What: Steadfast Truth Tour
When: Friday, July 14
Tickets: Advanced $20
Talking to Junior Reid, the Godfather of modern day dancehall music, about his upcoming show with the Reggae Angels as part of the Steadfast Truth Tour Friday, July 14 at Garfinkels, he spoke casually about the release of his new album. The Clean Up Your Heart title was changed to Energy Crisis, talking about the need for clean power and how oil wars are ravaging the earth.
He spoke easily about the topic, but it wasnt until conversation turned to the evolution of dancehall music over the years that his passion became clearly evident. For the Rasta, dancehall is not just music and dance, but rather ways of life, a set of principles to live by, breathe by and most importantly love by.
"It needs to carry on," he said. "Reggae music is not just about dance and music. It is a chance to elevate one, educate one and contact one. Real beats of reggae music, we use it as transformation to send message to youth to stop war, cut out blood, cut out labour rights. It is Rasta. We look to our government, which is Emanuel government, Rasta government to lead the way."
Dancehall emerged from the socio and economic strife of the late 1970s with legends such as Yellowman, Super Cat and others becoming the Roots Radics of their day. However, the message-driven music characterized by rapping or singing over danceable music riddims, turned from what Dub poet Mutabaruka called red, green and gold to gold chains for decades to come.
"A lot of companies spend billions of dollars and pollute music at this moment," Reed said. "Since Bob Marley passed nobody doing anymore good reggae, and reggae does not mean anything again: its just a dance. Rastas, we sing about truth. Just one artist on one riddim. They put 10 people on one riddim these days. Put 10 artists to have one hit, one compilation album with one beat on one whole album. That same beat over and over. It does nothing for reggae."
Jamaican-born singer Reid has seen it all as one of the few artists to record throughout the entire history of dancehall. From his tough upbringing in the Waterhouse district of West Kingston, Reid began spreading his message, beginning with his first single, Know Myself, on the Greensleeves label at the young age of 14. He formed his own band, The Voice of Progress, turning out hits such as Boom Shak-A-Lak and Foreign Mind, but his next adventure would put him on the international map. Reid stepped in as the lead singer for Black Uhuru in 1985, leading to two Grammy Award nominations during his stay. After Black Uhuru members collectively agreed to separate, Reid pursued a solo career along with the founding of his own studio, recording label, booking agency and distribution company under the name J.R. Productions. Success continued to follow with two top 20 U.K. hits, Stop This Crazy Thing and Im Free. His first solo album, One Blood , is a hallmark in the dancehall tradition with numerous Caribbean and Jamaican music awards to its credit. From Bermuda to Japan, Reid toured the world, teaming up with the likes of Busta Rhymes, Wu-Tang Clan and Bounty Killer, just to name a few. More albums and singles followed, including True World Order, Emanuel Calling and Rasta Government.
"I never get tired or fed up; I never tire, never weary," he said of living the Rasta life of challenge and change. "I dont because there so much millions out there who depend upon my work. The love they give me. They appreciate what I am doing; motivate me more to do what I am doing. I know that I am not alone."
San Franciscos Reggae Angels join Reid, bringing more than 13 albums and numerous dubs of happy, uplifting sounds with sincere messages to the stage. As the name suggests, the group, who has toured with likes of Andrew Tosh (son of Reggae icon Peter Tosh), focuses on bringing revelers closer to God by clarifying the message of the prophets.
Advanced $20 tickets for the Steadfast Truth Tour are available at Garfinkels.