Roots all over

As the last days of December disappear, tons of metro Detroiters are still searching for cool New Year’s parties where they can act a fool, stay warm and ring in 2006 at an affordable price.

With ticket costs surging for the upper-echelon bashes, members of the reggae and dancehall community are throwing a few lesser-known parties throughout Detroit at a fraction of the typical price.

Over at Trenchtown, the Strictly Roots Movement is throwing a “massive” — as in a massive party — which they hope will attract Caribbean music lovers of all kinds to come out and celebrate. Billed as the 6th Annual New Year’s Eve Reggae/Dancehall Bash, top selectors Kadhafi, John John and Killa of the Strictly Roots sound will bring the thunder and handle all early juggling (DJing) for the evening. Midwest rudeboy Killaface, from Milwaukee, is also on the bill and expected to close out the night with his aggressive sound murderer DJ style.

Some might be wondering why a top selector from Wisconsin is being brought in to rock a New Year’s Eve party when there are plenty of quality reggae DJs in the Motor City.

Ron White, owner of popular late-night venue Trenchtown, sees it like this: “Killaface has won numerous sound clashes (head-to-head DJ competitions) over the past year, and members of Trenchtown really like him. We wanted to give everybody an overload of dancehall and hopefully people will appreciate it.”

Strictly Roots frontman Kadhafi, easily seen as the face of Detroit dancehall, is mainly in agreement.

“For past New Year’s parties, Strictly Roots usually mash it up by themselves and don’t need to bring anybody else out to play music,” Kadhafi says. “But this time, we gonna let Killaface do his thing again, just like he did over the Thanksgiving weekend when he came to Detroit. So people should really dig that.”

Members of the Unity Sound System from Atlanta are also slated for the show.

Always the reggae advocate, Kadhafi is encouraging people to support black and West Indian party business on New Year’s Eve no matter where they go.

Sammy J’s Archer

In Northwest Detroit, another Caribbean hotspot, Archer Lounge, will host a New Year’s bash with eats, drinks and reggae. Sammy J, a longtime Archer Lounge DJ, will provide the ragga. For a lowball 10 bucks, guests will be treated to free Caribbean food and Champagne to help draw a large New Year’s crowd. Believe it or not, Archer’s owner E. Archer is actually apologetic about having to charge $10, but wants to see his patrons have a good time.

“We all know people want to drink, and then eat a li’l food and drink some more, and things are hard right now for a lot of people — so we’re doing what we can to ease the burden and help people have some fun.”

Archer’s will be open until 5 a.m. — just to make sure that 2006 really shows up.

Caribbean nights?

Across town, members of the Belize Association, Guyanese Association and the Trinidad and Tobago Association will throw a party at the St. Cecelia’s Activity Center to round out the Dec. 31 celebrations. Those familiar only with the Jamaican and Bob Marley aspects of Caribbean culture will be in for a treat, as the rest of the diaspora will be celebrated. The Central American country Belize has a majority Afro-Caribbean population and a sizable constituency here in metro Detroit. For the event, the Belizean musical group New Dynamics Band will perform a rich blend of Afro-Latin-Caribbean music (merengue, cumbia, salsa, calypso, soca, roots rock) and unique punta, the national music of Belize. Explanations are limited on what punta really is, so the curious will have to show up to experience this taste of Belize. Trinidadian DJs WD, who are based in Detroit, will spin lots of soca music, and there will be plenty of Caribbean food, plus an open bar.

Roland Bood, president of the Belize Association, is excited to see aspects of the three countries represented in Detroit on one night. “We’re trying to ring in the New Year the way it’s traditionally celebrated in the three countries, because New Year’s is very big back home,” Bood says. “It’s a gala time so we know that plenty of Guyanese people will be there, as well as people from Trinidad and Belize. But we also want Detroiters to come and experience a Caribbean New Year.”

Although tickets are $35 per person, for as much Afro-Latin culture and Caribbean cuisine that’s included with the price, it shouldn’t be hard for patrons to come out feeling both enriched and liquored up — plenty of rum punch, a Caribbean favorite, will be flowing.


The 6th Annual New Year’s Eve Reggae Bash: Trenchtown, 3919 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-8552.

The Archer Lounge New Year’s Eve Bash: Archer Lounge, 15145 W. McNichols Rd., Detroit.

New Year’s Eve Xtravangza: St. Cecelia’s Activity Center, 6340 Stearns St., Detroit.


Drive-by Caribbean for the uninitiated

Caribbean music isn’t easily defined. Its rhythms come in various forms depending on the island or region; it means different things to different people.

In Jamaica, reggae is life. As such it’s also subdivided — lovers’ rock, dancehall, ragga, rockers, bashment, dub and more. Reggae’s residual traces include rocksteady (slow-steady dance played with guitar skank) and ska (jazz meets 1950s American soul).

Other Caribbean islands — such as the Bahamas and Barbados — enjoy calypso (it originated in Trinidad and Tobago), which relies heavily on steel drums and soca music (a mix of American soul and calypso, hence its name).

Francophone islands like Haiti prefer national styles of music such as zouk and kompa.

Afro-Latino islands in the Caribbean, such as Puerto Rico, have bomba, merengue and guanguanco as the most popular forms of music, while Cuba and the Dominican Republic focus more on salsa, rumba and mambo.

Other Latin American countries — including Belize, Panama and Guyana — are aligned with the Caribbean aspects of their culture (such as music and African religions) because large portions of their populations are of African descent.

No matter where a person travels within the Caribbean, reggae is the common denominator that links all people throughout the West Indies.


Recommended dancehall starters:

Various Artists, Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music [Box Set] (Mango)

Various Artists, Stone Love: 28th Anniversary (JW)

Damian Marley, Welcome to Jamrock (Universal)

Mikey Dread, World War III (Heartbeat)

Various Artists, Best of the Best Soca 2003

Jonathan Cunningham is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]
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