Backing band / support act for The Abyssinians tonight comes courtesy of The Ras-Ites. Last seen in Brighton backing up The Mighty Diamonds, they’re the go to London band for most of the old school Reggae artists when they play over here. Their short support set includes their great version of “Picture on the Wall” by The Natural-ites and The Realistics and it’s one of my all time favourite Reggae songs so no complaints from me for this faithful version.
They effortlessly move from the end of their set into the beginning of The Abyssinians’, and there’s an appreciative welcome from the Komedia audience. The Abyssinians have been around since 1968 and despite members drifiting in and out or releasing solo stuff over the years, they are still bringing us their essential Roots Reggae harmonising by continuing to tour fairly regularly. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them play in every decade since I was old enough to go to gigs. They now comprise David Morrison, Bernard Collins & Donald Manning and all look spry and fit as they take the stage tonight.
Their voices are still great. Comanding yet gentle, great harmonies and a good natured ease among the three of them that comes from playing lots of shows. All their classics still sound great. “Declaration of Rights” and “Yi Mas Gan” (partially sung in the Ethiopian Amharic language) still sound timeless in the way that classic Roots Reggae tends to do. It all goes down really well and their finale is a long version of “Satta Massagana” (which literally means “give thanks”) and is also partially sung in Amharic. It sounds fantastic and is a cornerstone of Reggae music. A couple of the trio accompany the tune on bongos as the song stretches into a rootsy instumental. Reminiscent of the opening scene in “Rockers” where this song is used to set the tone of the film. Also worth listening to is their “Tree of Satta” album which features different Reggae artists on versions of the “Satta Massagana” rhythm including Ernie Ranglin, U-Roy and Tommy McCook.
All in all, it’s a great show. Reggae before it all went digital, timeless and always great to hear live.