photo manipulation by nacrowe
the title a reference to a former BRIXTON sound-system enjoyed long ago by JAMAICAN WINDRUSH GENERATION immigrants, SUPERSTONIC SOUND: THE REBEL DREAD (3FILMGROUP, 2010) is a film about famed director and PUNK ROCK icon DON LETTS and the CULTURAL and PERSONAL HISTORY of BASS over three generations of his family in BRITAIN. its an interesting topic criminally overlooked, especially since, as DON states, "bass is JAMAICA's gift to the planet."
the film is a dialogue of sorts with his son JET, who is an upcoming DUBSTEP producer, which interestingly continues a family legacy that was started with DON's father ST LEGER who set up a small sound-system on the steps of a church after service. in a sense, this intermingling of RELIGION and MUSIC was what got that first generation of immigrants through ECONOMIC, POLITICAL and CULTURAL racism from a new home country that rejected them.
what i found interesting about the film was the interplay between ROOTS REGGAE and the beginnings of BRITISH PUNK ROCK in the late 1970s and how such carried over to NYC HIP HOP in the early 1980s. the through-line between such seems obvious in retrospect (REBELLION, PERSONAL FREEDOM, UNINHIBITED CREATIVE EXPRESSION), but the seeming recognition and collective interest of such at the time by active participants in each scene is pretty remarkable. it also provides an explanation for the formation of BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE (of which DON co-fronted), which was a band i never completely understood after being raised on THE CLASH.
i also found it remarkable how levelheaded JET was about the legacy of his father, how he doesnt feel a need to live up to some outside expectation, but nonetheless appreciates to learn what he can from him. and his father in return sees value in his evolution and appreciation for the use of BASS in his music. it is pretty remarkable.
of course this film was recorded long before the catastrophe of BREXIT and the UNITED KINGDOM's fall back into state-sanctioned RACISM and rampant XENOPHOBIA that led the way for TRUMP and globally ascendent authoritarians worldwide. i can only imagine what this film would look and sound like just 6 years later. my sense is that a common love of BASS would nourish that family's soul and provide a respite just as it did during the post-WORLD WAR II period with the WINDRUSH GENERATION. scary to think about.
parodies by nacrowe
join us tonight at 8PM EST for an all new episode of DEER GOD RADIO on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC as we explore the politics, history and music of ROOTS REGGAE. gonna be a fun show.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
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photo manipulation by nacrowe
hosted by BRITISH rapper and poet AKALA, ROOTS, REGGAE, REBELLION (BBC, 2016) is a welcome introductory documentary about the political and religious history of the RASTAFARI movement and its influence on ROOTS REGGAE music and identity of JAMAICANS both home and abroad.
much like the AMERICAN SOUTH, the CARIBBEAN island of JAMAICA was heavily involved with the MIDDLE PASSAGE to satiate its plantations when it was SPANISH and later a BRITISH colony. slaves on plantations were treated cruelly and made to adopt the religion of their oppressor, CHRISTIANITY. the RASTAFARI movement can be seen historically as a means of the local population rebuilding a culture that had been stripped of them by their BRITISH colonial oppressors. a means of connecting with their AFRICAN past and celebrating their heritage and owning their own identity. obviously this put them in opposition to powers that be, before and after gaining independence from the UNITED KINGDOM in 1962. the music that rose from this counter culture promoted empowering ideals of PAN-AFRICANISM, peace, self-sufficiency and liberation.
and for me that is the legacy of ROOTS REGGAE music, its ability to empower the listener. being a BRITISH documentary, it expands the influence of ROOTS REGGAE to the DIASPORA of immigrants in BRITAIN in the 1960s and 1970s and how it helped provided a sense of identity and unity to a disenfranchised community that bore the brunt of systematic racist practices and routine brutality at the hands of the police, not to mention the rise of the NATIONAL FRONT. ROOTS REGGAE galvanized this population, as well as strange allies in the concurrent PUNK ROCK movement, to fight oppression and seek strength in their community. I and I indeed. at its core, ROOTS REGGAE by definition is subversive, which most people forget.
one other compelling feature of this documentary was a brief interview with SLY & ROBBIE, the production dup and legendary rhythm section that worked with PETER TOSH and BURNING SPEAR among many others. they basically breakdown the difference between the basic percussion and bass patterns common in SKA, ROCKSTEADY and REGGAE. essentially SKA and ROCKSTEADY have a similar groove that is heavily accented with a high-hat on an off beat. SKA has a relatively fast tempo and ROCKSTEADY is pulled way back. they are very similar and focused compositionally around the drums. REGGAE on the other hand is wholly based structurally around bass parts with the drums following it. its an entirely different animal structurally and has a very different effect. its one thing to write about it, but this documentary has the duo actually play them.
touches like this make this a great introductory film for the layman unfamiliar with this incredible genre of music that shows the enduring power of music from the AFRICAN DIASPORA. a great entry point to a bigger conversation about global culture and the power of music. all from this small island nation. incredible.