Thanks for the compliments, guys. I found the doc with the message I had sent to Rob Crisp a little while back. He had asked about some questions about Bob Marley, which I addressed first, then got into some brief descriptions of the different drum grooves affiliated with Reggae music, then ended with a few suggestions. Here you go:
"Listening to Bob is a fantastic way to learn a lot about Reggae. That's where I started and even did a year in a Marley tribute band which was a big help while developing my sense of feel. Carlton Barrett's roots Reggae style of drumming was one of the most significant contributions to Reggae and has undoubtedly influenced every single person who has ever played Reggae since. Bob's career evolved quite a bit through the years. In the early Wailer's recordings of the 60's, it wasn't always Carlton. Now, I'm talking the early EARLY versions of Go Tell It On the Mountain, Hammer, Hypocrites; essentially the first disk of the Songs of Freedom 4 CD compilation. Actually, that compilation is an outstanding journey through Bob's career, with an amazing selection of tunes and a substantial bulk of the different styles of drumming that Carlton, and others, used.
There are a few different styles of Reggae drums. The first was actually Ska and the most popular examples of that are the old Toots and the Maytals records. Pressure Drop, 54-46 (That's My Number), Time Tough, Funky Kingston, and others. This style of Reggae was generally upbeat and high energy. Winston Grennan was the drummer on the album Funky Kingston and is definitely worth a listen.
Roots Reggae is a derivation of the Ska beat. The snare (rim click) and kick fall on 2 and 4, while the hi hat accents fall on the "ands" of every beat. Think of Roots as a sort of half time Ska. Because of this, it's easier to move the rim clicks, hi hat accents, and kick notes around within a phrase. The key is to not lose the sense of groove. Reggae is all about the groove.
Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, better known as just Sly and Robbie or the Riddim Twins, along with Carlton and Family Man, are the kings of the groove. Sly and Robbie gained a lot of exposure as the rhythm section for Black Uhuru. Sly's style of drumming is called Rockers. This is the more familiar to many as the kick falls on 1 and 3, the snare on 2 and 4, and the hats generally accentuate all of the downbeats. A few of the things that set Sly apart from the rest of the pack, besides his sick, SICK, sense of groove, are his snare tone and the way he fills. His snare is usually a big, fat, wet, woody snare. No rimshots, but just a thwack dead center. His groove is generally very straight, but his fills are generally triplet feel tom runs at the end of a measure. Also, like many other Reggae grooves, the cymbal crash rarely falls on the one, but rather on the 4 of the previous measure, or the 2 of the following measure. The two of them have recorded over 30,000 tracks in their career so it's not too hard to find recordings of their work, haha!
The final 2 types of Reggae drumming include Steppers and Dancehall. Steppers is essentially a 4 on the floor constant kick, snare rim click on 3 and straight eighth notes on the hi hat. Bob's Africa Unite is an example of this style of Reggae drumming. Dancehall is just a series of hits on 1, the and of 2 and 4. Sometimes the kick hits the 1 and the snare will hit the and of 2 and the 4 or the kick will hit the 1 and the and of 2 and the snare will hit the 4 or the snare and kick will hit all 3. A lot of modern Reggae utilizes this groove and it's not always a live drummer playing those tracks.
As far as suggestions as to what to listen to, that's a little bit tougher because there is just so much out there. All of the Bob stuff is great. Catch a Fire, Exodus, Babylon by Bus, Burnin', Chant Down Babylon, Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration, Confrontation, Uprising, the list goes on, but these are just classics. Peter Tosh's Legalize It features Carlton and his album Equal Rights features Sly Dunbar. The album Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear, besides being awesome, has Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace on drums. He's just fantastic. He also plays the lead character in a movie called Rockers, the soundtrack of which is a MUST HAVE. It has tracks by Gregory Isaacs, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Third World, Jacob Miller, and a bunch of others.
For some older stuff, check out The Heptones, The Melodians, The Abyssinians, The Ethiopians, The Congos, Isreal Vibration, and Desmond Dekker. The vocals will just blow you away. For dub Reggae, the #1 record to check out, IMHO, is Augustus Pablo's King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (Carlton Barrett on drums here too). Another great one is U-Roy's Rasta Ambassador. There are also a bunch of compilations of Lee "Scratch" Perry's work. He produced a lot of the early Wailers music and is on far out dub cat.
Other artists/albums to check out include:
Gregory Isaacs - Night Nurse
Steel Pulse - Handsworth Revolution, Tribute to the Martyrs
Culture - Two Sevens Clash, Harder Than the Rest
Third World - 96 Degrees in the Shade
Garnett Silk - Give I Strength
The Upsetters - Upsetters A Go Go
Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come soundtrack
Really, there are quite a bit that are great, and others that aren't. It's also a matter of personal preference. Other artists I really enjoy are Garnett Silk, Katchafire, Alton Ellis, Barrington Levy, Midnite, Ooklah the Moc, Groundation, Soldiers of Jah Army (SOJA), Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Luciano, Gentleman, Sizzla Kalonji, Capleton, Anthony B, Jr. Gong, Dennis Brown, and Ernie Ranglin."
I hope it's not too overwhelming. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to elaborate on anything I've mentioned. I'll do my best to help you out. Peace.