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Some of the hardest-edged, rootsiest reggae recently out of Jamaica, Africa and elsewhere, originated in…California? Strange but true. A collective of seasoned reggae musicians known as the STAMINA ALLSTARS is responsible for many rhythm tracks voiced by some of reggae’s top vocalists. But these are not ‘Cali-reggae’ musicians who recently discovered reggae via Sublime. Rather, the Allstars are longtime lovers and interpreters of Jamaica’s musical gift to the world. For instance, Herb Daly (bassist and writer/arranger of most of Stamina Allstars’ riddims) recorded and toured the USA in the early 1980s with pioneering Jamaican-American reggae band the Rastafarians – a decade before Sublime’s first record release – and played on Kingston recording sessions as early as 1976.
Herb and drummer Bruce Benjamin linked up in the mid-1980s and served as the heartbeat of several acclaimed California reggae bands in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Benjamin and Daly, after recording original riddim tracks for Northern California producers and their Caribbean vocal artists in the 2000s, recently embarked on the “100 Riddim Project.” Recalling how his artist father stretched canvases to paint later, Benjamin applied the same principle to compile a catalog of original roots rhythms that could be beautifully interpreted by the singers and musicians whose work he so admires. Benjamin’s Actual Music Productions recorded a large selection of Daly’s bassline creations on 2” analog tape with a select group of talented fellow reggae veterans collectively known as the Stamina! Allstars (Herb and Bruce, together with guitar wizards Rusty Zinn and Michael Mongiello, and keyboard maestro John Nevin).
In their recordings on tape with live musicians playing together, there’s a ‘tribal’ completeness and rhythmic interaction impossible to duplicate with computer tracks. Many outstanding reggae artists appreciate their classic, ‘organic’ feel enough to choose to lay their superb vocals atop the Stamina Allstars’ tracks, including Luciano, Mikey General, Hezron, Lymie Murray and Capleton, not to mention original pioneers of rocksteady and reggae such as Ken Boothe, Bobby Aitken, Earl Zero and Sammy Dread.
Next on the Stamina Allstars’ schedule is an upcoming collaboration with Tamlins vocalist Derrick Lara, who also toured as Rita Marley’s harmony singer. He still performs with the Tamlins, but has renewed his solo career and is getting ready to release ‘Solid’, a brand new album with riddim tracks by the Stamina Allstars.
The ‘reggae revival’ movement is growing as a new wave of conscious roots music strides forward in Jamaica, America, Africa and around the globe. The Stamina Allstars, who have long been steadfast in their passion for creating ‘roots with quality,’ are helping to lead the way and forge new horizons!
Look for an exclusive interview with the Stamina Allstars in the February 2016 ROCK feature of IRIE. Until then, discover more reggae music from the Stamina Allstars. Respect!