Thursday, February 02, 2006

Reggae legend Big Youth is finally visiting Australia

Big Voice
February 3, 2006
By Kate Welsman

MORE than 30 years ago, when Bob Marley first graced the stage with his conscious style and accessible lyrics, there was another artist who was tearing up Jamaica with his deejay approach.

Born Manley Augustus Buchanen, he has been known for most of his career simply as Big Youth. Next week marks the first time the elder statesman of reggae has visited Australia.

Big Youth's place in music history has been assured through his pioneering Jamaican deejaying that changed the sound of reggae in which producers left space for chatting over the music.

As rival sound systems competed for the freshest sounds, Big Youth, who has worked with all the big producers such as Prince Buster and Lee "Scratch" Perry, rose to rival Marley in popularity.

From his first single, S 90 Skank, produced in 1972 by the then unknown Keith Hudson, about the cult Japanese motor bike and the dangers of riding it too fast, to his latest album Musicology, he has remained a compelling, vigorous presence.

Big Youth's career has been a series of firsts: the first to record the I Threes, the first to experiment with mixing chatting and singing, and, as legend has it, the first to sport dreadlocks on stage and album covers at a time when it was illegal to do so.

Then there's the matter of his teeth, which are embedded with red, green and gold jewels.

Speaking from Kingston, Big Youth extols the value of his "spiritual message" in apocalyptic terms.

"Righteousness must prevail!" he thunders. "People are seeking righteousness in these times of difficulty. There is too much war and not enough care in the world.

"On my shows and the new album I am returning people to roots to look beyond the devastation."

In a voice that falls somewhere between a purr and a growl he expresses contempt for slackness, or gangsterism in dance hall, a style he believes is only a fad in the history of Jamaican music.

"A generation of indiscipline has taken over, they who ignore righteousness and roots, but people continue to find inspiration from my music and words. I talk about their difficulties and problems and they take strength from that."

Over music that has continued to challenge bland sensibilities and simple pop melodies, Big Youth, the former mechanic, is coming to deliver. We'd better be ready to receive.

Big Youth and Third World play the Prince Bandroom, St Kilda, supported by Heartical HiFi and Ranking Yoni, on Wednesday.

Go to

No comments: