Tuesday 28 April 2009

Killer Opening Songs (The Congos - Fisherman)

Bob Marley did not invent reggae. Killer Opening Songs thought it necessary to kick off his regular column by making that specific point. He understands that this revelation could come as a surprise to those for whom the 'Legend' album by the late Jamaican musician has become one of the obligatory soundtracks at dinner parties (the other ones being 'Dummy' by Portishead and 'Buena Vista Social Club'). K.O.S. feels he ought to give credit where credit is due and other reggae stars deserve as much as or even more recognition than the creator of 'No Woman, No Cry'.

Which is why K.O.S. is bringing The Congos to the lounge this week.
This trio formed in the 70s under the tutelage of the legendary reggae and dub star Lee 'Scratch' Perry. In fact it was Perry himself who oversaw the production of 'Heart of the Congos', the Congos' classic 1977 album wherefrom the Killer Opening Song is taken tonight.

One of the distinctive elements The Congos had from the very beginning was Cedric Myton's falsetto, a mellow pitch that complemented the band's strong musical offering. And as you will be able to see for yourselves tonight, despite being in his sixties the performer has kept his mettle.

Nobody knows for sure where the word reggae came from. It is thought (according to wikipedia) that it first appeared on a record by The Maytals in their 1968 hit, 'Do the Reggay', but it is not certain. What is certain, though, is that by the end of the 1960s reggae had been incorporated into Jamaica's musical canon alongside ska and rocksteady. In fact many people are divided as to whether the precursor of reggae was Theophilius Beckford's 'Easy Snapping' back in 1959. Others, on the other hand, believe that this slow, harmonic number gave birth to ska.

What should not be doutbted, though, is the influence that reggae has had over popular music since its creation. This is a genre that has touched upon issues like politics, religion, love, poverty and social injustice. And 'Fisherman' fits into this latter category. The first two stanzas are self-explanatory: 'Row fisherman row/keep on rowing your bouat/lots of hungry belly pickney they a shore, millions of them living in a bumbo hut/in a little hole sea-port town/three kids on the floor/and another one to come make four'.

One of the main characteristics of reggae singers is that they sing in 'patois', a variant of English commonly found in the Caribbean (I believe that the same linguistic phenomenon exists in Francophone countries in the same area). This makes it hard not only for other English speakers to understand but also for those of us for whom English is a second language. However, far from undermining the music, 'patois' enhances it with its singsong sound and its grammatical alterations.

Shortly after 'Heart of the Congos ' came out a dispute between The Congos and Perry put paid to any future collaboration. The trio released a few more records but they never achieved the success of their 1977 outing. In the mid 90s The Congos came back together and put out several albums. I hope you enjoy tonight's clip. Rastafari!

Note: This post has been several months in the making. The reason why it had not seen the light until tonight is that the clip you are about to see or have seen, has been removed from youtube many times. At present the PRS (Performing Rights Society) has a funny brawl going on with google (remember that google bought youtube a couple of years ago) and therefore many clips are not available for UK users. Apologies if you can't see the video and I would really appreciate it if you let me know. Many thanks.
Next post: April, Poetry Month, to be published on Thursday 30th April, 11:59pm
Copyright 2009


  1. I love The Congos. It has been such a long time since I heard them. Thanks for bringing them to me today.


  2. The Congos???????? You're totally talking my language now Cuban (albeit with a Cuban-English accent, lol).
    I'M PUTTING MY MONEY ON THE PREMISE THAT YOU HAVE KILLER PARTIES AT YOUR HOUSE!!If I'm ever over there when your having a party, I expect an invite..........I'm just sayin........

    Steady On
    Reggie Girl

  3. Though I love reggae (for the music, I have to admit) I forget to listen to it! I never heard of this band, so thank you for enlightening me.

    P.S. I have a "record album" (remember those)(lol) by Winston Grennan. I don't know if you've ever listened to him. It was a gift, and great one at that. The music is terrific. (Savior is a great song, and I think you'd enjoy it.)

    Greetings from New York.

  4. Back at ya, como siempre!


  5. Niceeee, London, I didn't know this.
    Hey, have you seen what Garrix is showing?????
    You've got to, I can't stop listening to it and loving the whole idea!!!!


    AWESOME idea!!! Check out those old guys from New Orleans and California, they are SOMETHING. I wish I could see them. I love the voice of the two black handsome young men, one living in Amsterdam and one from Congo.


