What is up my reggae friends?
What is up my reggae friends? I am back with some news. I had an amazing weekend with some cool reggae bands. Last weekend I went to a Toots and the Maytals cover band. Of course no band can compare to the original but they were actually really good. But my weekend wasn’t that simple actually. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a story to tell on this website.
So a few weeks ago I actually was called by the lead singer of the band. He was familiar with my website and my love for reggae music. Of course this is already amazing. To hear that people and even bands are reading and looking at my website is awesome. But it gets better. The singer invited me to travel to Michigan where they were giving a concert. All expenses would be paid for by them including a hotel, and eating with them in different restaurants. In exchange I would write a review and article about their band for this website, giving them some much deserved press. So I packed my bags and went to Michigan with my car. They even paid for my gas expenses which was fantastic.
Upon arrival I met the lead singer and the rest of the band who all seemed to be very nice guys. They were living the reggae lifestyle which you could clearly see. They were cool, easy going and calm. They didn’t have the cultural or ethnical background of the reggae world though. Funny enough they told me that they were all from middle class families and were raised by their parents completely without any reggae culture. They discovered it on their own and loved the lifestyle and music so much that they were drawn to it. They started their band when they were 20 and quickly started covering the big reggae artists, course Bob Marley and Toots and the Maytals. Eventually they decided to become a Toots and the Maytals cover band only.
I must admit, I am not always the biggest fan of cover bands. How can they ever be as good as the original band? But I must admit these guys were awesome. They played and sang the Toots and Maytals songs in completely a style of their own. The guitar work is different and the singing was absolutely very different. This makes for an interesting situation. Because they of course present themselves as a cover band and although the lyrics and basic song structures are the same it is still a reggae experience that is completely different than the Toots and the Maytals. I mean this in a positive way. After the show a got a change to see how it worked backstage and we hung out for a while. After that we went to a restaurant
Where I asked why they weren’t writing their own music. They clearly had the talent. The singer told me that they had been thinking about it starting to write their own music but they were still in the progress. They wanted to start preforming their own songs in June and according to them they still had some fine tuning to do. In the future it will be interesting to see if they will transcend just being a cover band and start making and writing music of their own. I am sure that their music will be awesome reggae music and they will be awesome. Now I’m going to put on the free music they gave me and chill back to some of their Toots and the Maytals songs.
My Dutch Advocaat Zwolle Experience
Ahhhh yes, Amsterdam. Of course I would one day go there. The beautiful city of Amsterdam is a temple of reggae culture. Well, certain parts of reggae culture that is. Of course I love to smoke some weed once in a while. Don’t tell anybody. But in all honesty I have wanted to visit Amsterdam in a long time. Now coincidently my favorite band and the subject of this website played in Amsterdam. So of course I had to go. Of course I also wanted to see some of the scenery of Amsterdam and enjoy the culture. Yes I am a very cultural man, man. It has always fascinated me how the legalization of weed came to be and why it is. Lawyers or ‘advocaten’ in Zwolle and other little places in the Netherlands are still very much busy with trying to change legislation. I say Zwolle because I have in fact a friend there who works as a lawyer. I asked him about the weed policy in the Netherlands.
Although many say weed is legal in the Netherlands it is in fact not. I know, such a shame right? But there is good news. The Dutch government thinks that soft-drugs are a problem but it is a problem that is so ingrained in the culture of the Netherlands that it would be impossible to ban it out by making it illegal. So according to the law weed is illegal, but the law is simply not enforced. This means that no cop will stop you if you have weed on your person. You can smoke weed anywhere and anytime in Amsterdam. Of course there are the coffee shops where you can smoke inside but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Me myself I love to smoke inside the coffee shops because in many of them they play reggae music. I spoke to one of the coffee shop owners and asked him where they got their weed. Here is something interesting, they won’t tell you. Because although you won’t get arrested for selling or smoking weed in Amsterdam. You will get arrested for growing it. Well sort of, a citizen of the Netherlands can grow five cannabis plants by himself for personal use. Any more than five and you will be arrested. So although coffee shops can sell weed they will never tell their source of weed supply to people or the police. They have to act like it ‘just appears’. I know, it is such a weird system. But millions of Dutch people and tourists from all over the world are enjoying its benefits. It makes Amsterdam the city it is and brings in millions and millions for the government because of all the tourists that visit. Other cities in the Netherlands just don’t have that special international appeal that Amsterdam has. My lawyer friend which in Zwolle they call ‘advocaat zwolle’ told me that nobody smokes weed in Zwolle and it has no tourists whatsoever.
