David Katz unfolds the Solid Foundation of Reggae Music Image

by Tanaka Roberts

Reggae historian David Katz on his new publication Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae : Revised.

Jamaicansmusic.com had the pleasure of conversing with Reggae historian, music journalist, author and disc jockey David Katz. Katz has for many years contributed significantly to documenting the history of Jamaican music, one of his most popular books being, People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee 'Scratch' Perry, an examination of the life and work of the legendary musician. How is it though that an American native became so immersed in the business of reggae music?

"I was fortunate in that I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a time when there was a lot of progressive radio stations around that really aided my musical education," Katz explained, "I discovered this hardcore 3-hour reggae radio programme, called Midnight Dread, which broadcast every Sunday night, 10pm-1am, on our local radio station, KTIM -- the only station in the town I grew up in. Now, this show did not just play 'commercial' reggae or standard stuff.  The presenter, Doug Wendt, travelled to Jamaica frequently and was a real ambassador for the music.  He brought up guests from Jamaica and I can remember the Wailing Souls live on the air, performing 'Kingdom Rise, Kingdom Fall' a capella, which was mind-blowing," he added.

Ever since then Katz recalls being intrigued by Studio One records and the man who would later become an impornt collaborator, Lee Scratch Perry. The early productions of Henry 'Junjo' Lawes, with singers like Barrington Levy, Michael Prophet and the Wailing Souls, and the dub artistry of King Tubby, Prince Jammy and Scientist were major draws too. Through watching movies such as The Harder They Come and Rockers, and reading reggae related literature as well as sourcing even more reggae radio station, Katz found himself latched to the vibrations of reggae music. Jack Ruby Hi Fi sound system's 1982 coast to coast tour play out in San Francisco was also very pivotal to him, as he relayed, "experiencing a sound system for the first time was out of this world."

Through watching movies such as The Harder They Come and Rockers, and reading reggae related literature as well as sourcing even more reggae radio station, Katz found himself latched to the vibrations of reggae music. Jack Ruby Hi Fi sound system's 1982 coast to coast tour play out in San Francisco was also very pivotal to him, as he relayed, "experiencing a sound system for the first time was out of this world." The following year he would become even more enlightened about the music upon visiting London, where there already existed a considerably large and vibrant Jamaican expatriate community. While there he was exposed to even more radio stations, sound systems and records that would forever change his life. "When I got back to San Francisco, I bought my first dub album and just got totally hooked...The more I heard, the more I wanted to hear...and so it has been ever since," Katz declared.

Fast forward to 2013, Katz is now a renowned ambassador of reggae music. He was invited to present at the 2013 International Reggae Conference at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus where he sat on a panel with veteran producers Bobby Digital, King Jammy & Bunny Lee. "It was a real honour for me to have been asked by Dr Donna Hope to chair that session.  I've known Bunny Lee for many years, and King Jammy for a good while too, and although I've only met Bobby Digital a few times, he's a really positive person, so the interaction has always been positive with him too," he shared. He told Jamaicansmusic that he is highly motivated to try facilitating the airing of first-hand accounts of the artistes and practitioners themselves, to which the setting afforded him such opportunity. "Foundation figures like these, who have made so much of the music that I've been listening to on a daily basis during the last 30+ years, are really my musical heroes, so being able to interact with them in a public setting, getting them to recount their tales to an appreciative audience at UWI is something very special for me."


His original 2003 'Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae' was written for this very purpose. It was woven around the testimonies of reggae practitioners, drawn from over 250 original interviews he conducted over a 15-year period, also referncing the research of fellow authors and journalists, as well as information from the Gleaner and other publications such as the Beat

He expressed, "I began writing about reggae music because it is such an incredible form of music in general, in so many ways, but I felt that it was not being given proper acknowledgement. Jamaicans have crafted a very distinct and moving form of music that is striking in many different ways, and people can relate to it all over the world, yet the mainstream media have often been dismissive of it. There were a lot of errors being printed as well, and plenty of misunderstandings."

Ten years later, having explored the dynamics of Reggae even more and the evolution of the music, and realizing his own errors or misunderstandings - Katz has recently released a revised version of the publication. Now published by Jawbone Press, the revised and expanded version features more interviews and details about the music that was previously unmentioned. Chapter 1 is completely reconstructed, so as to better pinpoint who made the first-ever music recordings in Jamaica, as well as how and why. In general, the new interview material that was added throughout the book means that we are better able to navigate through the transition of the different genres of Jamaican music, from the mento, Jamaican r and b and ska, though to rocksteady, roots reggae, and dancehall. Two new chapters bring the text into the new millennium, whereas the original edition finished in the mid-1980s. It also explains the nature of the connection between London and Jamaica besides just asserting a large expat community in London, showing how events in London contributed to the evolution of the music in Jamaica.

"I always feel that reggae music is worthy of a wider audience and that the complexities of the music deserve greater analysis and discussion, so I am motivated to further its dissemination wherever and whenever possible," said the author. With years of dedicated research, Katz remains committed to telling the story of Jamaican music of which so much is still untold, "I'm a real sucker for dub music, and I think it is important for people to understand the Jamaican creativity that resulted in this innovation--everyone takes remix culture for granted these days, but many don't understand the way that Jamaicans pioneered these techniques from the mid-1960s. Similarly, the debt that American rap and hip-hop culture owes to the deejay style has not been properly acknowledged," he noted.

Katz is currently working on projects of his own as well as writing articles and contributing to "the odd book chapter" here and there. The newly revised and expanded version of Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae is currently available for purchase here. For more information and updates you can visit his facebook page at www.facebook.com/dubmealways

 
Image To contort oneself into the prescribed of mediocre minds - contradicts character.
view all

TOPICS

SIGN UP / SIGN IN

  • MY PLAYLIST
Artist Title Album / Riddim Label / Producer iTunes Social  
You have not yet added any tracks.