U Roy

U Roy

Though U Roy wasn’t the first deejay to put his toasts on records, he is often referred to as the Originator because of the unprecedented popularity of his early singles and the influence of his distinctive style, which caused the 1970s birthed scores of imitators. U Roy debuted on record in 1969 when Keith Hudson produced his single Dynamic Fashion Way. For Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle imprint he recorded Wake The Town, Rule The Nation, and Wear You To The Ball, which held the number one, two, and three positions in the Jamaican charts for six consecutive weeks. During the 1970s he recorded for numerous producers, with varying success. Although his output slowed in the 1980s, he returned with three quality sets for the Ariwa label in the 1990s. The new millennium showed no signs of stopping U Roy. He released more albums, and with his Stur Gav Sound System, he frequently tours the US, Europe, Japan, and the UK.

U Roy

U Roy

Though U Roy wasn’t the first deejay to put his toasts on records, he is often referred to as the Originator because of the unprecedented popularity of his early singles and the influence of his distinctive style, which caused the 1970s birthed scores of imitators. U Roy debuted on record in 1969 when Keith Hudson produced his single Dynamic Fashion Way. For Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle imprint he recorded Wake The Town, Rule The Nation, and Wear You To The Ball, which held the number one, two, and three positions in the Jamaican charts for six consecutive weeks. During the 1970s he recorded for numerous producers, with varying success. Although his output slowed in the 1980s, he returned with three quality sets for the Ariwa label in the 1990s. The new millennium showed no signs of stopping U Roy. He released more albums, and with his Stur Gav Sound System, he frequently tours the US, Europe, Japan, and the UK.

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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