But I am going to stop talking about weed. I came to Amsterdam for another reason. Our favorite band was playing in ‘Melkweg’ and I was stoked to see them. I did smoke a little before to get in the best vibe I could be in. Off course some people say that your experience of music will be less when you are under the influence of drugs. I completely disagree. When I’ve smoked a little the music becomes even better. The Melkweg is a beautiful club and very good for concerts. I heard it also functions as a nightclub. I met some awesome people while at the concerts and they showed me around in Amsterdam the days afterwards. Then I spent 2 nights at my advocaat friend in Zwolle.
Reggae & Jamaican Food / My Private Dining Experience
How is everyone doing over there?! It’s been a little while but I have certainly not forgotten about the Toots and the Maytals site! You’ve heard me talk about it before: my long stay in Amsterdam. Today what I feel like sharing is what I missed most during my stay in Holland: Jamaican food! I’ll also talk about my Private Dining Experiences with a private chef in Amsterdam in a so called’ huiskamerrestaurant’ in Dutch. There will be a lot of culture in this post. Hope you like it!
So what do most people not know about Jamaican food? Well you will find influences from Europe, China and of course from Africa. But it goes even further: even the traditional food of the original inhabitants, the Indians, made their mark on some dishes. Do not expect haute cuisine or a private dinner style evening when eating out. Jamaican cuisine actually belongs to the history of the island and you will find dishes that originally date from the time of the Arawak Indians. This evolved further over time and still belongs to the fixed parts of the meal. The Arawaks lived from fishing and hunting, and later of agriculture. Fish and shellfish, but also corn and beans for example, date from this time. Later on peanuts, sweet potatoes and cocoa got introduced to the meal.
Then the Spaniards brought their food to Jamaica, which still has many traces in today’s dishes. They used sugar and salt, lemons and olives. All ingredients you eat today are found in Jamaican cuisine dating back from the period in which slaves were transported to the island. Its origin lies in Africa and perhaps they did have the greatest impact on the food in Jamaica. Bananas play an important part of the daily meal. The Africans also introduced wrapping the food in banana leaves.
As a starter, you could choose between cassava bread and pepper bread. Cassava bread is made from flour obtained from the root of the cassava bush. Now the cassava flour is often replaced by ordinary wheat flour. The meal also includes a hearty soup, which has many vegetables that grow on the island, together with diced pork or corned beef. Coconut also belongs to the ingredients, making the soup gets an oriental sounding flavor. By adding the pepper flavor is once again very Jamaican. My friend and cook in Amsterdam, who has a Private Dining Amsterdam ‘huiskamer restaurant’ prepares Jamaican food like no other I have tasted in a European kitchen before. I highly recommend her!
In traditional Jamaican foods meat and fish are among the main entrees. Well known is the jerk pork, with wild boar as a base ingredient, nowadays, due to the dramatic decline of the wild boar on the island, mostly made with just pork. The food was developed by slaves who fled their masters (Maroons) and took refuge in the mountains. They lived on wild boars whose meat was dried in the sun. Then the pieces were meat with lots of spices (including garlic, thyme, sugar, vinegar, shallots, etc.) and smeared over a fire, which was fired with pimento wood smoke. It is still a delicacy and it is in many places, especially in the vicinity of Boston Bay (Portland and commonly known as “the birthplace of jerk food ‘), simply offered along the way as a snack. The meal is now served in restaurants and is based on the original jerk pork and consists of marinated and slowly roasted in spiced pork. Jerk chicken is a chicken dish, based on the method of jerk pork, with one important difference; the meat is roasted but not grilled. This dish is offered in many places in Jamaica, there are special jerk pork restaurants where you can choose from meat, chicken or fish as a base.
