Jamaican music was just transitioning from ska into rocksteady when Toots and the Maytals began laying the underpinnings for reggae with “Bam Bam.”
Few tracks in Jamaica’s history are as timeless and pivotal as that recording, which won the country’s inaugural Independence Song Festival (an annual songwriting competition which continues to this day) in 1966. It’s been continually revamped, revived and re-interpreted over the years by artists including Kojak and Liza, Sister Nancy, Yellowman and Pliers.
2016 marks 50 years since the release of the original “Bam Bam” — and the return of singer Toots Hibbert, back on the road again after an unfortunate 2013 incident kept him sidelined for over three years.
LargeUp had the honor of presenting Toots’ return to New York City in July, as part of International Reggae Day celebrations. In an intimate, acoustic performance inside The Jimmy, the rooftop bar of the James Hotel, the Jamaican music legend and reggae pioneer gave us chills with rousing renditions of his biggest hits. In this clip, Toots performs 1968’s “Do the Reggae” — the first track to use the term — and “Bam Bam,” while also offering some insight into the meaning of the latter.
As you can see, at age 73, hasn’t lost any of his vocal powers. If you’re lucky enough to be shipping out today from Miami to Jamaica on the third-annual Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise, he’s set to close out tonight’s performances. Up next, he headlines the inaugural One World Ska & Rocksteady Festival in Kingston, on Nov. 26th.