Friday, July 08, 2005

Reggae Reasons (Avi's Side)

I had mentioned in a previous post that the LIVE 8 efforts last week would be an apex of our generation’s achievements. Like Woodstock in the 60’s. Now after the bombs went off in London yesterday this G8 summit will go down in our history books as “When the Bombs Shook London” and not where our voices actually made a difference. I hope all your friends and family are okay. I spoke to Marcus and also got news that Rishi and he are fine.

And life goes on. I hit the reggae party last night and it was wicked. The band rocked and I ran onto a whole load of friends. We drank, danced and made merry. It was pretty much the same lot of Rasta’s that I was hangin with in Bali. After midnight, ever ready, ever sure, the strippers came out wearing red, gold, and green bikini tops. I got pretty sexited. All my favorite things in one room! It was not long before the colors hit the floor, if you know what I mean.We must have gone through 2 bottles of JD at least so the management offered us a membership card. Not for the club, but for Jack Daniels. Now I have never heard of this and I am sure none of you have either so let me break it down.

The card came with a brochure. The card says it should be presented to participating vendors that are listed in the brochure, upon purchases of JD. All the other standard crap is printed on the back. It also mentions that this is applicable only in South East Asia. The brochure informs the prizes up for grabs are, 1 Massage Chair, 1 Vertu Phone, 1 B&O Sound system, 1 Suunto Watch, and 10 bottles of JD Gold Medal 1914 Bourbon. Considering these have to be split up over Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, I find it pretty damn shitty. All the card really offers is a 10% discount from selected locations. There are only 16 bars participating in Indonesia and none of them are worth my time. All in all, this card is nothing special. In fact it is a waste of plastic. But it has inspired me to seek alternate sponsorship for our pool team. Hmmm.

So driving home last night, me and my mate (I am sure you will find out who he is once the comments come up) got into the most ridiculous discussion. Looking back it now I realize how pointless it was but at the time things made a lot of sense. As they usually do after being so shit faced. Maybe I am hung over enough now to still make some sense out of it. So we were listening to some music in the car and UB40 came on. Now Taurus (my m8) at this point states that UB40 were responsible for bringing reggae music to the masses. I of course had to disagree. Bob Marley was responsible for that. That is what made him so famous. He was the first reggae musician to go main stream commercial. I mean the man even played in New Zealand!!!

The conversation proceeded from there to where we agreed that UB40 did contribute to generating “white” reggae music fans but I insisted it was nothing substantial. And we are not talking about people who just like reggae. We are talking about people who like it enough to go out and actually grow dreadlocks, seeing as this whole conversation started with a blonde Rasta man. Or to be fair lets just say a serious reggae music enthusiast like me. Now in my drunkenness I would probably fight a case saying ice is hot if you pushed my buttons enough. But thinking back to last night I still maintain my point of view. The way I see it, UB40 is an awesome band even though I can’t call myself a serious fan. I am listening to them through out typing this post. Their old school tracks like “Food for Thought” and “1 in 10” have some roots vibes in them. We can agree I am sure that their most famous and well known tracks are Kingston Town, Red Red Wine, and possibly the remake of Cant Help Falling in Love with You.

For a lot of us I am sure, the first exposure we got to reggae music was Bob’s Legend album. Sometimes it is frustrating when “reggae bands” at bars only know tracks off this album but in the end we still love those songs. And that album opened us into a world of roots, rock, reggae where we found the likes of Steel Pulse, Gregory Isaacs, Don Carlos, Alpha Blondy, Israel Vibrations, and numerous others. Now what I am saying is, did UB40 open these doors for their listeners? After hearing some of the more popular tracks on the radio did listeners go out and buy their CD’s? Of course some of them did. Did those same listeners find a connection with reggae music and start looking into other bands and eventually find themselves buying albums of the above mentioned artists and eventually becoming full blown Rastafarians? I am sure many did also but I would not go as far as to say that UB40 launched reggae music to the “white” people.

