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Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet: Roots Reggae Revival

by Marley Lovell

Cheat Sheet: Roots Reggae Revival


Like all musical styles, reggae has progressed considerably from its early days. Spawned from mento and ska, the music took root in the 1970s, when The Wailers reached international success and paved the way for artists like Burning Spear, Black Uhuru and Steel Pulse. Much of that initial burst was produced in outdated, shambolic studios that provided much of the soul and authentic flavor so representative of the movement.

As reggae gained momentum in the 1980s, artists had more resources, like synthesizers and digital instruments, to experiment with. But by the next decade, many reggae fans were looking for a return to the genre's classic sound. The 1990s saw the emergence of the conscious dancehall scene, which re-instilled the values of roots reggae with an updated musical delivery. Artists like Sizzla and Capleton bounced from Nyabinghi chants to hip-hop to one-drop riddims, helping to establish the roots revival scene. Not surprisingly, this movement has since been led by the children of such legends as Bob Marley, Jimmy Riley and legendary producer King Tubby. But international artists like Sicilian-born musician, producer and vocalist Alborosie (rumored to have purchased King Tubby's old analog delay unit to get an authentic sound) have also made a significant mark on the scene, which is still going strong.

Here's a list of essential albums from some of roots reggae's brightest new stars, who are responsible for upholding the traditions of a sound that is both uplifting and timeless.