Kahlil Wonda on ‘The Finest Years’ of Reggae Music

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The period beginning in the 1960′s on up through the 1980′s is what I refer to as The Finest Years of reggae music.  I sometimes include also the 1990′s.  The Finest Years includes many styles of the genre, from very grass-roots productions such as those of Studio One in Jamaica and Treasure Isle in the UK to the computerized creations of Jammy’s and Digital B in the 80′s and early 90′s.  These are some of my favorite selections as a consumer and Disc Jockey alike.  I pride myself as a collector and will never, ever, ever part with my musical treasure – original 12″, 10″, and 7″ records.

The Finest Years - classic reggae mix CD cover
The Finest Years – classic reggae mix CD cover

Click the Image to Download.

Although I don’t think its my very best mixing, this 100% vinyl mix is well selected and flows nicely from start to finish with some very nice transitions from song to song.  The sound quality is very good considering the age of some of the records being played, although I think the sound effects are sometimes too loud, especially for the type of songs being played.

The Finest Years - classic reggae mix CD cover
The Finest Years – classic reggae mix CD cover

The Finest Years mix begins with Ken Boothe’s ‘Everything I Own,’ which I use at the beginning to immediately set the tone. The first blend brings in Alton Ellis singing ‘I’m Just A Guy’ on the Studio One label. At this point you can really hear some hissing and popping from the needle travelling along the grooves of the original 45 (7″ record played at 45rpms). ‘Love and Devotion’ sung by Jimmy Riley (Tarrus Riley’s father for those who don’t know) is next followed by Eek A Mouse’s ‘Virgin Girl,’ a Volcano recording.

The mix steps up pace just a bit now as I draw for “I’m Still in Love” sung by Marcia Aitken and produced by the legendary Joe Gibbs. This tune was made popular recently by Sean Paul and Sasha. For all dub lovers I feature Studio One’s Ken Booth 45 of ‘When I Fall In Dub,’ (look for more dub featured on mixes coming soon). One good Studio One deserves another so another blend begins and The Heptones sing ‘Pretty Looks’ for us. Next is the first song from Dennis Emmanuel Brown, The Crown Prince of Reggae, ‘Sitting and Watching,’ followed by the Empress of Reggae, Marcia Griffiths with ‘Feel Like Jumping.’

The mix then goes into a vintage classic, ‘Loving Pauper,’ by Dobby Dobson. I remember drawing tunes like this in the early days of Highlanda to the surprise and praise of the elders in the community who asked “is how you know dem tune ya?” The Heptones’ ‘Sitting In the Park’ mixes in right on beat and ushers in more nostalgia before again the voice of Mr. D. Brown is featured with ‘Have You Ever.’ I had to let this one play for a while before transitioning smoothly into ‘I’ve Got The Handle,’ another Heptones Studio One classic, then Freddie McGregor’s version of ‘Let Him Try.’

The blend that follows is crucial as it brings across to your speakers the voices of Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths with ‘Always Together,’ a lover’s anthem recorded at Studio One. I had to feature some Bob Marley so the next blend is into ‘Nice Time,’ original Tuff Gong 45 and from there back to Studio One with Alton Ellis ‘Breaking Up.’ To keep things interesting next up is ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’ by Freddie McGregor and ‘Missing You’ by Dennis Brown, (This Dennis Brown version was recorded at Don 1 studios in Brooklyn, New York) and Cocoa Tea‘s ‘Tune In’ on the Far East riddim. Volcano label 45 ‘Rocking Dolly‘ also by Cocoa Tea blends in smoothly next followed by another Cocoa Tea hit ‘She Loves Me Now.’

For many what follows is the sweetest part of The Finest Years mix. 6 Dennis Browns in a row blended masterfully starting with the Joe Gibbs dub version of ‘Money In My Pocket’ and moving into the original version, then ‘Silhoutte,’ ‘Take It Easy,’ ‘Caress Me Girl,’ ‘How Could I Leave,’ and ‘Rocking Time.’ Thank you D. Brown, we love you!

The next 4 songs are from Studio One: ‘Party Time’ by the Heptones, ‘Truly,’ by Marcia Griffiths, ‘Play Play Girl,’ by Johnny Osborne, and ‘Fatty Fatty,’ by Alton Ellis. Then an all-time favorite of mine ‘Friends for Life,’ is performed by Dennis Brown followed by The Melodians with ‘Come On Little Girl,’ and Cornell Campbell with ‘Boxing,’ another Joe Gibbs masterpiece. Featuring one more Freddie McGregor, the mix transitions into ‘I Was Born A Winner,’ and serious rockers tune ‘Keep On Knocking’ by Jacob Miller. The Finest Years closes out with Gregory Issacs‘s ‘Number One,’ and the classic ballad by Junior Byles, ‘Curley Lox.’

