Song of the Day: Yellowman

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Artist: Yellowman Track: "Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt" Album: Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt Listen

During the past several years, I've been trying to broaden my understanding of Jamaican music beyond the realms of quintessential '60s and '70s artists like Bob Marley and The Wailers, Toots & the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker and John Holt.

For years, I was chained to that vintage sound - the scratchy, vocal-based hits produced by Sir Coxsone Dodd, Lee Perry and other perveyors of the sound-system sound. I found the music from this period endearing for the same reasons I dove into the world of Delta blues: It sounded old and authentic, and those are valuable imaginations to a young fan.

Since then, decades behind others who saw the light before I did, I've happened upon the genres that arose in popularity after the decline in classic roots reggae. Dancehall and dub records - with their hollow, atmospherics and dense, dark layering - have become some of my favorite.

Among these artists, some might say at the forefront of the group, is Yellowman, who comes to the Alrosa Villa Saturday, September 29, with Ronnie Davis and The Pocket Band. Like most of the shows brought to town by Roots Records, it should be a good one.

For those unfamiliar, Steve Huey of has a great introduction. For starters, he wrote:

"Jamaica's first dancehall superstar, Yellowman ushered in a new era in reggae music following Bob Marley's death. His early-'80s success brought the popularity of toasting — the reggae equivalent of rapping — to a whole new level, and helped establish dancehall as the wave of the future." [Overview]

Most Jamaican artists - including Yellowman - refer to all of the island's productions generally as "reggae," and the dancehall king's music definitely bears the trademarks. Though he is an albino, which carries a stigma in Jamaica, his sound is upbeat, dominated by percussion and polyrhythms and discusses metaphysical themes of the body and soul.

But like most dancehall, it's heavier on the bass, more languid vocals and a beat that will shake hips from Columbus to Kingston. "Nodoby Move Nobody Get Hurt," which has been sampled endlessly in hip-hop songs is a perfect example.