The Heptones
(with Leroy Sibbles, mid.)


studio session


The Return of Django



Haile Selassie








DJ sound and
King Stitt at Coxsone's


Big Youth

hear U-Roy
'Wear You To The Ball'





When Coxsone Dodd, the STUDIO 1 owner, came back from a trip to England in 1968, he
brought some gadgets with him, among them an electronic device called an ECHOPLEX, a
delay box. And this very kind of box changed music forever - especially from today's
point of view. It changed the way music is produced, the way it is perceived and
along the way defined a very important thing: it set a completely new aim for what
music can achieve. This new dimension, which later would emerge as DUB, would not
have been possible without REGGAE - and the Echoplex of course.

So Coxsone experimented with the new gadgets and accidently sent the guitar through
the delay box which caused the guitar chord to come out DOUBLED. This doubled chord
on the offbeat became one of the main elements to identify reggae later on.

The use of effects and new recording technology (like bigger mixing desks) changed
the sound of music rapidly. A very good example for this transition from Rocksteady
to Reggae is the Heptones album "On Top" on Studio 1. While the overall feel of the
record is still rocksteady (lots of choral singing, sweet harmonies, mid-tempo) the
sound is produced very crisp and some of the song structures definitely show the
hypnotic riddim concept. Check out tracks like "Party Time" or "I love you".

The record was produced by Lee Perry, then still working as producer for STUDIO 1 and
already hints at the sound he was to create later on with his own productions. He
soon left the label because of the low payment and other arguments and started his
own career. (See below)

Leroy Sibbles, member and songwriter of the Heptones proved to be an excellent bass
player and extraordinary singer with an outstanding voice, who had some great
classics later on like "Garden Of Life" (on the Lee Perry compilation OPEN THE GATE
on Trojan) and - probably his best song ever - THIS WORLD on the legendary WACKIEs
label. Especially his distinct voice can be heard much better on these releases since
there is no more choral singing. Great stuff!


While Coxsone Dodd changed the sound of music at that time due to newly available
technology, the concept was changed by others. Guys like Bunny 'Striker' Lee (who
worked as a sales- man for Duke Reid's TROJAN label) or LEE 'Scratch' PERRY (who was
something like an inofficial producer at STUDIO 1 and turned out many hits there)
left the two big majors and started releasing their own records. They hired younger,
not very experienced musicians, and soon found an own style that got a name fast:

Compared to rocksteady the bass steps in the center of the tracks much more
clearly. While playing at still a slower tempo the bass drives the rhythm in an
offbeat fashion and plays a more or less distinct melody, that produces together with
an unvarying two-chord pattern an extremely nice looplike hypnotic effect. Because
the overall speed is quite low (around 80 bmp +/-10), there is more space for the
drums and cymbals to experiment and vary - and to
put in effects, another element
that keeps the tracks constantly interesting. As a result of this many reggae songs
sound slow and fast (ca. 150-160 bpm) at the same time. This paradoxon is definitely
one of the very reasons, that it is almost impossible to get bored with reggae -
provided you once understood the concept and found it going in sync with your inner
metronom. This concept is usually called the concept of RIDDIMS, very simple brought
to the formula: bassloop, two chords, sometimes a short melody lick.

LEE PERRY and The Upsetters, his alltime backing band, created a sound of their
own at that time. Hugely influenced by Ennio Morricone's soundtracks for Italo-
they got a big sucess with records like 'The Return Of Django', which
hit big even in England and lead to a six-week tour there (a novum for Jamaican
artists). Perry set up his 'Upsetters Record Shop' in Kingston, which functioned as a
promotional base for his Upsetters recordings, bar, rehearsal room and herb counter
in one.

During that time Lee Perry also produced the first record of a young talent named Bob
Marley ("Duppy Conquerer") , who later became THE multi-million dollar-export-hit of
Jamaica, today one of the most important factors in tourist merchandising industry
and for some reason the one and only person whom many people can identify with

The Upsetters were quite popular at that time and Lee Perry a well-known producer
with an unique style, but one important thing for truly independent creative work was
missing: an own studio. The constant ticking of the clock in the background of a
studio with rented time often proved to be a distraction and many sessions could have
turned out better. So in 1973, when the money situation was well, Scratch decided to
build his own studio, the BLACK ARK, were many of Reggae's and Dub's alltime classics
were recorded. (continued in DUB)


Another aspect that was at least as important for Reggae as the availability of new
technology was the emerging of Rastafarianism. It set the music in a completely new
context and defined a new goal: 'to hand down a MESSAGE to a danceabele beat' as some
analysts called it. With Rastafari the vocabulary and content of the lyrics changed
radically, the message being constantly linked with the music. Suddenly the realities
of the ghettos, poverty, civil violence and religiosity stepped in the center and
were the all transcending background for the music.

