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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 18, 2010

Archeological artifacts

Here's a bit of Beat history that was unearthed while I was moving. Somewhere around 1984 or 85, the nascent Reggae Beat newsletter decided to hold a benefit concert for itself to raise funds needed to help it grow and expand. I don't remember if we actually made any profit, and it was such a difficult undertaking that we never attempted it again, but I recall we had a good turnout, and nice performances by some of our local reggae outfits and of course the indispensable Ron Miller Hi Fi. This was at the good old Kingston 12 at its original location on Crenshaw Blvd. I wonder what happened to Barry, the club owner? The clubs, the bands, the sound systems and the Reggae Beat radio show all made the synergy and the energy that created the vibrant reggae scene in Los Angeles in the '80s. Ah yes.....
Here is the flyer, handmade like the Reggae Beat was at that time, and the Minister of Information MCing at the microphone stand. Ras Rojah Steffens is just visible behind her on stage, just as he has always been behind her since! (and I do believe that's Jill Taylor in the corner on the left-- another one of the crucial cornerstones of the newsletter at that time.)

December 13, 2010

Remmy Ongala passes away in Tanzania

 One of my favorites from East Africa. Gary Stewart and I drove all the way to Toronto to interview him and see him perform at WOMAD Harbourfront. He was a real original character, and gave us so much wonderful music. Great songwriter with a voice that came straight from his heart, and played guitar just like Franco. He had been in poor health for some time. Such a pity to lose another cornerstone. Pole sana!


October 25, 2010

Tributes pour in for Gregory Isaacs - JamaicaObserver.com

Tributes pour in for Gregory Isaacs - Breaking & Current Jamaica News - JamaicaObserver.com

Gregory Isaacs dies
Jamaica Observer
Monday, October 25, 2010

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REGGAE singer Gregory Isaacs has died.
The singer, 59, passed this morning after a long illness.
He died in London.
Earlier this year, Gregory Isaacs' road manager Copeland Forbes stated that his charge was, "in the UK doing some medical tests. As you all know, he had some problems with his legs from last year which resulted in cancellation of tours, and in the last 12 months he had a very hectic year travelling all over the globe doing performances".
Isaacs has been a constant presence on the reggae music scene for some time. The singer has released a number of hits including Night Nurse, Tune In, My Number One, Love Overdue, Rumours and The Border.

September 16, 2010

Soca singer Alphonsus 'Arrow' Cassell dies at 60

Soca singer Alphonsus 'Arrow' Cassell dies at 60

Alphonsus "Arrow" Cassell, a soca musician who won global fame with his 1982 hit "Hot Hot Hot," died Wednesday. He was 60.
He died of complications from brain cancer at his home on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, said his brother, Justin Cassell, a singer-songwriter who often collaborated with him.
The highlight of his career was "Hot Hot Hot," Justin Cassell said, adding that his brother also gained fame because "he took soca to all corners of the world."
"Arrow" Cassell was among the best-known artists of Caribbean-born soca, a music derived from soul and calypso that emphasizes music over lyrics.
"Calypso is political, tropical, slower," the musician said in a 1996 interview. "Soca is dance. ‘Feeling Hot Hot Hot' ... makes you forget that there's a volcano and (remember) there's fun to be had."
At the time of the interview, Cassell was producing music that aimed to reassure Montserrat residents who had been forced to leave their homes when the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted in 1995.
"Arrow" Cassell was born Nov. 16, 1949, into a family that produced two Calypso Kings at Montserrat's annual Christmas carnival. In the 1970s, he was influenced by the Trinidadian musician the Mighty Sparrow, considered by many the international king of calypso. Cassell was crowned Monterrat's calypso king four times before focusing on his international career.
In the 1980s, he performed on tours throughout Africa, Europe, Japan and the United States.
-- Associated Press
via LA Times.com

September 10, 2010

A Random Act of Courage: Taking A Stand at Ground Zero, by Ken Braun

I used to manage a record store on New York City’s Warren Street, right around the corner from the Burlington Coat Factory that is now the proposed site of the Cordoba Center, widely (but inaccurately) called “the Ground Zero mosque.”  Four short blocks north of the Twin Towers, my colleagues and I used to jokingly call our store the World Music Trade Center.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, as I was on my way to work, pieces of airplane fell on the roof of our building and a tsunami of ash and grit got inside and ruined almost everything.  Four customers I knew, and possibly others I had seen in the store or talked to, were killed that day; at least two of them were Muslim.

My staff comprised three Christians, two Jews, one Muslim, one atheist and my agnostic self.  When we were able to reopen our store just before Christmas, we set up a display near the entrance, with a sign reading "Islamic Music from Around the World," which was exactly what we offered on that center rack.  We also gave a prominent place in the Asian section, along one wall, to secular Afghan music that had been banned by the Taliban, especially a CD by a singer whose death in a car crash his fans believed to have been engineered by Al Qaeda. 

Like many of the small businesses in the neighborhood, our store got a lot of people coming in after their pilgrimage to Ground Zero, wanting to spend some money to help repair a small part of what had been wrecked.  We were glad to see them, but many of them turned around and walked out as soon as they saw the first word on our sign: Islamic.  "O my God, can you believe this?" was the most moderate exclamation we heard.  Other visitors looked through the CDs on display and perhaps picked up a few, some headed for more familiar sections, and some approached my colleagues or me to say "I don't know anything about Islamic music. Can you recommend something?"  We were glad to; Islam has inspired a lot of fascinating and beautiful music.  One gentleman, a delegate to the United Nations, having heard about our display, came to our store just to thank us for it.  And then there was the guy who strode in and tried to overturn the center rack.  When he couldn't (it was too big and heavy), he scattered some CDs on the floor, stomped on them, and walked out shouting "Burn in hell!"

We had actually been planning to move the Islamic music back to one side next to the Judaica section, but after losing some CDs to a jackboot, we decided that we had to hold our stand against fundamentalism and Islamophobia.  We kept the display front and center.  In the end, neither terrorists nor reactionaries but music pirates and internet freeloaders closed our store.

It was much smaller and far less significant than the Cordoba Center, but I think of that record store when I hear the calumnies hurled against "the Ground Zero mosque."  Like its visionaries and supporters, my colleagues and I were trying to counteract ignorance and bigotry and hatred in whatever way we could.  Because it was ignorance and bigotry and hatred that had fallen on us – all of us, everywhere – on 9-11.  Remembering the days and weeks that followed, I admit to feelings of pride at having done a little something to defend our American freedoms of religion and expression.  But sadness overwhelms the pride.  After nine years and hundreds of thousands of violent deaths since 9-11, we still haven’t learned that day’s lessons.

- Ken Braun

June 14, 2010

Jamaica music lyrics — trigger of violence? - latimes.com

Jamaica music lyrics — trigger of violence? - latimes.com

The debate has intensified since lethal police raids in a slum that is the home turf of an alleged drugs and arms trafficker whose violent lifestyle is glorified in lyrics of a music called dancehall.

By Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times

June 2, 2010

The Beat souvenir T-shirt: Sorry, too late!

In 1996 The Beat celebrated its 15th anniversary, producing a CD compilation The Sound of The Beat, a special 15th anniversary issue of The Beat, and a spiffy black T-shirt.
These items are no longer available, sorry to say.

May 26, 2010

From Robert Ambrose: Endangered Music | Rhythm Connection

"African Beat" columnist Robert Ambrose discusses the present digital dilemma facing music lovers.

