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Old beats, new hits

by Krista Henry, Staff Reporter

Left: Sly Dunbar at the controls.   Right: Rhythm Twins Sly and Robbie sit with Sinead O'Connor, (centre), at the launch of her album, 'Throw Down Your Arms,' held at the Liguanea Club, Knutsford Boulevard, New Kingston. The 'twins' continue to produce great hits with rythms that are very old. - Winston Sill

The riddim twins Sly and Robbie constantly prove that good music never grows old. As well as nabbing a Grammy nomination for their latest album Rhythm Doubles, the duo's riddims have helped pushed two of the biggest hits from Jamaica in recent years.

Last year, Junior Gong's Welcome to Jamrock, blazed the scene locally and internationally. this year, Buju Banton's Driver, is following suit. Both songs have ridden the wave of old reggae beats but with a new flair. Sly and Robbie produced the riddim for both songs. Welcome to Jamrock's 'World of Reggae Music' is a 20 year old riddim, while Buju's Driver A is recorded on the 25 years old 'Unmetered Taxi' riddim.

Both highly distinctive beats, the 'Unmetered Taxi' riddim produced old favourites such as Freddie McGregor's Prophecy, and Johnny Osbourne's Reason.

According to Sly Dunbar, the taxi riddim was released in 1981 but took a year to become popular. The riddim was used for specials and dubs but was only revived in 1997 when other artistes voiced songs on it.


Driver, which is on Buju's record label Gargamel music, came about when Buju asked for the riddim to use for his song.

"When someone like a Buju or Damian and Stephen Marley ask for a riddim, you know they're gonna do a good job. We have no problems when they ask for it, they've done something that will go on forever, revived the music. I can't believe Driver has got so far, I've never seen anything like it. It was always popular, but to see something some people didn't know about ... it come in like something new," Sly Dunbar said.

While Driver's success may have surprised some, being on a slower riddim than most new dancehall hits, Sly testifies that slow and fast riddims will always be around, it depends on how the song is performed. "Some riddims take a long time to pick up, some pick up quickly. The taxi riddim just stays there," Sly said. The duo has proven that their music lives on forever.

"It's our life, we just make music. I feel like 22, looking for that likkle thing that makes good music. You always have a challenge to compete with yourself and others. For me music never grows old. If it was good before, it will be good for all time," Sly said.

Legendary producers, Sly and Robbie, are always willing to share their experience with new talents. They are currently working with Tarrus Riley and Cherine Anderson, among others. "I think we need to write good songs, good melodies to compete globally," Sly said. "There are a bunch of females coming back which is good - like Tami and Tessanne, Alaine. I think females should come up front. It would be good to see them on the front line."

December 15, 2006

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