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Sly and Robbie with Marcia Griffiths

July 29, 2017
9:30 pm

Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare are responsible for much more music than is typically acknowledged. Without them, Jamaican popular music would have taken a very different course. Much of the outside world became aware of the 'Rhythm Twins' through their work with transplanted Jamaican sensation Grace Jones, or via later collaborations with the Stones, Serge Gainsbourg, Herbie Hancock and Bob Dylan. In the realm of reggae, Sly and Robbie first caused a stir while backing singer Peter Tosh in the mid-70s, and the spotlight was placed directly onto their own creativity later that decade through hits on their Taxi label with Gregory Isaacs, the Tamlins, Jimmy Riley and Junior Delgado. Their championing of Black Uhuru also helped give that group its stellar status in the wake of Bob Marley's death, resulting in the first reggae Grammy award in 1985. Sly and Robbie also made a series of abstract concept albums with underground figurehead Bill Laswell in New York before returning to the dancehall fray in Jamaica for hits with Chakademus and Pliers, Beenie Man, Capleton and the Innocent Kru, among others. Further work with Jamaican actress-singer Cherine Anderson and collaborations with No Doubt and Sinead O'Connor kept them in demand internationally - even Paris Hilton requested their production assistance. Throughout it all, their music has never really dropped in quality, and anyone who's had the pleasure of observing them at work knows that their individual chemistry is a big part of what makes Sly and Robbie such a unique musical production force. Sly Dunbar can drum like a metronome and is equally adept at drum programming, while Robbie Shakespeare's rock-solid bass forms an unwavering melodic anchor. Their personalities are at opposing ends of the scale too - stick-thin Sly is the essence of a calm and courteous gentleman, while the hefty bassist once served time in a notorious Jamaican prison on a gun charge, and has no qualms about making it clear he is not to be trifled with. Together, Messrs Drumbar and Basspeare are a tour-de-force of rhythmic creativity. (from review)


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