Unbelievable Sounds: Meet long forgotten—but incredible—reggae ‘singjay’ Scotty
09.24.2013
03:11 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
reggae
Scotty

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Because of the inclusion of his classic song “Draw Your Brakes” on the gazillion-selling soundtrack album to the iconic Jamaican film, The Harder They Come (starring the great Jimmy Cliff) many people have heard the music of reggae DJ David Scott, professionally known as Scotty, but they probably have no idea that he had several other records which were equally good. Like many reggae artists, Scotty had many hit singles on the island of Jamaica that were pretty much not heard anywhere else around the world, except on the turntables of the reggae fanatics. This began to change when labels like Trojan and Blood and Fire began to release deluxe CDs of music that had heretofore mostly existed on scratchy 45s (which was the case of most ‘70s roots-era reggae). Even though reggae collectors have always found a way to get the records they wanted, until the genre started to really get taken seriously in the 1990s (record heads had already plowed through easy listening, then free jazz, so reggae was the next obvious genre to plunder) it wasn’t all that easy to hear a lot of this music.

I discovered Scotty on various Trojan DJ collections I had (like the amazing High Explosion: DJ Sounds from 1970-1976 set) which included scorchers like “Riddle I This,” “Penny for Your Song,” “Salvation Train” and “Do I Worry.” When I finally got my hands on a used copy of a shoddily packaged—but awesome—Trojan comp called Unbelievable Sounds, which contained pretty much every song the guy ever recorded, I was thrilled to hear nearly two dozen stone classics. Many of his songs feature a kind of style known in reggae circles as “singjay.” There was a charming, childlike quality to Scotty’s raps (and persona). His voice was young sounding and he sang about Sesame Street. His melodies were A-B-C’s simple. (Kids tend to immediately respond to Scotty and it’s obvious why). I have read that he would often perform wearing short pants and a beanie. This makes sense!

Although I have a number of favorite Scotty songs, my top favorite has to be “Clean Race”—with a loose rap that would have Snoop gagging it’s so fucking good—delivered atop the riddim for Lloyd Charmer’s classic, “Save the People.”  This was recorded in 1972. It’s often been said that Jamaican DJs like Big Youth and U-Roy were the originators of rap music—which is basically true—but I’d nominate Scotty for being the artist of that time period who most closely predicted the form rap would ultimate take. Listen to this amazing vocal performance and see if you agree (and listen for producer Derrick Harriott’s turn at the mike as he explains his concept of how a hit record is made!)
 

 
David Scott left Jamaica to set up a recording studio in in Florida in 1974, effectively ending his career as a DJ. Below is a video of him performing “Draw Your Brakes,” apparently sometime in the US during the 1980s. Scott died in 2003 at the age of 53.
 

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Dub Gabriel opens a new chapter in dub with ‘Raggabass Resistance’

Dub Gabriel  Raggabass Resistance
 
The dub virus has now spread out from its late-‘60s Jamaican origins on into the 21st century via modern roots, dubstep and virtually all other electronic beat music. Producer Dub Gabriel’s new album, Raggabass Resistance offers some compelling coordinates towards the only place dub has truly gone—forward.

Gabe’s first two albums, 2003’s Ascend and 2005’s Bass Jihad, saw him ground himself as a producer in the multi-tempo global-Southern dub vision established by folks like legendary multi-instrumental producer-naut Bill Laswell. But while Laswell stretched out his compositions in an ethereal jazz-influenced way, Gabe maintained a more compact aesthetic that reflected the edgy grit of the post-punk/second-wave hip-hop era during which he came up.

By the time he self-released his third album, Anarchy and Alchemy, in 2008, Gabe had started honing in on an electronically infused reggae framework that both anticipated the breakout of dubstep and introduced his consistent use of modern dubwise MCs like Jahdan Blakkamore, Juakali and Dr. Israel, all of whom also appear on Raggabass Resistance.

Drenched in analogue warmth and released both digitally and on heavy vinyl, Raggabass‘s nine tracks comprise Gabe’s most focused manifesto on what eclectic roots- dub music can sound like in the digital age.