Endangered Music | Rhythm Connection

Not so long ago I was a columnist for a great magazine devoted to “world music,” called The Beat.  I put world music in quotes because it was a marketing phrase coined in the early 1980s to cope with the explosion of music being published from Africa to the Caribbean to Bulgaria. It’s a nearly useless label because it includes such diversity, but it is also a tad xenophobic because it lumps all music not from “America.” Absurd, when you think about it; but I digress.

My Beat column covered music from Africa, an immense source of diverse culture and, for me, the foundation for almost all of the world’s music. I usually wrote about the latest developments in African pop music, often highlighting important innovators who captured global interest and fame. Frequently, though, I would receive traditional or historic field recordings to review, and I would write about how important they were because they preserved music that was extinct or barely surviving the onslaught of globalized commercial culture.

Today I am writing about endangered music at a different scale. I believe ALL MUSIC IS ENDANGERED, at least music as most of us have enjoyed it since before iPods were invented. How can I say that, when today it is easier to acquire music than ever before, with a few clicks on the computer, and when any music talent can create complex recordings at home?

The emerging problem with commercial music is the way it is distributed. Technological change continually revamps how musicians (and their marketers) deliver their music. A century ago strictly live performances were recorded onto records, and music distribution was revolutionized. Everyone who could afford it, could listen to their favorite music in their homes. The vinyl LP record evolved to become the dominant distribution medium, withstanding challenges from reel-to-reel, eight-track, cassette and digital tapes, until compact discs became the world’s favorite musical consumable. Compact discs did not eliminate LPs, however, because many audiophiles and others recognized that despite surface noise, something about the analog music on LPs seemed more real than the same music digitized. Often this rather esoteric debate has centered on musical space, something impossible to describe beyond saying that with headphones on and eyes closed, it is easier to believe you are in the room with the musicians when listening to an LP. Digitizing removes some essence of music.

Yet digitizing of music has improved over time, and the convenience of digital music has outweighed the slight audible compromise for most music enthusiasts. Many have abandoned libraries of LPs, while building collections of CDs. Today many people are ripping their CDs onto their computers to put onto iPods or cellphones, and new music purchases (if there are any) are most likely made through iTunes or Amazon online stores.

The result has been dramatic in two ways. First, as online purchases and especially music piracy have grown ubiquitous, many independent music publishers have closed their doors; huge music corporations are on the ropes. The market for CDs is evaporating, causing profound repercussions for musicians throughout the world.

The second aspect of digital online music is that almost all of it is compressed. You are aware that you are buying an MP3, but did you know you were purchasing only part of the music? This is how compression works. Digitally recorded sound is routinely sampled at around 1400 kilobits/second. CDs conserve all of that data, and when you listen to a CD you hear the complete mixed recording. A full “CD quality” recording uses about 600 megabytes of space on a hard drive, which used to be a considerable percentage of a hard drive’s memory. So when people began ripping CDs onto their computers, their ripping software (iTunes, etc.) would by default compress the music into 128 kbps MP3s (or AAC), in order to fit more music onto the computer (or iPod, or whatever), shrinking an album to 50 megabytes. 

Compression of a sound file basically removes part of its data. In the case of 128 kbps MP3s, about 91% of the musical information is discarded. Even those with diminished hearing should be able to hear the difference between a typical MP3 and the CD version of the same song. Listen to cymbals! Lossy MP3s in general sound dead to me, a muted parody of the original music. The slight musical space lost when going from analog to digital recordings becomes a universe of space lost when compressing digital files. Imagine removing 90% of the essence in a glass of wine. How would it taste?

Online music distribution began with rampant piracy enabled through file-sharing software like Napster and LimeWire, and most people who shared their music shared compressed MP3s. When the iTunes store was developed to compete with illegal file sharing of music, it distributed music as compressed MP3s. iPods were marketed by the number of songs that they held. Low quality MP3s became the standard and dominant music product exchanged or sold throughout the world, and it is the only music that most children ever hear.

Unsurprisingly, the marked for CDs has collapsed. As a result, like 8-track and cassette tapes a generation ago, CDs are becoming an endangered species. Now many recordings are available  only  online. Recently I tried to find the newest release from one of my favorite African musicians, Pierre Akendengue, but I did not find one anywhere in this country. I might have purchased the album through iTunes, but I could not stomach paying for his music, degraded. Eventually I found a CD through Amazon UK, and had the disc shipped from England. That event convinced me to identify holes in my music collection, the handfuls of CDs I’ve lusted for, and collect them before they are gone. The way things are going, they may be the last copies of the rich, full music that musicians create.

May 24, 2010

From Steve Heilig: MS. BUSHTAFARI

(no I did not make this up – Sunday NY Times book section, 5/23/10:

JAMMIN’: Laura Bush, whose new memoir, “Spoken From the Heart,” enters the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 1, once cited the “Grand Inquisitor” section of “The Brothers Karamazov” as her favorite work of literature. But in a cute mother-daughter moment in an otherwise tightly orchestrated press rollout, Jenna Bush let it slip on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that her mother is also a “secret Rastafarian” who listens to Bob Marley around the house.

May 4, 2010

Roger Steffens' "Life of Bob Marley" at The GRAMMY Museum in LA, May 11

Commemorating the 29th anniversary of Bob Marley's passing, The GRAMMY Museum is proud to welcome Roger Steffens' critically acclaimed "Life of Bob Marley" to the GRAMMY Sound Stage. The live multi-media presentation has been hailed as "the definitive history of the reggae king" and "the next best thing to seeing Bob Marley live." Steffens, recently designated by the Jamaica Observer as one of "The Top Ten Most Influential People in Reggae," owns the internationally acclaimed Reggae Archives, containing the world's largest repository of Marley memorabilia. During the evening, Steffens will screen rare and unreleased video footage and photos while recounting Marley's legendary life story.

The GRAMMY Museum :: Programs :: Public Programs

Roger Steffens' "Life of Bob Marley"

Tuesday, May 11, 2010; 7:30pm
Doors open at 7pm. On sale Thursday, April 22, tickets are $10 and can be purchased in-person at the Museum Box Office, online at Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 1.800.745.3000.

April 29, 2010

Songlines - Music Awards 2010 - recognising outstanding talent in world music

Songlines - Music Awards - recognising outstanding talent in world music

Songlines Music Awards

Following on from the success of last year's inaugural awards, Songlines magazine is delighted to announce the winners of the Songlines Music Awards 2010. The awards recognise outstanding talent in world music and are voted by Songlines' readers and the general public. There are four categories: Best Artist, Best Group, Cross-Cultural Collaboration and Newcomer - the results from the public vote generate the final nominees, the top four in each category.
After much debate and deliberation, the Songlines editorial team have selected these four winners. They include some of the foremost artists on the world music scene, alongside an up-and-coming name to watch and some invigorating collaborative sounds.
And the winners are…
Goran Bregovic
For the album Alkohol on Wrasse Records
Staff Benda Bilili
For the album Très Très Fort on Crammed Discs
Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara
For the album Tell No Lies on Real World
For the album Canção ao Lado on World Connection
A compilation album, featuring all 16 nominated artists, is now on sale as a CD & download.
Music Awards 2010 CD

April 27, 2010

Shungu - A new documentary film about the struggle for survival in Zimbabwe

Shungu - The Film

My old friend and comrade Saki gives us a moving--sometimes disturbing, sometimes hopeful--glimpse into recent events and life in his home country. Watch for a screening near you!

