charts for the first time with S90 Skank, produced by Keith Hudson. I Pray Thee, one of the songs on the Sata Massagana beat, followed.

Big Youth credits the power of those songs and Rasta message of the 1970s for keeping him and his contemporaries active on the live show circuit. He believes those vital ingredients are missing from contemporary reggae.

“Di foreigner dem tek over di music 'cause inna Jamaica wi get lazy an' start mek beats. People don't mek music nuh more, dem mek beats,” he charged.

A new album and return to the European tour scene are on the cards for Big Youth in 2019.

On next week's show, he shares the bill with U Roy, Tinga Stewart, George Nooks, Richie Stephens, Stitchie, Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, Ken Boothe, The Mighty Diamonds, Judy Mowatt, Gem Myers, Luciano, Pinchers, and Little John.

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