Between the driving rhythm and compelling dub-poetry of “Is This Revolution” featuring The Spaceape…

 
…the quasi-Andalusian one-drop vibes of “Draw the Line” featuring Dr. Israel and Gogol Bordello MC Pedro Erazo…

 
…and the heavily psychedelic “Live and Luv,” which features old-school MC U-Roy and bass by Bauhaus’s David J…

 
…you know you’re getting into some eclectic territory here.

But cuts like the rocksteady-infused “Nearly There” featuring veteran Brixton UK rhymer Brother Culture…

 
…and the mega-rootsy “Silent Warrior” featuring new-school singer/MC P.J. Higgins

 
…find Gabriel showing ultimate respect for the dubwise tradition as he seeks to launch it deep into this new century.

And as the product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the beautifully designed Raggabass Resistance also serves as yet more proof of the kind of quality package artists can offer up in a crowdfunding situation.

Raggabass Resistance is available in various formats via Destroy All Concepts, Juno, Beatport, and the other usual venues…

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
R.I.P. Lloyd Charmers, reggae pioneer and NSFW tunesmith

Lloyd Charmers

 
Reggae singer/session keyboardist/producer Lloyd Charmers’s death in London a few days ago brings into sharp focus the steady passing of musicians from a generation that saw Jamaica become independent during their 20s. But it also sees the passing of one of the island nation’s premier producers of the dirty reggae song artform.

Charmers was born Lloyd Tyrell in 1946 in the Trench Town district of Kingston, Jamaica, and very little is documented of his early life. After getting his feet wet in Jamaica’s late-‘50s shuffle R&B scene, Charmers started his first group, the Charmers in 1962 with Roy Wilson, and after they split, he kept using the Charmers name for many of his subsequent records. 

When The Charmers split, he joined Slim Smith and Jimmy Riley in The Uniques, a group that unleashed a crucial clutch of hits like “My Conversation”…
 

 
…and others which in true Jamaican style would be redone and revived as a “riddim” countless times to generate a bunch of other hits for the dancehalls, as represented by this mix…
 

 
After the jump: More on the Charmers legacy…

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
Rocksteady your soul: When the Old Grey Whistle Test went reggae

Nicky Thomas
Nicky Thomas delivers…
 
The Old Grey Whistle Test was only in its second year on BBC2 when producer Rowan Ayers presented this reggae showcase in Edinburgh in 1973.

The lineup is almost completely comprised of Jamaican artists who had settled in London after touring Europe off of hits they scored in the British charts. The notable exception is the specially flown-in MC Dennis Alcapone, who delivers two of the three original tunes in this collection of excerpts (the other is Winston Groovy’s “I’m a Believer”—the one written by Mulby Thompson of Trojan Records, not Neil Diamond). It’s pretty rare to see footage from this early on of a reggae MC like Alcapone in front of a live band—until the late ‘70s, they were pretty much relegated to chatting over instrumentals at sound system dances.

After the agile Cimarons cover Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine,” they back nearly all the other artists, until an all-white band pops up to back the Pioneers. The late Nicky Thomas offers up a compelling highlight with his paroxysmal covers of Syl Johnson’s “Is It Because I’m Black” and The Four Preps’ “Love of the Common People.”

The program was hosted by Alex Hughes, who as Judge Dread had just scored three charting British reggae singles of his own—the lewd nursery rhymes “Big Six,” “Big Seven,” and “Big Eight”—and was the first white artist to have a reggae hit in Jamaica.

One can imagine how many mods, skinheads, soul boys and other riff-raff this broadcast kept off the street at the time.
 