Rice and peas consists of rice and beans (originally peas) in which numerous herbs are processed and cooked in coconut milk. It is one of the most popular dishes in Jamaica and a Sunday meal is not complete without rice and peas. The Jamaican stew is a famous goat curry with of course goat as a main ingredient. There are, as a result of the use of a variety of different vegetables and herbs, as well as many kinds of goat curry. Curry that belongs to the solid ingredients will be clear.
When in Jamaica (private dining or not) codfish and Ackee are an absolute must. Not only because it is the national food of Jamaica, but also because it is very tasty (and nutritious). It is eaten as a side dish; the slaves were given this once daily for breakfast. Ackee is a fruit unknown to us that is found everywhere in Jamaica. The fruit is bright red on the outside, the flesh is yellow and the fruit cannot be eaten uncooked, it is poisonous. After the fruit is cooked, peppers and onions are added and eaten with dried cod. A standard Jamaican menu will surprise you, as there are many spicy dishes. In many restaurants a “catch of the day ‘ will be offered, which is to say that the fish from the last night is on the menu. Sitting between oysters and shrimp, as well as lobsters and crabs. Let the cook safely take its course, most Westerners need to worry only about one thing: how spicy it is going to be. Indicate that you still want to keep some of your taste buds. You can later add as much spices, as you want, so you get a meal that is completely tailored to your own taste.
Dessert is served with fresh fruits: mango, papaya, apple or pineapple. Also try the homegrown fruits Ortanique: a cross between orange and orange / red mandarin, ugli: a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit or pear-shaped apple known under the name of Otaheite. My friend with the ‘huiskamerrestaurant Amsterdam’ place prepares this excellent but of course she offers private dining professionally as a chef. I can’t recommend Jamaican food enough, it is truly a great please for the soul and I always love to be in the kitchen when they prepare it.
The magic of the reggae feel: Making you move!
What is it about reggae music that just makes your head swing and your feet want to move? the secret lies in that the top reggae producers use the best drum samples to simply get you into the groove man!
How come it seems that almost everybody bounces the same way as soon as a solid reggae song is played? What exactly is it that triggers us, time and time again?It is the rhythm of the drum samples, the feel or the swing , if you may.
While these words can actually mean different things, they’re often used interchangeably to describe how a piece of music affects your eagerness to start moving to it. Of course, how certain rhythms or feels affect you is personal, and it might be different to how others are experiencing it. But, there are some principals and lessons to be thought that can clear up mythical concept of swing.
Straight and swing
First of all, let’s go back to the core of all music: time signatures and beat variations. The most easy and well-known one is quadruple time, or 4/4. It is used in most pop songs. This is an example:
But within this 4/4 time, huge variations of feel are possible. The two most significant approaches to the 4/4 time are ‘straight’ and ‘swing’ rhythm in drum samples.
The straight one, is as you could probably guess, the most straightforward and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song is a nice example.
The swing approach is more difficult to explain. It is mostly found in jazz and sounds something like this:
As you can hear, you can still count to 4, but the feel is really different (and it probably makes you want to move or at least nod your head to the drum samples). This is because the offbeat notes (every second and fourth note) are played as if they were part of a triplet and hence, they are slightly delayed. Essentially this is what makes music that is played in swing so danceable.
Reggae’s unique formula
Now we’re back at reggae. Because what makes reggae so danceable and addictive, is the fact that reggae combines the straight and the swing approach!
In reggae music, every second and fourth note are slightly delayed, just as in swing music. However, the delay usually tends to be less strong in reggae songs as in music with the pure swing approach. In addition, reggae also tends to have more emphasis on the first beat, as opposed to many songs in swing.
This is exactly what makes reggae music so attractive to such a wide scale of different audiences.
