Mutabaruka's 50 most influential Jamaican recordings - Tosh, Marley dominate top 10

Published: Thursday | August 6, 2009

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer


When a Jamaican top 100 song from 1957 to 2007 listing, compiled through a committee chaired by Dr Omar Davies, was announced to the public on April 16, there were numerous concerns about its composition.

Poet, broadcaster and disc jock Mutabaruka was in the audience at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, though he was not one of the complainants.

"It was a good effort, seeing that is Jamaicans do it," he told The Gleaner, noting that most times it is foreigners who do projects like that. "I was saying one should put together their own."

And he did, compiling 'The 50 Most Influential Jamaican Recordings', as seen through his eyes and ears.

He points out that over the years he has been traveling and he is a performer, a radio show host (Cutting Edge on IRIE FM) and plays music and has "seen the reaction of the people to certain music". He played the songs from his list on the Cutting Edge on July 1, International Reggae Day, started by Andrea Davis.

He points out that his list "is not based off local influence", saying that they are songs which have allowed Jamaican artistes to be influential all over the world. "These songs are those that help establish Jamaica as a musical powerhouse," he said.

'Influential' is not restricted to having an impact in only one way, Mutabaruka pointing out that Peter Tosh's Fight 'Gainst Apartheid (4) was crucial to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Then there are songs like the Twinkle Brothers' Since I Throw The Comb Away (50), which have had a cultural influence in people changing their lifestyles - herb songs like Tosh's Legalise It having a similar effect.

Marcia Griffith's version of Electric Boogie (15) and Carl Douglas' Kung Fu Fighting (24) have made and continue to make people move on the dance floor.

Mutabaruka says Linton Kwesi Johnson's Sonny's Lettah (31) "is the first dub poem that made the international scene and created a stir for a new genre of Jamaican music". His own Whiteman Country (25) resonated with the migrant population in England and America, as people were longing to come back home, especially as they faced racism.

And Mutabaruka's Dis Poem (22) "is the most remixed poem any Jamaican has ever done anywhere. It has been remixed and redone by young people all over the world".

One Love/People Get Ready heads the top-100 list released in April. Mutabaruka has the ska version of One Love second in his rankings. "That was the one that influence the one everybody know," he points out. "One Love ska is what influence the One Love reggae. The One Love ska, to me, is the beginning of the influence."

And then there is Buju Banton's Boom Bye Bye (21) which created the conversation that started the discussion and repercussions from viewpoints on homosexuality and the attendant violence in Jamaican songs.

The most recently released song on Mutabaruka's 50 most influential Jamaican recordings is Tarrus Riley's She's Royal and he points out its influence especially outside of Jamaica in the context of the songs that were popular at the time. "What it did was to encourage a certain hope for the music. Here is a Rastafarian brethren singing about women in this manner, in a way that is palatable. It was almost a feel good song, to know that all is not lost in the music. It was the same feeling when Sizzla did Black Woman and Child (30)" Mutabaruka said.


Peter Tosh has four songs in the top 10 as a solo artiste, in addition to being a part of The Wailers on One Love and Mutabaruka notes Tosh's influence in Africa as well as perceptions of marijuana.

Harry Belafonte has two songs in the influential 50, Day O (6) and Island In The Sun (11). With his parents being from Jamaica, one from St Ann and the other from St Elizabeth, Mutabaruka says "I recognise him as a Jamaican recording these songs".

The ranking for most influential is a bit different from personal favourites, it turns out, as when The Gleaner asked Mutabaruka to name his five favourites from the list, he identified Burning Spear's Marcus Garvey, (12), Tosh's Fight Gainst Apartheid (4) and African (10), Marley's Redemption Song (1) and his own Dis Poem.

"I have seen the reaction. It is unbelievable," he said of the last.

( L - R ) Tosh, Marley

Muta's 50

(1) Redemption Song -Bob Marley

(2) One Love - (ska version) Wailers

(3) Legalise It - Peter Tosh

(4) Fight 'Gainst Apartheid -Peter Tosh

(5) Get Up Stand Up -Bob Marley

(6) Day O -Harry Belafonte

(7) War -Bob Marley

(8) Equal Rights -Peter Tosh

(9) Rivers of Babylon -The Melodians

(10) African -Peter Tosh

(11) Island in the Sun -Harry Belafonte

(12) Marcus Garvey - Burning Spear

(13) The Harder They Come - Jimmy Cliff

(14) No Woman No Cry -Bob Marley

(15) Electric Boogie -Marcia Griffiths

(16) Many Rivers to Cross -Jimmy Cliff

(17) Blackheart Man -Bunny Wailer

(18) Pass the Kutchie -The Mighty Diamonds

(19) Blackwoman - Judy Mowatt

(20) Satta Amassagana - The Abbasinians

(21) Boom Bye Bye -Buju Banton

(22) Dis Poem -Mutabaruka

(23) Young Gifted and Black -Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths

(24) Kung Fu Fighting -Carl Douglas

(25) Whiteman Country -Mutabaruka

(26) Seven Miles of Black Starliner - Fred Locks

(27) Bangarang - Stranger Cole

(28) Israelites -Desmond Dekker

(29) She's Royal - Tarrus Riley

(30) Blackwoman and Child -Sizzla

(31) Sonny's Lettah -Linton Johnson

(32) Revolution -Dennis Brown

(33) Two Sevens - Clash Culture

(34) Confucius - Don Drummond

(35) One Blood - Junior Reid

(36) Don't Affi Dread -Morgan Heritage

(37) Sleng Teng -Wayne Smith

(38) Bad Boys - Inner Circles

(39) 96 Degrees in the Shade -Third World

(40) Promise Land -Dennis Brown

(41) Fire Pon Rome -Anthony B

(42) King Tibby Meets Rockers - Augustus Pablo

(43) Solidarity - Black Uhuru

(44) If Jah is Standing by my Side -Tony Rebel

(45) Dread Inna Babylon - Big Youth

(46) Fisherman -The Congos

(47) Cocaine in my Brain -Dillinger

(48) Try Jah Love -Third World

(49) East of the River Nile - Agustus Pablo

(50) Since I Throw the Comb Away -The Twinkle Brothers