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The Beat Goes (Back) On!

We are very pleased and proud to announce a new feature at Afropop.org : reprints of selected articles from the late, lamented ma...

December 28, 2009

From Nyahjoe, reggae radio DJ, Guam

Greetings from Guam;

When I lived out in Cali I always sought out the Beat Magazine wherever I went throughout the state. When I moved back to my home here in Guam, a few family members and I had a likkle Reggae Shop called Cultural Trenz and we distributed the magazine to the masses. Jah's Reggae Shop here on Guam recently was offering the Beat Magazine to all the Reggae lovers here in Guam. I had the pleasure of meeting Carol many years ago in Las Vegas during the R.A.W. event that was taking place. We became friends and I hand carried some items for a bredren of mine here in Guam Jah Son, from Carol and from the late Papa Pilgrim. Years later I would meet Mr Roger Steffens here on Guam and we would become friends as well. The first time I had him up at the radio station I work for here on Guam (POWER98FM The Island Stylin' Reggae Show. now going on my 21st yr. on air,) I had a copy of either the 1st or the 2nd printing of the Beat Magazine and he could not believe that I still had that copy. I've alway's saved them, as up to this day, I still use them as reference material for my show. One Love, One Heart & may Jah look upon his children over the years that have made this great magazine possible with blessings, love and guidance.

December 27, 2009

From Ever Rey D, Ragga/Reggae Vibes Magazine, France

Big up any time !
I started to read The Beat in the late 80's and always looked forward to its new issues. It had become increasingly tough to find it in France, so I lost touch gradually but will always have fond memories of writings like Jamaican Obsession, Mr Marlon's stint on dancehall, Brian Dring's Other Caribbean an many other works about certain music genres i wasn't always so versed in, which also enabled me to look beyond my own "Jamaican obsession" !
I will always have fond memories of knowledgeable writers who more often than not had style and a serious sense of humour, who also didn't feel compelled to follow any hype. My main gripe will always remain "too much Marley stuff", but hey, all the rest always more than made up for it ! Also thanks for allowing me to contribute to a dancehall issue.
All the best for your future ventures.
PS : Not too sure we'll manage to get so much in-depth stuff in the so far mostly disappointing (imho) world of the reggae web. The Beat was never about hypes, a rare thing these days.

Ever Rey D,
Ragga / Reggae Vibes magazine, France
Keeping the reggae press alive against all odds.

December 25, 2009

How The Beat was born, part 1 (as published in The Beat's 15th anniversary issue, Vol. 15 #4, 1996)

In the beginning, there were no computers. No laser jet printers, no fax machines, certainly no such thing as the Internet. 
Fifteen years ago, the first issue of The Beat, then called Reggae Beat, was a single 14" piece of paper, with one photo and four ads sold for $20 each. It cost $80 to print on one of those little instant-press offset machines that were more common than copiers in 1982. I typed up the copy on my IBM Selectric and reduced it on the copy machine: It consisted of a little "Forward," a report on the UCLA Reggae Cultural Festival, Hank Holmes' "I&I Works," Roger Steffens' first "Ras Rojah's Reggae Ramblings," a listing of local reggae radio programs and record stores, and Bob Steinhilber's "Collector's Corner." Bob was the initial art director and introduced me to my first halftone. He also designed the highly rootical original logo.
The newsletter, as it was then known, arose from Roger and Hank's "Reggae Beat" radio program on KCRW-FM in Santa Monica, where I answered the telephones and prepared the calendar of concerts, clubs and events, taking on the role of "Minister of Information." Roger had come up with the idea of starting a mailing list for the show, putting out the call on the air one Sunday for people to send in their names on postcards. The next week, we had 200 names.
"Roger," I exclaimed, "what should we send them?"
Prophetically, he replied, "Oh, you'll think of something."
The second issue, dated July 1982, took on booklet form, with the three sheets of 14" paper folded in half, giving us 12 pages. Bob drew the Mutabaruka  cover, and we'd also acquired a staff: Maidah Bey had come aboard to sell ads, and Brock Adler volunteered  his Kroy type machine to set headlines. Over the next few months, every time we'd publish an issue, a great team of folks would stop by the radio station during the show to collate, fold, staple, stamp and address the newsletter.
Production had also become a collective effort, as a bunch of us, by now under the art direction and patient guidance of Donna Tarzian, would gather at someone's apartment after work to cut, paste, and set up the pages for printing. It wasn't until a year later that we discovered typesetting, but by the summer of 1983, we had evolved to full magazine size, with a color cover (Lee Perry, cartooned by A. West), and a cover price: $1.00. The masthead's burgeoning list of participants now numbered about two dozen; Nick Wolf was now in charge of ad sales, Annie Evans was the assistant editor, and we were all learning what it took to put out a magazine. The brave new world of computer dawned in 1986. We moved into our first office, finally getting the business out of my apartment, in 1990.