  6. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
    music downloads

  7. Hi Mr Cuban
    I have no idea what the lyrics were But I enjoyed bouncing along...
    Thank you...

  8. Many thanks to you all for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  9. Gosh, I've learned a lot reading this post, thanks, yet again I'm amazed at how little I know...

    And I've been bouncing along to the music, together with Delwyn...



  10. I Cuban,
    I didn't know that reggae was that new.
    At least the word.
    Very instructive post.
    The song, however, I don't like it. It is the first time I don't like one of your KOS. Probably not your fault.
    Al Godar

  11. I have to admit that musically you're talking out of my league, but keep going, I'm learning. Being drawn along in your slip-stream, perhaps.

  12. Just saw the video and love it.

    I have never heard of him before. But Bob Marley, of course.

    Love Renee xoxo

  13. Hey, Al, never mind, mate, you know this is a laid-back blog. Many thanks to everyone for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  14. ah...that's something ! well..yes until today reggae for me was synonym to Bob Marley..

    thank you for this post Cuban and yes, i could see the video
    Hope spring is blooming in London

  15. I love all forms of Caribbean fusion music ... not fusion like jazz fusion, but like true fusion, the combination of many different kinds of music.

    Classic calypso from Trinidad is one of my favorite form. I just love it that they were ingenious enough to cut the oil drums in half and make pans.

    Love Cuban music, too, naturally ... and reggae of all stripes. I'll admit Bob Marley is one of my heroes. The way that he boosted reggae up and out of Jamaica to the rest of the world is something I'm so grateful for. And, too, Bob was luminous, he was.

    Love this vid! Thank you!

  16. Oh, Cuban, I haven't heard the Congos in ages. Thanks for rolling back the years. I commend and thank you for your stick-to-itiveness in bringing this clip to us.

    I have some Bob Marley on my iPod, perhaps I should supplement with the Congos.

  17. If I am to be honest, my favourite track in the album is 'Can't Come In', but that's not the Killer Opening Song :-(! Why?

    Many thanks to you all for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  18. I’m guilty of owning the soundtrack to the Buena Vista Social Club – I actually saw them live in concert in Hyde Park years ago after seeing the movie.

    I love how you are teaching me about the real reggae. Such an interesting history and beautiful music.

    I’ve had problems with English TV clips too. I enjoyed yours – visible in the US.

  19. I love the falsetto of Cedric Myton, it just sweeps mt along.
    Thank you for always introducing me to a new facet, because I wasn't familiar with the Congos.

  20. your opening words should be put on a t-shirt.

    nothing gets me in the zone like some good roots reggae.

    great post!

  21. Many thanks for your kind words. Hey, fly, care to do a little work on it, then? I will cede all copyright to you, as long as you promise to put my blog address somewhere :-)!

    Greetings from London.

  22. Oh yes, a reggae education is a wonderful thing! Keen insight and exploration of reggae roots in this post. Bob helped popularize reggae globally but it's important to acknowledge other artists who were just as pivotal. I love the Congos and old ska and rock steady artists like the Heptones, Alton Ellis and Toots & The Maytals. The Harder They Come soudtrack is one of my all time favorite albums because it shows the broad style and influence of the genre. As for patois, it's actually a dialect that mixes West African phrases and intonations with the English, Spanish and French of Caribbean colonialists. It is actually similar to Black English, the key to understanding is adjusting your ear to the rhythm and cadence of the speech. Patois differs from island to island, just as Cuban Spanish differs from Puerto Rican Spanish. But if you have an ear for language, you will pick it up.

  23. Fly Girl, they just revived 'The Harder They Come' recently here in London and I missed it. Finances. You're right about patois, although Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Venezuelan and Colombian Spanish standards have many, many similarities.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Greetings from London.

  24. Thanks for dropping by my blog. This post was very interesting. Like some of the others said, I learned something! Great blog altogether.

  25. la musica mi piace in generale da come sai, cuban.
    Ma in questo periodo ho una fase dove sento molto reggae. Non só perché, ma é cosi :)

    Specie Peter Tosh, che mi piace molto!

    Questo video che hai postato tu, é semplicemente grandioso. Lo ascolto con mucho gusto :)

    Saluti da Reggaelonia,
    Salva :)

  26. Thanks, Meka, grazie, salva.

    Greetings from London.



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