I remember being 13 years old and tuning into CITR radio which is the local University of British Columbia student station. It was a Saturday and I heard a fantastic deep Jamaican voice introducing these seemingly exotic roots reggae tracks. The voice belonged to George Barrett who has the Rockers Show on that station. I fell in love with the vibes and the rich language in Reggae. George has had the show for over 25 years now and also has a show on Co-op radio for over 30 years. He was born in Bath St Thomas Jamaica and brought his love of Reggae to Canada with him. He is related to Aston Barrett the famous bassist of Bob Marley’s Wailers. Thanks to George for introducing me to such a wonderful music .
Of course I soon discovered Bob Marley and bought all the albums on Vinyl though Kaya remains my favorite. Marley is really almost above the Reggae genre as he is a star in almost every corner of the globe and receives airplay on radio stations that play no other reggae artists. What interested me was the fact that Reggae has many different forms and has influenced so much of the music we listen today.
In the late 1970s Reggae was hitting a high water mark in both quality and influence. In the Bronx Kool Herc ,who was from Jamaica was bringing the concept of a Soundsystem to the projects. He repeated key breaks from old funk records much like Jamaican Selectors used to rewind key tracks for the dancers. The modern hip hop DJ evolved from the soundsystems of Kingston. Even the MC came from the Toasters that spoke over tracks played by those systems.
In London Reggae was heating up with both a vibrant homegrown scene and the strong import of Jamaican sounds. The punks such as Joe Strummer and Johnny Lydon listened to Reggae as it was the music of the streets . 1976 and 1977 produced amazing Reggae albums such as Cultures Two Seven Clash. Punk wouldn’t have evolved without the impetus of reggae. The Clash covered Junior Murvins Police and Thieves and influenced bands such as the Police and the Two Tone Scene which would bring back Ska music for a new generation.
Dance music owes a lot to Dub Reggae where the vocals are dropped out and the bass is moved to the forefront . This presaged remixes and also morphed into Jungle and Drum and Bass. All Bass music such as Dubstep and Moombahton, Reggaeton and Miami Bass stem from the sheer need for huge soundsystems to play Reggae. Dancehall reggae influences many dance styles ( and of course is Jamaican hip-hop). When you hear Skrillex and Damian Marley together you see the future of dance music.
When I was in Maui in 2012 I was amazed to hear reggae all the time on the two top radio stations on the island. They have made reggae a part of their lifestyle and it fits so well with the laid back vibe. I realized that the music really speaks to my soul and the rhythms seemingly help take away any cares. That is not to say that reggae is all sun and sand as the Rastafarian impact on the music has made is a forefront for speaking about oppression and greed. This is a music that can offer the blood and fire of roots to the lighthearted romanticism of Lovers Rock to the slackness of Dancehall.
This is link to my sets on 8 tracks in which I often create Reggae Mixes
How many people remember the mixtape ? It was the granddaddy of all mixes and it was labor intensive. You had to listen to ever track completely through while you made the tape, there was no drag and drop and be done with it. Every track counted and every song came from the original vinyl that you owned.
The first song on the mix tape was so important. to quote Rob in High Fidelity ( played brilliantly by John Cusack
- To me, making a tape is like writing a letter. There’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with “Got to Get You Off My Mind,” but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs and…oh, there are loads of rules.
I made a lot of mixtapes for girls I liked or was dating at the time. This was around 1986-1990 when I was at the University of British Columbia and was a DJ at fraternity parties. Music was a huge part of me and the tapes I made were an attempt to subtly show my feelings through lyrics and song. It helped I had a huge record collection and thank god, good taste. I admit I played my hand too soon with some girls but in general people appreciated a good mixtape.
Not all mix tapes were for getting with the ladies; I had a mix tape exchange with a few friends who also loved music and had a good record collection. I still remember the mixes Patrick gave me over the UBC years . He wasn’t a particularly close friend but he loved the same indie music I did and was willing to make mixes in exchange for mine. There was no You Tube to share songs so a tape with music I didn’t own was a big deal.
I only have a small cassette briefcase ( remember them?) with some cassettes left. They are trader tapes from a Grateful Dead fan of live shows that I found in a thrift store. I am not sure why I am holding onto them as they are not personally made for me but they represent a time when a secret music life existed between fans; no easy to find web sharing site but rather an underground railway of great music.