Rastafarianism first of all gave many Jamaicans a cultural identity, stating the fact
that all black people have their roots in the homeland Africa, so every black person
- no matter where they may live today - is basically an African. The prophet Marcus
Garvey also said in 1929 in one of his sermons that at one time a divine black man
will be king again in Africa. This prophecy came true only one year later with the
coronation of Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, who had the byname of Ras Tafari,
fulfilling the prophecy and giving the movement a name. As Ethiopians being one of
the twelve tribes of Israel (as written in Exodus in the Bible) and having a divine
black king, Ethiopia became the symbol for the homeland and its colours (RED, GOLD
and GREEN) identify all Rastafarians until today. The movement gained importance when
more and more people decided to live in the countryside hills, grew dreadlocks and
started living strictly following Christian values (do good in life, love one
another, believe in JAH the Creator, etc.).

In the Rasta living communities also drumming and - not to forget - smoking the herb
played an immense role and when some Rastafarians became involved with music
production (like the famous drummer Count Ozzy) they brought with them their styles
of living and the philosophy. Many musicians adopted this way of living and Africa,
Babylon, Jah and weed but also poverty, living in the ghettos and the deportation
of black people as slaves became the ever-present themes of reggae. So Reggae is
indeed much more than just another style of music, it is a philosophy and a way of

The most famous roots reggae anthem is certainly the ABYSSINIANS "Satta Massagana"
, which articulates this mixed feeling of sadness and pride of being African
intensely. There are countless Satta-versions around and the song was sung even in
churches during the service.


With the new found sound, style and linked background philosophy absolutely
groundbreaking records were released. STUDIO ONE had its best time then and countless
classic riddims were created like "AMARGEDDION TIME", HORACE ANDYS "Money Money",
"Skylarking" and his whole "Mr. Bassie"-LP, SOUND DIMENSIONs "Drum Song", tracks with
titles like "Ethiopia", "Sons Of Slaves", "Run Babylon" or Johnny Clarke's anthem
"None Shall Escape The Judgement" are 100% roots and show 100% what reggae was when
all these elements came together for the first time.

A good example for listening is Leroy Wallace's "Far Beyond" from the STUDIO 1
"Roots" compilation. Here you can hear new sound (echos!), style and content all
together. One of my alltime favourites.

Parallel to the changes in life in Jamaica the movement and self-consciousness of
black people in the States created a new musical style called SOUL, which also had an
immense impact on reggae a bit later on. Many people in Jamaica could adopt to the
content and themes of the songs (the problems sung about being exactly the same),
everything wrapped in a cool danceable beat. So lots of reggae-versions of famous
soul songs were released, many of them kicking even more than the originals due to a
different and rougher production style.

Check out the STUDIO 1 releases of that era, first of all the SOUL, ROCKERS and ROOTS
compilations. Also highly recommended are the STUDIO 1 re-releases on SOUL JAZZ
(100%, 200% and so on). These records define what reggae is all about and are
absolutely essential! Another incredible compilation of reggae-soul tracks is DARKER
THAN BLUE, all songs being cover versions but most of them better than the


One important link in the history of that time is still missing, a link that would
change the music again forever and emerge later as RAP: the DJs and TOASTING.

After guys like Sir Lord Comic or King Stitt started chatting over some records
during a dance the breakthrough came with a DJ named U-Roy and King Tubby's dub
plates. First mainly for economy reasons producers started releasing 'versions' of
their hits on the flipside of a record, being the original song minus the voice and
some remixing done with reverbs and EQs. U-Roy then had a big hit with 'Wear You To
The Ball', where he chanted in a kind of call and answer arrangement over the
Paragon's rocksteady song. (You can listen to the original in the SKA section!)

This proved to be an extraordinary success and at one time in 1970 U-Roy had five (!)
of his toasting versions in the Jamaican Top Ten. Especially old Paragons songs were
huge DJ hits ("The Tide Is High" or "Flashing My Whip", which is a toast on "Only A
Smile"). Soon lots of others followed this way of production - talking over a version
of an already well-known hit single and simply recording this mix of voice and music.
Check out Scotty's "Draw Your Brakes" (on Keith & Tex's "Stop That Train") and
"I Worry" (on Derrick Harriot's "Do I Worry"), Dennis Alcapone's "Spanish Amigo" (on
Ken Boothe's "Old Fashioned Way"), Big Youth's "Screaming Target" on Dawn Penn's
STUDIO 1 smasher "No, No, No" or I-Roy's "Blackman Time", an unforgettable roots-DJ-
tune. If you listen to many of the DJ releases today some of them could without any
doubt already be called 'RAP'-records. In his excellent liner notes in 'The History
Of Rap' Curtis Blow defines Rap as "talking in rhyme to the rhythm of a beat". This
criterion is clearly fullfilled with many DJ tracks and if you know that DJ Kool
Herc, who is commonly known as the inventor of Rap, is a Jamaican-born DJ who moved
to the Bronx, the trace is clear.

Highly interesting in this field are the TROJAN-DJ-BOX and the STUDIO 1 'DJs' and
'ROCKERS' compilations with loads of kicking tracks.