Music festival Africa Oyé has announced that roots reggae legend Max Romeo will be performing at its 25th Anniversary festival. Africa Oyé 2017 takes place Saturday, June 17-18 at Sefton Park, Liverpool. Admission is free.
Max Romeo has had top 10 hits throughout Europe and has been sampled by artists like Jay Z and The Prodigy. Max Romeo’s career started when he signed a contract with Bunny Lee, one of the biggest producers of his time in Jamaica in the 1960s. Hits such as ‘Chase The Devil’ lead to international success and to performances across the world.
After working with producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Romeo’s style evolved from a typically Jamaican ska towards to pop reggae.
Other artists scheduled to perform include Mokoomba (Zimbabwe), Jupiter & Okwess International (DR Congo), Dobet Ghanore (Ivory Coast).
I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time.
There is no proof that music can influence the actors of a political economy. There are a certain amount of musicalnoblesse that asks of us to respect musicians who attempt to guide minds towards social peace and progress, often while advocating for social unrest, but though dissenters sing along to political songs in droves, it’s important to ask one’s self if dissenters pay attention to the actual ‘message.’
Max Romeo and many of his fellow Reggae artists seem to not care about proof if their music can influence and go for it. In order to achieve the effect that religious songs often have on the faithful, but also to spread revolutionary gospel through mass media, Rastafari Romeo released the album War Ina Babylon in 1976.
Max Romeo is producing radio friendly songs here, though on the longer side of radio friendly so at five minutes; he must balance religious, revolution, and radio. He is producing his songs with The Upsetters, and he chooses to feature them richly, though not at a point where band members will improvise. The band focuses on aesthetics – on rhythm, on harmony, and melody, as he focuses on lyrical chant and some narrative like singing. We hear the coming together of expertise, not of ideology; sometimes melodies don’t convey chant. His chanting and exploring, along with a choir, political slogan on all 9 songs, and some scatting like ‘na na na na’ on “One Step Forward”, shapes these songs. We listeners listen to these slogans, over and again, as if the main attraction of these songs, dragged through the song contemplating a slogan like ‘war ina babylon’ on “War Ina Babylon.”
The songs are tight and don’t allow for much interpretation of the melodies, harmonies, or rhythms. Instead, the repetition of these slogans as chants drags along the songs’ melodies brilliantly, and do the same to the rhythms. Re-listening to these songs, one will realize that there are layers of beauty that one pushes aside as what accompanies the song’s lyrics. The instrumental beauty we hear almost signifies beautiful fight and it’s the case because of his repetition of the chants.
This album’s are essentially great at crafting and conveying slogans to the pathos of their time. They take the side and sing to labor and not to capital, articulating misery to those living complexity miserably. We are attending a beautiful rally here, a both perfect and religious rally as no political rallies really are.
Though there is no proof about music can led to concrete social change, it’s almost impossible to negate music’s importance. Even the theorist Friedrich Engels, during the later part of his life, in his late letters on historical materialism, did write about a a “reciprocal interaction” between the infrastructure of a society, its economy, and the superstructure, which includes music. Romeo belongs to a those who believe that ‘spring’ in a beloved society can come about with a new consciousness. He attempts to educate with slogan, through the reasonable length allowed by his time, to his time of human beings living in a very complex society.