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'Natty Dread' calls it quits

Published:Sunday | August 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

Publishers of the popular French reggae magazine, Natty Dread, have called it a day.

Thibault Ehrengardt, the publication's chief editor since its inception 10 years ago, pointed to the deterioration of reggae music in Jamaica as his main reason for stopping the presses.

"The crises that affects music on a whole has been very pernicious to Jamaica. A few records come out nowadays, most of them mediocre," Ehrengardt said in a letter posted on the Natty Dread website.

Lost her anchor

"There is no roots revival in the island and reggae music resembles a ship who has lost her anchor, trying to survive by applying to mainstream standards, then diluting its originality and strength," the Frenchman added.

The current issue, with singer Tarrus Riley on its cover, is the last issue of Natty Dread which was released bi-monthly in French. In June, Natty Dread celebrated its 10th anniversary, with feature stories on music producer Shane Brown and the recent stand-off between security forces and gunmen in west Kingston. It also hailed underground roots singer Bobby Melody who died two months ago in England.

Natty Dread is the second major reggae publication to fold in less than one year. In December, producers of The Beat ended its 28-year run, citing economic challenges and the changing media landscape.

Like The Beat, and other European reggae magazines, Natty Dread was never limited to contemporary Jamaican music. It had feature stories on pioneer acts and musicians such as Alton Ellis and bass player Ranchie McLean of the legendary Revolutionaries band.

It also released albums by The Kingstonians (best known for the 1960s hit, Singer Man) and dub plates from Capleton, Johnny Clarke and Ken Boothe.

Lost steam

However, Ehrengardt said Jamaican music had lost steam.

"Tarrus Riley is the proof that mainstream reggae music can also bear some good fruits, but we came into this business in the midst of a spiritual and artistic tempest, the '90s, and we find it hard to sustain our enthusiasm today," he wrote.

Ehrengardt noted that his company will continue producing publications about Jamaica, such as its Jamaica Insula series which recently released the French edition of American author Laurie Gunst's sensational book, Born Fi Dead.