Part 1
The Cimarons - “Ain’t No Sunshine”
Winston Groovy - “I’m A Believer”
Dennis Alcapone - “Cassius Clay” & “Wake Up Jamaica”

Part 2
The Marvels - “Jimmy Browne” & “One Monkey”
Nicky Thomas - “Is It Because I’m Black” & beginning of “Love of the Common People”

Part 3
Nicky Thomas - end of “Love of the Common People”
The Pioneers - “Higher & Higher” & “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”
All Star Finale - “Freedom Train”

Pt. 1
 

 
Keep yr skank up: check out parts 2 and 3 after the jump…

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
‘Put away stupidness’: Dub legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry gives advice to Lil’ Wayne

Lee Perry
 
As a filmmaker who’s shot documentaries on both Lil’ Wayne and Lee “Scratch” Perry, Adam Bhala Lough thought it a good idea to cross wires a bit and let the eccentric 76-year-old dub master bestow a bit of mellow wisdom upon the drank-sippin’ 30-year-old rap supastar.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Rubber Dubber: Lee “Scratch” Perry action figure
Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Classic dub album Blackboard Jungle
Surreal Lee “Scratch” Perry beer commercials

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
Reggae Britannia: Cult classic ‘Babylon’ deals pure wickedness
05.08.2012
09:50 am

Topics:
Movies
Music

Tags:
reggae
Babylon


 
Babylon is a totally engrossing 1980 British film that is set against the UK reggae and “sound system” culture of South London’s then predominantly West Indian neighborhood, Brixton.

From the DVD:

Sound system ‘toaster’ Blue and his Ital Lion crew are looking forward to a sound clash competition with rival outfit Jah Shaka. But as the event approaches, Blue’s personal life begins to unravel. Fired from his job, he beings to suspect his girlfriend is cheating on him and then one night he is brutally beaten by plain-clothes policemen. Finally, when their lock-up garage is broken into and their sound system destroyed, he cannot take any more. Increasingly angered and alienated by what he perceives to be society’s rejection of his race and his culture, Blue is compelled to respond by fighting fire with fire.

Babylon stars Brinsley Forde, the lead singer of Aswad as “Blue.” Martin Stellman (Quadrophenia) co-wrote the screenplay with director Franco Rosso. The soundtrack was scored by Slits producer Dennis Bovell and featured music by Aswad (their killer “Warrior Charge” number), Yabby U, I Roy, Michael Prophet and others. Babylon was shot by Oscar winning cinematographer Chris Menges (The Mission; The Killing Fields).

Babylon is a real treat and considered a classic today. The soundclash scene with Jah Shaka near the film’s end is just a flat-out great piece of film-making. Babylon was difficult to see until it was released on DVD in 2008, but it’s made a strong comeback since then, with prestigious screenings and a BBC broadcast as part of the “Reggae Britannia” season.

Certainly it’s a unique film, the only one of its kind to examine the harsh life of Jamaican immigrants in London during that time. Babylon represents the first time in UK cinema where British reggae culture and Rastafarianism were explored in a non-documentary. Director Rosso was raised in South London himself and knew exactly where to find visually arresting backdrops of urban decay in Brixton and Deptford.

I lived in Brixton in 1983-84 myself—where I saw Aswad play live many, many times and walked past a couple of outdoor Jah Shaka parties that I probably would not have been all that welcome at (his PA system was so loud it felt like the music was thicker than the air, like some kind of dub humidity)—so I was always curious to see this film.  It did not disappoint. Babylon perfectly evokes the growing racial tensions—and intense feelings of doom—of inner city London life during the late 70s/early 80s that ultimately culminated in the fiery Brixton riots. Highly recommended.

Mel Smith, seen in the still-frame below, has a small role as Blue’s racist employer.
 

 
Via Exile on Moan Street

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Grace Jones: the ‘Hurricane’ returns


 
With the east coast of America still recovering from the effects of Irene, it seems like today’s American release of Grace Jones’ album Hurricane could not have come at a more inopportune moment. But as the album was originally released in Europe in 2008 the question remains - why did it take three years for Hurricane to get an American release in the first place? Was it label hassles? Jones hassles? Or a renewed interest in the lady’s work post-Gaga?

Either way it’s still a good day for Jones fans, even the ones who already own Hurricane. The American release comes with a dub-remix album imaginatively titled Hurricane Dub, which is also being released in its own right in other territories. Hurricane Dub is highly recommended, not just for the Jones-heads out there, but for connoisseurs of dub in general. It’s excellent. In fact it’s maybe even better than the original album, and yes I know saying that is kind of sacrilegious.

