Reggae music’s introduction to electronic drums first came via Lee Scratch Perry and bassist Aston Barrett in 1973. They would even get Reggae’s biggest star, Bob Marley to incorporate some of it into his recordings. The Maestro Rhythm King was a standalone, programmable box which introduced the computerized aesthetic into Reggae’s soundscape. The computerized timing however, would often conflict with the organic Roots groove, and it soon fell out of favor.
During the 1980’s forward-thinking producers Sly & Robbie, began to introduce the electronic sounds that would eventually give rise to Reggae’s digital revolution. Sessions at Chris Blackwell’s Bahama based studio afforded them access to some of the latest technological weapons. Adding to that was a Simmons Drum Synthesizer Sly Dunbar brought through. Unlike the Rhythm King, The Simmons SDS3 produced electronic sounds from actual drum pads, giving live players a new edge.
It wouldn’t be long before Sly & Robbie were taking command of the Reggae charts with massive tunes for their own “Taxi” label, for Island Records and several mainstream acts. Everyone saw what they had done with Grace Jones and they wanted in on the action. Sly & Robbie ushered in the Dancehall era with their increasingly experimental vibe.
In the years since Sly & Robbie have become household names in Reggae. One of their greatest qualities is their willingness to experiment with world cultures and rhythms. The Electro Reggae vibe which gave rise to our boutique label began as collaborations with producers around the world. They deliberately mix their indigenous sound with Reggae vocals to create something new. This is the inspiration Sly & Robbie have created countless times with an immeasurable number of musicians. Like Scratch Perry, their influence cannot be fathomed.
As we continue to touch on the history and development of Electro Reggae, expect to hear much more about Sly & Robbie. From a production standpoint, they are the reason for this vibe.