Music

Battle of the bands

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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Two of the hottest musical aggregations in reggae during the 1970s were The Taxi Gang, led by Sly and Robbie, and the Roots Radics. Recently an Argentinian music producer recorded an album showcasing the legendary bands.

Hernan Sforzini, a leading figure in South American reggae, is the man behind the project which features several top rocksteady and roots-reggae artistes.

“It is about a musical confrontation between Sly and Robbie and the Roots Radics. they are pillars of reggae music and after 40 years of building solid rhythms for every reggae singer in the island and beyond, it is time to recognise their work. They will be the stars of the album; each band playing six original rhythms, with a legendary singer writing an original lyric,” Sforzini disclosed in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Sly and Robbie are accompanied by guitarist Siah Dowlatshawi, saxophonist Dean Fraser, Franklyn “Bubbler” Waul on keyboards, Sidney Mills and Saxman Jerry from Steel Pulse on keyboards and saxophone, Addis Pablo on melodica, Marcus Uranis (from Groundation) on keyboards, singer Kim Pommel (Groundation), and the SOJA brass section of Rafael Rodriguez Morales and Hellman Escorcia.

The singers working with the Taxi Gang are Lee Scratch Perry, Horace Andy, Luciano, Mykal Rose, The Mighty Diamonds, and Ken Boothe.

Roots Radics are led by founder and bass player Errol “Flabba Holt” Carter, drummer Kirk Bennett, keyboardist Lloyd “Obeah” Denton, guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith, percussionist Bongo Hermann, Christopher Wray, Baltazar Colombo and Martino Gesualdi on brass, and trombonist Henry Matic Tenyue.

The singers who worked with the “Radics” are Toots Hibbert, Pablo Moses, The Congos, Max Romeo, Brinsley “Aswad” Forde, and Freddie McGregor.

Sforzini, who played percussion for both sides, said production on the yet-titled project is almost complete.

“I expect to finish the mixes by August and mastering by September. Right now, we are mixing in Afro Studios from Buenos Aires, where the project started; the other half was recorded at Tuff Gong,” he explained. “In sound we are going to different places with each song — more modern and progressive with Sly and Robbie tunes and more classic with Roots Radics ones — but keeping their characteristic sound.”

Though they first met in the early 1970s, it was not until late that decade drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare formalised their partnership at Channel One studio with the Taxi label. With Waul, Fraser, keyboardist Robbie Lyn and trombonist Nambo Robinson as regulars, they produced a number of hit songs by Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, The Tamlins, Jimmy Riley, Sugar Minott, Black Uhuru, Junior Delgado and Gregory Isaacs.

The Roots Radics took over at Channel One when the Taxi Gang moved operations to Compass Point in The Bahamas during the early 1980s. Flabba Holt had a formidable side that included rhythm guitarist Errol “Bingy Bunny” Lamont, guitarists Noel “Sowell” Bailey and Dwight Pinkney, keyboardist Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson and drummer Lincoln “Style” Scott.

They were the backing band on countless hit songs by Bunny Wailer, Gregory Isaacs, Michael Prophet, Eek A Mouse, John Holt, Barrington Levy and Yellowman.

Sforzini, 41, is from Lanus, a city in southern Argentina. His previous projects include HEMP! Tribute Reggae to The Beatles Vol II, a three-disc album saluting the legendary British group.

He also produced El Album Verde (The Green Album), a collection of Beatles songs done by top Argentinian reggae acts. He is also a promoter who has done shows in Argentina with The Congos, Israel Vibration, Groundation, Andrew Tosh, and SOJA.

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