It’s a dub remix album in the true sense of the term, using just the original tracks and a shit ton of spaced out fx, mixed and processed by producer Ivor Guest (is that his real name?!). Like the dub mixes of her work from the 80s, Hurricane Dub brings the classic rimshot-heavy sound of the Compass Point All Stars to the fore, and positively drips authentic stoner atmosphere. I was actually surprised at how good this album is, and I do count myself among the hardcore Grace Jones faithful. Strangely enough though, there’s very little of this album appearing online. I hope her label are ensuring this reaches as many ears as possible! So, while you will have already seen the fantastic and terrifying video for “Corporate Cannibal”, here’s the only readily available video clip from Hurricane Dub available online:

Grace Jones - “Well Well Well Dub”
 

 
Hurricane and Hurricane Dub are available to buy here.

 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Mista Majah P releases world’s first pro-gay reggae album


 
Well, this is a turn up for the books. Here is more info, via a press release from the Peter Tatchell Foundation:

Jamaican reggae singer Mista Majah P has released the world’s first pro-gay reggae album. Called Tolerance and featuring rainbow stripes on the cover, the album includes 11 songs, variously in support of same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples, as well as attacks on homophobic bullying and the US military policy, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The tracks also feature swipes at the anti-gay prejudices of ‘murder music’ reggae singer Beenie Man and of the Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding,

Explaining why he created the album, Mista Majah P said:  “I want to counter the myths that all Jamaicans are homophobic and that all reggae music is violent and anti-gay. I’m seeking to challenge ignorance and reach out to gay people.”

“My hope is that this cd, Tolerance, will break down the homophobic stance that certain reggae artists and heads of government have taken towards the LGBTQ community. Because of the hateful songs that some performers have been singing, gay people have been threatened and harmed. Some foolish people act upon what these artists are preaching because they worship these artists like gods. My music is about tolerance. It shows that reggae music can respect gay and lesbian people. Reggae music used to be about love, peace and unity. Now it is too often about bigotry and violence. I want to bring the music back to its progressive roots,” said Mista Majah P

“Since releasing the album, Mista Majah P has received numerous death threats and has been warned to not return to Jamaica (he currently resides in California). He’s undeterred and defiant, stating that ‘murder music’ has given reggae a negative image, which is bad for the music industry and for all reggae artists,” noted Mr Tatchell.

You can hear Mista Majah P’s album Tolerance (and buy it) at cdbaby. For more info visit Mista Majah P’s website.  Here’s the album’s opening track:
 
Mista Majah P - “Love and Tolerance”
 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Dub for the Dancefloor: Shockman EP ‘Shock the Sound’ released today

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Folks, the wonderful Voltage Music label has seen fit to release my EP “Shock the Sound” today under my Shockman guise.

It features remixes of two tunes of mine by the dub & bass music talents Dubmatix, Subatomic Sound System, earlyW~Rm, and Bakir from the Spit Brothers.

You can get it on Beatport, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here’s the whole thing streamed with earlyW~Rm’s excellent remix downloadable…
 

 
…and here’s a video I put together for the tune “Shock Out”…
 

 
End of plug, thanks for your indulgence…

 

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
‘Nobody Canna Cross It’: Forget Auto-tune, Jamaica’s DJ Powa riddim-izes the news

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If you’re looking for some news-video manipulation that’s funkier than the the Gregory Brothers’ oft-annoying high-register hip-pop treatments, you’re in luck. Out of Kingston, Jamaica’s University of Technology comes marketing student Kevin-Sean Hamilton, who as DJ Powa created the tune and video for “Nobody Canna Cross It (Di Bus Can Swim)”, the most viral video to come out of that country.

Cut from a TVJ report on flooding from the Yallahs River in eastern Jamaica’s St. Thomas parish, “Nobody Canna Cross It” spotlights the declarations of river worker Clifton Brown, who Powa’s made into a folk hero with a sick backing track and some deft video editing. It’s a perfect example of the unique way that Jamaicans find humor in bad news—or as they say in patois, “tek serious mek laugh.”

