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Preview: The Abyssinians at The Cluny, Newcastle

BEST known for their album Satta Massagana, The Abyssinians are among the founding fathers of reggae.

The Abyssinians
The Abyssinians

BEST known for their album Satta Massagana, The Abyssinians are among the founding fathers of reggae.

The work that cemented their place as one of Jamaica’s foremost groups is 47 minutes of serene spirituality, full of faraway lands promising peace and rest for the weary.

Its title track, meaning “give thanks”, serves as reggae’s unofficial national anthem, sung in Rastafarian churches with its praise of the Kings of Kings and messages from the Book of Life.

Formed in 1968 by Bernard Collins and Donald Manning, later joined by Lynford Manning – the pair were brothers to an Ethiopian Orthodox priest who buried Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, so their interest in religion might have been inevitable.

Their influence on roots reggae is obvious – a music shot through with spirituality, prayers for purification and calls for Old Testament-style righteous justice.

On Satta Massagana, they provided one of the finest examples of sweet reggae music’s capacity to prise something sublime from the ghetto, beauty from hardship.

It’s sung partly in the Ethiopian language of Amharic but don’t be mistaken – it’s no turgid church drone, the legendary rhythm section of Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar ensure the album is powered, not by faith alone, but by irresistible drums and bass.

They arrive in our midst this week, otherworldly and full of peace.

Jumpin Hot presents The Abyssinians at The Cluny in Newcastle on May 9. More information and tickets from 0191 230 4474.

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