RIP Robbie Shakespeare

Once again reggae loses one of its finest with the passing of Robbie Shakespeare, following surgery in the United States. As a bass player he was best known as collaborator with drummer Sly Dunbar to form one of the finest rhythm sections in reggae music. He was also an accomplished producer. He played with leading names including Dennis Brown and Black Uhuru and contributed bass to countless other albums including the vastly underrated Sinead O’Connor collection ‘Throw Down Your Arms’ (2005) which he also co-produced with Sly Dunbar. His style was based not so much on technical virtuosity but instead was grounded in power, volume and, above all, an intuitive feel for the music. It certainly worked. He is the only bass player I have ever seen take centre stage to applause at a live reggae concert – and again it worked. Rest in peace.

Captain Accident: ‘Bad Press’ Album/Tour

Captain Accident? No, not a debut release from Boris Johnson, but the pseudonym of Cardiff reggaeman Adam Parsons. With his band, the Disasters, the Captain has built up a reputation for what he has described as ‘clumsy’ reggae from his home studio, and now prepares to embark on a tour of small venues around the UK in early 2022. These are scheduled to kick off in Bristol in January, ending in Falmouth in March. The tour is due to feature music from his fourth album ‘Bad Press’ (released in Summer 2021) which is a quirky and in many ways surprisingly melodic release. Not to be taken too seriously, and all the better for that.

Don Letts set to visit the North East

Acclaimed DJ, filmmaker and BBC Radio 6 Music host Don Letts is set to perform a one-off North East show when he rolls into Teesside this Autumn.

Letts will bring his vast knowledge of reggae and punk music to Middlesbrough Town Hall for a special DJ set on Saturday 23rd November, celebrating the premiere of the eagerly anticipated documentary ‘Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records’.

As resident DJ at the iconic 1970’s London punk club, ‘The Roxy’, Letts came to notoriety as the DJ who single-handedly turned a whole generation of punks onto reggae and has been at the forefront of the UK music scene ever since.

Following his early success as a DJ, the reggae icon managed some of punk’s biggest names, including The Clash and The Slits. He also formed a number of his own music projects throughout the 80s and 90s, releasing critically acclaimed albums and hit singles with Big Audio Dynamite and Screaming Target.

Speaking of his upcoming show in Middlesbrough, Don Letts told us: “I’m going to be nice-ing up the place with some heavyweight bass, a reggae-type set that’s very much in the spirit of this amazing new film.

Apparently, the reggae-punk connection is all my fault.

Luckily for me, the punks liked it too. It was like a cultural exchange: they were turning me on to the whole punk DIY thing, and I was turning them on to bass-heavy Jamaican music. We were like-minded rebels.”

I love performing in the North East and I can’t wait to make my Middlesbrough return. My set will be all about the heritage and legacy of Jamaican music and the island’s gift to the world…bass!”

As a filmmaker, Letts has directed over 300 music videos for the likes of The Clash, The Psychedelic Furs, Elvis Costello and Bob Marley & The Wailers. He would later go on to win a Grammy for his ground-breaking documentary, ‘Westway to the World’.

Over the course of his long and prolific career, his work has been exhibited in The Kitchen N.Y.C, The Institute of Contemporary Art, The N.F.T in London and was honoured at Brooklyn’s BAM festival.

Don continues to educate music aficionados on the rich history of reggae and punk in the UK with his popular BBC 6 Music show ‘Culture Clash Radio’, as well as national and international DJ sets, performing at the likes of Glastonbury Festival, The Rough Trade 25th Anniversary, Trojan Records, Lee Perry’s Meltdown and Stussy’s 25th Anniversary.

Support will come from Ska’d For Life, an all-star DJ group who bring the sound of ska to some of the world’s greatest songs.

Reggae: a Cultural Treasure!

The United Nations has now added reggae to the official list of international ‘cultural treasures’, constituting a type of music deserving of protection and promotion. Jamaica applied for this status at a meeting held earlier this year in Mauritius, and it has now been granted, with UNESCO commenting that reggae had contributed to an “international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity”. One love!

Natty and the Rebelship: Man Like I

This album came out ten years ago and was a lively infectious take on contemporary reggae. Natty and the Rebelship band now plan to perform the whole album live in their forthcoming tour of the UK. The tour is scheduled for Autumn 2018, kicking off in Milton Keynes on 2nd November and concluding in Manchester on 29th of that month.

