Taking Disney to the island, mon
RAS Records is to reggae what Alligator Records is to the blues the very heart of the music. Which isn't to say that there isn't great reggae being recorded and released on other labels (Rounder's Heartbeat imprint, for instance), but since at least the mid-'80s, RAS has carried the reggae torch like no other.
As part of RAS' efforts to promote the music and ensure its future, the label has been issuing a series of Reggae for Kids albums. The latest entry is "Movie Classics," with reggae-ed up versions of hit songs from various Disney animations.
Among the winning renditions are Bunny Wailer's Caribbean read of the faux-African "Hakuna Matata" (from "The Lion King"). Not only is Bunny Wailer one of reggae's reigning demigods (being an original member of Bob Marley's Wailers), but he's a nice, friendly voice sure to appeal to the wee ones.
Interestingly (if not amazingly), most of the songs here take the transition to Jamaican grooves pretty well. "Zippidy Do Dah" sounds as if were written for reggae (it was written for "Song of the South," and aimed at a certain Creole sensibility, so the reggae isn't that much of a stretch). The same goes for Arrow's interpretation of the already calypso-flavored "Under the Sea" from "The Little Mermaid." "Bare Necessities" (from "Jungle Book," and performed by Tony Rebel) likewise shows that the nascent world beat sound given the songs from that movie translate well to reggae.
But even songs that were pure and simple American pop, like "It's a Small World" (performed by the great Sugar Minott) or Randy Newman's "You've Got a Friend in Me" from "Toy Story" (sung by Yami Bolo) turn out to be perfect little rasta vehicles.
Even more refreshing than RAS' effort to turn young ears on to the music of Jamaica is the willingness of stars of the stature of Bunny Wailer, Sugar Minott, Gregory Isaacs and Marcia Griffiths to record songs that many of their fans might cringe at to take the chance of speaking to kids in their own language.
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