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Roots'n'Reggae Show

Andrew McLellan, 2nd March 2016
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While Jamaica may be the origin and heartland of all things reggae, dub, and dancehall, its riddims can be found in virtually every pocket of the globe, often rehashed by new mutant combinations and styles.

As 2BOB Radio's Roots'n'Reggae Show playlist makes clear each week, Australia is certainly not free of the virus itself. Having combed the world for the latest soundsystem favourites, the program bounces between classic 'foundational' tracks and newer releases, charting dubtronica to ska. Each show presents a dense web of space delay, hooks pon de off-beat, and ever-present bass, punctuated with anecdotes about each artist, track or scene visited. We asked the host of the program for the last 10 years, Sista Selecta, about its origins and her love of this musical ecology as the show moves to the Community Radio Network:

Tell us about the history of the Roots'n'Reggae Show on 2BOB Radio. When did it start and how did you get involved?

The 2BOB Roots'n'Reggae Show had its beginnings in 1990 when Rob Meaton (aka. Dr Dub) decided he wanted to hear more reggae on the radio. It began on Monday afternoons with him and included other presenters over the years, Rick Heritage and Mikey Carlier. In 2005, Rob left to reside in the UK for a time and asked me to “mind the seat” for him on a fortnightly basis and soon after his departure, Mikey decided to take a break to focus on his artwork. I had only been hosting The Blues Show and a “station time” program to that point. Rob had enlisted my services originally in 2001 as an administrative volunteer and I spent the next 10 years as Secretary on the board of management. He had long urged me to do panel training but time didn't permit. Finally, while recovering from surgery, that excuse was gone and so I completed it and launched into my “on-air” phase.

Was this your start in radio? What presence did community radio have in your life before getting involved?

Not being a huge fan of “commercial” radio with their repetitive playlists and advertising schedules, my favourite shows were those broadcast in the early hours of the morning when presenters sounded more relaxed in their delivery and played more obscure material from artists not on the “marketable” spectrum. Having previously lived in a country town, I had an idea that the local radio scene in the Manning Valley may consist of advertising sheep dip and farming equipment with a hefty dose of “talk back radio”. Within days of settling here, I scanned the dial and heard a blues music track being played … and then another … and no advertising …. and to my delight, I had stumbled across a little community radio station with the engaging name of 2BOB. Being a blues music fan from my early teens, the dial was locked in and I was pleasantly surprised to hear lots of “alternate” and distinctly non-commercial artists with other genres of music being played too.

Only recently, I realised that I had come “full circle” and fulfilled a life-long goal. In my youth I wrote a letter to a prominent Adelaide radio station asking what I needed to do to become a “radio programmer”. I don’t recall their response but I still have on my wall a poster of Leon Russell they sent me with the reply. When I look at the poster now, it reminds me of where my journey in radio began.

How did you first become passionate about roots, reggae and related styles of music?

My passion for reggae music began after I heard it played live for the first time some years later by The Wailers and a new band to me, Bomba (one of many incarnations of musicians headed by Nicky Bomba). The sound was simply contagious. I “felt” it in every part of me and I couldn’t help but move. I was hooked.

How would you describe “roots” to someone less familiar with these styles?

The term roots can be applied to just about any genre. I regard it as any music that says something from and to the heart and reaches into the rich tapestry of rhythms from a country or genre's historical beginnings.

You play music from many Australians working within and around these traditions. What's the Australian scene like for this music?

The Australian scene is quite a healthy one with many taking up the genre both in its traditional form and some with a distinctly Aussie flavour. Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney seem to host the majority of acts which can be a little frustrating for those of us who reside in regional Australia but it just makes it all the sweeter when we can see and hear them live. There are and have been a few notable reggae festivals held down under with most hosting appearances from established and not so established artists from here and overseas. The Island Vibe Festival crew also produces excellent annual albums showcasing artists.

What Oz roots, reggae, dancehall or dub musicians would you recommend to a newcomer?

My personal preferences for both live shows and recorded “goodness” would have to include King Tide (for the sweetest of reggae tunes), Declan Kelly's Diesel'n'Dub crew (for their very Aussie sound and guest vocalists), The Strides (for their deep smooth dubs), Melbourne Ska Orchestra (for the “funnest” time you can have standing up), Xavier Rudd (for his heart and honesty) and basically any of the local one drop inspired artists you can get along to hear play live. That's the hook, hearing it live. I guarantee you won't be able to stop yourself moving.

In the Roots'n'Reggae Show you guide listeners through new releases and “foundation” tracks. What are foundation tracks and what do they mean to this style?

Foundation tracks and artists are those that define the various genres under the “reggae” banner and carry a history of achievement, development or style within it. There are many considered to be innovators and any list could include such luminaries as The Congos (a vocal group formed in the 1970s and still active today), Lee “Scratch” Perry (an artist, performer and producer of exceptional talent and innovation since the early 1960s) as well as any number of vocalists whose iconic songs and versions can still be heard at maximum volume at today's gatherings. There is so much beautiful music from artists spanning the earliest days to the most recent and I hope to bring as much of it as I can to listeners.

While their styles might be Jamaican in heritage, the musicians we hear on the show come from all over the world. Are you ever surprised by where such music is coming from?

Indeed Jamaican tunes can emanate from the most obscure and unexpected places … even in elevators and department stores! Apart from the very healthy scenes in Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, France, the UK, America and Canada, I have been pleasantly surprised by material coming out of Greece, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, Switzerland and Argentina. Reggae music speaks volumes with or without words of any language.

Can you name five tracks that you feel personify the Roots'n'Reggae Show?

The hardest question of all! I'd have to select a few of my absolute favourites and that would begin with:

Johnny Osbourne's “We Need Love” 

...followed closely by Ernest Ranglin's “Surfin'” 

The Eternals' “Queen Of The Minstrels” 

Sebastian Sturm's “Irie Place”

“Funky Kingston” from Toots and The Maytals

Ask me that question again in a month's time and you would probably get a totally different five!

For CRN subscribers:

  • Roots'n'Reggae Show is broadcast/distributed by CRN Saturdays from 21:00 to 21:55:50 EST/EDT, and is available for DDN capture
  • For more information contact CRN staff on 02 9310 2999 or email crn@cbaa.org.au

Not a CRN subscriber, but want to find out more about getting content like this for your station? Read more here.

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