April 14, 2010

Roger Steffens' Reggae Archives on Vimeo, filmed by Babylon Falling

Roger Steffens' Reggae Archives on Vimeo

This past January Roger Steffens gave us a full guided tour of all six rooms of his Reggae Archives. Comprised of collections within collections the 'Ark-Hives' represents a lifetime dedicated to reggae music. Involved since the earliest days of reggae music's debut on the international scene Roger has not only been a collector but a participant and key player in the development and spread of the music and culture.

Affectionately known as the Reggae Ambassador to some, Steffens has left his mark on the music.....
(photo by Markus Cuff)

March 28, 2010

From Jah-Pan, Rove Magazine says bye-bye to The Beat

From the reggae capital of Tokyo, JAHPAN, the ROVE MAGAZINE has contributed an article on the International Reggae News column in Jan-Feb 2010 issue, sending out a great farewell to the BEAT MAGAZINE in the commemoration for its much celebrated twenty-eight years long dedications in the music publication arena, which has been the true enlightenment to many of us.

As for myself, I had been encouraged by the BEAT to follow in a walk of path of music journalism. And therefore, I would like to leave this little note for Ms. CC Smith and Mr. Roger Steffens... Give much thanks for opening the gateways to the heart beat world of Reggae, Afrikan, Caribbean and World Music... Wi cyaan miss yuh nuff', BEAT!

JAH BLESS to all.

Emiko 'JAH Dawta' Noda
ROVE columnist, Tokyo
EMPRESS VOICE contributor, Hiroshima
CARIBPRESS staff photo-journalist, Los Angeles 

レゲエ情報 Rove[ラブ] - マガジン | 雑誌 最新号のご案内

March 22, 2010

The Beat Honor Roll 1986

The following good souls volunteered to join The Beat effort in 1986:


Barbara Barabino
Bruce Bebb
Bob Berger
Eric Bickford
Adrian Boot
Chris Boyle
Marion Brooks
Patrick Cameron
Jane Christy
John Collins
Cassandra Davis-Cheyney
Larry Dawson
Darcy Diamond
Henry DiRocco
Phil Drange
Sam Epstein
Enid Farber
Al Franklin
Brigitte Gomane
Angela Hajanis
Kevin Henry
Scott Hinkley
Eric Hiss
Hyikhyon Hyawhycuss
Tia Johnson
Emmet Jordan
Miriam King
R. Errol Lam
Conley Major
Anne Mavor
Ron Miller
Michael Milton
Tommy Noonan
A.A. Lumumba Omowale
Steve Radzi
Victor Reid
Gene Scaramuzzo
Ralph Schlesinger
Sikhulu Shange
Ross Smith
Gary Stewart
Ann Summa
Ras Tesfa
Mandy Tomson
Mohammed Waheed
Mike Wells

March 17, 2010

Adieu to the BBC's Charlie Gillett, one of the original world music DJs, with deep appreciation for all he did for those of us who followed in his tracks

Charlie Gillett obituary | Television & radio | The Guardian

New York Times obit

Dave Hucker, "Hey Mr. Music" from The Beat vol. 25 #1, 2006, had this to say in praise of Charlie:
Back in 1970 when I was an innocent 18-year-old,  Charlie Gillett had published his definitive work on the history of American r&b and soul, The Sound of the City (Sphere). He had starting writing it in 1966 as the subject of a master's degree at Columbia University and he certainly produced a bonafide masterpiece. Sound of the City was the bible, helping us to understand how the history of post-World War II American black music and its industry fitted together. This book laid out the roots and routes like never before.
Back in London, with his enthusiasm, encyclopedic knowledge and record collection, Charlie became a radio dj playing soul, r&b and blues. His shows drew many new listeners and over the years he moved from niche programming to wider popularity, but never enough for a prime-time show! Like many of us during the '70s and '80s Charlie began taking an interest in a wider range of music from all over the globe.
However, Charlie went further than most people. Some of us just took from the parts of the world that interested us but Charlie, the consummate polymath, absorbed and was interested in everything. And through his weekly shows for the BBC World Service he opened things up to a lot of people who might not normally have had access to this variety of music. A listener in Kinshasa, for example, might discover the existence of Argentine star Chango Spasiuk or hear Russian bands. He currently operates from London BBC local radio station GLR-the shows are archived at www.bbc.co.uk/radio .
Six years ago he started doing compilations of the best of the year's music that had come his way. His latest offering, Sound of the World (Wrasse), covers in its two cds the high points of 2005 with 33 artists from 28 countries. It is a well-informed selection of the outstanding music from all around the world that has floated to the top. Represented here are Charlie's eclectic choices--Volga from Russia, a dip into Kenyan rap, a pick from New Zealand. Popular favorites such as Mali's Amadou and Miriam rub shoulders with Croatians Darko Rundek and Brazilian Seu Jorge as Charlie intelligently passes through many countries of the various continents. Sound of the World is an object lesson in exactly how to do a compilation.

March 14, 2010

From Steve Heilig: Lee "Scratch" Perry, Style an' Fashion

This Sunday morning, leafing thru the NYTimes, consulting the glossy 'men's fashion' mag for all my sartorial tips, there was none other than Lee Perry inna full page color ad - for what I could not tell, as no ID, nothing but a website for "Supreme New York". Of course I had to check that, and of course it is a clothing company, and of course, there is an essay by Dave Katz. to accompany some new LSP-designed T-shirts: http://www.supremenewyork.com/

style and fashion!
--Steve Heilig (columnist, All Over the Map)

On the company's site, click on "News." Clicking on Scratch's picture opens an unexpected, incomprehensible video featuring Scratch playing with fire, Bob Marley playing with a soccer ball, the Clash playing "Police & Thieves." Click on "Spring/Summer" and then Scratch's picture in the collage to see his T-shirt design.
--The Dreaditor

March 10, 2010

From Nelson Meirelles of Digital Dub, Cidado Negro, Brazil

Yes, it's sad.
The magazine, like Dave wrote in his article, played a central role in my musical education too. For a guy living in Brazil in the '80s (a distant, far away place in terms of reggae culture), to have access to it was something special. In those times we didn't have legal means to send the money to pay for a subscription (!!) so we have to be very creative to get an issue (normally bothering friends or relatives abroad). After a while the magazine started being sold in some special places here, but it didn't last much. Later on I finally became a subscriber and that was enough to make me feel like a reggae expert!! :-)
Well, but like George Harrison once said, all things must pass. I think The Beat had its time but didn't have the same power anymore. The reasons? well, you guys could talk much better about it than me, but the single fact that it remained alive for 28 long years is remarkable in itself. A great contribution from a whole generation of reggae lovers (some of them I have the honor to know personally!!) that must be celebrated for ever and ever.
A toast to the great The Beat magazine!
or, better yet, a big spliff for it!! :-))

February 26, 2010

Respect Due to The Beat Magazine by David Katz, from Riddim Magazine (Germany)

Respect Due to The Beat Magazine by David Katz

It was with great sadness that I learned of the demise of the Beat magazine, the USA’s longest running and most consistent reggae publication. Since I spent my formative years in California, where the magazine was based, the Beat formed a great part of my musical education from the early 1980s and it was perhaps inevitable that some of my first published works of reggae journalism would feature in its pages. The Beat was something I, and so many others like me, always read avidly from cover to cover, and although the cessation of its print form is not particularly surprising in these times of economic strife, it does not make the absence of the Beat any easier to bear, as the community spirit and devotion to the music that always drove the zine are unlikely to feature in any other printed entity of the near future.