Because of this unique swing, reggae songs are a popular target for hip hop producers that are looking for samples. One of my personal favourite drum samples usage is Talib Kweli’s: ‘The Perfect Beat”:
which contains a sample of “Do It Twice” a beautiful song by Bob Marley and the Wailers:
Another example is the famous song A Milli by Lil’ Wayne:
which contains a sample of a tune by A Tribe Called Quest that was turned into a reggae/dancehall track by a young Fatboy Slim. What was sampled is a part of the ‘toasts’ by a DJ, which is typical for dancehall tracks
The producer (Bangladesh) took the vocal toast, pitched it down, put some heavy 808 hip hop drum samples (for those interested you can find these on: http://realdrumsamples.com) on top, and created a banger!
Lastly, since reggae is often acoustic and the drums and percussion usually play an important role, hip hop producers that want to make beats sometimes also just take drum samples from reggae songs.
But it is not only hip hop producers that try to make use of the unique characteristics of reggae music. Dance producers like to do the same thing. A great example is the house remix of Bob Marley’s Sun Is Shining
by Funkstar Deluxe:
So, we can definitely conclude by saying that reggae was, still is, and will be a great source of inspiration for loads of people across our planet, and if you are producing reggae music use the best free drum samples you can find! Yaaa man!
Apart from being an amateur reggae singer and guitar player and of course one of the biggest fans of Toots and the Maytals, I like to dance. And not only to reggae, but also to salsa music. Now, I just got back from a holiday full of salsa dancing in Amsterdam. And while I don’t think I have to explain the link between Amsterdam and reggae, I think the link between salsa and reggae can use some explanation.
In the last article, I wrote about the unique feel or swing of reggae music, and why that makes you want to dance. It goes without saying that the feel of salsa music, although it also wants to make you dance, is completely different to the one of reggae. I can’t take all the credit I learned a lot from my teacher at my personal best Salsa Amsterdam dancing school. However, there are some interesting familiarities between the two music styles that I would like to discuss.
First of all, both genres have their roots in the Caribbean islands, only a few hundred kilometers away from each other: Jamaica for reggae and Cuba for salsa. Both genres were born out of a mixture of two other genres, one being indigenous, and the other one being non-native.
For reggae, this was Mento and the foreign rhythm and blues. In the case of salsa, Spanish folk music was mixed with the music from the slaves that were kidnapped from Africa. The music of the latter was characterized by rousing rhythms and the question and answer style of singing (the lead singer sings something, which is repeated or answered by the other band members). Hence, the accompanying melodies and chord constructions in this root version of salsa that is called ‘Son’ have a European character; wile the rhythm and the singing have an African character. Mostly former slaves from the Ivory Coast and Angola have had much influence on the Son. It is striking how cheerful and upbeat the music sounds, despite the difficult times that the slaves must have had in Cuba.
The song “Chan, Chan” by the Bueno Vista Social Club is one of favorite examples of the Son music genre:
In addition, percussion plays an important role in both musical styles, as they are the propelling force of the rhythm and thus the feel of the song. Guiros, toms, shakers and especially timbales are vital in a lot of reggae songs. A lot of reggae songs even start with a Timbales fill. For example, check out the beginning of this awesome Bob Marley song (or just the entire song of course):
Here’s a lot of overlap with salsa music percussion: Timbales, guiros, and shakers are, next to congas and bongos, more than regular features in salsa songs.
But what I like most about salsa that I kind of miss in the contemporary reggae scene, is the dance community. During my two and a half weeks in Amsterdam I danced a lot. And what I keep noticing is that in the salsa community, parties are organized specifically as dance events, and where actually everyone dances. In my opinion, that is different to the contemporary reggae communities. The reggae parties are absolutely awesome, but there is not such a strong emphasis on dancing. And that’s why, sometimes, I wish the current-day reggae scene would resemble the old-style sound system trucks reggae parties a little bit more! But then again, there is no place where the atmosphere is better than at the modern reggae parties even though the Salsa Amsterdam scene is incredible!! Plus there are so many beautiful women. Hope to see you there!
Welcome to the Toots And The Maytals Site!
Finally! the Toots and the Maytals fan site is back! I hope you have a wicked stay and learn much more about my personals heroes and icons from the Toots and The Maytals Band. Want to know more about me? I’m Isaac Barrington the author of this website. Read my store here! Got any requests or suggestion please do contact me.
I will leave you for now with the Rototom Sunsplash epic 2011 performance by Toots!