Thank you for reading and more importantly thank you for listening. The purpose of this blog post is for the education of those who seek to learn more about this powerful force, this divine gift of reggae.

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The Empress

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I would like to big up all the aspiring artists out there. My last blog topic, Girl Power got the attention of many female artists currently making their own mark in the industry and I think its great. Thanks for reading the blog. Even though the road may be rough and rugged, in the words of Tupac Shakur,

“…keep your head up.”

For the record, my favorite singer in reggae is Marcia Griffiths. She is credited with the mega hit “Electric Boogie,” by far one of the biggest, most recognizable tunes in the history of the world. In fact its one of the earliest dancing tunes I remember to have come out of Jamaica. Known as the Empress of Reggae Music, Marcia was one of the I-Threes, who sang harmonies alongside Bob Marley and the Wailers. Of her material I most enjoy the solo work she did for the legendary Studio One label. Marcia Griffiths totaled 16 solo albums released, 4 with Bob Marley, and 2 with the I-Threes in a career spanning over 30 years of performing. She is still featured on tour alongside Beres Hammond.

That is what I call inspiration for all the young ladies out here striving to make a dream come through. Personally I like to play female artists whether at a live gig or putting down a studio mix even though many DJs ignore those selections as a whole. Big up DJ Pauze from Shock Out Radio out of the UK everytime. He has a slew of female artists from the UK, and the Caribbean islands that he is promoting. Check out his MySpace dedicated to promoting his female artists.

Girl Power – 7 Women Carrying the Reggae Banner

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The results of the Highlanda.net survey on new female reggae artists are in…

Several female voices have come out of Jamaica in the last few years who are looking to one day be mentioned amongst the likes of dancehall veterans like Marcia Griffiths, Nadine Sutherland, Lady Saw, Tanya Stephens and others.  Who is your favorite FEMALE reggae artist on the scene right now?

…and the winner was a Jamaican actress and Dancehall/Reggae vocalist, Cherine Anderson with 40% of the votes. Her duet with Chuck Fender entitled Coming Over established itself as an anthem in the dancehall. Download a free mixtape of her music hosted by Rory of Stone Love from her website CherineAnderson.com. Cherine is a young, but accomplished talent. Her films to date include Dancehall Queen and One Love.

In second place was Queen Ifrica, also known as Fyah Muma out of Tony Rebel’s Flames Production camp. Queen is more than just a good entertainer. In her hit song Daddy she tackles the issues of child molestation in the household. Her music is a true inspiration especially to all women and is filled with reality and very timely, conscious messages.

Next we introduce to the world Etana. Etana, which means ‘strong one,’ rejected the words and image of the sexy dancehall genre in favor of a visible lifestyle defined by Rastafari. She has by all evidence, been vindicated in her choices. Etana’s debut single, Wrong Address, struck a resounding chord and is still getting major radio play, while Roots, her next release is climbing similarly.

Also weighing in was the young Jamaican idol and Universal Motown recording artist Tami Chynn. A pop princess who emerged from one of the grittiest, male dominated music scenes, Jamaica’s dancehall. “My influences are very eclectic. If you browsed my iPod you’d get confused, but it all works really,” says Tami. Her new single Frozen featuring Akon is the title track of her new album in stores now.

All these artists are a big wave in the tsunami of talent coming out of the Caribbean. Other upcoming stars in the business to keep an eye on:

Tessanne Chin
Alaine
Mischu Laikah

Slanted Reality and Dancehall

I find that the music coming out of Jamaica over recent years has been overwhelmingly violent with very lude lyrical content. This, among other factors which I will discuss here, I feel has left many fans totally disenfranchised. Some say it is due to the violence encountered in everyday life in parts of Jamaica. This I understand, however with that being said, wouldn’t it serve society better to deliver messages about peace, or just non-gun related topics? My question assumes that there are artists whose purpose it is to serve humanity. Perhaps this is not realistic.

There are Jamaican arists today, such as Luciano and others for example, who in every way represent the messages of truth, rights, roots and culture, and who bring strong, thought provoking lyrical content as opposed to just “Pop.” Popular culture in Jamaican Dancehall now includes:
men in tight pants dancing with each other while ladies are left alone (strange in a place where alternative lifestyles are taboo and frowned upon), songs with lyrics that intricately describe guns and scenes of shoot outs and even torture, and of course the extremely simple dancing tunes ala Pon the River, Dutty Wine, Nuh Linga, etc. This is all fine and well if done in moderation.

