Friday, 19 April 2019

The Abyssinians - Satta Massagana (1976)

Declaration of rights....


Released in 1976

This was the debut album from The Abyssinians, and is up there as one of the most crucial roots reggae albums. Like other roots groups The Mighty Diamonds, The Gladiators and Israel Vibration, The Abyssinians managed to mix a devout Rastafarian message with some absolutely sumptuous, tuneful, catchy reggae. They had excellent vocal harmonies and a lightness of sound that was really infectious. Whereas the "toasters", DJs like Big Youth, Prince Far I, Tappa Zukie, I-Roy and U-Roy often croaked out their devotions fervently over a deep dub beat, groups like The Abyssinians delivered their Rasta paeans in a completely different, lively and energising manner. There were other roots groups like Burning Spear and Black Uhuru who were also much deeper in their sound.

Although the pace of the songs remains constant throughout the album it doesn't really matter, its subtle, serene grooves offer a relaxing, seductive listen.


1. Declaration Of Rights
2. The Good Lord
3. Forward On To Zion
4. Know Jah Today
5. Abendigo
6. Yimasgan
7. Black Man Strain
8. I And I
9. African Race
10. Satta Massagana                            

"Declaration Of Rights" is deliciously laid-back, breezy and melodic, with a lovely organ sound backing it. "The Good Lord" features some mystical-sounding flute which gives it a slightly different feel, despite the same pace beat that all the album has. "Forward On To Zion" has that cool, light Third World-style sound that is just so appealing. It features some excellent saxophone too, relatively unusual for a roots song. "Know Jah Today" is very Bob Marley & Wailers influenced, particularly in its backing vocals.

"Abendigo" features some vibrant horns over a mid-pace skanking backing. "Yimasgan" has some funky, electric-sounding keyboards. Reggae does this. It relies on subtle changes from track to track, while the foundation riddim remains unchanged. Saxophone, horns, organ - all these offer slight differences to the songs they appear on. "Black Man Strain" has a hard-hitting message to convey, and it does so over an intoxicating roots rhythm that draws you in.

"I And I" has a lovely falsetto vocal, while "African Race", after a gentle introduction, gets into a winning, gentle groove. The title track, "Satta Massagana" has gone down in critical history as one of the archetypal examples of devout Rasta roots reggae and will be included in a lot of compilations and playlists. This is an essential album for any collection that wants to include something from the early years of the roots reggae boom.

The extra tracks on this "original Jamaican mix" release are excellent, including the single and several impressive, rhythmic dub versions.


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