Toppa Top 10: Reggae’s Greatest Bassists

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June 11, 2014

8. Derrick Barnett


Known for his showmanship, Derrick Barnett is widely regarded as dancehall’s greatest live bassist, setting a new standard with his lively performances. Barnett got his start as a member of the 1982 Reggae Sunsplash house band, backing artists including Yellowman and Sister Nancy. That performance was so successful that the musicians continued to perform together as the Sagittarius Band, playing and recording with basically every major dancehall artist of the era.

The introduction of “Dancehall Night” at Reggae Sunsplash beginning in 1987 highlighted Barnett’s pull with artists, as they would dialog with him and integrate him into their performances, dance moves and all. Typically backing dozens of artists during sets that could keep them on stage for eight hours without break, The Sagittarius Band were essentially the first entity to perform live in a fashion that reflected the way selectors would back artistes. (A singer as well, Barnett releasedย his own tunesย under the pseudonymย Rikki Barnettย with enough success that the Sagittarius Band began performing independently around Jamaica.)ย 

ย Watch how Barnett turns it up with Ninjaman back in ’89 in the first video, then check a 1985 live performance featuring Saggitarius backing Barrington Levy, Tenor Saw, Echo Minott and others for a glimpse at the band at its peak::