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Reggae Reading Room

Rough Guide to Reggae

Lately I've been reading a lot. Okay, I usually read a lot. More specifically, I've been reading a lot of books related to music. Right now I'm the working through The Rough Guide to Reggae by Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton. If you're into reggae or ska at all, it's a fantastic resource. It traces the development of reggae from mento, a Jamaican form of calypso, through dancehall, ska, rudeboy, rocksteady, reggae, dub, to the beats of today, and describes the influences from US-based R&B and soul. The book lists a huge (really huge - I'm not kidding) number of artists and producers that were key in the development of reggae. Of course everybody's heard of Bob Marley and the Wailers, but although they are one of the most important figures in the reggae world (and Aston Barrett is one of my most favouritest bass players ever), there's waaaay more to reggae than Bob.

400% Dynamite

Tons of recommended CDs and records are listed too, but many are kind of obscure. I discovered a website for Soul Jazz Records, which has a lot of Studio One material available on CD, LP and mp3, including many compilations. Studio One, run by Coxsone Dodd, was one of the most influential studios in Jamaica. They have a cool compilation series, the 100% Dynamite Series, which contains some good material throughout the development of reggae.

Some of the artists and bands I need to get more of: The Skatalites, Lee (Scratch) Perry, The Upsetters, The Maytals, The Abyssinians, Burning Spear, The Heptones, Alton Ellis, Slim Smith, Roland Alphonso, Augustus Pablo, U-Roy, I-Roy, Jackie Mittoo, Delroy Wilson, .... and I haven't even got half way through the book yet! And it's due back at the library in a few days! Oh yeah I think there's a companion CD you can get. I'll have to look into that.

Also included are some sidebar informational snippets on rastafarianism, and political and economic stuff that went on in Jamaica. These things are very much tied in with the music of Jamaica. Very interesting.

Side Note

Where did the word reggae come from? There seems to be a few theories on that. In The Rough Guide to Reggae, Steve Barrow says "Singer-producer Clancy Eccles, who has been credited with deriving the name 'reggae' from 'streggae' (Kingston street slang for a kind of good-time girl), ..." However, Barrow also says the first record to use the term was "Do the Reggay" by The Maytals (led by Toots Hibbert). And Hibbert says the word just "came out of my mouth" (see this article). Bob Marley claims that it came from a Spanish word meaning "the king's music". Whatever.


Making Basses!

Metro RV-5

Recently a great video feature appeared on Behind The Notes. A bass and guitar maker from NY talks about how he got into guitar making, and some of the construction and setup details on his instruments. He sounds like quite a knowledgeable guy. If you're interested in or play guitar or bass, you'll learn a bit about guitar construction, setup geometry, fret work, and more. Quite fascinating.
Sadwosky Feature
Roger Sadowsky's basses are becoming the "it" basses with a lot of players. He is a perfectionist when it comes to fret work and instrument setup, and his basses have been called "Fenders on steroids" as they are based on classic Fender Jazz and Precision designs, but with numerous improvements. What's interesting is that he has two lines of basses. A customizable line is made in New York, and naturally those are quite expensive. He also has a shop in Tokyo, Japan that makes instruments with essentially the same quality and attention to detail, but with fewer options than the NYC models (like the fancy tops), and offers them at a reduced price. They're pretty cool looking too!
Sadowsky's website


Memeza Africa is back home

After a very successful whirlwind tour, with numerous sellout shows, the choir is back home in South Africa. Hopefully we will see them here again.

Keep your eyes on their website for updates: Memeza Africa.

Check out photos of their May 3, 2008 concert at McDougall United Church in Edmonton:
slideshow here (photos by Tracy Kolenchuk).

Edit (2009.03.31): Please note they have a new website at


Memeza Africa is in Alberta

A bunch of great singers have arrived from Soweto, South Africa. The Memeza Africa choir will be performing all over Alberta during April and May. They sing some fantastic stuff, so you should check them out!!! Check their website for concert dates.
Here are a few of them:

Memeza Africa

Edit (2009.03.31): Please note they have a new website at


NTFS Read/Write With Mac OSX

I have a couple of Macs at my home studio, and I also use a couple of PCs at my University office: one with Windoze, and one with Linux. So I have a bunch of files I need to access in two locations, and in three different operating systems. I got a small Seagate 120 GB USB drive to hold my stuff, and I carry it back and forth.