(Continued in next posting. A picture of the first issue is reproduced below in Bob Steinhilber's post.)

Cartoon, below, by Jah Bizarre, "Dread Lion Looks at the Team on Reggae Beat" published in Reggae Beat #5, Nov. 1982, depicts Roger Steffens on air at KCRW-FM (center), CC Smith at lower left, board op Jim Milne and DJ Hank Holmes lower right. At top right is a vignette showing volunteers collating and stapling the newsletter at the radio station. 

How The Beat was born, part 2 (as published in The Beat's 15th anniversary issue, Vol. 15 #4, 1996)

The first and foremost purpose of this publication has always been to provide information: Who are these musicians, where does that music come from, sound like? When was it made, what does it mean? How does it make you feel? The music we deal with is mostly obscure, non-commercial, even underground, but has immense heart and soul, and comes from the deepest expressions, feelings, hopes and dreams of an artist, a culture, a people, and can communicate this universally despite language, or temporal or geographical barriers.
It doesn't really seem like 15 years have passed--even when I look at those early Beats, it seems like only yesterday. I've often said in moments of cynicism: If I knew then--15 years ago--what I know now, this magazine would never have been. It certainly is not the career I had planned for myself. Having started, and too far gone to turn back, it sometimes has only been dogged persistence that kept me going. That and the feeling that this was not just about me, merely a job, a way to make a living, but something that almost immediately took on a life of its own, forcing itself into existence, and I could do little else but become its handmaiden.

So here's to our writers, the best in the business, who selflessly share their expertise and enthusiasm, the photographers, whose hard-won shots enliven our pages, our hard-working staff, who tolerate my tantrums and anxieties, and our readers, always supportive and hungry for more: You are the greatest. Give thanks and praises, everyone, for 15 years of The Beat--it belongs to all of you, and with your continued love and support, will continue for many more years.

Jah Guidance,
CC Smith
Minister of Information

December 24, 2009

From Kaati, Reggae Festival Guide

Good bye and blessings to our old friend The Beat Magazine. CC and Carol and crew set the standard for top notch editorial coverage and state-of-the-art design/layout in the reggae industry. There are those of us who love the feeling of a magazine in our hand, but unfortunately, the rest of the world wants all their reading, education and entertainment to come from the computer. I will cherish my back copies of The Beat as the information is timeless. This is a blow to the industry.
Reggae Festival Guide

From Bob Steinhilber, first art director for The Reggae Beat newsletter

CC, you have left us a musical-literary-journalistic legacy. The BEAT is musical history writ large in our lives - a touchstone and a watchword for intelligent, inspirational writing about some of the most significant sounds to vibrate our musical palettes over the course of three decades.
 I still have a fat envelope full of snippets and paper leavings from pasting up the first several issues. I loved every issue, and I loved contributing to the magazine, each and every time I was so honoured.
The BEAT was something we could hold in our hands to turn on our hearts and our minds- now we will hold it in our hearts and minds and turn our hands to the next chapter. Thanks to your noble efforts, the BEAT goes on in eternity, never to be subject to deadlines. Forward ever, backward never.
-Bob Steinhilber

December 23, 2009

From Bill Bragin, Director, Public Programming, Lincoln Center, NYC

Thanks so much for your leadership for so many years. The Beat was a major source of discovery for me for so many artists.  It must have been a hugely difficult decision.  Best of luck with new ventures wherever they take you.
All the best,

Bill Bragin

From Gihan Salem, formerly of Elektra Records

Dear CC – you may not remember me, but I worked at Elektra Records for over 13 years – we always recd The Beat at the Elektra office. I just wanted to say how sorry I am to see this e mail. You did an amazing job with the magazine; my heart goes out to you. Thank you for providing readers with fantastic interviews, photos, info etc you will be missed.
Wishing you the very best 
Gihan Salem

December 22, 2009

From Tom "Papa" Ray, Vintage Vinyl, St. Louis

CC, all the very best in your future---'The Reggae Beat' was the first national publication I placed in our store in St. Louis, and through the years your dedication speaks for itself. I was hoping some talented young-blood music fanatics would sweep in and assist in getting this publication on-line, and the current conditions for any music publication is a barrel of butcher-knives to be sure...but praise and respect to The Beat, and all my respect for your efforts.

