Barrington Levy

Barrington Levy

In 1979, when Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes and Jah Life began working with him, Barrington Levy was still a raggamuffin youth. But he was already blessed with a rich voice and the ability to make up lyrics on the spot. Wherever he went, whatever he was doing, he accompanied himself with song. He had a new vibration and the interaction between the adolescent vocalist and the young but experienced session men, created an electrifying musical mix that reflected a change in the course of reggae.

Barrington Levy

Barrington Levy

In 1979, when Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes and Jah Life began working with him, Barrington Levy was still a raggamuffin youth. But he was already blessed with a rich voice and the ability to make up lyrics on the spot. Wherever he went, whatever he was doing, he accompanied himself with song. He had a new vibration and the interaction between the adolescent vocalist and the young but experienced session men, created an electrifying musical mix that reflected a change in the course of reggae.

Beth Lesser

During the 1980s, my husband and I traveled frequently to Kingston, Jamaica and Brooklyn, NY from our home in Toronto, Canada to follow the changing reggae scene. In that period reggae was changing fast, moving from the heavy roots sound of suffering and redemption to the lighter, faster, digitized sound of modern dancehall.

My husband and I saw it happen. We saw Junjo’s Volcano empire rise meteorically and them crash as his young artists emigrated or met untimely deaths. We witnessed Jah Love’s Brigadier Jerry take over the dancehall scene without ever having recorded a 45 – powered by the new popularity of dance hall cassettes.

We were in Waterhouse when King Jammy unleashed his Sleng Teng rhythm to an analog world and, one by one, producers dropped their previously recorded rhythms and started building again from scratch using programmable keyboards and drum machines. We were in Jammy’s yard while he cut the dubplates for the Clash of the Century, the event that brought dancehall culture to the larger Jamaican audience.

Over those years, I collected an archive of material that I would like to make available to the public – to present and future reggae scholars and fans.

All images © 1982-1988 Beth Lesser

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