Third World – Jamaican Patriots

Third World Band

Reggae legends Third World are renowned for hits like 96 Degrees In The Shade, Now That We’ve Found Love, Hooked On Love and a string of albums stretching back to the mid-seventies. Their infectious fusion of reggae, funk and soul arrived complete with Rasta sensibilities and a show-stopping live act that was only slightly affected by the loss of Ibo Cooper and Willie Stewart. Fortunately lead singer Bunny Rugs, guitarist Cat Coore and bassist Richard Daley are still in the band and have recently proven more than capable of delivering Third World’s best album in years.

Patriots was intended to commemorate their thirty-fifth anniversary but fell behind schedule. That was two years ago, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. As well as marking another milestone in their own career, Third World have now set out to celebrate a few of the other artists who’ve meant something to them over the years, as well as highlight several newer talents they see as the future of reggae.

“From there we started to pinpoint those people we wanted to do certain things,” says Cat. “We contacted Stephen and Damian Marley and asked them if they would redo 96 Degrees In The Shade, which they did and we loved how they took the song in their direction and gave it a new sound. We also approached Gregory Isaacs, Marcia Griffiths and Toots who all said, ‘No problem.’ The sound those artists have is so much part of a nation. It’s a part of Jamaica’s history and will forever be but all of them gave their time and their whole vibes as a gift to us, which was really cool.

“We see them as Jamaicans who’ve carried this music all over the world, putting some serious effort into delivering what we see as a positive message, whether it’s through a love song or a revolutionary song. That’s what we’re celebrating on this Patriots album, so big up artists like Tessane Chin and Tarrus Riley, because their performances are excellent…”

Cat first saw Tessane Chin sing in a rock band at a show in central Kingston. The grand daughter of Jamaican bandleader Kes Chin, she’s a wonderful talent and By Your Side offers fine testament of this. Marcia Griffiths was originally supposed to sing By My Side, except it was in the wrong key for her so they gave her You Make Me Feel So Very Happy instead, which is a song reggae fans will always associate with Alton Ellis, despite Blood, Sweat & Tears’ version. Marcia, like Gregory Isaacs and Toots Hibbert, all started out a long while before Third World graduated from the ranks of Inner Circle back in 1973. Alas, Gregory was ill by the time he voiced Front Door, which is one of his last-ever recordings – not that you’d guess. Cat testifies to Gregory’s indefatigable spirit even whilst suffering from cancer, and still mourns the loss of a friend he praises for his kindness and humour.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, such collaborations didn’t come about because of record company intervention, but genuine affinities. Toots sings up a storm on Island Girl, which Bunny Rugs wrote for him. When I mention that Toots would be considered one of the giants of soul music had he been born in the US, Cat replies that, “surprisingly enough, he’s born in the West Indies and yet he’s one of the giants of soul music, same way!

“When I first joined Inner Circle I was playing these shows that Derrick Harriot and Clancy Eccles used to put on over Christmas and Easter, all of that and we used to back a whole bag load of artists – Ken Boothe, the Mighty Diamonds and many more coming down the line,” he recalls. “In those days the Paragons were still around and the Jamaicans… Also the Chosen Few but Toots was around then too. This was when I was just thirteen. He was a big man to me back then and that was over thirty years ago yet he still looks like the same as he did when we played at the Carib Theatre back in 1969, can you believe that? He’s still the same person, and he’s a tremendous Jamaican musical icon. He’s one of those that is embedded in us. He’s not somebody we can ever leave at home. We have to take him out everywhere with us.”

Roots fans are going to love the rallying call that is Revolutionary People. Also Capleton’s Goodhearted People and Freedom Is A Must. The latter finds Michael Rose in runaway form, and on a song that resonates even more because of what’s been happening in the Middle East. Third World have been unjustly criticised in the past for being too commercial but these reggae ambassadors also have serious credentials where cultural matters are concerned. The United Nations awarded them Peace medals after they’d refused to tour South Africa during apartheid, and a mid-eighties’ release called Lands Of Africa co-starring artists like Freddie McGregor, Aswad, Steel Pulse and Mutabaruka raised both funds and awareness on behalf of Ethiopia’s starving people. Their latest tribute record is The Spirit Lives, which another former Black Uhuru frontman, Junior Reid, sings on the new album. Legendary producer Kenny Gamble wrote this song for Third World after being impressed by their cut of Now That We’ve Found Love, which Gamble & Huff had originally produced with the O ‘Jays. Third World’s cut became an international hit, even rivalling the original.

“Kenny Gamble came to Jamaica, spent time with us and saw how we lived, found out things about our background, our culture and everything and was totally impressed by it,” says Richie. “He was in awe of it and as a matter of fact when he came to Jamaica, two days after his arrival there was a hurricane. He was staying at a hotel in New Kingston that had no water and no lights, but he was entranced by the experience. He saw the spirit of the people and that’s where that song comes from. He wrote it after the rains stopped and this white dove landed on the rails of his hotel balcony rail… He knew then that the storm was over. That’s when he wrote those lyrics, ‘down in Jamaica, one Friday afternoon, a little bird gave us the song and melody…’ It was a very spiritual experience for him.”

It’s no wonder Third World should have “livicated” this new cut of the song to Haiti in the aftermath of that country’s devastation. Gamble & Huff later wrote and produced other songs for their Hold On To Love album, released in 1988. This wasn’t the only major league collaboration they’ve been involved with. Several years earlier they’d joined Stevie Wonder on stage at the 1981 Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica playing Master Blaster, which he’d written in honour of Bob Marley [who’d died just a few months earlier.] Stevie loved the band so much he invited them to his studio in Los Angeles, where he wrote and produced songs for their You’ve Got The Power album, including hit single Try Jah Love. Cat had first supported Stevie on a Jamaican tour many years earlier, whilst still in Inner Circle. He, Bunny and Richie all comment on what an amazing experience it was to sit down with one of their musical heroes and write songs – despite being called for sessions in the middle of the night!

