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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Conscious reggae is not dead

...well as far as Third World bassist Ritchie Daley is concerned
By Andrew Mulenga
Third World bass guitarist Ritchie Daley at
the Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Peace, love and harmony. Key ingredients in reggae music’s lyrics that alongside with socio-political topics, black nationalism, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, criticism of political systems and "Babylon" have inspired generations of listeners to be socially conscious.
For decades, generations have woken up to inspirational lyrics by the likes of reggae greats Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, to literally “get up stand up, stand up for your right”.
But in recent times, one might argue that reggae music has lost the plot. Particularly in its increasingly popular sub-genre of “Dancehall Reggae”. Like hip-hop, Dancehall lyrics are causing some controversy with alleged exploitation of women promotion of gun violence, the glorification street life, strippers and cars. Chart toppers such as Vybz Kartel and rival Mavado (Jamaica) with their raw, edgy lyrics are seen to be influencing youth towards disrespect for authority and a life of violence.
Perhaps the most controversial issue surrounding dancehall reggae has been lyrics viewed as extremely homophobic. In the 90s dancehall heavyweight Buju Banton’s song “Boom Bye-Bye”, advocated the shooting of gay men. As luck would have it, the sing became a hit with urban youth around the world who were dancing to the catchy beat in clubs but did not understand the lyrics.
A decade later, Jamaican group, TOK (Touch of Klass), released “Chi Chi Man”. A song that went to number one on the UK Reggae charts. Gay and lesbian groups were later outraged that lyrics implied that people should burn gay men alive.
But, as dancehall, songs continue to produce provocative and sexually explicit music videos and contain lyrics that contain “Daggering” a dancehall term that refers to songs that promote sexual acts. But for the conscious reggae aficionado, there is hope still.
Ritchie Daley, bass guitarist for the legendary reggae band Third World of "Now That We Found Love and 96° in the Shade fame argues that conscious reggae is still alive. Third World were in Cape Town, South Africa for the 13th Cape Town International Jazz Festival
When posed with the question “is conscious reggae dead?” at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town last Saturday, he maintained that consciousness still exists in reggae music and he briefly highlighted the challenges it faces.
“No, conscious reggae is not dead. With the young people, there is still a cry for it amongst them, you know. There is a cry for a conscious message. True they listen to a lot of dancehall music but there are a whole lot of young musicians trying to deliver conscious reggae music,” explains Daley who has been playing bass for the band since 1973, “But, it is getting harder for them to play it on radio, funny enough. Because of the people who have the authority to select music for the radio, and this is killing, suppressing conscious reggae music.”
When asked whom he sees as the leading artists in the younger generation of conscious reggae acts, Daley replies; “Obviously there are quite a number of younger artistes out there with a positive message, but I would say top of the list is Damian “Junior Gong” Marley and Tarrus Riley”.
Both artistes are sons of reggae legends, Bob Marley and Jimmy Riley respectively, and they both feature on Third World’s 37th Anniversary album Patriot along with other reggae royalty Gregory Isaacs, Toots, Marcia Griffiths and legendary Jamaican saxophonist Dean Fraser.
Daley performed at the jazz fest in cape town with band mates William ‘Bunny Rugs’ Clarke (vocals), Stephen Cat’ Coor’(guitar), Lenworth ‘Ruption’ Williams, Norris Webb and Maurice Gregory on keyboards last saturday. The band has been together for almost 40 years and has become known and celebrated as ambassadors of peace and goodwill to which the hold a peace award from the UN.

Ritchie Daley with Andrew Mulenga at the
13th Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Andrew Mulenga with  Maurice Gregory (Keyboards)
and Lenworth 'Ruption' Williams (Drums) from Third World

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