In case you are not already aware, for the last 28 years, the Beat has provided high quality reggae and ‘world music’ reportage that was often authoritatively informative. In a climate where the global music press is increasingly ruled by homogeneous name-brand product, shaped by multinational corporations driven by greed, the Beat was the refreshing antidote to the mindless consumerism and spineless ineptitude that saw other publications regurgitating major-label hype.

The story begins in the early 1980s, when a few pioneering radio jocks were bringing the intense sounds of Jamaican reggae to a whole new audience. In Los Angeles, the "Reggae Beat" was broadcast on KCRW, presented by a select team that included noted Marley aficionado Roger Steffens, his knowledgeable partner, Hank Holmes, and another learned cohort, Chuck Foster (who would later write the excellent book Roots Rock Reggae). The show was eventually syndicated, making a huge difference in the general exposure of reggae in the USA.

In the show’s early days, the broadcasters had their very own ‘Minister of Information,’ the astute and personable CC Smith, who announced upcoming events and fielded phone calls; by 1983, she was presenting the "African Beat" program, the first radio show of its kind in the region.

Legend has it that the Beat magazine was born as a photocopied free-sheet, featuring the playlists of the radio broadcasts and noting upcoming concerts. By 1982, it had become a fully-fledged 30-page magazine, appearing every other month in black and white newsprint, with CC Smith as editor-in-chief and the radio hosts providing much of the content. It soon became the Reggae and African Beat, the first publication to seriously explore what has become known as ‘world’ music. These early issues had incredible content: for instance, there was Doug Wendt’s 1983 interview-based feature on Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who made the cover nearly 15 years before the Beastie Boys brought him major US fame. There were also extensive features on Marcus Garvey, while the August 1984 issue was devoted to the Rastafari movement, and October 84 looked at the connection between Jamaican reggae and the Hopi nation in Arizona; that December, the magazine launched a campaign to free Fela, Nigeria’s radical Afrobeat pioneer, while April 85 focused on dub poetry.

As the Beat became a 100+ page glossy mag, the standards remained high: each year produced a tribute issue to Bob Marley, Chuck Foster’s "Reggae Update" column remained the most comprehensive guide to the sea of reggae releases that are regularly unleashed; Michael Turner’s "Reggae Obsession" was always informative, as was Dave Hucker’s "Hey Mr Music," Steve Heilig’s "All Over the Map," and the other columns detailing various African, Latin, and Caribbean sounds, including the regular pages devoted to dancehall.

In the early days, for those of us that had not yet traveled to Jamaica, the Beat was part of the process with which we could better understand the culture of the island and the thoughts and beliefs of its most noteworthy performers. And although a few other short-lived magazines tried to emulate the Beat’s success, no publication in America ever came close to it. The Beat remained apart from the rest, with the kind of homemade touches and genuine affection for the music that was covered in its pages, which is so sadly lacking from many of the other print entities of North America and Euorpe. The Beat never worried about trends or hipness or the fads of the marketplace, though securing the necessary advertising to keep the ship afloat was always a problematic process. Editorially, the Beat also kept her pages open to those with a burning desire to put something meaningful in print about the music that moved them.

The ‘good’ news is that back issues are still available by mail order, so get ‘em now while you still can. There is also a tributary blog at: byebyebeat.blogspot.com. What else is there to say other than, The Beat is Dead…Long Live The Beat!

-- David Katz.

February 16, 2010

BEAT Honor Roll 1985

These people joined The Beat effort in 1985. The photo of Donna Tarzian, our great art director (at right) and the Minister of Information, shot by Donna Cline, was used in a house ad for subscriptions (one of only two times I allowed my image to appear in the magazine). The reggae poster on the wall behind us at left was designed and produced by Bob Steinhilber, our original art director.

With the June 1985 issue, The Beat reached another milestone with an upgrade to a glossy cover stock, which greatly improved the look of the magazine from the early newsprint covers. The cover image was an original silkscreen poster titled "Buffalo Soldier" designed for us by Michael Hodgson and Richard Duardo.

Ramon Alvarez
Bongo Asher
Farika Birhan
Tom Cheyney
Carol Anne Clark
David Corio
Sister Cypress
Ras David I
Paula Davis
Murray Elias
Stuart Ellis
Joanne Ferguson
Nancy Ferrante
Miller Francis
Tim Gaydos
Heather Hall
Tim Hammond-Williams
Gina Henderson
David Herwaldt
Peter Holden
Beverly Hong
Jim Howard
Sister Ikeda
Sister Ina
John Ingham
Don Kamlager
Jon Kertzer

Jak Kilby
Andy Lansing
Maya Leon
Diana Leoni Oduloju
Janice Liddell
Lawrence Manning
Leon Morris
Tom Nixon

Elena Oumano
Paul Rogers
M. Sugawara
Tony Thompson
Catherine Tobias
Neal Ullestadt
Amy Wachtel
Norman Weinstein

February 7, 2010

From Dave Hucker, "Hey Mr. Music" columnist 1989-

CC Smith first danced into my life when she came to my Sol Y Sombra club in London 's Charlotte St. in the mid-80s. She asked me to start writing a column for The Beat covering the music I was deejaying, which I described as "The music of two continents and a few assorted Islands." I appreciated the freedom she gave me to write what and how I wanted.  But she was always there ready to question my hyperbole plus check the facts and spellings. My writing sometimes went over the top--such as in the infamous Bill Holm/The Whale episodes--but it was necessary to stretch the gonzoid-ism a bit, just for me to find my limits and so write more sensibly most of the time.
It was a real honour for me--a mere dj--to be parachuted in among such a seminal group of real, true music experts, people who really knew their stuff and had their ears and feet on the various global musical pulses and hotspots.  
The amount of musical information that was contained in each copy of The Beat was quite incredible. Even the adverts! If you wanted to know what was happening anywhere in the world each edition told you--in depth. It was a bimonthly, fine grain, full colour, detailed snapshot of where the musical action was, keeping us abreast with the latest developments and trends. The Beat's year-by-year coverage of carnivals was unsurpassed. Also its features about artists and styles went very deep into the subject, giving a quality and detailed insight, containing much information that was not available anywhere else. I don't think ever again will there be such a bringing together in one place of so many musical experts imparting their considerable knowledge.
Technology changes over time--my first columns were sent by post, then fax. I'm sure we will find different ways of keeping together. I made many good and lasting friends in my fellow Beat contributors and for me it was a great privilege to be involved. Thank you CC.
[Photo above: Dave Hucker visiting CC Smith in LA at her KCRW radio program, late 80s-early 90s. Other images are flyers for Dave's Sol y Sombra dance club in London.] 

