Sun | Sep 23, 2018

One drop, four takes

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Bob Marley
Tarrus Riley

If two words can summarise the renowned form of Jamaican indigenous music called reggae, they could be 'one drop'. And they could also be 'Bob Marley', so it is appropriate that he has a song of that name.

However, Bob Marley is only one of the many Jamaican performers who have included the term in their recordings - and, for others, one drop has been slightly or markedly different from its reggae beat meaning as employed by Marley in his song on the Survival album. Marley sings:

"Feel it in the one drop

And we still find time to rock

We making the one stop

The generation gap

Feel this drum beat

As it beats within

Playing a rhythm

Resisting against the system."




There is another kind of system, though, the sound system that has long carried Jamaican popular music to the massive in the dancehall space. There is a style of manipulating the music a deejay performs to live music, in which a selector rides the faders to take the beat out totally and reintroduce it intermittently. Called the mix (which is different from mixing a recording so all volumes and frequencies are properly balanced, or mixing songs at a party so they flow into each other), it can be done in various ways, but one popular form is the one drop.

Super Cat deejays about it in Sweets for My Sweets, as late musician-producer Wycliffe 'Steelie' Johnson applies the approach to studio work. Super Cat deejays:

"Ragamuffin Mr Cat him jus' a chat roun' de clock

An anyweh me pass through cork an' block

Ragamuffin Daddy Steelie punching up the one drop

Come follow me"

There is yet another take on the one drop, which this time is a dance move. QQ and Venomus say "every gal a do de one drop", a move in which the drop is a stomp of the leg on the ground. Since the move is done with the legs splayed and straight and the torso parallel to the ground, the butt cheeks naturally shake - even without the effort that is put into the jiggling.

"Nutten no wrong if yu drop e pon me nuh

But me warn you mi wi damage you

Country gal me say whe make yu bad so?

But me a beg yu please gal

Come drop e right yasso"

So far, though, reggae has had the last word on one drop, as Tarrus Riley reclaims the term in the song Gimme Likkle One Drop. The chorus not only refers to the beat, but also a dance that cannot go out of style. He sings:

"Gimme likkle one drop

Make de bassline roll an kotch

An me love how de riddim jus a chop

Me an mi woman a rock

Gi me likkle one drop

Make de bassline roll an kotch

An make we couple up

An bubble up."