As part of Black History Month, Kyann-Sian Williams (NME) pays tribute to Jamaica, “the small island that’s had a big impact on the world of contemporary music.” The article discusses artists and their hits through the years: Desmond Dekker, ‘Intensified’ (1970); Bob Marley and The Wailers, ‘Exodus’ (1977); Gregory Isaacs, ‘Night Nurse’ (1982); Lady Saw, ’Passion’ (1997); Janet Kay, ‘Making History’ (1998); Shaggy, ‘Hot Shot’ (2000); Sean Paul, ‘Dutty Rock’ (2002); Sizzla, ‘The Overstanding’ (2006); Vybz Kartel, ‘Pon Di Gaza 2.0’ (2010); and Koffee, ‘Rapture’ (2019). To read the full article aand to listen to the songs, go to NME. [Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.]
Who knew that such a tiny island could have such huge influence on the whole world? Go back in time and you’ll see there has always seemed to be a Jamaican star pushing the musical pop landscape forward – whether that’s through samples, their outrageous lyrics or simply by opening doors for fresh talent after them. There’s a multitude of iconic Jamaican records that could appear on this list, of course, but here are 10 that have helped to push the boundaries of today’s musical stylings.
Desmond Dekker, ‘Intensified’ (1970)
The late Desmond Dekker’s legacy lives on, given that he’s widely held as the first international reggae star, though he’s perhaps somewhat overshadowed by Bob Marley’s colossal success. However, officially released in 1970, ‘Intensified’ featured the internationally celebrated tracks ‘Israelites’ (which made it into the US Billboard top 10 chart and to the top of the UK singles chart in 1968) and ‘It Mek’, another UK smash. These are the first recorded international reggae hits. Dekker helped to open doors for fellow Jamaican talent across the world, even if his contribution isn’t always rightly celebrated by the history books.
Bob Marley and The Wailers, ‘Exodus’ (1977)
There are no questions when it comes to this iconic classic’s immense contribution to the world of music. A potent activist, using his talent to fight for racial and social cohesion, Bob Marley is still renowned for his laidback, Rastafarian ways and raspy voice, which brought together the world. ‘Exodus’ came out in 1977; reggae was still relatively young at the time and Marley became its biggest face due to the 1973 smash ‘I Shot The Sheriff’. With his most popular songs to date — ‘One Love’ and ‘Three Little Birds’ — ‘Exodus’ is the perfect proof of the free-spirited ethos of the world’s most famous reggae fave.
Gregory Isaacs, ‘Night Nurse’ (1982)
Gregory Isaacs is a legend when it comes to Jamaican music. He’s mostly known as the guy who started lover rock, recording the romantic reggae subgenre’s first credited tune, ‘My Only Lover’ in 1978. In 1982, though, the huge hit ‘Night Nurse’ put his name in flashing lights. With his smooth croon, Isaacs navigated the same emotional terrain as many reggae stars of the time, but he also explored slow-down, jazzier sounds. The chart-topping ‘Night Nurse’ remains one of the biggest reggae songs ever (‘90s kids will forever associate it with that TV advert) and for good reason: try not to crack your widest smile as you listen.
Lady Saw, ’Passion’ (1997)
Marion Hall, formerly known as Lady Saw, has been a huge contributor to music in many ways. Standing out in the crowd of prominently male deejays, she was one of the frontrunners when it came to ‘toasting’, an early form of rapping. With her music often criticised for its ‘slackness’ — or vulgarity — before her conversion to Christianity, Lady Saw has always been a trendsetter. But many forget that Hall’s reign as the Queen of Dancehall made her a success in the States. She’s the first ever female deejay to ever receive a Grammy Award thanks to her feature on ‘Understand It All’ with notorious ‘00s pop-punk band No Doubt, and the first to go triple-Platinum with a discography that spans across 20 years.
‘Passion’ boasts tracks that have withstood the test of time. The Billboard Top 10 reggae album – Hall’s first to chart, and less vulgar than 1996 predecessor ‘Give me The Reason’ – featured classics such as ‘Sycamore Tree’, which many generations of eager dancehall fans will remember her for.
Janet Kay, ‘Making History’ (1998)
True to its namesake, Janet Kay’s ‘Making History’ was monumental in proving that Jamaican music isn’t only made in the tiny island. Following the Windrush generation, first-gen Black Britons made a new home for the Caribbean art, a place for cultural exports including ska and other forms of reggae. Now dubbed the ‘Queen of Lovers Rock’, Janet Kay has immortalised the place of British Jamaican art with her record-breaking single 1979 ‘Silly Games’, a Number Two hit that made her the first ever Black British female artist with a chart smash. [. . .]