linkthink re: hip-hop, reggae, the US, jamaica, and anything else wayne wants to wax on


more science!

reading through david katz's solid foundation for a dissertation chapter this week, i turned up a number of details relevant to the recent trial and debates (1 2 3) about scientist's right to the music he mixed in the early 80s. (for those who aren't familiar with it, katz's book is a rich oral history of reggae, telling the story in great detail drawn largely from the dozens and dozens of interviews katz has conducted. as jeff's and brian's books do for hip-hop, katz's text provides a treasury of first-hand discussion from the architects of reggae.)

with regards to scientist's suit, katz's book offers a fair amount of description of the sessions-in-question, not to mention other details about scientist's role more generally, not to mention junjo's. i offer you some illuminating passages:

first, linval thompson, on junjo's entry into the music business:
Linval Thompson, a close associate and one of the first producers to work with the [Roots] Radics, says Junjo came to music from an entirely different area. 'I really brought Junjo into the business,' he says definitively. 'He just see me in the road and want to follow me around, want to come with me to the studio. He wasn't no musician, he was a guy on the street, working for the politician, if you understand what I'm trying to say. (p.305)

further, here's cocoa tea, on junjo's "contributions":
Tea remarks that, although he became one of Junjo's top artists, Junjo himself had little involvement with the creation of Tea's material. 'He just put the money up,' Tea insists. 'First time I was going to the studio he was there, but after that it was people like Steve and Bellow, Junjo's two right-hand man, whe do all of the business.' (p.337)

now, don't get me wrong. i'm not saying that paying for the session is not an essential contribution, but should it really amount to ownership? you could buy as much studio time as you like but without artists and engineers, you've got nothing. we should recognize that junjo assembled a great team, "produced" some fine music, and secured a great distribution deal through greensleeves, but c'mon: share and share alike.

for a little contrast, here's scientist, on his "contributions" at channel one:

'I tightened up things at Channel One. I was the one who pioneered that drum-and-bass sound down there with Viceroys [We Must Unite] and Michigan and Smiley, "Diseases" rhythm.' (p.324)

finally, here's katz on scientist's musical contributions more generally:

Scientist took dub into a whole other dimension in this era [the early 80s]. He had a way of isolating Flabba Holt's bass, as heard on albums such as Scientist Meets The Roots Radics; he also made use of the test-tone in a highly creative and artistic manner, as heard on Scientist Meets The Space Invaders. 'If you ever watch Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea, you hear a kind of test tone, and you hear a echo behind it,' Scientist explains. 'That's where I got that from.' Scientist Rids the World of the Curse Of The Vampires, supposedly mixed at Midnight one Friday the 13th in 1981, not only had plenty of EQ manipulation, ghostly echoes of drumbeats and squealing tape-winding effects, but was also given a liberal dose of shrieking zombie sounds. On the wonderful series of LPs he mixed for Junjo Lawes, Linval Thompson, Roy Cousins, Al Campbell, Mikey Dread, deejay-turned producer Jah Thomas, Blacka Morwell and others, Scientist created what many believe are the last true 'classic' dub albums cut in Jamaica, most making use of the talented Roots Radics.(p.323)

note the level of detail. and that's just scratching the surface of the talent and labor scientist invested in these projects. of course, it should be noted that despite his more "traditional" contributions, flabba holt probably also lacks any kind of claim to these recordings at this point. which also makes no sense. another thing that emerges in scientist's quotations above is how readily jamaicans will acknowledge their influences, their sources of inspiration, their version-ees: there's simply a more common and sensible recognition of the degree to which creativity always plays off other creations, which is not to say there's no conflict over it (see below)--though we have to wonder whether that's due to the glaring structural inequalities of the compensation system.

so, why didn't scientist's lawyers do their homework? seems there's a pretty good case to be made here. maybe someday someone will mek the judges dem know wha really gwaan.

