Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good Vibes

Dadawah - Peace and Love (1974, reissued by Dug Out)

Here is a little known gem, now lovingly reissued by Dug Out and Honest Jon's. I remember this record well from my childhood, the Trojan vinyl edition being one of the weirder selections from my father's wide ranging record collection. I remember bracketing it with Keith Hudson's 'Pick A Dub' as one of the weirder, more mesmerising examples of reggae. It's not as sinister as the Hudson classic, rather more spiritual and devotional, and it still sounds absolutely revelatory. The fuddled, murky sound of the record is every bit as intoxicating as whatever producer Lloyd Charmers and engineer George Raymond were smoking when mixing it. Apparently, they stayed up all night after the session to complete the job. It's rare that albums with such a powerful, characterful sound get made with such spontaneity nowadays.

'Peace and Love' is an example of the Nyabinghi Grounation sub-genre of roots reggae. Essentially, it's a form of Rastafarian devotional music founded on the use of nyabinghi drums. The Dadawah project was one of the vehicles for Ras Michael, whose imposing, resonant voice still dominates these recordings, in spite of the fascinating presence of the music. The traditional chanting and hand drumming form the foundation of the music, but these four tracks have sublimely extended durations - ebbing and flowing delightfully, and uniting Michael's nyabinghi expositions with bass, guitars, piano and organ and a small brass section.

Roots reggae remains little explored in music criticism and in the reissue market, perhaps because greater commercial value was placed on more accessible hybrids of reggae with other western pop styles. There's so much more to discover here though - for this personal and honest music still sounds deeply unusual and exciting. Do seek this out - as well as Michael's other work as Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus. It's all tremendous.