Various Artists

Trojan Box Set: Nyahbinghi

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The idiosyncratic sound of traditional Rastafarian drumming and chanting -- known as Nyahbinghi music -- has been a constant influence on ska and reggae since the earliest days. That influence has mostly been subtle and implicit, though some artists have been more open than others in their use of its musical elements. And although its influence on reggae is real, Nyahbinghi music is not reggae; it generally uses no electric instruments (or even melody instruments, though these appear from time to time), and the Nyahbinghi singing style is heavily influenced by traditional American gospel music. This budget-priced, three-disc box set gathers a nice cross-section of traditional Nyahbinghi songs and Nyahbinghi-inflected reggae from the seemingly bottomless vaults of Trojan Records; it includes material by such obvious candidates as Count Ossie (whose Grounation album of 1973 remains the standard work for this style of music) and the modern Nyah-reggae fusioneers Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus (who also appear on this album under the name Dadawah), as well as work by such lesser-known names as Boston Jack and the Soulites and Samuel the First. Some tracks, such as Bongo Herman's "Vice President" and I-Roy's DJ cut on Lloyd Daley's brilliant "Repatriation" rhythm, are examples of straight-ahead reggae using the Nyahbinghi influence to spice up the mix, while Count Ossie and Ras Michael provide a window on the music's deepest traditions. Taken together, this is a fine overview of the state of this very old art. Highly recommended.

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