Sly Dunbar is the kind of genius who tends to get called a “musicians musician.” Even in the elite group of world-changing rhythm sections (his only American peers are legends like the Funk Brothers or Booker T. and the MG’s), he and his partner Robbie Shakespeare stand apart for their era-spanning inventiveness, consistent quality, and the sheer quantity of the music that they have produced in the decades since they first formed. The best count is that their fingerprints are on somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 cuts and productions. If you listen to reggae- or just the radio- you’ve almost certainly heard some of their work. Which is why we were so excited to get the chance to sit down with Sly Dunbar for another edition of our 4-tracks series. Sly picked 4 riddims from his extensive career, and told us about why they were particularly important. Give the results a listen!
Rastafiesta: In Jamaica, we’re trying to make kind of uptown kind of dub record, right? And we were all into the latin thing then. So we were trying to make something that was still reggae, still kind of latin. But it’s also I think one of the best recordings we’ve done. That was from 1978.
Unmetered Taxi: Unmetered taxi is a special one too. We were in the studio jamming, and I called Dean, and hummed the first line when he came in, and he said, “that’s it?” and I said ” that’s it, that’s how we want it to play”. And then Ernest from Channel One said, “I’m gonna put out this record.” And I said, “What you hear in that record?” and he said “If it works, it works, and if it don’t work it don’t work.” and we dropped it, and it was one of our biggest songs.
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner: The next one’s “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”. Very special because that was done by Black Uhuru, and we were experimenting with the syn-drum. I was all like ticka-ta-tick-ta and soldier was the engineer- I think he’s still around here- that was a big hit also, with that sound.
Coronation Market: The next one is “Coronation Market”, is a new new song that’s out now. We were just thinking about mento, and old Jamaican lifestyleg growing up, seeing the women come from the field with basket on their head and men chopping wood, and we made a song called “Coronation Market.” That’s out now. You can get it on Itunes! One thing we do is just try to keep the people dancing. That’s our mantra, keep them dancing.