discovered his love for reggae music at the age of 13. By the age of 15 Rodigan started to DJ at school dances and youth clubs. A career which lead him to host several radio shows in England – on stations like Radio London, Capital and Kiss FM. Today he is the most important ambassador of reggae and dance hall outside of Jamaica and is booked as a DJ all over the world.
Top 5 Rocksteady tunes (1-5); Top 5 Ska tunes (6-10); Top 5 Roots reggae tunes (11-15); Top 5 dancehall tunes (16-20)
(Studion One, 1966). Wilson started out on Coxsone Dodd’s label in his early youth singing ska. His voice matured as he left his teens, around the time of ska’s transition to rocksteady and the cover of The Tam’s «Dancing Mood» became one of the first significant rocksteady tunes.
(Treasure Isle, 1965). This was the first song to refer to the name of the new genre. Its innovative beat grew out of a session where the scheduled bassist didn’t show up, forcing keyboardist Jackie Mittoo to play the bass part himself. Mittoo’s left hand couldn’t keep up with the frantic ska beat, so he slowed down the tempo. The result was a choppier rhythm that wound up allowing the vocalist to stretch out more, and soon the rocksteady sound had taken over Jamaican music, with Ellis leading the charge. He often was referred to as the «Godfather Of Rocksteady». Ellis sadly pasted away last year.
(Treasure Isle, 1967). One of their finest tunes that established them as one of the sweetest-sounding vocal ensembles on the rocksteady scene.
(Treasure Isle, 1966). Most of her recordings for Duke Reid (shee never recorded for any other producer!) would be covers of popular and obscure American songs. «Don’t Stay Away» was her first selfwritten song and made her the queen of rocksteady at the age of 18 and still living at her parents. The track features Tommy McCook and the Supersonics as the backing band, and demonstrates perfectly Dillon’s mastery of the rocksteady sound.
(Treasure Isle, 1967). They burst on the scene in 1967 by winning the second Jamaican Festival song contest with this bit of nonsensical rocksteady tune. It became associated with the violent rude boy subculture in Jamaican dancehalls.
(Treasure Isle, 1963). Hinds was probably the most popular artists on Duke Reid’s label, recording seventy singles for it between 1964 and 1966. With «Carry Go Bring Come» being one of the finest, reaching Number One in Jamaica and being the debut recording with Dennis Sinclair and Junior Dixon as the Dominoes. The tune was recorded in just one take!
(Island, 1964). Orginally recorded by American singer Barbie Gaye it became a minor Rhythm & Blues hit in 1956. Chris Blackwell re-discovered the track when he was looking for a song Millie Small to record. They recorded it in London and it reached Number 2 in England and the USA. «My Boy Lollipop» was the first record to help Blackwell’s Jamaican label, Island Records, make millions. With over seven million copies sold, it remains one of the best-selling reggae/ska hits. When I saw Millie perform it on «Rock Steady Go!» as a school boy it was the initiated my life-long passion for Jamaican music.
(Studio One, 1966). One of the ska tunes from the «rude boy» era of ska. They were produced by Coxsone Dodd and it was him who suggest that they add the seven years old Freddie McGregor, who was so young that he had to stand on a beer crate to reach the microphone.
(Studio One, 1963). One of the undisputed signature ska tunes. Roland is one of the earliest session musicians and chief arrangers for Dodd’s label. Roland (a.k.a. «Mr. Versatile») played several instruments including tenor, baritone, alto, and soprano saxophones and flute.
(Ronnie Nasralla, 1965). This is considered to be the first deejay recording.
(Studio One, 1971). An essential arrangement and organ melody by Jackie Mittoo and rhythm by Leroy Sibbles on bass and Leroy Wallace on drums. Notably, the song was one of Bob Marley’s favorites, and a lyrical influence can be heard on The Wailers’ well-known «Get Up, Stand Up» recorded in 1973. The riddim of «Declaration» is one of the most used in roots reggae.
(Island, 1973). As featured on «Catch A Fire». The album that established the band as international superstars and Bob Marley in particular. The socially aware lyrics and militant tone surprised many listeners, but refelected what Roots was all about. Consciousness, the Rastafari movement, resistance to government oppression etc.
(Studio One, 1968). Bob Andy is one of reggae’s most influential songwriters. «Unchained» attacks slavery with lyrical directness and an impassioned vocal.
(EMI, 1978). Although Dennis Brown released over a hundred albums during his career, «Wolf & Leopards» might be the most significant for a couple of different reasons. It was the first LP from Brown to feature the singer as a full-fledged Rastaman, and the songs show a strong commitment to cultural themes. It also introduced to the world his signature song, «Here I Come» (aka «Love And Hate»).
(Mango, 1976). This is from Bunny Wailer’s solo debut («Blackheart Man»). It remains one of the most extraordinary albums of the roots period, a complex but instantly attractive and occasionally heartbreaking record that never rises above a whisper in tone but packs as much political and spiritual wallop as the best of Bob Marley’s work. This song pulls you into Bunny Wailer’s magical web of mystical Rastafarianism, where he recalls being warned by his mother to avoid Rastas («even the lions fear him») and then describes his eventual conversion, all in a tone of infinite gentleness and sadness at the hardhearted blindness of Babylon.
(Power House, 1986). Half Pint was one of the first artists to be produced by King Jammy and entered with him into the digital era of dancehall. «Greetings», produced by George Phang, is not only Half Pint’s signature tune, it also helped to universalize the term raggamuffin.
(Wild Apache, 1984). Super Cat, a.k.a. Don Dada, a.k.a. the Wild Apache blazed a new trail through the dancehall reggae scene with hits like «Ghetto Red Hot», «Nuff Man A Dead», «Boops» and „Vineyard Party». He’s also one of the first Jamaican deejays to break the US by collaborating with lots of Hiphop artists in the early 90’s.
(VP, 1992). There are few songs in reggae history as popular as «Murder She Wrote». A perfect combination of DJ work and singing over a propulsive Sly & Robbie reworking of the «Stalag 17» riddim, the song tore up the charts around the world in 1992. A masterpiece!
(Epic, 1992). Probably the biggest dancehall artist of his generation. He was also one of the first Jamaican deejays to gain worldwide acceptance, and recognition for his «slack» lyrical expressions and content. Almost every song of his was about the bedroom.
(Signet, 1987). The biggest crossover artist in dancehall reggae. Based in New York, Shaggy didn’t have to care too much about his rude boy image in Jamaica and the hardcore dancehall crowd, his music was unabashedly geared toward good times, a friendly (if horny) persona, and catchy party anthems. «Big Up» was one of his first records (based on the «Could You Be Loved» riddim), even before the huge success of «Oh Carolina« and «Boombastic» set in.