February 2, 2010

Jamaica Gleaner News - 'The Beat' stops - Entertainment - Thursday | December 31, 2009

Jamaica Gleaner News - 'The Beat' stops - Entertainment - Thursday | December 31, 2009

Jamaica Gleaner Online

'The Beat' stops

Published: Thursday | December 31, 2009

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Roger Steffens, owner of the largest Bob Marley memorabilia in the world, at the opening of Queen Mary exhibit of his 'World of Reggae' archives in February 2001. - Photo courtesy of Roger Steffens' Reggae Archives
The Beat magazine out of Los Angeles, which showcased the reggae and world beat scene for nearly 30 years, has ceased publication.
In a statement dated December 20, CC Smith, the magazine's minister of information, cited economic challenges and the transformation of the literary landscape as the main reasons for its closure.
"The Beat was unique and it is really a miracle it survived as long as it did. But the precipitous decline in the music business, publishing business and the economy has finally caught up with us," Smith said.
The Beat was founded in 1982 as 'Reggae Beat' by reggae historian Roger Steffens and operated throughout as a bi-monthly with a volunteer staff that included Smith. Its initial name came from the Los Angeles radio programme Steffens hosted.
Steffens and Smith were largely responsible for the first edition of The Beat in May 1982. It covered LA's Bob Marley day activities that month, and for its duration reported extensively on the reggae festival scene in southern California.

World beat performers
The Beat also covered world beat performers including Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade of Nigeria and Ladysmith Black Mambazo of South Africa. Among its popular annual features was a Bob Marley Collectors Edition.
In an interview with The Gleaner, Steffens commented on The Beat's departure from magazine stands. "To me, seeing The Beat fade away after 28 years is very sad, but I suppose inevitable. We are witnessing the collapse of print media of all kinds today, swept away on the slippery slope of virtuality," Steffens said.
In her statement, Smith said it is unlikely The Beat will follow other publications by launching an Internet edition. "Many people have suggested taking The Beat online to save it, but the advertising support is just not there," she said.
She stated that another factor contributed to the decision not to carry on. "The music, reggae in particular, has changed so much since the early days when it was new, fun and inspiring. There is so much less to say about it now."
Copyright Jamaica-Gleaner.com

January 28, 2010

From Chuck Foster, "Reggae Update" columnist for 20 years

The Beat—Gone But Not Forgotten

 My earliest contributions to The Beat Magazine—then called The Reggae Beat and later The Reggae and African Beat—were in the form of playlists for sets I played when sitting in on "The Reggae Beat" radio program on KCRW beginning in 1982. I began writing reviews for the magazine in 1987, the year I became co-host of the show alongside my longtime partner Hank Holmes. The Mighty Diamonds and A. Doeman were a couple of the first artists whose albums I reviewed in the back pages of The Beat.
    In 1989 I began writing the "Reggae Update" column which ran in every issue from that year for the next two decades. Over the years I also contributed book reviews, features and cover stories, especially from 1989 to 1999. My first book, Roots Rock Reggae: An Oral History of Reggae Music From Ska to Dancehall (Billboard Books) collected many of the interviews I did originally for The Beat as well as ones for the LA View for which I wrote for five years. A few others done later, including one with Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths and the last interview with blues giant Marvin Pontiac, remain uncollected.
          I was not only a writer for but an inveterate reader of The Beat. I still have a complete collection going back to the very first one-page fold-over stacked in no particular order in my garage. I learned so much from The Beat’s other writers over the years—always a music fan (I managed record stores for over a dozen years) The Beat expanded my consciousness of global music and helped to make music a truly international experience for me. I give thanks for all the great reviews, interviews, insights and commentary I encountered over the years and for the many interactions I had with CC Smith and those who shared her vision over time and helped manifest this unique publication.
        The original concept for "Reggae Update" was that I would review whatever reggae music was submitted as well as things I gathered on my own, as a collector, fan and dj. The era encompassed a seven-and-a-half year run as co-host of "The Reggae Beat" as well as the first 12 years of my current stint as host of "Reggae Central" on KPFK. On average I estimate I reviewed at least 50 (sometimes 80) releases per column. If you put out a reggae cd between 1989 and 2009 there’s a good chance I reviewed it in "Reggae Update."
        I always felt I was uniquely qualified to do this. My first published work—a book review—came out in 1967, the year I first began playing in bands myself. Over the years I put out independent records with various groups I played in, struggled to distribute the music and gain airplay and found some of the reviews we received puzzling. As a Beat writer I found myself criticized at times for being “too soft” on the music I reviewed. I’m sure some who will remain nameless here would disagree with that. But it is true that my harshest reviews were written in the early years and as time went by my love for what reggae had become—a lifestyle as much as a music style—made me see the reggae community at large as my own.
        I celebrate the continuation of reggae music in whatever form it survives. Unlike some of the contributors to this site I remain excited about the music today, despite the fact that I love the ska, rock steady, early roots reggae and dub that defined the genre. Today’s young artists continue to make vibrant message-laden reggae music and there is no dearth of new releases—I could as easily fill a column with new releases today as at anytime in the past. A new, post-dancehall era has moved beyond the “computerized” riddims to forge a crisp new sound and dozens of 20-something newcomers have created a body of work that sustains reggae music in this time.
      In the meantime classic artists have continued to contribute great new works and a huge amount of music has been archived and reissued—in some cases issued for the first time despite having been recorded three, four or five decades ago. From my point of view this is a great and exciting time for reggae music and I’m sorry The Beat won’t be there to keep up with it. But you, the reader, have the opportunity to keep up with it. Search out new music online. Hunt down those classic tracks you remember from long ago. Support the shows, new releases, publications and sites and support reggae music and it will continue to grow and nurture you in turn.
--Chuck Foster

BEAT Honor Roll 1984

In 1984, The BEAT started taking the shape in which it was to continue for the next 25 years: informative, well-written articles and beautiful photos and design. Of special note: the groundbreaking  Rasta issue, edited  by I Timothy (still available if you want to order your copy!), the Fela Kuti issue spotlighting African music and the anti-apartheid movement, and the revelation of the popularity of reggae among the Hopi Native Americans in Arizona.
These contributors and volunteers joined the team in 1984:
Laurien Alexander
Tom Archie
Bongo Asher
Donald Bailey
Istvan Banyai
Larry Barsky
Jonathan Blunk
Adrian Boot
Simon Buckland
Jah Bunny
Charles de Ledesma
Yousef Eglington
John Fitzmaurice
Jeff Gans
Amir Glymph
Renata Golden
Kim Gottlieb-Walker
Chris Haaga
Jared Held
Claire Hershman
Lykke Holmes
Sandra Isidore
Andrzej Jakbowicz
C.J. Juzang
David Kennedy
Jack Kolkmeyer
Randy Koppang
Chuck Krall
Marian Lanz
Chaya Litwin
Baba Lola
Conley Major
Morri Manning
Jim Marshall
Gordon McGuire
Ron Miller
Andre Moore
Owen Moore
Elizabeth Moore Sobo
Kathleen Morris
Tom Mountain
Peter Murphy
Carrie Namson
Kathy Nelson
David O'Neal
Jamaka Perrier
Myrna Pilot
Treva Ponder
Kisasi Rameses
Itter Randazzo
Connie Robinson
Sharon Smithline
Don Snowden
Ann Stone
Ras-j Tesfa
Jay Tractenberg
Beth Trepper
Uko-Bendi Udo
Tzaddi Wadadah I
Mike Wells
Timothy White
Pam Woods
Jeff Yokoe
Tony Yoshida
Darryl Zengler
George Zowonu

January 25, 2010

Remembering Andy Palacio

Jan. 19 was the second anniversary of the untimely passing of the great Garifuna singer and musician Andy Palacio. He was a longtime friend of mine from his time living in L.A. Let us remember him with peace, joy and respect. He was taken away, at the age of 47, at the pinnacle of his career, having just released an internationally acclaimed and much-awarded album, Watina. I had the privilege of visiting him in his Belizean homeland in November 2007, traveling with an international press corps reporting on his music and the Garifuna culture, and his recognition by UNESCO with the Artist for Peace award.  Shockingly, he unexpectedly died just two months later. I still can't believe it. I had promised him during that trip, sitting in the bar of the Pelican Hotel in Dangriga, that the story I was writing would be on the cover of The Beat, and I kept my word. Oh, Andy, we really really miss you....