Bob Marley was another key figure they knew well and supported on a number of occasions, including those famous shows at London’s Lyceum Theatre in 1975, soon after Chris Blackwell had signed Third World to Island Records. Cat was especially close to Bob, and his first wife Donna and Bob’s main squeeze, former Miss World Cindy Breakspeare, were partners in a Kingston crafts shop for a time. Their respective sons Shiah and Damian are best friends, and sang in a group together called the Shepherds as children. This was long before Damian hit with Welcome To Jamdown and teamed up with Nas, or Shiah turned producer and made songs with the likes of Elephant Man, Tessane Chin and Assassin.

Damian and Stephen Marley’s new take on 96 Degrees In The Shade is quite different from the original, but masterful. It’s a radical update of a song Third World wrote about a slave uprising led by Jamaican National Hero Paul Bogle in 1865, and which still rates among the band’s best-ever tracks. They explain the story behind it in Jerome Laperrousaz’s film Made In Jamaica, which also shows Cat and his son Shiah working together in the studio. This same pairing are responsible for That’s All We Have, featuring Tarrus Riley, which is another of the current album’s highlights.

“It’s Shiah’s rhythm track. I went up to visit him where he lives in Jamaica and he was saying that he had this progression and wanted the two of us to finish it. I just basically helped him along,” Cat explains, “then when I heard it back I said, ‘Let me take the track and write something on it.’ Not really with Tarrus in mind, but leaning towards a proper style of rockers, y’know?”

We should mention at this point that King Jammy’s son Trevor “Baby G” James co-wrote Freedom Is A Must and produced the vocal section of that track [although it’s a Third World rhythm.]

Cat, Bunny and Richie all agree that reggae’s future is in good hands given the number of sons and daughters of established names coming through the ranks, and also the flood of talent streaming out of the Edna Manley School Of Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, where former Third World keyboard player Ibo Cooper teaches. Dean Fraser is another old friend of theirs and a man Rugs wishes could be cloned “because reggae music could use at least ten of him.” His sax playing on Always Around is sublime. You’ll find the original cut on Third World’s The Story’s Been Told album but this version is just so damn seductive. Dean has also done his share of nurturing young talent over the years, and it’s gratifying to know that elder statesmen like these aren’t content to sit on their laurels, but take an active interest in bringing forward the artists of tomorrow.

“Jamaican music is always evolving and we are the reggae minstrels so we have to keep that going,” says Cat, who was only thirteen when playing on sessions that led to songs like Eric Donaldson’s Cherry Oh Baby and hits by the Chosen Few, Derrick Harriott and others. “Third World have always been into that. We’ve always been looking to do things that are new, whilst holding on to what is good from the past. You need that attitude, because you can’t just look at what you do and what you did and think that was somehow better. The kids out there, they’re hip man and they’re moving at a very quick rate; a very quick rate.”

Cat was a musical prodigy himself. Classical influences have long been a hallmark of the Third World sound and it stems from Cat’s prowess on the cello, which he studied from infancy. In fact he was so proficient, he played with Pablo Casals at the age of nine and was earmarked for Juilliard before heeding the call and joining a neighbourhood band called the Alley Cats, which is how he got his nickname. Ibo was also classically trained, which helped Third World as they searched to expand the band’s musical palette. Right from the start, they were a self-contained unit that wrote, played and produced their own material for the most part, rather than backing a singer, even after recruiting Bunny Rugs, who is one of most soulful lead vocalists Jamaica has ever produced. [And if you don’t believe me, check out his latest solo album, Time.]

Back in their late seventies/early eighties’ heyday, Black Echoes described them as “the number one reggae / funk crossover band of all time. They’re the only band to fuse the two styles with complete effectiveness and yet not lose that essential vitality of reggae” – this after 12” extended disco mixes of their hits had gone down a treat in clubs, challenging the best of disco and funk from that era.

Thirty years later and this talented band of patriots are still a force to be reckoned with, with or without their celebrity friends.


Originally published in Echoes magazine, April 2011.



Third World – Patriots

Cat Coore of Third World

Third World’s latest album Patriots is a tour de force from a band celebrating their thirty-seventh anniversary. By “patriots” they mean artists who continue to represent all that’s best about Jamaican music, whether it’s veterans like Toots Hibbert, Marcia Griffiths and Gregory Isaacs, or younger flames such as Tarrus Riley, Tessane Chin and the Marley brothers. I should point out that each of these artists shares a genuine bond with the band. They weren’t recruited because of record company connections or anything like that. This is a family affair as Sly Stone once said, and the warmth that results from such alliances permeates the entire album.

Take Stephen and Damian Marley for instance, who breathe new life into 96 Degrees In The Shade – the song Third World wrote about a slave uprising led by Jamaican National Hero Paul Bogle in 1865, and which they discuss with such gravity in Jerome Laperrousaz’s film Made In Jamaica. Damian’s mother Cindy Breakspeare and Third World guitarist Cat Coore’s first wife Donna ran a crafts shop in Kingston and were neighbours. Their children grew up together, and played in a band called Shepherds long before their talents came to fruition. Cat himself was very close to Bob Marley and backed him and the Wailers as a schoolboy, whilst lead singer Bunny Rugs shared the same birthday as Bob and has fond memories of their times together. Another long-time member, bassist Richard “Richie” Daley, lived in Trench Town, knew Marley when he was virtually unknown and can tell you all about supporting Marley on their Natty Dread tour in 1975, including those legendary Lyceum concerts in London.