Of course, both Brown and the song  have their own Facebook pages, and thankfully, Kingston-based videographer Simon “Sno” Thompson (a.k.a. Yosef Imagination) is looking to set up a fundraiser to help build that bridge for the people of St. Thomas.
 

 
After the jump: DJ Powa’s take on last year’s deadly unrest in Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston…

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
American government lying! Jamaican martial arts superstar Konfu Dread got Bin Laden

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In another twist on the apparent death of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden, it turns out that US Special Forces were pretty much helpless to find the world’s most wanted terrorist.

It took one of Jamaica’s most heroic and physically capable dreads, Konfu Dread, to use his “so excellent” kung-fu powers—which he deems “amongst the greatest”—to take down the man who eluded so many leaders and armed forces. 
 

 
After the jump: all four ass-kicking episodes of the Konfu Dread saga so far!

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
The Brixton Riots: 30 years later

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Thirty years ago today, the famous Brixton riot of spring 1981 brought the long-simmering issues of class, race and police repression to the front pages and TV screens of England.

Brixton was definitely not the first sign of racial unrest in the Thatcher era. A police raid on the Black & White Café in Bristol’s economically hard-hit St. Pauls district the year before had led to a day-long riot among Caribbean youth. And police apathy in investigating a fire at a party on New Cross Road in early ’81 fuelled the notion in South London’s black community that their lives were perceived by the cops as worthless.

In the days before things jumped off in Brixton’s Lambeth area on April 10, cops had launched the charmingly named Operation Swamp 81 in an attempt to curb local robbery and burglary. Over a week, officers stopped almost 1,000 mostly black people—including three members of the Lambeth Community Relations Council—and arrested 118.

Combined with the extremely high unemployment rate among Brixton’s sons and daughters of the Windrush generation of Caribbean immigrants, and the rise of organized white racist activism, the community’s temperature was at peak. As one of the youths put it in one of the films below: “Jobs, money, then National Front…something was bound to happen.” Confusion and bad-faith rumors around police involvement around a stabbing incident was all it took to set off two days of fighting.

The implications of the multiracial Brixton riot unfolded throughout the subsequent summer of that year in Handsworth, Chapletown and Toxteth. Despite the improvements and gentrification that Brixton has seen since ’81, the place hasn’t been free of unrest.

In 2001, director Rachel Currie produced The Battle for Brixton, one of the authoritative video chronicles of the revolt, for the First Edition program.
 

 
Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
 
After the jump: on-the-ground footage from community members, and Brixton’s impact on music.

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
Martial arts madness: Konfu Dread takes on Jamaica’s skin-bleaching trend

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In a genius move that combines martial arts spoof with his country’s long tradition of satirical theatre, Jamaican video man Simon “Sno” Thompson (a.k.a. Yosef Imagination) has dropped a third episode of the hilarious Konfu Dread series of short videos.

This one goes after the sad and dangerous skin-lightening trend that’s affected developing cities worldwide, from Mumbai to Lagos to Havana. Rooted in a nefarious twining of racial politics, latent colonial mentality and economic disadvantage, skin-lightening’s gone especially harsh in Kingston JA, which has seen wide use of a range of pills and creams with ingredients like mercurous chloride and hydroquinone (see the second video after the jump). Some also use Blue Power brand laundry soap—known as “cake soap”—in the folkloric belief that it lightens the skin, as well as keeping it cool in the sun.

Last fall, dancehall reggae superstar Vybz Kartel, ironically nicknamed “Di Teacha,” propogated the myth by releasing his tune “Cake Soap.” Its chorus—in which Kartel claims his skin “cool like mi wash mi face wit di cake soap”—caused enough controversy to motivate Kartel to admit that he does indeed lighten his skin:
 

 
In classic dancehall fashion, fellow star Kiprich took the tune’s rhythm and recorded an anti-lightening answer tune, which features a Jamaican mum ridiculing the craze and a chorus that notes: “Ya can’t get brown, ya coulda buy every cake soap inna town…”
 

 
Enter Konfu Dread. As previously featured on Dangerous Minds, Thompson’s production polished the natty martial artist’s street-level vibes in episode two. But for this edition, he takes it back to Kingston’s roads, as the Cake Soap crew goes after the Dread for using their treasured product for its original purpose—washing clothes.
 

