Winter Reggae Review #1
“You are my father, so give me tings, give me tings. So I can achieve tings…”
The Artist – Barrington Levy
The Album – Teach Me Culture
The Year – 1983
So after about the first hour of what is supposed to be a 40 minute drive home from work, I thought to myself… “Say man, wouldn’t it be nice sitting on a beach about a half a hemisphere away from this blizzard?” Well I know in reality that’s not going to happen because a fellas got to work. So screw it, imma rock steady with some sweet reggae, and trick my mind. Reggae is a music of strong bass lines, steady drums, and off-beat riddim’s… The lyrics, especially in the roots genre, is usually a topic of religion, the plight of the people, because of the down-presser man. Or weed. Don’t be misconstrued, you too can enjoy roots reggae if you’re not a Rastafarian or happen to drive a tricked out KIA or even don’t smoke the sweet Kaya. One thing to remember when listening if you’re a reggae beginner, not every song you here is Bob Marley… just about 3/4 of them.
Barrington Levy will most likely go down in reggae history for his influence in helping emerge the popular reggae sub-genre, dancehall. For me, he became head of the class for his early efforts like English Man (1979) & Robin Hood (1980), but especially his 1983 album Teach Me Culture. I first heard this cassette cruising in Imperial Beach, San Diego. It really confused when I started really listening to the lyrics. It was nothing like “Is This Love” or “Three Little Birds,” that the Wailers were wailing about. Songs that talked about a drunk father neglecting him and his sister (One Foot Jo Jo). Songs about wanting the teachers teaching the youth about their history and not nursery rhymes. (Teach Me Culture). Songs about his woman not trusting or respecting his man-hood. (Trying To Rule My Life). You know! Real shit! All of which are over well produced rhythms and echoed drum hits, held down by the solid bass lines that The Roots Radics, a well know backing band in Jamaica cooked up.
The nostalgia factor is for sure one of the reasons I may like this album so much, but it really is a piece of reggae greatness. It will never be as well known as Marley’s “Catch a Fire” or Steel Pulse, “True Democracy,” but I don’t think it was supposed to be. It was just Barrington telling his story at that moment in time. And it was suppose to stay in my tape deck of my ’95 Cutlass, until the day that died.