From Jah Son, Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide, contributor and reggae supporter

Sad news indeed. First started reading The Beat back in the late 80s, while living in NYC. Missed a couple years while I taught in Liberia, but started my subscription when I moved to Istanbul. It was a great source for Reggae-related retailers when I added a shop to a club I ran there in the early 90s. Loved reading the playlists for Roger and Hank's show. First saw Papa Pilgrim's call for Reggae Ambassadors in the advertising section, which had such am impact on my life in later years. And a few years later, after moving to Guam, I actually co-wrote a column until the mag went glossy. I've saved every issue I've ever received and ordered back issues of ones I didn't. Have made a lot of wonderful friends directly and indirectly through The Beat, and although the magazine will end, those friendships will not. Give thanks for everything over the years. Much love! Forward....Jah Son inna Guam

December 21, 2009

From Ted Boothroyd, reviewer, reader and fan

Listening this afternoon to the beautiful music of Orchestra Baobab, I tried to estimate how much my musical education has owed, over many years, to one small and unassuming magazine. Not that The Beat was the only influence on my tastes and buying habits; there were other periodicals here and there, along with radio and books. But The Beat was the constant; it led the way and provided the primary buying guide for Pirates Choice and a multitude of other extraordinary albums that now surround my cd player.

My utter trust in what I read in The Beat arose both from the authority exhibited by the magazine as a whole, and from the credibility and intelligence of the editor and individual writers. Those elements are not going to be easily replaced. When I read on the Web somewhere that "This album is fuckin’ awesome," well, I’m not persuaded, to put it mildly. There’s no guidance, no information, no wit, no nothing.

So, in this age of democratization of everything, when we’re constantly being told "your opinion matters," regardless of whether we have any knowledge of the subject, perhaps being authoritative is unexcusably passé. But I for one respect and require it, which means I’ll now simply have to expand my awareness of sources of truly authoritative opinions on world music.

In the meantime, I know that although music journalism is faltering, good music will continue to be made. The Beat is dead. Long live the beat.

- Ted Boothroyd

From Tom Asher Hammang, radio DJ, longtime reader and supporter

Greetings CC
Sorry to hear of the end of the Beat, however as you said "when one door closes another opens." Also nothing stays the same, change is inevitable.
I and I know countless others give thanks for the many years of fine articles and information. The Beat was the source. Give thanks to all who made it possible.
I know that it was essential as a resource for the "Irie Feeling Show" on WPKN 89.5 out of Bridgeport CT which has been on air since the 70s and of which I was a part for 20 years. We will miss you. I wish you the best in your new beginnings where ever they may lead you. May JAH Guide Bless and Protect.

My Best
Tom Asher Hammang

From Gary Stewart, African music historian, longtime reader and contributor

The BEAT goes off. These words are hard to type even though those of us associated with the magazine or its heroic editor, CC Smith, knew the end was near. Like so many print publications that have been cozy-robe-and-slippers for all these many years, The BEAT couldn't survive the economic downturn that killed or wounded its base of advertisers. It's the usual scenario: the many suffer from the carelessness and greed of a few.
I first heard of the magazine when listening to founding editor Roger Steffens on his syndicated "Reggae Beat" radio program, back in the days of Cliff and Marley and the Maytals. Roger sent me digging for treasure in the vinyl bins of southeastern Michigan where I once lived (surprisingly, there was much to be found there).
While Roger got me reading The BEAT, CC Smith hooked me as a writer. I had gotten my writing start with West Africa magazine, but thanks to CC I found a nurturing home at The BEAT. She was all an editor should be: creative, supportive, and exacting. With her encouragement I was able to write about so much that interested me without regard to the constraints of mainstream journalism. If there had been no BEAT magazine my books would likely have lingered as ideas unfulfilled in the back of an otherwise unfocused mind. Several of the chapters of Breakout found a first home as articles in The BEAT. It was partly a result of CC's persistent encouragement that Rumba on the River came to fruition; in fact, a late-night conversation with her led me to the title.
Writing for The BEAT was almost as much fun as reading it. The look of the printed magazine was dazzling, thanks to Donna Tarzian and later Jose Legaspi. And the writers were terrific, both knowledgeable and enthusiastic. So many wonderful people contributed over the magazine's nearly 30 years. I hope I can single out a few of my favorites—Roger Steffens (of course), Bob Tarte, Michael Turner, Martin Sinnock, Doug Wendt, Tom Cheyney, Jimi Hori, Gene Scaramuzzo, Ron Sakolsky—without it taking away from all the others who made The BEAT such an enjoyable, worthwhile read.
Yes, I guess I saw the end coming, but that doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye. I'll miss you CC and Roger and the beautiful, tactile, informative printed pages that you produced and I curled up with for so many years. I'm grateful for all you did to enrich my intellectual life.
Thanks and farewell and best wishes for whatever lies ahead.
Gary Stewart