perhaps it was better when these things, in lieu of any kind of laws in place or in practice, were simply settled musically. with no legal recourse available, sugar minott and coxsone dodd would simply stay one step ahead of the competition [note: for those unaware of the "ethnic" dynamic in jamaica, think of yellowman's "mr.chin" as a kindler, gentler, perhaps more insidious "black korea"; which is to say, there's a similiar dynamic happening there, but accented differently; note also, however, that minott dismisses such attitudes as immature--an important qualification]:

Though the advent of rockers stole the fire from Bunny Lee's flying cymbal, the Revolutionaries' habit of adapting Studio One rhythms naturally caused most offence at Brentford Road, particularly after many of Coxsone's artists defected to Channel One. Coxsone's greatest weapon in the war of styles turned out to be Sugar Minott, a man with his ear constantly on the pulse of Jamaica's dancehall scene. 'It was a living war with Channel One,' laughs Minott. 'They used to call me "Coxsone's Boy." When they made "I Need a Roof" for Channel One, I immediately knew what it was, because I'm an expert in music and rhythm [i.e., riddims] from [when] I was a kid. So I went to Coxsone and said, "Look, it's "Mean Girl." We went to buy a flask of rum, so I was hyped up, did over "I Need A Roof." Me and Tabby them was friends, but I didn't care because I was like "Channel One? I hate Chinese." That was my thing in them times--I was young that way: "I'm not singing for no Chinese." There was a next one called "Woman Is Like A Shadow." Coxsone called me and said, "I want you to sing this music, listen that tune," so I thought it was an old song from some old group that never came out and he wanted me to do it over, but I didn't know it was a Meditations song that never even came out yet. I did over "Woman Is Like A Shadow" and it came out before the original, because the original used to play on the sound. When my version drop in, the whole of Baktu was looking for me--it was a war with Channel One. Every time they try to do a Coxsone song I go and tell him, so they came and fling bottle and stone to mash Coxsone's studio. They had the force--everybody was following the Chinese. Somehow Coxsone and Joe Joe got in some fight and that was that.' Perhaps unsurprisingly, Joseph Hoo-Kim contests Sugar's version of events. (p.227)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

spot on man

a scientist record is a as distinctive as a phil spector record surely....

Pete <

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Katz : KING OF BORE.

Only a facinated white man can take a genre like reggae and make it SO ABSOLUTLY DULL. Sorta like this psuedo-intellectual , longwinded blog.

4:22 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

katz's work may be boring but it is full of details and represents the music and the musicians better than many accounts that have come before. which story of reggae do you prefer?

5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What KATZ represents are the hundreds of facinated white people and other outsiders ( including long gone jamaicans themselves) who think that DETAILS make for god reading. It doesn't and there are MANY others who could do it better. But because he's white and because he can fill a page with a bunch of snoring dates and facts, hes the one that you rave about cuz he's the only one on the shelf.

7:57 AM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

katz is the one i rave about (at least in this particular post) because he's the first to really get jamaican voices in the mix. it's not his writing that i love: it's his approach. as someone approaching reggae history and historiography from a critical perspective, i am grateful for so much first-hand testimony.

however, i join you in calling for more voices to enter the conversation, especially more jamaican voices. i'm a big fan of garth white's work, for instance. i wish he would get his ideas out there more, and i definitely intend to recognize his important contributions to this growing literature. it's unfortunate that the system privileges white, non-jamaican journalists, but that has more to do with babylon than the white journalists who are more often than not sympathetic to reggae's anti-babylonian critique.

at the same time, because there are so many ways to tell a story and because different perspectives help to reveal the many-sided truths of the matter, it is important to have "outsiders" as well as "insiders" in on the action.

the "facination" problem (is that an english spelling?) is pretty unavoidable i think. for anyone to devote their lives to a subject, to an activity, to a passion, to a pursuit, requires some degree of fascination. while it is important to be self-aware and self-reflective about such fascination, i don't think that people should be discounted automatically for it. there's simply no avoiding it.

it's pretty clear to me that you--my anonymous, afflicted friend--are fascinated with many things yourself, including reggae, jamaica, battymen, and, recently, me.

walk good.

8:10 AM  

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