Lately I have found a music sharing site called 8 tracks that allows members to create mixes for free and share with people everywhere. I have become addicted to creating mixes ( I am a little OCD) that document the different genres I had interest in over the years. The music sometimes comes from my hard drive and sometimes from Soundcloud which allows me to pull tracks from the internet ether. I can create 50 song mixes in as little time as I can think of the tracks and finish it off with a cover art from my photography. This is progress indeed yet the cassette mix tape still was special for the commitment and work involved in every step.
Be well Mark
I love the vibe walking down Main Street in Vancouver or almost any area of Portland Oregon. Those guys and girls in the tight jeans and ironic retro tees are the reason culture continues to evolve and thrive in most cities. The hipster is a figure of ridicule to some as the look is often a bandwagon in which young people want to jump on and be part of the scene. However, the artists, musicians, photographers, small business owners are often the people with too many tattoos and thrift store chic.
In Jack Kerouac’s On The Road , the main protagonist Sal exists in a new world in which all is possible and being an outsider is the key to having the freedom to create and be in the moment. The original hipster evolved out of the Beatnik culture that was created in cities such as New York and San Francisco. The amount of great literature, poetry and music ( both folk and jazz) that was nurtured in the Beat scene was huge and still resonates with us today ( Dylan anyone?).
The culture in a city like Vancouver is often created from the ground up and those so-called Hipsters are the ones making chap books in their living room, creating blogs, having art exhibits , forming bands, brewing beer and generally letting their creative sparks start small fires in the urban landscape.
This week it was announced that the Waldorf Hotel was being turned into Condos with the last day being January 20th. This is a sad fact that an older landmark was renovated and turned into a creative space for bands, recording , cocktail culture and then thrown onto the slag heap of modern living. This old city loses one more space for the expression of creativity.
Give me a independant coffee shop with hipsters parking their single speed bikes that they built themselves , writing in their Macbook or Moleskine over a soulless Starbucks downtown full or corporate suits dreaming of their new Audi.
I used to own over 4000 albums until one fateful day my parents sold them at their garage sale. I was warned about doing something with them as I lived away from home and the records were at my parents house. Of course I did nothing until they were sold for a $100. That memory ranks 3rd in my all time bad list behind my father’s death and my first wife leaving me on Valentines Day.
I still do not own any vinyl to this day as it is an addiction for me that I can’t have in the house. I refuse to buy a new turntable because I know that I will buy records to play on it. So in the days of MP3s and streaming audio why does vinyl still matter to me?
Vinyl matters because it represents a time when recorded music was accorded a sense of respect. People bought a record to hold in their hand and look at the artwork , place carefully on the platter and actually change to listen to the other side. People actually sat and listened to an album rather than multi-task with the computer playing streaming audio. The inner sleeve was often covered with lyrics , photos and credits in a format that was big enough to read unlike the CD or cassette. Records actually sold in numbers to support musicians financially and record stores still could make a profit.
In today’s world all the big chain music shops are gone and only a few local independent shops still exist . A lot of those surviving shops make most of their money off vinyl. Now that online music has decimated CD sales , young people are getting into buying vinyl as a kind of retro hipster thing. I went to Record Store Day in April and almost all the people buying records were under 30. Vinyl will always be cool because it has that tactile thing that CDs never really had. It only takes someone to pick up a record and look at the large cover art to get how records were about the feel and personality. MP3s are great in that they are convenient and take up room but they have zero sensual appeal.
Vinyl even sounds better on a good stereo. It has warmth and depth that a good CD often lacks. Lets not even talk about the quality of MP3s. It took a long time for CDs to improve as the first releases of many big artists were sub par compared to the vinyl version.
I may never own vinyl again but I will always love records for the permanence they represent.
Be Well Mark
Now that all the Xmas CDs are back in their sleeves and asleep till next December, I want some new music to clear out the cobwebs and start the year with a bang.
It happens that Hip-Hop is what’s catching my ear right now.
I’ve been pulling out the Dilated Peoples CDs and some old Tribe Called Quest but what really excites me is the new Underground in Rap. I could care less about bling rap made for the club with autotuned rappers who simply lack MC skills.
Instead I have found myself fascinated by groups that simply don’t care about the traditional signs of being cool in rap: no lambos, no Hennesey Black , no gats and no pretense. Artists like Odd Future, Das Rascist, Danny Brown, Main Attrakionz, Yelawolf, Clams Casino, G-Side, Cities Aviv , and Araabmuzik are doing things their way often on a small budget.