Third World had only formed two years earlier, after Cat and keyboard player Michael “Ibo” Cooper had tired of playing Top 40 hits with Inner Circle – a band they’d joined as youngsters. Cat was only thirteen when playing on sessions that led to songs like Eric Donaldson’s Cherry Oh Baby and hits by the Chosen Few, Derrick Harriott and others. Milton “Prilly” Hamilton joined on lead vocals, along with drummer Carl Barovier and Richie on bass. This line-up recorded an album’s worth of unreleased demo tapes called Sleepless Nights In Macka Bush before percussionist Irving “Carrot” Jarrett came aboard, and Barovier was replaced by Cornell Marshall. Island Records had just released the Wailers’ Catch A Fire and Burnin’ and these two albums, plus the film The Harder They Come had irrevocably changed people’s perceptions of Jamaica. Songs were now wedded to African and Caribbean culture like never before. Rastafari, social conditions and black history now infused the music of roots reggae bands and Third World were determined to join them. In 1975 they journeyed to London, just to see what was happening. Britain had already enjoyed more than a decade of crossover reggae hits dating back to the ska era, and audiences there were eager to hear more. Despite having turned them down six months earlier, Chris Blackwell signed Third World to Island Records after seeing them perform at a South London nightclub and the band were on their way.

Their debut album Third World was recorded in Hammersmith and came out in 1976. The band’s cut of Satta Massagana immediately attracted attention, as did tracks like Slavery Days and Sun Won’t Shine. Right from the start, Third World had something different about them. Like Aswad, they were a self-contained unit that wrote, played and produced their own material for the most part, rather than backing a singer. They also drew from a broad, musical palette – a facility partially afforded by Cat and Ibo’s classical training – and even the artwork on their early Island albums was distinctive, with its naïve depictions of country life in the tropics. Their second album 96 Degrees In The Shade followed a year later. Drummer Willie “Roots” Stewart and lead singer William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke had joined them by now. The title track was a huge hit, as was their cover of the O’ Jays’ Now That We’ve Found Love from the next album, Journey To Addis. All the ingredients of Third World’s enduring success were now in place. Their harmonies and melodies soared heavenwards in the same joyous way you’d expect to find on gospel and soul recordings; the rhythms crackled with energy and a percussive drive that wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place in Latin music; Cat’s guitar-playing had an irresistible rock feel whilst Rugs’ lead vocals were as soulful as any r & b singer. Black Echoes described them as “the number one reggae / funk crossover band of all time. They’re the only band to fuse the two styles with complete effectiveness and yet not lose that essential vitality of reggae” – this after 12” extended disco mixes of their hits had gone down a treat in clubs, challenging the best of disco and funk from that era.

Yet Third World’s credentials as one of Jamaica’s top reggae bands were undeniable and remain so to this day. At their core – no pun intended – lies a deep-seated, roots Rasta sensibility that’s delivered some striking examples of cultural reggae down the years, from Island Records’ songs like 96 Degrees In The Shade, Jah Glory, Tribal War, Human Market Place and Third World Man, to current album tracks such as Freedom Must Be Now, Spirit Lives (livicated to the people of Haiti) and the rallying cry which is Revolutionary People.

It’s been a while since we heard roots reggae music produced to such a high standard, and where use of new technology has married so convincingly with the playing of real instruments. Freedom Must Be Now features Michael Rose and is a song for our times, bearing in mind what’s been happening in the Middle East. Another former Black Uhuru singer, Junior Reid, guests on Spirit Lives, which talks about historical figures like Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley, and the indefatigable spirit that humanity seems to summon from its collective heart, no matter the tragedy. Legendary soul producer Kenny Gamble of Philly fame wrote this song for Third World after being knocked out by their cut of Now That We’ve Found Love, which Gamble & Huff had originally produced with the O ‘Jays. Third World’s version was an international hit and its success led to Kenny Gamble visiting them in Jamaica and producing The Spirit Lives and other songs that later appeared on their Hold On To Love album.

“Kenny Gamble wasn’t so much trying to put us in another O’ Jays’ type bag. He came to Jamaica, spent time with us and saw how we lived, found out things about our background, our culture and everything and was totally impressed by it,” says Richie. “He was in awe of it and as a matter of fact when he came to Jamaica, two days after his arrival there was a hurricane, which he was seeing for the first time.”
Was that Hurricane Gilbert?

“Yes, and he was staying at a hotel in New Kingston which had no water and no lights but he was entranced by the experience. He saw the spirit of the people and that’s where that song comes from. He wrote about his hotel balcony after the rain had fell for so long a bird came and landed on the balcony rails… a white dove and he knew then that the storm was over. That’s when he wrote those lyrics, ‘down in Jamaica, one Friday afternoon, a little bird gave us the song and melody…’ It was a very spiritual experience for him but then we had to leave Jamaica to complete that album because was no power in many places and all the studios were basically closed. They had to get things back up and running which was taking some time, and Sony Records were getting anxious so they said we had to leave for Philadelphia, which we did.”

It’s therefore entirely fitting that Third World should now revive it with the people of Haiti in mind. Revolutionary People is again magnificent and finds Rugs and the band declaring how they’re “tired of all your slogans.” The semi-orchestral reggae grooves on this record have long been a hallmark of the Third World sound. It’s a part of their musical identity and stems from Cat’s prowess on the cello, which he studied from infancy. In fact he was so proficient, he played with Pablo Casals at the age of nine and was earmarked for Juilliard before heeding the call and joining a neighbourhood band called the Alley Cats, which is how he got his name. Cat’s father David Coore was Deputy Prime Minister in Michael Manley’s administration, yet his family supported his decision to play music. Their only consideration was that he didn’t waste his talent but unfortunately, Cat’s well-to-do background would attract criticism once the band had tasted success. People began to label them as “an uptown band,” not only on account of Cat’s lineage but also because drummer Willie Stewart – who’d been born in England – lived in Liguanea and went to Providence Preparatory School. Several of the members had attended Wolmer’s and Jamaica College, and Richard Daley’s father was a captain in the Jamaica Defence Force yet Rugs was born and raised in downtown Kingston, whilst Ibo was from Clarendon. Cat is one of Jamaica’s foremost musicians and yet all too often had to answer criticism for his upbringing – an experience that will later inspire him to write Uptown Rebel, on which he reminds us that “it’s easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than enter the kingdom of Heaven,” meaning his struggle is just as hard, spiritually speaking, as that of any sufferer. Third World’s readiness to absorb and integrate other styles into their music didn’t help either, and yet they’d all grown up during an era when people in Jamaica could switch on their radio and enjoy a wealth of different genres, from country, soul, folk, blues and rock, to calypso, Afro-Cuban, jazz and pop.

