Yes, Atlanta’s Had a Reggae Scene

When one thinks of the Atlanta music scene, hip-hop, garage rock, heavy metal, R&B or earnest singer-songwriter fare may immediately come to mind, depending on personal preferences and interests. One genre that is rarely associated with Atlanta, however, is reggae. Yet, with a small Rastafarian population, the city has produced a handful of noteworthy, if little known, reggae acts over the years.

A pair of recent CDs from Tech Sound Industries sheds needed light on several of these outliers, culled from the mid ‘80s forward. History of Atlanta Reggae Volume 1 & 2 (two digital albums combined on one 16-song compact disc) and World Beat & Funky Reggae on Tech Sound (an additional 16 songs combining two albums) include tracks by One Drop Plus (Atlanta’s most successful reggae band of the late ‘80s, they gigged all over town), Tony Rankin (original member of early Atlanta reggae band Skin Kings), HQH Posse (popular ‘90s group, pictured), Richard Omar, Synchro System, Machet-T, Rasta Rappers, Ascending Sounds (Tech Sound’s original studio band), Popa Ellis and Tech Sound founder Champion (Curtis Cain). With murky, intoxicating dub-style production swathing many of the earlier tracks, and brighter pop elements marking some of the later ones, hearing these recordings is akin to zoning out in a hazy time warp. As someone who regrettably never paid much mind to the city’s tiny but active reggae subculture, I’m freshly impressed by the dense sound, recording techniques, authenticity, effectiveness and overall vibe of these overlooked performances. Truth be told, Atlanta’s had some pretty cool reggae shit goin’ on. My only criticism of these CDs is the complete lack of information about the artists. A little booklet, even a two-pager with miniscule font size, would’ve been welcomed. Aside from what little I already knew about a few of ‘em, and a cursory amount of additional info for some of the others on the Tech Sound website, I’m left in the dark about most of these acts.

Tech Sound itself began in 1985 as the first professional MIDI studio in Atlanta, with a corresponding label distributing roots reggae music via cassette tape. These collections (with more promised) offer a taste of many of the acts that recorded and released music through Tech Sound over the years.