London’s Trojan Sound System, formed just over a decade ago now, are one of the UK’s finest examples of the power of the sound system culture. Inspired by the legendary reggae label of the same name, the Trojan crew have been spreading their message of love and unity through ska, roots, dub, and dancehall since 2004, headlinging club shows, captivating festival crowds and supporting legendary Jamaican acts such as The Wailers, Luciano, Sly and Robby and the late great Gregory Isaacs amongst others. The bassline aficionados return next month with their new track Time Is The Answer a response to the curreny state of political unrest and troubles sweeping the globe.
With Notting Hill carnival upon us, now’s the perfect time to bask in some of reggaes weightiest basslines from the likes of Bob Marley, The Heptones and Trojan Sound System themselves. This one’s for the heads!
01. Bob Marley Exodus
Trojan Sound System: “Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett is a bass player of legendary status and for us and this is one of the biggest basslines ever made. Believe it or not, the riddim to Exodus was inspired after Family Man heard the score to a Paul Newman movie called Exodus whilst they were recording the album in London and Bob was on his own personal exodus from gangsters and politicians trying to kill him in his homeland of JA. It’s a driving, merciless bassline with an incredible amount of energy and the soundtrack to a serious journey.”
02. The Heptones Streets Of Gold
Trojan Sound System: “As with voices, the quality of bass is not just the notes played, the tone of the instrument contains the musical truth just as much as the notes played. This is particularly true when the music is played on a classic sound system. The qualities of the system bring out the beauty of the bass sound and that’s what a sound system was designed to do. Here, Leroy Sibbles simple bass line has divine qualities only when played on an analogue system.”
03. U Roy Natty Rebel
Trojan Sound System: “This is a version of The Wailers tune Soul Rebel. The tune was first track first side of the first Wailers LP also called ‘Soul Rebel’. In it, Bob lays out his manifesto for his music. I’m a capturer soul adventurer / I’m a living man I’ve got work to do. It’s immensely moving. When you add the great U Roy’s MCing, the tune reaches another dimension. The bass is a four bar pattern which rises and falls with the melody. The whole is inspiring beyond belief”.
04. Ini Kamoze World a Music
Trojan Sound System: “From his first album on Island records sits a song called World a Music. The album was recorded and produced by Sly and Robbie, arguably the DNA of reggae music and one of the finest riddim sections, ever. Robbie Shakespeare’s talent for big basslines is frankly scary and not of this world. This particular beauty became the riddim behind Damian Marley’s Jamrock and endless drum’n’bass and dubstep tunes, transcending the boundaries of bass. BIG BIG BIG.”
05. The Maytals 54 46
Trojan Sound System: “A jaunty irrepressable bass, probably the most recognisable in reggae. The song is about Toot’s time in jail in Jamaica. Toot’s spiritual, optimistic vocal ties in with the jauntiness of the bass and as soon as people hear this tune they’re happy and excited.”
06. The Heptones Through The Fire
Trojan Sound System:“The song describes the relentless nature of life. Even though the singer has gone through massive problems he is determined to promote peace and love. Here I come with peace and love. The bassline is massive and relentless too, building up momentum as the song progresses and gathers a huge power.”
07. Max Romeo Chase the Devil
Trojan Sound System: “Whenever we drop this tune and the moment the bassline kicks in, the crowd erupts. It was recorded in 1976 and was backed by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s Upsetters and has been sampled by artists ranging from The Prodigy with one of their biggest hits, Out of Space through to Kayne West’s Lucifer for Jay-Z. Ironic considering the songs meaning is about dismissing negativity and the devil. Regardless, the bassline is huge and iconic.”
08. Bob Marley Natural Mystic
Trojan Sound System: “Another classic and huge bassline from Bob Marley’s ‘Exodus’ album. Here, Aston Barrett takes a slow, spiritual approach to the bass and riddim, building the vibes of Rasta and bringing the spirit of the blue hills into the recording studio in West London in 1976. Oh to have been there! Jah!!!”
09. Trojan Sound System Time is the Answer
Trojan Sound System: “We’re really proud of the bassline on Time is the Answer. Mark Ralph, our engineer on various Trojan Sound System recordings, played the bass on this on a Fender Precision Jazz guitar. Pure analogue, real playing and you can feel the power of it. It took us a while to harness the energy of that bassline in the mix as it’s so heavy and had to try it out on various systems as well as different studios to find the balance. We think we got there.”
10. Ken Boothe Freedom Day
Trojan Sound System: “The bassline to Freedom Day is BIG and another Trojan classic. One of our MCs told us it actually scares him when we play it on a big system and it’s got to scare the sound engineer, fearing we’re going to play it too loud and blow the speakers. A huge, real bass sound that rumbles as powerfully as any digital attempt to recreate it. Reach out Mr. Boothe!”
Trojan Sound System release their new track Time Is The Answer on September 18th via TSS records (pre-order).