“We were all reared on such a diversity of music,” explains Richie, “because growing up in Jamaica we heard Bach and Beethoven… They played everything on the radio and so we were influenced by all of it. There were no categories back then but in order to hear r & b songs these days you’d have to listen to a specialist show or go to an r & b concert, right? I don’t know who developed this limited form of radio programming where everything is put in a particular box but it wasn’t a good idea. It means that reggae people are never going to hear what’s happening in rock or what have you, and as soon as anyone steps into that box, then the door is shut onto anything else from outside of it. I think that is a very sad loss because in our early days a song was a song and it really didn’t matter where it came from or in what style it was played.
“Reggae is therefore influenced by every other form of music,” he continues, “and that’s why we’ve always incorporated these other styles into it. “You can take a classical piece on a reggae beat and it’ll work just as well. You can take a country and western song and by swinging it around a little bit, it becomes totally a reggae song. You can do it with ballads or English pop songs… You can transform anything into reggae and it’s unique in that sense.”

Rugs remembers when Third World were invited to tour the US with Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown back in the early eighties, and some of the other musicians told them that roots, rock reggae was going to “kill them.”

“What they didn’t realise that we’d already done one year’s touring all over the United States beforehand and so they were shocked and surprised by the response we got,” he says, chortling at the memory. “I think it was around that time that things began to change for us, and word got around in Jamaica that Third World was a force to be reckoned with.”

They’d been touring with rock bands at first, since there were comparatively few other reggae bands out on the road at that time. Such experiences will stand them in good stead and win them friends from right across the musical spectrum, including Stevie Wonder. Unlike more narrow-minded reggae fans, Stevie embraced Third World with unbridled enthusiasm. Cat had supported him on a Jamaican tour whilst still a member of Inner Circle, and then Third World played on the same bill as him when Stevie returned for the Dream Concert in 1975 – an occasion that marked the final reunion of all three Wailers. Several years later, he was invited to headline at the 1981 Reggae Sunsplash, by which time Bob Marley had died and all of reggae music was in mourning. Stevie felt the loss as much as everyone. In fact he’d been scheduled to tour with Marley that year. On being told that Third World were on the same bill, he requested they join him on stage for two numbers including Master Blaster, which he’d written with Marley in mind.

“There was this sense of disbelief about Bob’s passing,” says Cat, who describes the impact Marley had on his own life as profound. “It was a very emotional occasion but Stevie was incredible. We learnt the tune that same afternoon!”

“We were going to play that night and his people said to us, ‘Listen. Can you work with Stevie Wonder tonight?’” adds Richie. “We said, ‘what? We must!’ There was no mp3 player or Walkman in those days so we had to go and find a record player and learn the songs within an hour or two of going on stage, so we did that and it was amazing. He told us he was going to be at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in California the following week and would we like to perform with him there? That kind of started our association with him. Right after that we were poised to go on a world tour but Stevie wanted us to come and record with him at his home studio in Los Angeles and so we cancelled the tour straightaway.”

“Every time we were around him it was an incredible experience,” continues Cat. “Stevie is on a different level, and you really can’t describe what it was like working with him. He’d call me at three in the morning saying, ‘Cat, I’d like you to do an overdub.’ You have to be getting ready when that happens, because you can’t miss something like that! He had a truck parked outside which he’d turned into a recording studio and he had tremendous people working with him, so he could get any sound he wanted really. He did a lot of his own work in there. I remember hearing Duke when we were down there.”

Did he write Try Jah Love for you, or did you work on it together?
“He basically had the idea or at least the framework for the song when he brought it to us. Not all of the lyrics were there, but he sang us what he had. I think he had the first verse already completed, and then we added our thing to it. It was a great experience, I tell you…”
Stevie also wrote You’re Playing Us Too Close for them, as well as producing the band’s You Got The Power album. Third World were signed to CBS by now and had celebrated this alliance with the album Rock The World, containing songs like Spiritual Revolution. Whilst their music could be chart-friendly when it needed to be, the band’s Jamaican roots were of real importance – a fact that Stevie Wonder appreciated only too well.

“When our record company heard that we and Stevie had linked up in Jamaica they sent a producer to talk with him,” says Richie. “They wanted to see if he could take us into more of an r & b direction except Stevie had no intention of ignoring who we were. He refused them but if that had been someone else it might not have worked out too good, y’know? Because they’d sent us some other people before that and when we tried to work with them, it was so far removed from what we were about. They were trying to get us to do highly sexual orientated, bubblegum type material and we just couldn’t sing it because it left us feeling so empty.”

Working with Stevie couldn’t be more different. In fact all the band members couldn’t believe their luck at getting to work with such an musical icon.
“It was amazing watching him work,” says Rugs, “and it was a hell of an experience having him sit down with us and write a song. You would suggest a topic, like ‘let’s write a song about the children’ or whatever. We’d be trying to find the next line and he would shake his head back and forth, then whatever he came up with would be perfect! With Try Jah Love now, Ibo Cooper wanted to break up the vocals like we’d done on Now That We’ve Found Love where me, him and Cat sing a verse each. We started it that way but Stevie said, ‘No. Let Rugs alone sing it.’ That made me feel good, I tell you!”

