Composed in 1968, "Satta Massagana" featured the vocal trio that helped to define the most devout strains of Jamaica's then-emergent reggae sound. Producer Clement "Coxsone" Dodd brought the Abyssinians (Bernard Collins and the Manning brothers, Donald and Lynford) into the studio to record the song, whose Old Testament inspiration and Ethiopian linguistic sampling spoke to roots reggae's Rastafari foundations. But the somber, slowed-down groove and the obscure spiritual references made Dodd think the results would leave Jamaican audiences cold. Undeterred, the Abyssinians bought the master, released it on their own, and proved Dodd wrong; indeed, "Satta Massagana" entered the devotional canon of Rastafari congregations around Jamaica.
Taping at Studio One and Federal Records, the Abyssinians followed in short order with Collins' equally successful "Declaration of Rights," "Leggo Beast," and "Black Man's Strain"-along with Lynford's "Abendigo," "I and I," "Reason Time," and "Y Mas Gan," and Donald's "African Race," "Jerusalem," and "Peculiar Number." All are heard here, with informative notes by Chris Wilson. Satta Massagana is nothing less than a reggae classic, and-backed by noted Kingston studio musicians including Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar, and Earl "Chinna" Smith-after nearly four decades the album's fourteen original tracks (plus four additional previously released tracks on this 2006 CD reissue) reveal the trio's lovely harmonies, loping percussive groove, and spare instrumentation, as fresh and sublime as ever. - Michael Stone
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