Prince Student Rivers of babylon

A: The Inspirations – Take back your duck

B: Prince Student – Rivers of babylon


So, here’s another one that is special. And again it’s special for more reasons than one. The first, and probably the main reason being: ‘Rivers of Babylon’ is intriguing. The song was immortalized by the Boney M smash hit of 1978 which made thousands of people look back and discover the beautiful 1970 recorded version from the Melodians (for producer Leslie Kong.) The general consensus is that the Melodians wrote the original tune, utilizing psalm 137 for lyrical inspiration, but that may only be half the truth. It is true they recorded the song first and perhaps they wrote the melody too, but the psalm itself has always been an inspiration and popular verse for rastafarian musicians, who used it for their religious (drumming) sessions.

Prince Student’s version is an example of what that could sound like. But I have to admit: at first it made me laugh. For one, it is featured on the b-side of a very funny record, plus the out of key/timing vocals of the prince and his backing singers didn’t help much either. For all the beauty of the original version, I was sure Prince Student was taking the piss. And although I’m pretty sure this was recorded after the Melodians take, as a sly move to try and catch the hit train, I’m not so sure it’s such a funny record anymore. To be honest, this one really captured me when I recorded it for Pressure Beat volume 1. It was then that it struck me: this is actually a very early recording of nyahbhingi roots. It’s not reggae you hear, it’s the basis. It’s just drums, an organ, a (small) choir and a talkback singer/proclaimer. It’s gospel, the Jamaican way. It’s a field recording of the beginning of the roots era. And therefore it’s priceless. Not because it’s rare, but because it’s a pioneering record and therefore part of the foundation of roots reggae as we know it. Trojan Records acknowledged this and included it on their Nyahbinghi boxset which came out in 2004.

Ofcourse there is nothing to be found on the artist Prince Student, but the way he sings, or rather, proclaims his lyrics reminds me a lot of Mutaburuka. I don’t actually believe it, but I wouldn’t be surprised either when it turns out to be him. An 18 year old can try his luck. Or record tunes to find his own voice and become someone like…I don’t know…Yabby You? He sounds a bit like Yabby You, doesn’t he?

Like I said: Intriguing…


Label: Pressure Beat (Ja)
Matrix: J.G. AMALB 0-1
Release date: 1970
Riddim: Pete Tosh – Black Dignity

(originally posted on 23-05-11)



  • pressurebeat says:
    7 November 2014 at 14:57


    Dave Home said…

    I just recognised that this is a version of a Peter Tosh vocal for Joe Gibbs called ‘Black Dignity’. Cheers, Dave


    Pressure Beat said…

    Ah, indeed it is. Thanks Dave



  • LTMD says:
    14 November 2018 at 16:26

    I always thought this song was in some way related to Lee Perry’s “Roast Duck”


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