The catch: accessing these files from both Winduhs and Mac OSX. Winduhs doesn't have a clue what to do with a Mac-formatted drive. OSX will read and write with a FAT32-formatted volume, but that's limited by Winduhs to 32 GB in size, and that's not much use. In order to use a larger drive you need to format the drive as NTFS on a Windows machine. However, OSX will only read an NTFS file system - it won't write! Doh!

Solution: Macfuse and ntfs3g!

Step 1:
On the Windoze box, format the USB drive as NTFS.

Step 2:
Download and install macfuse from macfuse (on the Mac of course). This requires at least 10.4 (Tiger).

With my Macbook Pro, it seemed that macfuse was already installed (OSX 10.5 - Leopard).

Step 3:
Download and install ntfs3g from ntfs-3g (on the Mac).

That was easier than I figured. So far, it works fine.


Muscle Shoals and the Rhythm Section

So anyway, here is an interesting thing. I was poking through my old vinyl record collection and pulled out a disc I picked up a long time ago ($4.99 at Madplatters - wherever that was) by the Muscle Shoals Horns called "doin' it to the bone." That reminded me of an article I had read, also along time ago, in Bass Player magazine - an interview with David Hood, the bass player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. I knew a bit about Muscle Shoals, because a lot of music came out of that little town in Alabama, with hits from artists like Percy Sledge, Etta James, Aretha Franklin (there's an interesting story why she only recorded a couple of tracks there - one of which was unfinished - and never returned), Wilson Pickett, Cher, Paul Simon, Boz Scaggs, Bob Seger and many more. It's also the birthplace of W.C. Handy and Hellen Keller. So there. Being that important in music history, I figured I should learn a bit more about Muscle Shoals, AL.

3614 Jackson Highway

A small studio started by Rick Hall and partners called Fame Studios seems to be the genesis of the whole thing. They attracted early attention with a big hit by Percy Sledge - "When A Man Loves a Woman" - and later a bunch of musicians hanging around there garnered interest from Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Studios in New York. This bunch, which came to be known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (a.k.a. The Swampers) and consisting of David Hood, Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Beckett, decided to buy a studio housed in a former casket factory at 3614 Jackson Highway (now a museum) in nearby Sheffield. This group at this studio is responsible for recording, producing, and performing on an amazing number of big hits, covering a wide range of musical styles. They were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995 ("Non-Performing Achievement" ?? Whut?). That's just the bare outline to this whole story, so if you're interested finding out more (as I am), see below.

There's a book on the music emanating from the Muscle Shoals area called Music Fell on Alabama, by C.S. Fuqua. I hear it's pretty good, but it's not in any of my local libraries, so I haven't been able to read it yet. I think I may order a copy online.

Of course, there is also a lot of info on that internet-web thingy (and you can pretty much believe everything you read there). Here are a few links to get you started:
prosoundweb story
FAME Studios History
FAME Studios - Musician History
Muscle Shoals area attractions including the log cabin that was the birthplace of the father of the blues, and the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.

Or, you could just google it.

Anyhow, gotta get that vinyl spinning on the old Systemdek ....


Upgrading the studio

After a few years of putting it off, I finally have decided to upgrade the studio facilities.

Here is a list of the main new stuff:

  • MacBook Pro: 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, with Leopard (OSX 10.5)
  • MOTU's Digital Performer 5.13 (soon to obtain DP 6 - it was announced at NAMM January 18, 2008, but hasn't been released yet)
  • MOTU 896HD eight channel mic pre/firewire digital interface
  • Presonus DigiMax FS eight channel mic pre with optical interface
  • A bunch of hard drives to store the projects

16 channels of 24 bit, 96 kHz analogue-to-digital goodness!
I'm still doing some testing and rewiring. It works great so far!



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