Bunny had met Cat and Ibo whilst they were still with Inner Circle and even sang with them a few times. He’s a talented painter as well as singer, and had attended the Jamaica School Of Arts And Crafts for a time. When a girlfriend got a job with Atlantic Records he followed her to New York, where he sang Top 40 hits with Hugh Hendricks and the Buccaneers for a while – even sitting in with Third World on their first-ever dates in the Big Apple, at the Bottom Line. He then returned to Jamaica and recorded an album’s worth of songs with Lee “Scratch” Perry before replacing Prilly Hamilton and joining Cat and the other members for good. Many Jamaican musicians rate him alongside the likes of Beres Hammond and Ken Boothe and for good reason. Few singers of any genre are as soulful as the genial Third World front man, whose parallel solo career has taken in tracks for Xterminator and Mikey Bennett, as well a handful of albums – the best-known of which is Talking To You, produced by Jack Scorpio. His latest is Time, containing songs like Kurfew and the title track, which are as strong as anything he’s recorded with Third World.

Cat too, has recorded solo projects. His solo album Uptown Rebel appeared in 1997 and is famous for the track Symphony Rastafari, which is a nyahbinghi-meets classical cello version of the Wailers’ Rastaman Chant. The ultimate uptown Rasta tune, it’s one he’s often played live although the Patriots Theme on Third World’s new album runs it close, and is another showcase for his orchestral leanings. The fact that he and Ibo were classically trained made an appreciable difference to the band’s sound and direction right from the start. Indeed, there are parallels here with the Skatalites since the majority of their members were also classically trained, and it shows in the quality, depth and range of their music.

“If you’re only at one level of skill that’s not so good, whereas if you have more than one level, then it opens up a lot more avenues of creativity,” says Cat. “I think that’s what the classical training has brought to Third World’s music. It opened up our skill levels and so when ideas came to our heads we could just mould them in the way we did, but a lot of kids in Jamaica understand that because the island is filled with kids right now learning bass, guitars, drums, keyboards and what have you. The schools are ram packed but I personally still like to play the cello and mix it with the reggae because there’s no one else doing it and it’s something that people love. I like to experiment with it and put it with reggae music and I’ve even started to imagine what it would like to turn some dancehall songs into orchestral pieces…”
Cat and his son Shiah, who’s produced songs by Damian Marley (Real Friends), Wayne Marshall, Capleton, Tami Chyn, Elephant Man and Assassin among others, worked together on That’s All We Have, featuring Tarrus Riley.

“It’s Shiah’s rhythm track. I went up to visit him where he lives in Jamaica and he was saying that he had this progression and wanted the two of us to finish it. I just basically helped him along,” he explains, “and then when I heard it back I said, ‘Let me take the track and write something on it.’ Not really with Tarrus in mind, but leaning towards a proper style of rockers, y’know?

“What really happened, we had some guest artists on a previous album Black, Green And Gold and it had worked out really well. We set out thinking we’d celebrate our 35th anniversary on this one but the project took so long so rather than just celebrate our own anniversary, we thought we’d also celebrate some of the people who’ve meant something special to us along the way, and also the ones we see as being the future. From there we started to pinpoint those people we wanted to do certain things. We contacted Stephen and Damian Marley and asked them if they would redo 36 Degrees In The Shade, which they did and we loved how they took the song in their direction and gave it a new sound. We also approached Gregory, Marcia and Toots who all said, ‘No problem.’ The sound they have, it’s so much part of a nation. It’s a part of Jamaica’s history and will forever be but these artists gave their time and their whole vibes as a gift to us, which was really cool. We see them as Jamaicans who’ve carried this music all over the world, putting some serious effort into delivering what we see as a positive message, whether it’s through a love song or a revolutionary song. That’s what we’re celebrating on this Patriots album so big up artists like Tessane Chin, Tarrus Riley, Capleton and Dean Fraser because their performances are excellent…”

Marcia was originally scheduled to sing By My Side, but the song didn’t really suit her key-wise so they gave it to Tessane Chin instead. Marcia ended up singing Blood, Sweat & Tears’ You Make Me Feel So Very Happy, which reggae fans will always associate with Alton Ellis.
Alton’s version is the one that’s dear to us and that’s the one that is in my heart,” says Cat with a smile. He first saw Tessane sing with her rock band in Kingston a few years back and holds her and sister Tami in high regard. Rugs points out that the Chins’ grandfather was Jamaican bandleader Kes Chin, of the Souvenirs fame. The girls’ legacy shines though everything they do and By My Side is no exception, whilst just hearing Gregory Isaacs croon the first lines of Front Door (“I don’t want to be lonely tonight…”) sends shivers running down the spine. The Cool Ruler was ill by the time he voiced it around Christmas 2010. In fact it may even be one of his last ever recordings but the man’s spirit was still intact, and his winning ways with a rub-a-dub selection was never in question. Capleton’s Good Hearted People is another feel-good track whilst Toots sings up a storm on the Rugs’ penned Island Girl.

When I mention that Toots would be considered one of the giants of soul music had he been born in the US, Cat replies that, “surprisingly enough, he’s born in the West Indies and yet he’s one of the giants of soul music, same way!

“When I first joined Inner Circle I was playing these shows that Derrick Harriot and Clancy Eccles used to put on over Christmas and Easter, all of that and we used to back a whole bag load of artists – Ken Boothe, the Mighty Diamonds and many more coming down the line,” he recalls. “In those days the Paragons were still around and the Jamaicans… Also the Chosen Few but Toots was around then too. This was when I was just thirteen. He was a big man to me back then and that was over thirty years ago yet he still looks like the same as he did when we played at the Carib Theatre back in 1969, can you believe that? He’s still the same person, and he’s a tremendous Jamaican musical icon. He’s one of those that is embedded in us. He’s not somebody we can ever leave at home. We have to take him out everywhere with us.”
Dean Fraser is another old friend of theirs and a man Rugs wishes could be cloned “because reggae music could use at least ten of him.” His sax playing on Always Around is sublime. You’ll find the original cut on Third World’s The Story’s Been Told album but this version is just so damn seductive. Apart from having backed all the greats (including Marley and Dennis Brown), Dean has also nurtured younger talents such as Tarrus Riley, Etana and Duane Stephenson, which is something that definitely endears him to his long-time friends in Third World.