From Kurt Mahoney, reggae artist, photographer, faithful reader

Man, what sad news, though I suppose we all knew it was coming. I could spend pages ranting about the current state of print media, reggae, the downfall of humanity, and the evils of the internet...BUT I'd rather give thanks and praise for the years of joy, information, culture, and more that this fantastic publication has brought us all-and how it has brought so many of us together all over the world!
I'm proud to say that even when I let go of probably a ton of 'stuff' on my last move, no way was I going to let go of the Reggae Beat! I have every issue from the first 'paper' issue--missed some in the 90s, and back again for the last few years.
I'm also humbled that occasionally a photo or two of mine would appear, and I managed to get a couple of my records reviewed favorably, for which I'm eternally grateful.
The research, writing, photography--essentially everything about the Beat was stellar. When I picked up each issue I knew I'd learn something, and I knew I'd read about way too many releases I just had to have..
Of course the annual Marley issue was always a favorite--couldn't wait to see what Roj had come up with each year to top himself!
The Beat will be sorely missed by all of us all over the world who've cherished it these past decades, and the rest of the world sadly will never know what they've missed.
Bless you all in your new endeavors.
Peace, one love, one heart always,

From Carol Haile Selassie, Beat advertising and circulation director and wearer of many hats.

I give thanks for the honor and pleasure of working with you, Roger, all the contributors, subscribers and advertisers along the way. The Beat has opened my heart and mind to the power of the music we cover--the passion, consciousness and positive spirit will stay with me for a lifetime. I will miss every moment, all the worldwide friends I've made through the years, our occasional differences and all the laughter we've shared. Keeping the magazine going for 28 years plus keeping what's left of your sanity is a major feat. If I wore a hat, I'd take it off to you!

From Brian Dring, columnist, "The Other Caribbean" 1998-2009

I have really enjoyed writing for the BEAT, meeting and interviewing great artists, and especially reading what other contributors have to say.

As a subscriber going back to 1988,  I would look forward to reading such past columnists as Gage Averill (Haitian Fascination) and Gene Scaramuzzo (original Other Caribbean writer). As a writer I continued to enjoy reading other regulars like Martin Sinnock, Bob Tarte, Dave Hucker, and many others. The BEAT was always unique in its perspective and thorough in its coverage. It was to most music trade magazines as college radio is to commercial radio.

I have to echo the sentiments expressed by CC Smith about reggae that even "other Caribbean" styles like soca and zouk were changing...in this case becoming heavily influenced by r&b and dancehall. As someone inspired by the early sound, it was becoming harder to write meaningful and even fair music reviews when I was not really moved by many of the new releases I heard. Still, with a little help from the Cape Verdean or South American scene, I managed to sneak enough good new releases in a two-month span to fill a page or two :)

Finally, I'd like to wish all the BEAT staff and writers best of luck with future plans and....nice working with you!

Brian Dring
"The Other Caribbean" columnist 1998-2009

December 20, 2009

From Diane "Livonn" Adam, concert photojournalist

Greetings CC,

Such Sad News :-(  Unfortunately, I felt it coming awhile back.  Though I am not that surprised, especially in light of these difficult economic times, I am still greatly saddened by the announcement as The Beat has been so instrumental in my initiation into Jamaican culture and specifically my similar love and respect for Reggae Music.

You could not have expressed yourself any better as many of your words have echoed in my heart too, especially your statement that:  "The music, reggae in particular, has changed so much since the early days when it was new, fun, inspiring and creative, and there is so much less to say about it now."  How true!!!  Though I can always hope that the future of reggae will offer something closer to the roots of its past.

I feel blessed to have been a part of The Beat family and will miss you CC and also Carol for all the dedication, hard work, support and love you have instilled into the magazine.  I wish you only the best in all your future endeavors and always know that if you need me, I am only a phone call or email away.

Jah guide and protect you always.

One Love,

Diane "Livonn" Adam
Adam Photography & Media Relations

From 20-year subscriber Carl Meier

Hi Carol -
Many thanks for letting me know. I'm sorry too. It leaves a significant cultural gap, and I just don't think that's a good thing. Where else does one find writers like the ones that contribute here? I won't even mention the reggae coverage. Who else does one find a writer who has almost every Congolese record available, or one who has produced great, innovative Latin records and knows Cuban music as if it were part of his family, which, of course, it is. And where else would I find somebody listing an album from Brazil's marvelous Luiz Melodia as their number one album? (You'd have to go to Sao Paolo to find out about the material Weiss and Beto cover.)