Nowadays in America, many partrons, DJs, selectors, and sound systems are guilty of perpetuating rubbish by following, copying and mimicing whatever they see coming out of Jamaica. Let me explain. The dancehall DVDs, the clips that make it to youtube, and the CDs from dances we access here are edited to only really feature the “hype” part of the dance when the “dancers” are in a frenzy, etc. This means that the same songs get played in the background over and over and over again. These “sound bites” have become dancehall.

Sounds no longer study music or prepare to perform for their audiences. Selectors no longer select. They simply download mp3 that they hear others spinning and run out to be their gigs to be mediocre at best. But you can’t tell them that because the just played alot of Mavado so therefore they ‘done the place?’

For the unoriginal, non-creative average DJ who doesnt know any better, this to them means they MUST play the exact same songs over and over. Not only that, but all the phrases, jokes, stories, and song intros that selectors in JA use are copied and used over and over.
Many of these DJs (so called entertainers) do not realize that in Jamaica most of the dances last until the early morning hours, which means that at points during the night the music varies to enable many different types of reggae music to be featured. Even at Passa Passa many other genres of music get played and get good responses from the crowd too.

The real victim is the partygoer who has spent money and alotted the time to come out and be entertained only to hear the same songs over and over with no introduction of anything new or refreshing and no chance for nostalgic vibes to be conjured up because 40 years of reggae music mega hits are left out and the DJ only plays the new mid to uptempo music (which will stay hot 6 months max.)

I have faith that the times will change and the real will recognize real. The truth is always true and will always come to light. Good will always conquer evil.

Nas – The Greatest Rapper Alive

When I heard what Nas was planning to call his new release initially I though to myself, “I have to hear the entire thing before I formulate an opinion, because ‘Hip Hop is Dead’ was a modern-day classic.”  I had to give Mr. Jones the benefit of the doubt. 

Watch as NAS rocks the Roxy for a free MySpace Release Show for his true fans. Lining up as early as midnight the night before for a chance to see one of the BEST shows MySpace has thrown.

Now to all the critics I can safely say:
(and I welcome you to comment on this whether you agree with me or not)

With the release of the controversial album, Untitled, Nas has stepped up to the plate and delivered once again with an album to top the last.  In doing so he also tops the rest of the Hip Hop world as well.  The Untitled Release is essentially conscious hip hop, which hasn’t been popular since the early 90s with groups like Public Enemy (what happened Flavor Flav…?), X-Clan, and Queen Latifah.  His finest work since he debuted in 1992 with Illmatic, this new album is an essential piece of any true Hip Hop lover’s collection and in my opinion one of the most important records to have come out to date.

Thought provoking debates with social and political commentary are argued with clever word play and a revolutionary tone.  Solid beats accompanied by masterful rhymes that tackle the issues we all face today.  As a connoisseur of reggae music with its universal message I can relate to what Nas is kicking and say the release Untitled is officially TOP RATED.

And a word all artists and those who aspire to reach audiences in the musical arena I encourage you.  Dare to take a stance.  Say something!! Stand for something!!  We are here to teach and to share our divine gifts with the world, not to mislead and waste our freedom of speech.

New Web Presence for Highlanda Sound System

July 23, 2008 (Atlanta, GA) — Highlanda Sound announced
today the launch of www.highlanda.net, its new web portal, which serves to provide top quality musical entertainment and to create innovative forms of expression, while maintaining a deep Caribbean foundation.

“By enabling our customers to choose from an extensive catalog of reggae music online available for free download or streaming over the web, www.highlanda.net strengthens our strategic position in the reggae music entertainment and sound system markets,” according to Crisis Don, Co-Founder of Highlanda. “WWW.HIGHLANDA.NET also follows our demonstrated plan for entertaining the masses, while spreading the culture we love to the world.”

Websites like www.highlanda.net are an important part of the
growing market for reggae and dancehall.  More and more consumers are using the internet to access their favorite artists and musical genres as opposed to buying CDs and Highlanda plans to be a major player in this arena.

Already, Highlanda has earned a reputation for crowd thrilling performances at hundreds of venues.  Now online, the new Highlanda web portal WWW.HIGHLANDA.NET consists of News, Pictures, Mixes/Mixtapes, Live Shows, and more, and will cost $000 to the users.

Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Highlanda’s Guyanese bred members have carved out their niche, and as a world leader in reggae music entertainment encourage you to visit http://www.highlanda.net often.

Contacts: Kahlil Wonda, kahlil@highlanda.net