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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...

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

January 2, 2010

From Steve Heilig, 20+ year Beat contributor, columnist, cub reporter and fish taco connoisseur

All Things Must Pass, sang my favorite Beatle long before he did so himself. That seems true, but it does not make letting go much easier.

The BEAT was very good to me, as it was to many music lovers. First, from the start the magazine taught me much about what to hear and why. Then, when I started writing for the publication, it enabled my music addiction just when it was threatening to become a hazard.  I'd become obsessed with reggae while in college, and collected what few Marley, Tosh, Spear, Toots, Bunny, Cliff, Heptones, and the few other LPs one could find in California then.  I even wrote a few pieces on these artists and their amazing concerts for school papers.  The gold standard for a publication on this music was The BEAT, though, so on a whim I mailed something in.  To my surprise and delight, it was accepted.  Next I knew I was doing features, festival and recording reviews, interviews, and eventually a column with no borders. Even my often-blurry photos sometimes showed up in the pages. My musical horizons broadened, mostly due to the other writers and editors. CDs poured into my mailbox. Promoters eagerly invited me to concerts, and backstage. I wound up meeting and spending some enlightening and enlivening "quality time" with all the reggae legends named above and many more, plus figures such as Gilberto Gil, Lee Perry (I think), Carlos Santana, Fela and Femi Kuti, Milton Nascimento, Ali Akbar Khan, Zakir Hussain, Mickey Hart, King Sunny Ade, Les Quatre Etoiles, Baaba Maal, Ijahman, Joseph Hill, Bob Andy...and many more from all over the world, sometimes in their home arenas.  No borders indeed.

I don't recall any artist, no matter how big, turning down an interview request.  They (OK, and/or their publicists) knew the value of The BEAT, even though, or sometimes because, those of us who wrote for it had other "real" day jobs and thus did it for love (OK, and all those musical perks).  We were not hired de facto flacks for anyone and thus could call it as we heard it.  As reggae seemed to decline from the highest consciousness to some of the lowest, we could lament that in print (and even receive a threat or two in response, confirming our stance).  For old-timers, reggae, salsa, funk, and hell, jazz and rock and roll too all might have seemed to have peaked long ago.  Thus in more recent times much of what I liked most seemed to be re-releases of great earlier sounds.  So be it, even if the overall tenor of the magazine began to be a bit retro, we were able to pick out new gems each year, and I will miss the usefulness of our annual "Best of" lists, which guided my own listening through the years.

I was honored to be part of the BEAT crew for almost two decades. When one's words are published, they so often just go out into the ether, and you never know who, if anyone, read them, and what they might have thought.  But so many times, at festivals or even in a local record store, some reader who learned my name would say "I've been reading your stuff for years!" -- and some of those people even went on to say something laudatory.  That made it all worthwhile.  As did those who rolled their eyes at some goofy thing I'd quoted or written myself --and that especially includes the Dreaditor herself, CC Smith, without whom we would all be musically poorer indeed.  So, my sincere gratitude to her and to Roger Steffens, and to everyone else who wrote, read, and especially played through all those years.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to be included, appreciated, indulged and even attacked. Like everything else, music is ephemeral, but in some form or another, The BEAT goes on.

Steve Heilig
All Over the Map, now Off The Map