Rebel rhythms: The legacy of The Upsetters in Jamaican reggae and dub music

Who are The Upsetters? They are reggae and dub music pioneers. Let's look at some basic facts about the band.
The Upsetters and Prince Jazzbo - Croaking Lizard
The Upsetters and Prince Jazzbo - Croaking Lizard / Observerfromspace

Not to be confused with another group called The Upsetters (an American band associated with Little Richard and Otis Redding), The Upsetters in this case were a Jamaican reggae and dub band formed in the late 1960s by producer and musician Lee "Scratch" Perry. Perry, a highly influential figure in the development of reggae music, formed The Upsetters as his house band to accompany various artists and to create music for his own productions.

The Upsetters were known for their innovative and experimental approach to reggae and dub music, incorporating elements of ska, rocksteady, and psychedelic sounds into their recordings. Their music often featured heavy basslines, intricate rhythms, and dub effects created by Perry in the studio. It was primarily, though not exclusively, instrumental, as the very term "dub" refers to removing the vocals and emphasizing a song’s instrumental and rhythm sections.

One of The Upsetters' most famous albums is Super Ape, released in 1976, which is considered a classic in the dub genre. The album features instrumental tracks with heavy use of echo, reverb, and other studio effects, creating a deep and immersive sonic experience. Throughout the 1970s and beyond, The Upsetters collaborated with numerous artists and released many influential recordings, contributing significantly to the evolution of reggae and dub music. Their influence can still be heard in contemporary reggae, dub, and electronic music.

The Upsetters and dub music are highly influential

The Upsetters played a huge role in shaping the sound of Jamaican music and remain an important part of reggae music history. Their musical style has influenced modern pop, rock, hip hop, techno, electronica, jazz, blues, country, punk rock, indie-rock, soul music, and even goth bands like Bauhaus. After all, there is a reason they are regarded as one of Jamaica's greatest bands ever.

Who are The Upsetters?

Lee "Scratch" Perry's ensemble comprised Alva Lewis on guitar, Glen Adams on organ, and brothers Aston "Family Man" Barrett and Carlton Barrett on bass guitar and drums, respectively. Guided by Lee "Scratch" Perry, the band consistently supported Bob Marley, notably on the albums Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution Part II.

In 1972, the Barrett brothers became members of The Wailers, while Scratch enlisted other musicians to fill their spots. The core lineup of the Black Ark Upsetters then comprised Boris Gardiner on bass, along with Mikey Richards, Sly Dunbar, and Benbow Creary on drums. Earl "Chinna" Smith handled guitar duties, while Winston Wright and Keith Sterling took charge of keyboards.