Toussaint - Black Gold

Toussaint
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Back in 2000, I read Drop, Mat Johnson's novel about Philadelphian who leaves America in hopes of finding a more accepting climate for young upwardly blacks in the London publishing world. In one scene, an editor at the publication where the lead character works dismisses reggae music as a substandard musical genre that only created one star - Bob Marley. The stridency of the editor's criticism struck me because the character making the comments came from the Caribbean and because I know there are other great Jamaican artists. Still, the comment forced me to consider something very important, which is what any good work of fiction strives to do. The fact is that Marley is the only reggae artist that many people outside of Jamaica have ever heard of.

Back in 2000, I read Drop, Mat Johnson's novel about Philadelphian who leaves America in hopes of finding a more accepting climate for young upwardly blacks in the London publishing world. In one scene, an editor at the publication where the lead character works dismisses reggae music as a substandard musical genre that only created one star - Bob Marley. The stridency of the editor's criticism struck me because the character making the comments came from the Caribbean and because I know there are other great Jamaican artists. Still, the comment forced me to consider something very important, which is what any good work of fiction strives to do. The fact is that Marley is the only reggae artist that many people outside of Jamaica have ever heard of.

Marley made great music, but what made him an international figure is that the message in his music was perfect for the times in which he lived. Marley's career ran parallel to the time in which people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean emerged from the colonial era, and songs like "One Love," "Redemption Song" and "Get Up Stand Up" captured the optimism and assertiveness of the post colonial era.

Musical tastes changed and the post-colonial world sometimes did not live up to the ideals that Marley espoused in his music. Jamaica's emerging sounds often had more of an escapist feel. Of course reggae music never went away, and nearly 30 years after Marley's death, a new generation of performers have picked up the reggae's liberation music torch.

Roots/soul singer Toussaint proves to be an eloquent statesman for reggae music on his new CD, Black Gold.  Toussaint, a fellow Hoosier, spent much of his youth singing in the church. In 2001, he moved to Boston where he performed with a variety of soul, funk, R&B and blues band before linking up with the band Soulive in 2006. Toussaint worked as the band's lead singer before going on a hiatus in 2008. Black Gold serves as his official return to the scene, and it is a record that lets people know -- or reminds them -- that many talented reggae artists have been holding it down in the post Marley era.

Black Gold is a record that is both timely and timeless. It is Pan-Africanist in outlook, and it addresses themes that come up often in reggae music, such as fighting the exploitation of the masses by the elites. However, Black Gold is also very here and now. In that vein, the song "Roots In the Modern Time" stands out. There, Toussaint sings about how people often neglect their roots in the pursuit of the comforts and symbols of the modern world.

The Liberator also makes time for affairs of the heart on the ballads  "Unforgettable" and "Hello My Beautiful," but he reminds listeners that there is much work that needs to be done to lift up the downtrodden on the anthem "Changing."

On Black Gold, Toussaint explains that while much has changed in the world, too much has remained the same. And with the gulf between the rich and poor being wider than ever, reggae music is more relevant than ever. People should listen to Toussaint for the same reason they listened to other reggae greats - for the message and the music. Highly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 

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