THE ABYSSINIANS – Satta: The Best of The Abyssinians (2015)

ASSIGNED BY THE HOST: Great Overlooked Artists
Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn



Reggae is not my thing. The thing closest to reggae that I own, and actually quite like, is a set by Toots and the Maytals on Dub side of the mule, a live album by Gov’t Mule. I always plan to buy a Bob Marley greatest hits compilation, so that the genre is represented in my music collection. That guy wrote or performed a few famous reggae tunes in the seventies such as No woman, no cry, Get up stand up, One Love and Could you be loved. What I like about him is that he was also sort of a symbol for Jamaican reggae culture: Rastafari, ganja and dreads, but reggae fanatics probably consider him a crossover artist who sold out.

What do I like about reggae? Well, hmmm.., the music is usually happy and quite rhythmic.
What do I not like about reggae? I hardly ever focus on the lyrics, but I would not be surprised if the lyrics are on the whole a lot sadder than the music would suggest. Vocals tend to sound whiny. I think that as a genre it’s way too constrained by the rules. That does not bother me with, say, bossa nova or blues, but with some styles, reggae and tango being prime examples, the ’structural and formal homogeneity’ bores me to death from the second track.
Especially the (rhythm) guitar, and sometimes a keyboard, on the off beat (alternating with the bass) annoys me. As far as Caribbean / South American music goes (or basically anything south of Cajun/Zydeco), this is by far my least favorite music style.
So, so far this review is more a confession about my taste, but I wanted to inform you, dear reader, about where I come from.
This album has not convinced me of the intrinsic value of reggae music. It’s probably well played; I liked the fact that sometimes they sing together and that horns play a prominent role in some songs. The dub medley (versions) suggest that some versions have been updated or remixed, sometimes quite interesting to hear (once), for instance some ‘echoey’ effects.
But, still my ears fail me, I just cannot get into reggae. It’s actually easy on the ears (compared to lots of jazz such as Eric Dolphy, or prog like Magma and the like), but in the end it’s too meandering. As it was assigned to me by someone who likes reggae and/or considers this a reggae masterpiece, I suggest that reggae lovers check it out for themselves. It may indeed be a lost milestone in the history of reggae.
Because of my ‘relationship at arm’s length’ with reggae, I feel not even qualified to determine if this is good reggae. In fact, although I did like the first song (Satta amassa gana) when I heard it for the first time, as of this moment I’ll postpone my decision to get a compilation by Bob Marley indefinitely.
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Author: tomymostalas

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