“Yes because reggae keeps on evolving and we are the reggae minstrels, so we have to project that and keep it going,” states Cat. “At the same time we’re looking seriously at the new age now. Third World have always been into that; we’ve always been looking to do things that are new, whilst holding onto what is good from the past. You need that attitude, because you can’t just look at what you do and what you did and think that was somehow better. The kids out there, they’re hip man. They’re moving at a very quick rate and if you listen to where they’re going, it’s very interesting. It’s a Caribbean beat they’re playing, leaning towards soca a little and they’re doing some really cool chord changes and progressions with it.”

“Practically everyone I know in Jamaica, their sons or daughters are getting into music or learning to play an instrument,” adds Rugs, who names Cat’s younger son Stephen as an outstanding talent to watch out for. “The young people have really taken onto this thing man, I tell you. The music’s in great hands, and they don’t have to struggle anymore to find out what’s what either. They were born in the computer age and so they know exactly what to do. They’re busy setting up their own production companies, they have their own labels and can access everything they need so easily…”

Richie reminds us that King Jammy’s son Trevor “Baby G” James co-wrote Freedom Is A Must and produced the vocal section of that song. We should take note that former Third World keyboard player Ibo Cooper, who left the band in 1997, now teaches at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, where an army of young talent awaits its chance. Cat tells of “forty drummers, forty bass players and dozens of guitar and keyboard players” passing through their ranks whilst Ibo himself, when asked how he was occupying his time answered by saying, ‘I am doing something that my generation does not do enough. I am listening to the youth. They have something to say, and we need to hear it…”

NB: A German language edition of this article originally appeared in Riddim Magazine, April 2011.

Reggae Grammy Awards

Buju Banton, Grammy Winner 2011

Firstly, congratulations to Buju Banton for winning the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album with Before The Dawn – and on the very same day he’s back in court to face charges for drug trafficking.
Unfortunately, time and again the Reggae Grammy nominations have failed to reflect the best the reggae industry has to offer. When the list was announced for this year back in early December, you could almost hear a collective sharp intake of breath as people asked, ‘Where are the albums by artists like Gyptian, Serani and Busy Signal? And why does anyone even remotely connected with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear and Lee “Scratch” Perry always seem to win, even when turning in lacklustre performances?’
This year’s entrants were Bob Sinclar [a French remixer / producer, specialising in dance music], Buju Banton [with an album compiled whilst he was in jail], Andrew Tosh [with an album of his father’s songs], Gregory Isaacs [with possibly the worse album of his career] and then Lee “Scratch” Perry and Sly & Robbie with albums that seem to have been conjured from nowhere and few people have heard. Alas, this list bore little comparison to what was actually released during the previous twelve months, and especially considering that a] Damian Marley & Nas’ Distant Relatives was an epic of truly groundbreaking proportions and b], Gyptian provided the reggae genre with its biggest crossover hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
This in itself isn’t unusual. Look through the list of past winners and names like Beres Hammond, Sizzla, Tarrus Riley, Garnett Silk or Morgan Heritage are nowhere to be seen – in fact the latter have never even been nominated! We thought a turning point had been reached in 2004 when Sean Paul won it with Dutty Rock, despite having initially been kicked out of the reggae category by the committee members. The Recording Academy had to reinstate it amidst private concerns that those who sat on the committee weren’t fit for purpose. That’s when Christy Barber, now a Vice-President of VP Records but then working for Tuff Gong / Def Jam, was drafted in to try and freshen things up and was horrified to discover there were no black faces on the panel and furthermore, that there was just one registered voter in Jamaica, out of an industry that employs thousands! This sorry state of affairs had remained like that for nearly twenty years without ever being challenged or questioned, mainly because few people knew how the process worked and those who did know weren’t telling, but were content to run it as a private members’ club. To be fair, the Recording Academy itself [which governs the Grammy Awards] wasn’t exactly proactive in helping to educate people about its procedures, and its insistence on mailing out voter forms to Jamaica and then expecting them to be returned within two weeks posed serious problems for people living there, as the island’s postal service is notoriously unreliable.
Just to recap, you can register to vote for the Grammys if you’re a record producer, artist, video director, engineer, musician or journalist with six US releases [or liner notes in the case of writers] to your names. Albums are submitted to committees representing their respective genres, who then forward a list to Grammy voters in readiness for the nominations. Yet the majority of those who vote – mainly white industry members scattered throughout America – have never heard of most reggae newcomers or even artists the stature of Beres Hammond, which is why anyone named Marley or familiar faces from the past tend to get their votes.
The problem here was immediately apparent. More people needed to register from within the reggae industry and especially in Jamaica itself; then there would be more likelihood of deserving and representative albums winning a Grammy. It’s that simple, or at least that’s how it seemed once Christy persuaded the Recording Academy to forego “snail mail” to Jamaica, send PDFs instead and accept email votes. This represented a significant step forward and so duly fired with enthusiasm, she embarked on an unprecedented voter registration campaign in Jamaica, doing the rounds of local television, radio and press, spreading the message and underlining the importance of industry people taking out membership, paying their $150 annual subscriptions and registering to vote for popular music’s equivalent of the Oscars.
During her trip, she helped to register VP’s roster of artists, met with local music associations and spoke to hundreds of people, most of whom assured her they were going to register. If she’d have been successful it would have transformed the local recording industry, helped bring long overdue credibility to the Reggae Grammy Awards, and given us all a reason to feel proud of the genre – and especially those talented individuals doing most to ensure its future development. Yet despite her efforts, less than thirty people registered on the island, and twenty of those she registered herself. Only one artist called her off her own bat and volunteered their support – Etana. The rest simply didn’t bother, despite having agreed to, or having bitterly complained about the dreadful state the Reggae Grammys were in. As a consequence of this, albums by Serani, Gyptian and our own Gappy Ranks, which were all submitted this year, didn’t receive enough votes to secure a nomination. That’s because those same, mainly white voters in the Mid-West plumped instead for Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly & Robbie, Gregory Isaacs and Andrew Tosh, despite probably never having heard the albums in question. Christy now describes the day the votes came in as one of the worse in her entire career. That was on December 1st of last year. Gyptian and Serani were waiting for her at a club ready to celebrate their nominations, and were devastated by the news. Gyptian’s Hold You had been entered in three categories – reggae, dance and urban, but didn’t get nominated in any of them, whilst Damian & Nas had been entered eight categories but didn’t get nominated in any of them. [Distant Relatives hadn’t even qualified for the reggae category, as seventy-five percent of their album wasn’t deemed to be of that particular genre.] No disrespect to Buju, but it was the singers, players of instruments, record producers and other industry professionals of Jamaica who lost it. Christy Barber told the people there that if they didn’t register to vote, then nothing would change and look what’s happened. We got the most uninspiring line-up of nominations in the Awards’ history and VP Records, who are the world’s biggest reggae label and reggae music publishers, aren’t even represented in that category. That’s more than a shame, it’s a real insult and as a result, the Reggae Grammys have become more devalued ever.
There’s now a real danger that the reggae category will be discontinued altogether, and especially if there aren’t enough submissions to make it worthwhile, which may well be a consequence of the industry’s continuing inertia. And to think that Christy repeatedly asked the RA for a second category [for Reggae singles] five years running, but now has her work cut out to save the one category we have left.

