Thursday, February 24, 2011

Old Stuff Friday Reggae: Dancehall Days

In one sense, nearly all reggae (and its ska and rocksteady predecessors) was intended for the dancehalls. However, "dancehall" also is used to designate the reggae style that emerged in the late '70s and lasted into the mid '80s. This music was more likely than the early to mid 80s reggae to have secular themes and it emphasized pure rhythm. Unlike Bob Marley's socially conscious crossover reggae, this wasn't music that cared about gaining international converts. This was music to make the island move, sing, and make love. In fact, in the last few years of his life and career, Marley's music was a bit out of fashion in his homeland.

Here is Barrington Levy in his herb-promoting "Under Mi Sensi", produced by Jah Screw.

Levy had a massive dancehall hit with with a beefed up version of the same rhythm in "Here I Come", where he declared that he was 'broader than Broadway'.

The irrepressible Lone Ranger recorded "Love Bump" for Studio One.

The bluest man in the dancehall, General Echo sings his song "Bathroom Sex" off of his album 12" of Pleasure. And the General on "This is a Lover's Corner:

A dancehall man even made Top of the Pops -- the late Sugar Minott with "Good Thing Going".

Many of the rhythms (in reggae terminology, that refers to the instrumentation, melody and sometimes some of the lyrics) often were recycled from rocksteady hits of the '60s. Other rhythms were composed for the original dancehall record, but used by the same artist or different artists for later recordings. One example of the latter rhythms was the "Hard Drugs" rhythm. A radio DJ here in Seattle once played a set lasting about 40 minutes of songs based on the Hard Drugs rhythm. Below is the original recording by the dancehall artist called the Cool Ruler, Gregory Isaacs:

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