Link to interview with director of classic reggae film Rockers, submitted by Steve Heilig, "All Over the Map" columnist

Steve notes: In my final column for The Beat, I noted the arrival on DVD of Rockers, the classic 1970s film by Theodoros Bafaloukos.  I’ve never seen an interview or anything else by/about him until this new interview in VICE magazine.  It’s worth reading, and has great photos from that time in Jamaica as well.  

Love and Rockers, interview from Viceland.com by Tassos Brekoulakis

Director Bafaloukos with drummer and star of the film Horsemouth Wallace, in Kingston JA 1977

January 16, 2010

BEAT Honor Roll 1983

1983 was the year The Reggae & African Beat started to gain traction, find its direction, and attract luminaries such as Stephen Davis, Randall Grass, Bernard Hoyes and Robert Hill to contribute their expertise.  Joining the team this year were:

Susan Andrew
Khris Bailey
Tony Brennan
Harvey Burnett
Kris Burson
Julie Burson
Harold Burson
Robert Cohen
Philip Cramer
Christina Davis
Paula Davis
Stephen Davis
Darcy Diamond
Rene Diedrich
Isaac Ferguson
Edwin Craven Frantz
Randall Grass
Genessee Harris
Judy Harris
Robert Hill
Eric Hiss
Danny Holloway
Jimi Hori
Bernard Hoyes
Irie Irene
Yacine Jallow
Brother Joly
Carol Kaufman
Howard Kutz
Lance Linares
Horace Mansfield Jr.
Terrence Nugent
Laura Orenstein
Susan Rich
Ranking Rob
Gene Scaramuzzo
Micki Seltzer
Enriko Seruma
Peter Simon
Jeff Spurrier
Spit Stix
Jim Subich
John Sutton-Smith
Bruce Talamon
I Timothy
Joan Trafecanty
Thomas Traylor
Jah Trevor
Doug Wendt
A. West
Bigga White
Timothy White
Chas Wiedenmann
Paul Wilkins
Genee Wilner
Nick Wolf
Kishi Yamamoto
Ras Zef

January 14, 2010

BEAT Honor Roll 1982

I am going to start posting lists of all the names of the people who contributed to The Beat over the years: our All-Volunteer Jah Army. Their efforts, talents and invaluable contributions made this "little magazine that could" the amazing creation that it was, full of the love we all had for the music. The lists are compiled from the first year a name appears on the masthead.

Brock Adler
Maidah Bey
Jah Bizzare
Donna Cline
Annie Evans
Bob Gold
Matt Groening
Michael Hodgson
Hank Holmes
Richard Robinson
CC Smith
Roger Steffens
Robert Steinhilber
Ann Summa
Donna Tarzian
Jill Taylor

January 11, 2010

From Bob Tarte, "Technobeat" columnist, 1988-

The End of Beat Days

My final writing assignment for The Beat is the most difficult one that CC Smith has given me. My subject is the magazine I’ve written for since 1988, and because it has affected my life on so many levels, I hardly know what to say in just a few paragraphs.

I actually have mixed feelings about The Beat’s demise. It’s not that I won’t miss the magazine terribly. I feel as if a favorite eccentric relative has died. But much of the pleasure has trickled out of the reviewing process over the last few years due to my waning interest in world music releases these days. It’s primarily a supply problem. I’ve gone from getting far too many good cds to review in my column to scraping to find a handful of titles that I want to write about. The quality just doesn’t seem to be there any longer.

When I started writing for The Beat, the term ‘world music’ had just been coined by record label execs eager to boost the sales of what had formerly been called international music. World music arrived at exactly the right time. Rock had stagnated, reggae still hadn’t recovered from Bob Marley’s loss, and punk rock and its variants had long since sputtered out. Spearheaded by Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Baaba Maal, and other mainly West African artists, world music took off, at least in terms of giving music writers something new to salivate over.

As one label attempted to copy the success of another, waves of unlikely genres would hit the shore, including Bulgarian female choir, pygmy vocals, Tuvan throat singing, Colombian cumbia, Andean panpipe, and qawwali. Amid these obscurities, there were also surges of Brazilian, Cuban, flamenco, calypso, klezmer, East European gypsy, and other better-known styles. Through all of this, the single constant was the flood of incredible music from West Africa and the Congo. But as this flood began drying up over the last 10 years, it was indicative of the decline of the music industry as a whole. Rather than looking to new releases by new artists for my world music fix, I found myself basking in retrospectives of classic African artists instead: Franco, Rochereau, King Sunny Ade, and others who had made their best music three or more decades ago.

I married Linda within a year of starting my world music review column, Technobeat, in 1989, and the lp and cds that I reviewed have formed the soundtrack to our marriage. I associate specific artists with pivotal events in my life. I still can’t hear Habib Koite’s soft voice without thinking of my parrot Stanley Sue, who died five years to the day after I lost my father, and my father’s loss is forever intermingled with Siberian folk music.

If I creeped anyone out here by mentioning my bird ahead of my dad, it’s because world music has been so intimately interwoven with the demands of caring for our 50-some animals, that pets began wriggling into my Technobeat columns in the mid-1990s. I ended up writing two books about our feathered and furred gang (“Enslaved by Ducks” and “Fowl Weather”). Without the experience and discipline of writing for The Beat, I never could have written these books.

My editor CC Smith always welcomed and encouraged my creativity. Well, almost always, excluding the time when my friend Bill Holm, who occasionally appeared in my column in his obnoxious alter ego known as The Whale, guest-edited Dave Hucker’s "Hey Mr Music" column. Bill’s additions to Dave’s columns were so over the top, that even though CC had prevented his worst comments from ever appearing in print, two readers wrote in and threatened to cancel their subscriptions if The Whale ever appeared in The Beat again. (Read about the whole sorry saga at http://www.technobeat.com/NONSENSE/WHALE.html)

Just knowing the long-suffering and endlessly entertaining CC Smith has been one of the benefits of writing for The Beat. I’ve also become close friends with other Beat writers past and present, including Beat columnist and Cuban music authority Dave Hucker, Congolese music expert Gary Stewart (author of “Rumba on the River”), and Worldisc publicist Mark Gorney. Through the magazine I’ve also made the acquaintance of the great Ken Braun from the Stern’s record label, plus ethnomusicologist and founder of the Original Music label John Storm Roberts, who died this past December. (Love ya, John.)

Much thanks to CC Smith for all of this. And while I hope that she enjoys her post-Beat life, part of me can’t help hoping that her retirement is miserable. Although she insists that she doesn’t want to turn The Beat into an online magazine, I’m nurturing a glimmer of a hope that she ends up missing the whole happy mess to such a degree that an online version of The Beat, complete with blogs, podcasts, videos, and lots of advertising from record labels who decided that they, too, still need The Beat, happens anyway.

(For nearly two decades of my "Technobeat" columns and Dave Hucker’s "Hey Mr.Music" columns since 1997, please visit Technobeat.com.)

