The reggae world lost a pioneering icon last week. He is Ewart Beckford, better known as U-Roy. Beckford was a king of the microphone, beginning his career as a disc jockey in 1961. It is almost impossible for anyone who had anything to do with this Jamaican-popularized music in the 1970s, 80s and 90s not to have had U-Roy barge into them. He was said to have passed on on February 17, 2021.
Born on September 21, 1942, one of U-Roy’s most famous offerings to the reggae world was Dread in a Babylon and Natty Dread (1976), the latter spiced up Mighty Diamonds’ Have Mercy. U-Roy was known for bringing bravura and uniqueness to reggae rap, atop the blaring of rhythmic songs underneath.
He was renowned for popularising this vocal style which was popularly known as “toasting.” He produced further albums, some of which are, Rasta Ambassador (1977), Jah Son of Africa (1978) and Pray Fi Di People which was released in 2012. U-Roy also featured on the album True Love done by Jamaican iconic old group called Toots and the Maytals. The album, in 20004, won the Grammy in the Best Reggae Album category,
No one could duel with U-Roy in this “toasting” singing genre as he successfully overturned the paradigm of Jamaican music. The uniqueness of U-Roy’s contribution to reggae ranged from the cadence of his voice, his shimmering howl mid-singing, and his lyrical audacity. U-Roy was a great Rastafarian who, like biblical Nazarenes, adhered to the injunction of keeping their hairs, which grow in locks, sacred.
U-Roy will be sorely missed by the reggae world.
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