John Masouri

Sizzla: Musical Revolutionary

Bearing in mind the huge sums they get for concerts and voicing specials, it’s easy to think of Jamaica’s leading musical personalities as superstars, living in some kind of tropical paradise and driving around in luxury vehicles. The reality is often far different and in Sizzla’s case, you may as well be describing another world altogether.

He’s an enigma in truth – one who’s banned from performing in certain European countries because of his occasional anti-gay lyrics, and yet who’s honoured by heads of state whenever he visits African countries as on his recent trip to Gambia, where he met with the President, the Secretary of State and other local dignitaries. Such contrasts speak volumes about how a black man calling for equal rights and justice is treated in different parts of the world, and bear an uncanny similarity to what Black Power leaders such as Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael went through back in the sixties.

Sizzla’s only rarely engaged with the media in the past, and he’s been widely misunderstood as a result. By his own admission, he doesn’t talk much unless he’s “going to pray and chant, or unless I’m going to sing or have a reasoning.” He doesn’t have much time either, since in addition to being one of Jamaica’s most prolific and influential recording artists [and his output over the past fifteen years has been truly staggering], he also has a great many other responsibilities to take care of.

As a Rastaman, Sizzla follows the example of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, who he and other cult members revere as the Messiah. This doesn’t involve mere lip service, but a lifetime spent helping others less fortunate than themselves. It’s here where the lines between commerce – i.e., the music industry – and religion or social conscience begin to blur, since Sizzla is also a fully qualified priest within his chosen Rastafarian Order, as well as their treasurer.

With the money earned from his best-selling Da Real Thing and Overstanding albums, he built a tabernacle and 24-track recording studio in his home community of August Town. It’s there, in this rundown outpost several miles north of Kingston where you’ll find Judgment Yard – a Rasta enclave some have described as Sizzla’s personal fiefdom, but which clearly doesn’t even begin to explain what really happens there. More than just a modern-day equivalent of Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong [now a museum], it’s also a place of worship and learning, where acolytes can join together in pray or religious studies, and discuss how best to help alleviate the suffering of Jamaica’s underprivileged. If that sounds grandiose, well so be it, because it’s actually the truth.

“From we praise Rastafari, certain things must happen,” Sizzla explains. “Rastafari is a man and a King, and the King is supposed to take responsibility for the country. He’s supposed to look after the people and give them what they need, so if we praise the king, then we should be doing the same thing. Because if His Majesty wouldn’t be here, just walking about. Are you joking? No, we’d have to be doing what we can, building something to help the King lead this beautiful nation…”

As part of their everyday reverences, many Rastafarians say, ‘Let the hungry be fed, the naked be clothed, the sick be nourished and the aged protected.’ Sizzla takes such matters seriously and uses his earnings to fund a wide range of projects, whether it’s helping local people with their everyday struggles, or establishing a communications centre that’ll provide the international Rastafarian fraternity with a direct link to what’s happening in Jamaica.

“That is why I make so many songs,” he says, speaking on the phone from Jamaica. “I don’t only make songs to give people inspiration. I make songs to trap money also, so I can help people with their lives. We need to step out of this bad influence where people say, ‘Why is Sizzla making so many songs?’ It’s just that the youths are catching on to the music so fast, and if they’re going to come to me to record for them, then what am I going to do? Am I going to turn them away? No, I just record straight, and I never stop recording. If today they bring five rhythms, by next week I’m on them, and if the week after that they bring ten, then I’ll record on them as well. That’s the way we do it, because we need money to buy computers, laptops, mobile phones and all the things that can be of benefit to the people. The law says we shouldn’t steal or kill, right? And yet some people can’t see how they’re going to survive without doing those things. If the government were to provide more jobs and more opportunities for the youths, then you might see a decrease in the crime rate, but that’s why so many youths turn to music, because they see it as a way to get what they want, without having to steal or kill for it. They see how Sizzla sing a beautiful song like Thank You Mama and it comes like a gift to every one of them, because it give them the inspiration to start doing the music for themselves, and it was the same thing for me too, because from I hear artists like Bob Marley and Peter Touch – singers who see the people suffering and decide to help – then I decide I want to do it too. I want to do songs that give a vibes to the people and make things easier for them.

