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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

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Abyssinians
Satta Massagana
Heartbeat

By Michael Stone

Published September 8, 2005

“Satta Massagana,” composed in 1968, brought together the vocal trio that help to define the most devout strains of the emergent reggae sound. Producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd brought the Abyssinians (Bernard Collins, Donald and Lynford Manning) into the studio soon thereafter to record the song, whose Old Testament inspiration and Ethiopian linguistic sampling spoke to roots reggae’s Rastafari foundations. But unenthused by the somber, slowed-down groove and the obscure spiritual references, Dodd thought the results would leave Jamaican audiences cold. Undeterred, the Abyssinians bought the master, released it on their own, and proved Dodd wrong; indeed, the song entered the devotional canon of Rastafari congregations around Jamaica. They followed in short order with Collins’ equally successful reggae anthem “Declaration of Rights” and his “Leggo Beast,” along with Lynford’s “Y Mas Gan,” all included on this recording. Indeed, there are no outtakes, and simply stated, Satta Massagana ranks as a reggae classic. Some three decades later, the album’s fourteen tracks, all original material, with the group’s lovely harmonies, loping percussive groove and spare instrumentation, are as fresh and sublime as ever.

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