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Satta Massagana

The Abyssinians

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Album Review

This is one of those legendary reggae albums that's easier to admire than enjoy. There's no doubt of its importance: if you had to pick the five most influential Rasta anthems of the 1970s (and Jah knows there have been few if any since then), the title track of this album would be one of them. So, most likely, would "Declaration of Rights," which has been remade in countless different versions. And the Abyssinians themselves are a fine vocal trio. If they're not as sweet-sounding as the Mighty Diamonds, and not as tight and compelling as the Heptones, they do have a fierce and intense spirituality that is pretty compelling in its own right. But all that said, this is an album that takes some time and adjustment to enjoy. For one thing, every single song is taken at exactly the same tempo. Reggae is a music that is built on subtle differentiation (or, as philistines and Babylonians might say, it all tends to sound the same), and that means that it's important to sow a little variety wherever you can. It's also true that the group's spiritual intensity sometimes leads the harmonies to, shall we say, wander in the wilderness a bit. But the deep religious conviction of the songs and singers, as well as that unchanging, loping, serene groove, will begin to draw you in after a few listens.

Biography

Formed: 1969

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s

Few groups better captured the heart and soul of roots reggae than the Abyssinians; the vocal trio's heavenly close harmonies, dark melodies, and Rastafarian themes, all delivered with a deep spiritual feeling, were instrumental in defining and refining the genre. Bernard Collins and Donald Manning were longtime friends, and neither initially planned a career in music. That all changed one night in 1968, when during a creative burst, the pair composed "Satta Massa Gana" (also spelled "Satta Amassa...
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Satta Massagana, The Abyssinians
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