 
After the jump: a Current TV segment about the serious health problems of skin-bleaching on top of the cultural concerns…

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
BBC4’s Reggae Britannia documentary liberated

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Somebody’s finally liberated Reggae Britannia, BBC4’s excellent—though by no means not exhaustive—documentary on the origins, growth and influence of British reggae from the ‘60s to the present. Reggae Britannia takes you from the scene’s ska beginnings in the hands of the children of the country’s first post-war wave of Carribean immigrants (known as the Windrush generation), through to the emergence of Bob Marley, the first Brixton riots, the UK sound system phenomenon, the Two-Tone era, reggae’s merging with punk and appropriation by pop, and more. Reggae Britannia is definitely worth a look.

Here’s the trailer…click on any of the title links or graphic above to check the full thing. And please, watch instead of embed so we can hold off our friends at the Beeb from bringing it down for at least a short while.
 

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
Netlabels: Jahtari.org
02.14.2011
06:00 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
reggae
music
free
dancehall
netlabels
8bit
digital

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In the first part of this on going series, I explained what a netlabel is, and gave some background on the set up of our own netlabel, Little Rock Records. For the second part I have decided to cover the daddy of them all, the netlabel that inspired me to start up my own, Leipzig’s digital reggae/free download heroes Jahtari.

It was after being shown the Jahtari.org website back in 2006 by my friends in Mungo’s Hi-Fi that the penny dropped - I really could do everything needed to get music out there without the aid of another label.  All I needed was someone who could build me a website where I could host music for people to download. The concept of net labels had been floating around before, but nobody had done it as well as Jahtari, with such a coherent outlook and music policy. They took it to another level.
 
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Mikey Murka “Sensi Addict” JTR NET 08
 

 
As the name would suggest, Jahtari is a combination of old school computing and dub/reggae. In particular, the classic King Jammy/Wayne Smith-style digital reggae sounds of the mid-80s (records like “Sleng Teng” and “Walk Like Granny”), largely made on Casio keyboards, but here compressed even lower into 8-bit jams. The design is classic reggae styles, refracted through an 8-bit prism, and combined with a love of arcade games like Kong. Most importantly for me was the format - “Net 7s”, a free download which comes packaged like a physical 7 inch record, with an A side and a B side (often a dub version), and corresponding inlay sticker art. When I first encountered Jahtari in early 2007, they already had a large catalog of free releases available, releases I plundered greedily. Yes, there is a slight tongue-in-cheek vibe about the label’s presentation - which is not out of place considering that this is reggae made by a bunch of white Germans - but the music is as high quality an hommage to digital-dancehall as you will find anywhere in the world.
 
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Disrupt “Arcade Addict” JTR NET 08
 

 
Jahtari was founded in 2004 by Jan Gleichmar, who records as Disrupt, and who provides the backbone of the Jahtari catalog. Apart from Jan (who has worked with some seriously talented MCs like Mikey Murka, Solo Banton, El Fata and Soom T) the artists’ roster also includes Bo Marley, Dubmood, Roots Ista Posse and the Jahtari Riddim Force. The label doesn’t just deal in free downloads, having expanded into vinyl, tapes and CDs over the years, and now has a 7inch (physical) offshoot label called Maffi. Well, you gotta earn a crust.

There are 20 net 7s and 10 net EPs you can download for free from the website www.jahtari.org, and it all comes highly recommended. If you like the sounds of the Mikey Murka vocal / Disrupt dub tracks in this post, you will like the rest of the catalog, so my advice is just to jump over to their website now and get downloading.

But if you want to hear more music first, there’s more after the jump…

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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