Prior to the tour, a limited-edition reissue of the album is planned for September 2018. Released on no less than the Tuff Gong label, ‘Man Like I and I…X’ will be a double-vinyl remastered version of the original ‘Man Like I’ album together with new recordings of favourite tracks featuring some of Natty’s associates including Seun Kuti, Benjamin Zephaniah, Maverick Sabre and El Fari and Ramzi (from Palestinian band 47soul). The album also shares an acoustic version of live favourite “Bedroom Eyes” and a track Natty recorded with Sly & Robbie that did not feature on the original album, alongside four further new original tracks to complete what has justly been described as a ‘collector’s package’.

Natty and the Rebelship: ‘’Man Like I and I…X’, release September 2018 on Tuff Gong records.

Hollie Cook: Angel Fire

With tour dates coming up in Britain, France, Holland and the USA, plus a forthcoming new album due for release, things are on the up for Hollie Cook (see reggaemusic.org.uk 15 October 2017, 9 July 2014, 29 April 2012). Here’s a video for ‘Angel Fire’ in a gig she did for Amnesty International this Autumn in London. Great stuff.

Liverpool Festival of Reggae 2017

The second Positive Vibration – Festival of Reggae 2017 – is scheduled for 9th and 10th June across three venues in the Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool. The Friday session features Jah Shaka’s London-based roots reggae sound system while Saturday headliners are none other than the Selecter. There are soundsystems from Trojan and Soul Jazz labels, along with Saxon Sound System, Don Letts and Aba Shanti-I. Positive Vibration is a cultural as well as purely musical event, and there will be an art exhibition entitled, not unreasonably, the Art of Reggae. The festival is also due to feature panel debate with the Selecter’s Pauline Black, along with Mykaell Riley and guitarist Dennis Bovell.

Tickets from Skiddle.com. What a great way to work off the post-election blues.

Lee Scratch Perry: Vision Of Paradise

csm_Lee_Uhr_Universe_v5_4_wide_stamp_f780124049To coincide with Lee Stratch Perry’s 80th birthday this new film is a celebration of his massive and eccentric contribution to reggae. It can be seen via UK film screenings around the country in February and March, and subsequently through DVD and Video On Demand (iTunes, Amazon Prime, Netflix). Mr Perry will also perform live at some UK dates in March.

If you are reading this you will already be familiar with Lee Perry’s unique musical career, starting with his work for Clement Coxsone Dodd’s label in the late 1950s, a further apprenticeship at Joe Gibbs’s Amalgamated Records, before setting up his own label (and eponymous house band) the Upsetter in 1968. He built the legendary Black Ark Studio in 1973 where he produced records for no less that Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, The Heptones, The Congos and Max Romeo. Along the way he pretty much created what we came to know as dub and at the time of writing he’s still going strong.

Vision of Paradise is directed by Volker Schaner who followed Perry around Jamaica, Ethiopia, Switzerland and London to the point where he could gain an insider’s perespective on Perry’s idiosyncratic world. The film includes footage of Perry himself and of a stellar cast of dub/reggae musicians together with original animated scenes by the artist Maria Sargarodschi, drawn from different elements of Perry’s psychic world. There is also a look inside Lee Perry’s remarkable ‘laboratory’ in Switzerland, now destroyed by fire, but recorded here forever. The DVD version includes a host of extras, including a book and some deleted scenes. In whatever format, this release takes us inside a completely unique world.

Lee Perry: Vision of Paradise; release March 2016

Kiko Bun: Where I’m From

artworks-000114909907-tvzryv-t500x500Here’s a great new 7” single release from London’s Kiko Bun (Federico Marin), a short and to-the-point reggae song with a retro feel. Recorded in New York, its location allowed the involvement of Ticklah – associate of the Easy Star All Stars – at the production desk and he adds a characteristically busy and deep bass-oriented sound. This is especially evident on the ‘B’ side – ‘Where I’m From (I Remember How to Dub)’ – where the dub sound is set free to follow the rhythm wherever it goes. It’s a song that is bound to be revisited and remixed as time goes on, as is already evident in the Tom Misch remix which transforms a neat reggae tune into something more akin to jazz.

View footage of Kiko Bun and Ticklah in the studio:

Kiko Bun: Where I’m From, released vinyl/DDL on Island label.