-Bob Tarte, January 2010

From Chris "Big Red" Johnson, host of "Groove Time" KXLU-FM, Los Angeles; KXLU.com

According to history, the Muses numbered nine. History, as Henry Ford said, is bunk. We all (at least we all in the know) know there are at least ten. Whether or not her parents are as oddly named as the Greek originals, the tenth is named Smith and known to one and all as CC. I had thought to describe her as a cornerstone, an organizer, the spark plug, things along those lines. But no. On reflection, CC is now and has been nothing less than a modern day Muse and I'll give you just a few good examples.
CC and I met face to face for the first time at the Executive Club, a little dive of a place on Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles. Of course I had known her as the ringleader of that little gang of mischievous revelers who took to the airwaves of SoCal every Saturday as "The African Beat" radio show. On the night we met that little dive became the Temple of Artemis for a night as Les Quatre Etoiles took to the tiny stage before a packed-to-the-rafters house. There's lots of exaggerated talk about these days , but the word transcendent really and truly applies to this particular occasion. Don't take my word for it. Ask anybody who was there. CC was DJing. In the confines of that little club she occupied the same corner as the stage, the same space as the band. She may never have looked more radiant before or since. It wasn't so significant that she was there. It was so significant that she belonged there - front and center.
It all unfolded so naturally, seemed so properly mise en scene, that the question became, "Who but CC?"
Who but CC could have turned a mimeographed broadsheet into the slick Beat that maintained our collective center, fed our delightful, healthful jones for great tunes for so long?
Who but CC could have wrangled those diverse energies and highly charged enthusiasms Ade James and Solomon Solo brought to the microphones of "The African Beat" for lo, those many years [11].
Who but CC could have steered a motley assemblage of music lovers (distinctly not producers, promoters, agents and the like) into a momentarily cohesive and effective event-producing, promoting and hosting team that became our beloved African Music Society?
Who but CC could have held on so long, keeping The Beat going for so long after the handwriting on the wall became plain for one and all to see?
Yes, we've seen, heard and grooved to that all, right here live or in print, from our seats ringside, right here in our own cultural wasteland, our 'industry' town, Los Angeles, where culture goes to die, chopped up into little bite-sized morsels, bland and easily digestible, if of little nutritional value. A cynic might say that the wonder is not that The Beat stopped publishing, but that it published so much for so long.
Not much of a cynic myself, I'm prompted to ask: So now, my colleagues and co-lamenters, whatever are we to do? One thing's for sure - things won't go on as they have. The changes - wonders and horrors - of the 21st century will make those of the 20th century pale in comparison. So, it simply must be said: In dismissing The Beat, we collectively yield to the creeping meatball of cultural homogeneity, that infernal engine dragging us all inexorably toward a morass of pap, pablum and a sea of musical mediocrity.
Yet, as they say, "You can get fucked, but you can't stay fucked." Further, Robert Nesta Marley said, "Every beat of the drum you hear is an African beat." Therefore, adding the two together and barring the extinction of the species, the beat will inevitably triumph. As one of only a handful of things that qualitatively differentiate us from all other life on this lovely blue orb, the ability to arrange melody and harmony rhythmically - to the beat - will see us through, in the end.
Personally, I liked things just fine as they were going. I really don't see any need for another to suffer the birth pangs of giving life to another version of The Beat. CC did that for us once already and the baby had enough aunties and uncles who cared and nurtured it to maturity to have made it the vital, vibrant resource and community it was.
That was good enough for me for a long, long time. I have no idea what will be good enough for me now. And as the the Minister of Information herself, the Muse of all things groovalicious, thousands and thousands of thanks, one for each tune, each word, each picture that made me happy when I beheld it in The Beat and thousands and thousands of best wishes from us all for whatever it is you choose to do next.
Como CC, no hay dos. Mil gracias y que les vaya bien!

January 9, 2010

From Urban Tribe, Stockholm reggae band: Another sign of the times

Hey Carol,
I am (as are the rest of the Tribe) very, very sorry to hear the news. Shocked, actually. Our hearts go out to all of you. And we are very sorry also to lose what we consider to be a true ally for us in the US after the glowing reviews Chuck has given us over the years.
This is all very sad. Feels almost like I've felt at times - you know I've been pouring my heart and soul (not to mention God knows how much money) into Urban Tribe for about 5 years and after 3 albums, fantastic reviews from large parts of the world, tours in Europe, a tour of Jamaica (with TV, radio, live-shows, interviews); seems like a total success story, right? Well I guess it is in some ways. But still no interest at all from record companies, big booking agencies and close to no album sales. If Urban Tribe were a company we'd be closed down long ago. As it is I am trying to get one more release out featuring a CD and DVD with the best of UTS + some new songs + a live-show DVD + the music videos + a documentary of the tour of Jamaica. To at least go out with a bang, you know? Cause I really feel that our last album "Roots" pretty much was as good as I'm going to get it and if that doesn't work, what then?
Once again, Carol - thank you so much for all you support and I would certainly have wished for a much better fate for a publication as fine as The Beat. Give our kindest regards and sympathies to Chuck and all the rest.
Adam Atterby

January 8, 2010

Ken Braun, manager, Sterns-US and African music devotee, rallies the troops!