Most UB40 listeners are 30 something’s, sitting at home with a bottle of wine. The bars that their songs are played at are probably tourist bars in the Caribbean or even night clubs and even some reggae bars. Like I said, I do enjoy their old music but I just can’t attribute the movement to them. Let’s take for example new listeners, like young college students getting introduced to reggae music, the typical WASP boy from the American mid-west who just went to the University of Florida. He is chilling the dorm rooms with his senior buddies and they decide to blaze and get high. A brother throws in a Bob CD and pretty soon they are ripped and singing along with the music. The boy has been exposed now. Bob is still the one making that introduction. And apart from Bob there are numerous others that your typical “white Rasta” would gain exposure from but I doubt that too many of them would have stated off with UB40. Yes there are some who surely have, but I do not believe it is significant enough to attribute the movement to them the way Taurus did.

Is this a stupid discussion? Quite possibly, and I mentioned that earlier so don’t be a hater and leave me hurtful comments. With that in mind I am going to now tell you how this conversation spiraled out of control into a realm of drunkenness where even I lost my bearings. We began to break things into percentages!!! I know, this sounds ludicrous but it made so much sense at the time. We stood outside my house, the three of us going on and on about this till we really did not remember what the fuck we were talking about. I am sure Taurus will have a different account for the events and I am curious to see what he comes up with. He is one stubborn SOB so I am sure he will not put this to rest. In fact this was the first thing he asked me this morning! Conclusion (and I know this is silly), he says UB40 contributed to at least 15% of “white Rasta’s” introduction to reggae. I pegged it at around 3%. What do you think?

*Credit for the title of this post is given to Dr. Rohit El Basuri Kalikimaka. And I am looking forward to your comments on this.


taurus said...

hmmm... lets get the story straight. first of all, i would like to point out that this is not a discussion on value, influence or legendary status of bob marley. this is about ub40. i am of the opinion that ub40 have 'contributed significantly' to bringing reggae into mainstream popular culture. and i have whipped a figure out of my ass and put it at 15%. avi, on the other hand, was a far cry from 3%. in fact, i believe his exact words were... their influence was as good as... '3 grains of sugar in a cup of coffee'. if you drink coffee, that may as well be black. i fully understand the fundamentalist reggae fanatic's ideal that ub40 are a birmingham white band and therefore know nothing about the roots and all that crap, but let's get serious here. what is ub40? they are a cover band (even red red wine is a cover version of a neil diamond song). they make no secret of idolising the greats like John Holt and Gregory Isaacs. In fact Both these dudes, along with Toots Hibbert, Alton Ellis, Bob Andy, the Mighty Diamonds and other greats got together to sing covers of ub40 songs in a cd compilation called fathers of reggae (released in 2002), in acknowledgement of ub40's contribution to the reggae scene. the fact of the matter is, bob, rest his soul, passed on a short 8 years after his landmark catch a fire album. in his wake, ub40 have picked up the torch, and spread the gospel FASTER THAN IT PROBABLY WOULD HAVE ANYWAY, to the limelight. its not about a stoner in his college room being inlfuenced today. its about that vital time in 1981 when a group of outsiders have done their thing in spite of controversy and abuse from hardcore fans like yourself. and done it well. my point is, give credit where credit is due. gregory isaacs already did it avi, and now you should too.

Avi said...

Good job mate. I can see you have done your research. And I agree with you completely.

mogs said...

No hateful comments brah...unworry.

Just some reassurance if you will. I know what sorts of discussions can arise after a few boozingations. Chale, been there done that a plenty.

That said, can't contribute much to the topic at hand, except, how the hell did you guys come up with those stats?

ival said...

You know when I first heard ub40 I didnt think of anything like were they promoting the cause or anything like that. I just loved reggae and wanted to listen to more reggae. SO, I got some tapes and asked friends to record me some songs...I listened to the radio and when some reggae would come on, I would record it...remember those days man...mix tapes and shit. We had mix tapes for every ocassion. But what I was gonna say is that I never knew that ub40 was white until many, many years down the road when I saw them on TV or something. I was shocked. I didnt know some white guy like that could sing good reggae. I think they are a good band, and I think Bob is god. Bob has done it for reggae, and I guess(from your blog) ub40 did their part(3% or _) too. I think they difinitely made it more "commercial". I think back in the day I listened to more ub40 than Bob just becos it was the teeny bopper thing to listen to then...these days I swear by Bob and Gregory. Remeber what Bob said in Top Rankin' - They dont want us to Unite!!

Cheers and Enjoy...pass that douchie over hea man!!

Aisha said...

uselss? i dunno.... my friends n i used ot have heated discussions over who;s better- Floyd or Maiden! lol.
Now thaaat is a useless convo.