by Robert Bell
8 p.m. Low Key Arts. $7.
It's a shame that so much contemporary roots reggae sounds bogus, with tinny synthesizer tones that are thin and dry, compared to the warm, enveloping throb of the classic stuff. And don't even get me started on digital dancehall or ragga or whatever they're calling it these days. So where should one look for some reggae that sounds like the good old days? Try South Africa's Tidal Waves, a band that's been going for more than a decade now.
The band blends Jamaican sounds, such as jazzy piano reminiscent of some of the original ska bands, with Afrobeat elements, like the distinctively bright high life guitar sound that weaves through some of their tunes. There are occasional guitar heroics that might sound a bit out of place for those accustomed to the stripped-down, minimal sounds that emanated from the island in the '70s, but it works in the context of Tidal Waves' fusion of styles.
"Mafikeng," from the band's recent album "Manifesto," manages to blend haunting chants reminiscent of Burning Spear with Clash-like horns and crunchy distorted guitar. "Geypseys Lament" is a minimal, rock-steady inspired number that coasts along on beautiful harmonizing and classic-sounding organ. The band sufficiently impressed Ziggy Marley that he asked them to back him up for performances in Soweto and Johannesburg, so they've gotten the nod from reggae royalty. But I really can't stress enough how good their "Manifesto" album sounds. In a world filled with posers, this band is the real deal.
They also play at Juanita's Sunday night at the Mane Affair Hair Show.