A quarter-century: that’s how long The Beat has been in my life.  I started reading it in 1984.  There was a three-year period in the second half of that decade when I lived in Ntondo, Zaire, where going to the post office was a two-day trip and I had to take a riverboat or a plane to swing by the nearest magazine stand, but on returning to New York in 1989 I rounded up as many back issues as I could find.  The Beat was especially crucial to me then, a serial encyclopedia of records released in my absence and my guide to which ones I really needed to hear.  I could rely on the intelligence and taste of Beat writers to tell me fascinating things I wouldn’t have otherwise known and lead me to marvelous music I might not have heard on my own. 
Appreciating my own tastes and thinking I knew a thing or two too, I submitted a few pieces on African music to the editor.  Though I couldn’t hold a candle to her regular contributors, I was honored to be admitted to their company and pleased to imagine that I might turn a reader on the way these writers turned me on. 
When I took a job with Sterns Music I went from being a writer for The Beat to being a promo man and advertiser.  The 90s were a great time to be in the record business, even for purveyors of African music.  They were also a great time to be publishing a unique music magazine.  Every year more and more people took new interest in music from outside their regional pop industries and beyond their borders, and these were the people The Beat and record companies like Sterns cultivated and depended on.  We sold The Beat at our shops in London and New York and got to know the customers who routinely picked up the latest issue and riffled through the remainders for any they’d missed.  There was a complex but very healthy relationship among the magazine’s staff and writers, its readers, those of us in the biz, and the artists we were all interested in.  We needed each other, we served each other, we learned from each other, and we scratched each other’s backs.  There was nothing crass or unseemly about it.  We recognized ourselves as fellow devotees of high culture and good times, and we respected and liked and supported one another.  Except for a few deserving musicians, none of us got rich.  But though the money was never very plentiful, for a good long while it was sufficient to sustain enthusiasm and good work.  In those years labors of love could keep the wolves from the door. 
The decline began at the turn of the last decade.  We all know the reasons – new technology, shifting demographics, changing notions of intellectual property, clueless and craven entertainment conglomerates – but we haven’t succeeded in pulling out of the descent.  And because we’ve been so interconnected for so long, we’ve all ended up in that hand-basket going to hell.  When CD piracy and illegal file "sharing" eviscerated record companies’ and artists’ earnings, they had to cut back on promotion and advertising, and that crippled music magazines.  But let me tell you something about The Beat: When Sterns had to close the New York shop and could no longer afford to advertise, The Beat, unlike some magazines, continued to feature our artists and review our CDs.  There was never any quid pro quo.  In fact The Beat gave us lots of good press right up to the last issue this past fall – except, of course, when our work fell short of expectations, in which case the writers frankly said so, as they always had.  Their publisher and editor never told them what to write or filtered their critiques.  I got to know quite a few Beat writers, was one myself (and an advertiser to boot), and this was always clear.  Without waving banners or editorializing, Roger Steffens, CC Smith and Carol Haile-Selassie have been champions of journalistic freedom and integrity. 
It’s a crying shame that championing journalistic freedom and integrity is not profitable.  So many excellent periodicals have been forced to cease publication in recent years (while gossip and bunkum tabloids still thrive), but The Beat’s fade-out is, to me, the most disheartening.  On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed knowing its staff, contributors and readers, have learned much from them, and will always cherish their validation of my work, so I’m anxious about losing contact with them.  On a wider plane, I’m worried about what this bodes for the music of Africa and the African Diaspora so far as Americans are concerned.  With the demise of The Beat no magazine published in this country covers this vast and diverse field with such knowledge, deep appreciation and timeliness.  The back issues to be archived online will be a treasure chest at our fingertips, but how will we keep up with new music and all the old recordings being rediscovered?  Where can we read all about it?  Whom can we trust?  There are no carbon copies of CC Smith. 
But we still have the original.  CC may be leaving Los Angeles, but she’s not leaving us.  Thanks (ironically) to the internet, we can all stay in touch with her and with each other if we all want to.  I want to, and if you do too, please join me in imploring CC to keep this going.  I don’t mean the magazine, either on paper or online – I understand that the wherewithal isn’t therewithal – but the conversation.  Let’s turn the ByeByeBeat blog into TheBeatGoesOn blog (if Sonny & Cher fans haven’t already claimed that domain).  I lean Luddite when it comes to computer cybernetics (out of incompetence, not ideology), but some of you know your way around and could show the rest of us.  We wouldn’t have to lay all responsibilities on CC’s shoulders; we could carry them cooperatively.  Though no one would be paid, I suppose there might be some costs, but they wouldn’t be anything like the costs of publishing a magazine.  We could all contribute a little sustenance as well as some content, couldn’t we? 
By we I mean everyone who’s had any connection to The Beat as a writer, an editor, a photographer, a reader, a musician, a promoter, a fan, a record-collector or what-have-you.  You!  You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t into Caribbean music, African music, Latin music, that kind of thing, so you’re the kind of person I’m trying to rally.  What can you tell the rest of us?  What have you heard?  Who have you seen?  What do you know and what do you think?  Tell Mama.  Tell CC.  (Revive her enthusiasm for music – that part’s a cinch).  Tell all of us.  Keep the beat. 
Ken Braun

January 7, 2010

From our friends at UnitedReggae.com online magazine (France)

Greetings The Beat contributors,
Here at United Reggae we all give you our support and we published a news to pay tribute to THE BEAT : http://www.unitedreggae.com
Permanent link : http://www.unitedreggae.com/news/n528/010710/the-beat-magazine-closes-down

United Reggae is an online reggae magazine that we created in 2007.
It features :

Tom Orr is already contributing to United Reggae : http://www.unitedreggae.com/authors/28/tom-orr/
If some of you have any suggestion, want to contribute or anything else, it would be a pleasure.
All the best to the whole team.

United Reggae Head Manager

From John Sutton-Smith, linchpin of LA's early reggae and ska scene, Beat contributor and jack of all trades

I'm so sorry to read the news of the Reggae Beat, one of my very few must-read magazines. It had truly become an institution for reggae fans around the world, and many of those issues stand up against the best of music magazines over the past three decades. To think that it began as a mimeographed fanzine with a b&w photo of the Skanksters on the cover performing on the steps at UCLA! What a great job you did, CC -- I'm glad they will all be available online, although I still think some specialist publishing house like Genesis or someone should put out a bound collected edition of the complete works of the Reggae Beat!

From Robert Ambrose, long-time subscriber and "African Beat" columnist 1995-

Ironically, the terribly sad news that The Beat was ceasing publication came just as I was unpacking two boxes of my Beat collection that had languished in storage for nine years. I subscribed in 1984, when I returned from several years living in Central America. During my work there, at a time of intense historical events, I was sustained by cassettes of African music sent to me by a friend in England. As passions often lead to obsessions, I began devouring African music in all its guises (including reggae, cumbia, all things Cuban, the blues. . . the gamut), and The Beat was my guide. When a new issue was due to arrive, I could almost taste it, and I looked for it in my mailbox with daily hope. When it arrived I read it cover to cover, reveling in the writing of so many talented experts. The next day I would go to the record shops, with a new list of essential music to find. 

The Beat became even more important to me when I moved to Alaska, leaving behind the rich musical ambiance of San Francisco for a much more austere cultural environment. After 10 years as a subscriber, I sent CC a writing sample and was astounded when she offered me the "African Beat" column. To write alongside Dave Hucker, Bob Tarte, Chuck Foster, Roger Steffens and many others?! It was a great privilege and an exquisite pleasure, for the seven years I was able to contribute. Thank you CC for the opportunity, which provided me with so much, and for the incredible work that you, Roger and Carol did over the many years. The Beat was the physical product of our love for the music; I like to think that The Beat community will endure into the future, continuing to share that love.

January 6, 2010

From Mick Sleeper, Broadcaster and Podcaster

You never miss your water until the well runs dry.
I must admit for the past few years I didn't follow The Beat as closely as I did 10-15 years ago when I was first discovering reggae. Now that it's gone, I've been leafing through my collection and definitely feel a sense of loss for this great magazine.
It might sound odd to be nostalgic about the 1990s and definitely weird to look back fondly on the 2000s, but just like the 1970s was the golden age for reggae, the 2000s were the golden age of reissues for those of us who were too young to hear reggae the first time. Obviously the "old guard" like my friends Roger Steffens and Doug Wendt first heard Jah music when it was still new and fresh; but there's a younger generation of fans who "felt no pain" when reggae hit us in the 1990s. Thanks to those three titans of reggae reissues, Blood & Fire, Pressure Sounds and Heartbeat, this amazing music was available all over again, rescued from vinyl oblivion, now with clean sound and historical context for those of us who were eager and curious.
Alongside the music, publications like The Beat steered me deeper into the uncharted waters of Jamaican music. Mike Turner's "Reggae Obsession" column was my favourite, but I always enjoyed Roger Steffens' jovial works and Chuck Foster's all encompassing reviews. Although The Beat was a world class publication, it always felt small and friendly. It came a long way from the initial photocopied pages to the slick and glossy magazine that was read around the world, but the blueprint remained the same, the obvious work of people with passion. I always wanted to write for The Beat, but never got around to submitting an article. Once again, I stand at the well and miss the water.
And now? Like the man Max Romeo says, "it sipple out deh". Worldwide economic meltdown and the persistence of music pirates who think its their right to get anything they want for free have certainly put a severe strain on the industry. And yet, it's still a good time to be a reggae fan. The Internet is mostly Babylon business and yet I and I survive with podcasts and small, savvy labels using the Web to forward their music to a modern audience.
Congratulations to everyone at the Beat for all of their excellent work over the years and for carrying the torch as long as you did. Each one teach one. Who Jah bless, no man curse.
Mick Sleeper