Diamonds in the Rough

Jamaican vocal trio the Mighty Diamonds are to reggae what Crosby, Stills, and Nash are to classic rock: enduring artists whose songs passionately draw on folk stories and politics to examine everyday struggles. In 1969, Donald "Tabby" Shaw, Fitzroy "Bunny" Simpson, and Lloyd "Judge" Ferguson came together in the Trenchtown area of Kingston and learned to blend their voices to combine the soulful 1960s rocksteady music traditions with edgier 1970s reggae styles. Other groups such as Black Uhuru and the Gladiators employed militant singing deliveries, but the Diamonds opted for a reserved-but-political approach similar to that of Bob Marley and the Wailers. This yielded early hits such as "I Need a Roof" and "Them Never Love Poor Marcus," which spoke of poverty, Biblical prophecy, and black history from a Rastafarian perspective. The Diamonds' music is educational as well as entertaining. In the 1981 song "Pass the Koutchie," they described a ritual gathering where a ganja pipe was shared. A year later, British teen reggae-pop group Musical Youth scored a worldwide hit by covering the song as "Pass the Dutchie." But the Diamonds have outlasted Musical Youth, and continue to create music that conveys hope in the face of oppression.
Thu., Sept. 2, 10:30 p.m., 2010

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