Sunday, January 22, 2006

Thymeless Reggae World

Spent some quality time last night at Thymeless, downtown Toronto's home base for sweet reggae sounds. As usual DJ Chocolate and Patrick Roots delivered a wicked variety of old and new sounds, cultural and uplifting all the way. Special guests included MC Kalmplex and local legend Chester Miller, sounding like Dennis Brown overtop the murderously loud soundsystem which is Thymeless' trademark. Another special selecta was representing Treajah Isle Records on Eglinton West, a community institution of reggae retail.

Part of the reason reggae events are so much fun these days is that cultural reggae (as opposed to dancehall which is a totally different story) is so strong in Toronto these days. Last year in particular was very strong. Solid to excellent albums were released by Truths and Rights, Odel, and the Dream Band. The combination of quality artists, well-promoted releases through community radio and online, and a few obliging venues has renewed the infrastructure of reggae in this city.

Oh yeah, go check out the Canadian Reggae World sponsored reggae summit at Harbourfront's Kuumba festival on Sat Feb 4.
Twenty plus years ago, reggae looked like it was going to be an important force in Toronto's music scene. The Bamboo was arguably the freshest club of the "original" Queen St. W. scene. Talented expats like Leroy Sibbles and Jackie Mittoo were cornerstones of the community, new bands abounded (including Truths and Rights), dub poetry was particularly strong in this city, and reggae shows at the Palais Royale and the Masonic Temple/Concert Hall were frequent and well attended. The relatively new NOW magazine and CKLN radio were major champions of the music. In short, these were heady times and seemed to signal the maturation of the Jamaican artistic community within. This era is chronicled in Klive Walker's Dubwise.

Then it declined in the mid 90s. There has never been a major reggae record label to come out of Toronto, and important promoters like Lance Ingleton and Jones and Jones did less work as the nineties progressed. Alternative print media turned away from reggae, although the Metro Word began publication around this time. Reggae was no longer as hip as it used to be, and the rise of hip hop and club culture in this city became the main alternatives to rock. Community radio stations kept the pace, with CIUT coming on board by the late 80s and CHRY serving an important local community around York University. Bands simply were not as popular as they used to be and there were fewer venues.

The current resurgence is due to DJ culture and the internet. Since dub made a major impact about 10 years ago, DJs became at least as important as bands in terms of getting people out. Nights like Superheavyreggae and Dub and Beyond are fundamental to the current goings-on. As well, new entrepreneurs have learned from the past and are more organized and media-savvy than ever.

With that in mind, Canadian Reggae World is a much-needed portal to all sorts of reggae activities. Just a glance at February's "Reggae Around Toronto" calendar shows the frequency of live activity. I had the great pleasure of finally meeting the site's webmaster, JuLion, last night, along with dub poet Michael St. George, and we all commented on the strength and diversity of reggae in Toronto these days. It's a mix of local, international, uptown, downtown, old, new, dub, roots and dancehall all blended together - and Thymeless brings it all together in fine style.

By the way, make sure to check out CRW's Reggae Summit on Feb. 4.


Blogger procosmo said...

fucks the weed at? r u aoud 2 smoke weed in this place send email, OR,,, preferably both!

P.S hot bitches welcome

5:00 p.m.  

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