Monday, 24 June 2019

Trojan Presents Ragga - 40 Modern Dancehall Classics


Ragga was a largely electronically-instrumented, often digitally-programmed sub-style of dancehall reggae dating from the mid-eighties, but largely dominating the nineties and a lot of its influence carrying on into the 2000s. Its beat is largely deep, bassy and metronomic and its vocal style is a variation of the "toasting" style of reggae/rap - DJs speaking, gruffly growling lyrics over the beat. As opposed to the roots toasting of the late seventies, popularised by such as Prince Far I, U-Roy and Big Youth the lyrics were not those of righteous Rastafarian devotion, but of "slackness" (full of sexual references). However, many of the carried considerable social comment, such as Ini Kamoze's Call The Police from this compilation. There is still praise of marijuana  as well, as in Sugar Minott's catchy Herbman Hustling.

As I have mentioned in other reviews, ragga is not my favourite reggae sub-genre, I prefer classic reggae, roots, dub, lovers rock, skinhead ("boss"), ska and rock steady over ragga, but, that said, I find this a far more accessible collection that I may have initially imagined. The sound quality is excellent, particularly considering the thumping, bass-heavy nature of the material. It is a full, warm sound, but not a completely speaker-vibrating one. The music, as I said earlier, is driven by big, programmed beats but often it still finds time for horn breaks, such as on the captivating groove of Culture's Capture Rasta, which sees the legendary, iconic roots band from the late seventies trying their hand at the new style. Yes, the beat is that of the ragga genre, but Culture's great vocals and musical innovation enhances the track further. Dennis Brown with The Exit and Black Uhuru's Fit You Haffi Fit are two other examples of artists from the roots period adapting their music accordingly. Admittedly, Black Uhuru had always tinkered with these sort of rhythms in the early eighties.

Mr. Consular is a highly addictive and wry number about getting visas from Home T-4 & Yellowman. Ragga is not about pounding beats and incomprehensible lyrics. A lot of the instinctive melody from lovers rock and dancehall has found its way here, such as on the Dennis Brown track. Artists who had recorded lovers rock material like Barrington Levy contribute here too, with the light and breezy Don't Throw It all Away.

Old timers like Tinga Stewart and Junior Delgado, (pictured) who cut their teeth in the mid-seventies appear here with their semi-cover of The Drifters' Save The Last Dance For Me and the hard-hitting, rootsy Hanging Tree and the sumptuous political vibe of Ragga-Muffin Year respectively. Sophia George, best known for her Girlie Girlie hit single, gives us the rapping of Lazy Body and the groovy Tenement Yard. Admiral Bailey's Big Belly Man surely influenced a lot of Big Audio Dynamite's output from the same period, particularly The Battle Of All Saints Road. Tenor Saw's Pumpkin Belly is vibrant and bassy. Sanchez's Baby Can I Hold You Tonight is a cover of the Tracy Chapman song. 

There are many highlights in this excellent addition to Trojan's series showcasing the different sub-genres of reggae. I have had this CD for years and initially, I probably didn't give it the attention it deserved, as I was taking my time getting into ragga, sticking to my roots and the like. However, as the years have progressed and the ragga genre has become deeper and more hardcore, these earlier examples of of the genre (from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties) are actually very appealing. Just listen to Nitty Gritty's poppy Sweet Reggae Music and Half Pint's light, summery Night Life Lady as examples of what I mean. This collection is a refreshing, lively listen. Recommended.


1. Rub-A-Dub-Soldier - Paul Black & The Blood Fire Posse
2. Call The Police - Ini Kamoze
3. Herbman Hustling - Sugar Minott
4. Capture Rasta - Culture
5. Mr. Consular - Home T-4 & Yellowman
6. The Exit - Dennis Brown
7. Lazy Body - Sophia George
8. Sweet Reggae Music - Nitty Gritty
9. Ragga-Muffin Year - Junior Delgado
10. Pirate - Ini Kamoze
11. Computer Knife And Fork - Nicodemus
12. Fit Yu Haffi Fit - Black Uhuru
13. Night Life Lady - Half Pint
14. Tenement Yard - Sophia George
15. Big Belly Man - Admiral Bailey
16. Slim Belly Man - Tonto Irie
17. Mek Dem Come - Nitty Gritty
18. No Wanga Gut - Tanga & Admiral Bailey               
19. Mass Out - Pinchers
20. You Never Know - Delroy Williams
21. Type Of Loving - Horace Martin & Tiger
22. Save The Last Dance For Me - Tinga Stewart & Ninjaman
23. Distant Lover - Cultural Roots
24. Solomon Style - Josie Wales
25. Big And Bad - Papa San
26. Pumpkin Belly - Tenor Saw
27. Hanging Tree - Junior Delgado
28. Bam Bam - Tiger
29. Zig It Up - Ninjaman & Flourgon
30. Baby Can I Hold You Tonight - Sanchez
31. Gun In A Baggy - Little Lenny
32. Musical Murder - Sugar Minott
33. Unno Fi Move - Shabba Ranks
34. Murder She Wrote - Chaka Demus & Pliers
35. Don't Throw It All Away - Barrington Levy
36. You're The Only One I Need - Eek-A-Mouse
37. Bogle Dance - Buju Banton
38. Tease Me - Chaka Demus & Pliers
39. Three Against War - Bennie Man, Dennis Brown & Triston Palmer
40. Slam - Beenie Man

Pictured is Tinga Stewart.


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