Not to speak of the long time regulars, nor of the only consistent coverage anywhere of the rest of the Caribbean - at least that I can find in English. And where else does one find an African supergroup giving such affectionate acknowledgement in an album's notes to a magazine's editor ('Mama Kekele' is it?)?

I could really understand it if C.C. wanted to take about a 20 year vacation. But if not, and at the expense of being an armchair speculator, other mags have gone to websites. No Depression, a magazine with, I'd suspect, some credibilty in its genre, comes to mind. They've also asked for contributions. Others have ties - and links - to advertisers. But I'm sure you know all this. If you ever go that way, you've got at least one 'subscriber'.

Best to you all.

Carl Meier

From Sid Whelan, "African Beat" 2003-2005

CC: As you say, the surprise is that it (and you) lasted so long. The magazine certainly enriched many lives and helped musicians and music fans gain a deeper understanding of our amazingly diverse world.

I wish I could have been a part of it longer than I was. I got so busy with real estate that my ability to properly cover the music suffered and I had to bow out. Barry did a much more thorough job than I ever could have.

December 17, 2009

The Beat Goes Off

Yes, The Beat is closing down. Hardly news in today's world where print publications are dying right and left. But it is harder to take when it is your very own magazine and your life's work for 28 years. Here's the official announcement:


Dear readers, friends, fans, contributors, colleagues, business associates, and to all it may concern in the reggae and world music world:

It is with a heavy heart that I make the official announcement that many of you have anticipated: The Beat magazine has ceased publication. The precipitous decline in the music business, publishing business and the economy has finally caught up with us after 28 years of existence.

The Beat began as a handmade fanzine, a true labor of love, run on a shoestring and blessed by the good will and volunteer contributions by many many people over the years, among them our devoted, highly talented writers, photographers, artists and graphic designers. It was kept alive and strong by subscribers, advertisers, music fans and musicians, and a valiant network of grassroots distributors, independent record stores and bookshops, as well as our mainstream distributor RCS and our wonderful printer American Web.

The Beat was unique, and it is really a miracle it survived as long as it did. In fact, each issue was a little miracle. Within its lifespan, we went from typewriters and typesetting, rubylith color separations, xacto knives and wax to the digital age. I learned, and loved, the editorial process and was always excited as the next issue's columns, reviews and features began to arrive, privileged to be the first to read the insights and opinions of our experts and basking in their company. Even though I have never personally met some of our far-flung contributors, many have become cherished, beloved friends who have taught me so much, enriching my life with humor, intelligence, and above all in sharing our common appreciation of the music.

Many people have suggested taking The Beat online to save it, but the advertising support is just not there, nor are other resources necessary to make it a successful transition. And to tell the truth, my heart is just not in it. The music, reggae in particular, has changed so much since the early days when it was new, fun, inspiring and creative, and there is so much less to say about it now.

There is one piece of news that will keep The Beat as we knew it alive for the future. An information resource company called Proquest that provides databases of periodicals to libraries and research institutions will include the entire print edition of The Beat in the International Index to Music Periodicals and Ethnic NewsWatch databases in 2010. The Beat's back issues will then be available to the public online at any library that subscribes to these services.

Meanwhile, I have opened a Web log so we can say farewell to our readers-- and they to us-- at ByeByeBeat.blogspot.com. Perhaps that will evolve into an online community of music fans, and an open forum for more people to share their passion for world music as our writers have done for the past 28 years. Also you can post comments on Myspace at http://myspace.com/getthebeat and  there is a discussion board on "The Beat Magazine" page on Facebook. We won't be taking any more subscriptions, obviously, but back issues will be available for a little while longer at getthebeat.com .

To the hundreds of people who helped make The Beat the amazing preeminent international world music magazine that it was: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. There are too many to thank individually here, but I must give my deepest gratitude and love to Roger Steffens, who was the genesis of the whole thing half a lifetime ago on "The Reggae Beat" radio program, and my intrepid assistant Carol Haile Selassie, whose extraordinary, determined efforts over the last 15 years kept The Beat--and me--going.

As for me, I will be putting my house/office up for sale and leaving California where I have lived for 30 years. An African proverb says "When one door close, another one go open." I'm looking forward to seeing where my next path will take me. Stay tuned, and keep checking the ByeByeBeat blog for updates.

CC Smith
Minister of Information
Glendale CA
Dec. 20, 2009