“Every morning in my community, I stand out in the road and all the kids come to me for lunch money. They come running, saying, ‘Dadda!’ and I give them what I have. To them, I am always rich, and so it’s up to me to keep finding the money so that I can give them something because it’s not my family alone who lives in the community; other people live there too. We are there with other Rasta people like ourselves. We sit and reason, and I don’t have just one family or one set of parents; I have a whole community of them so you share the spirit with them, and also the tribulations because they’ll say, ‘Dadda, I’m hungry and can’t feed my family…’ They’ll weep and moan with you, but when there’s a time of praise and joy, let them share it, y’understand? That’s what keeps me balanced, and that’s what living in the community does for me. I don’t hide the music either. If I’m going to do a stage show and they’re going to give me $3 million to do it, I let them hear it and they say, ‘What? Dadda get that kind of money to do one show?’ From there, they start singing and take their responsibilities seriously now. I use my life, my money and my higher self to inspire these people to do righteousness. That’s how I do it, but the government should give these youths work, instead of leading them into crime. A lot of countries like Jamaica have land that’s left unused, so they should build properties on it; teach the people to make clothes, shoes, tents, anything… A lot of people are quick to criticise the youths after someone gets convicted or becomes wanted, but why can’t they do something for them instead? Because the youths we have here are carrying too much, and it’s them getting all the lynching, the persecution and the beatings. The system’s not doing anything for them. All they can do is think of how to survive, and their only way out is to sell drugs and to rob or kill, because if they don’t eat, they’re going to die and so they’ll do anything to get that food to put in their mouths. The problem keeps adding up on us, and the government should have been thinking about this from a long time, but that is why we keep saying how we need more jobs, more schools and more training centres, and that is why you find the music is being flooded with so many young youths today. Whether they’re singing conscious songs or not, the music is a channel through which they can eat something without robbing or killing for it, so it’s just simply that my father.”

If you assume that singing for money lessens the power of his music, then it’s time to think again. People are already describing his latest album, Ghetto Youthology, as his strongest in years and with good reason, since tracks such as Black Man In The White House, Tax Payers’ Money, Gwaan Bear and Ghetto Yutes Dem A Suffer articulate what’s happening in the world around us with unflinching accuracy, and no small measure of compassion. By way of balance [and just like those classic Bob Marley and Dennis Brown albums of old], Ghetto Youthology also includes its share of love songs; most notably I Am Loving You and a gorgeous duet called What Am I To Do Baby? Sizzla’s far from one-dimensional and he’s loyal too, since he shares production credits with the Firehouse Crew, who’ve backed him on innumerable hits over the years – ever since he first appeared on a scene as a precocious young sing-jay back in the early nineties.

“Firehouse Crew were Luciano’s band originally,” he reminds us, “and I’ve been travelling with that band all this time, ever since I took my first trip off the isle of Jamaica, and I’m still not through with them. We get together and say, ‘you know something? We’ve been through all these changes, and so we should come together and do an album,’ and we’ve been doing it for a while; recording one song here or in Europe, then we get back and write another song. We might do one for Bobby Digital or Fatis, but from we get back then I do one with the Firehouse Crew as well. That’s how we did it, and the tracks add up until we get an album. I’ve got a whole lot of songs like that though. Currently, I’ve got about ten albums of unreleased material; we’ve got a lot of other projects going on.”

The closing track on the new album is called Babylon Ease Off. It’s a sufferers’ lament, chanted over Rasta drumming, and Sizzla’s demonstration of where this music originates from will stay with me forever.

“Right now I’m going to go by the nyahbinghi and let you hear,” he says, opening the door of the Judea Coptic Church next door to where he lives. “You hear that?” he asks, as the sound of Rasta chants and drumming begins to drown out his voice.

“That’s the real music right there and no matter which Rastaman in the world, whether it’s Bob Marley, Jacob Miller or whoever; that’s their churchical music. Those aren’t young boys playing either. Those are the priests and the music band from one of the churches of His Majesty, and they’re here at the tabernacle, where they practise and chant and they reason on certain matters before going out in the community.

“People listen to reggae and thinks it’s only music, but reggae is an inspiration,” he says, with just a hint of sadness. “It’s a musical route to educate the world; to make a money and to make a living. It’s a part of our culture and we don’t let it go. We maintain it, and people say ‘One love’ yes, but they don’t know about this nyahbinghi, yet it’s the same music that crowned His Majesty. It’s part of an ancient Order, and we’ve been tracking it, coming right down from even before Christ. It’s just one lineage, yeah? And from I wake up in the morning, I can hear the Rastamen reading their Bible and giving thanks and praises. I’m very active in the Rastafari community, y’know? I spend four years studying the Melchezidek Order. What I do, I just take care of the yard, build the fences, fix the drum, get the robes, get the turbans, get the shirts and everything… I just maintain that; I don’t need to be running down the altar and stuff like that. I let the elders take care of that, but I’m a reader at the Judea Coptic Church, and I’m a treasurer for the Ancient Order of Nyahbinghi, so I’m not just an artist. I’m registered to teach the foundation of Rastafari, and I got a lot of history…”

John Masouri


Originally printed in Echoes, May 2009

UB40: 30th Anniversary

Has it really been thirty years since UB40’s Signing Off? UB40 have become the best-selling reggae band in the world in the meantime, with more than fifty chart hits and sales of over seventy million albums to their credit. That’s an extraordinary achievement for a close-knit group of friends from Birmingham, who set out to make music they believed in and are still doing so all these years later. This autumn, to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of their bestselling debut they’ve not only reissued the album with all kinds of extras, but also decided to play the same size venues they did back in 1980 – this after decades of headlining stadiums and huge auditoriums around the world.

“I like gigs with chip shops next to them or a bus stop outside,” says Brian Travers, whose lonely sax was such a key ingredient of UB40’s early sound. “Gigs like that have a completely different character because the people who come to them tend to live locally. They can get a bus or taxi home afterwards, which they can’t when we play in these huge places that are out of town and are very sterile by comparison. There’s no sense of community. You drive into a car park, are searched coming in and have to pay a tenner for beer in a plastic glass. Those audiences feel a bit separate but at a gig in the middle of town, you’re playing to the back of the room and there’s a sense of us all being in it together. We love that.”

The band will be performing that first album in its entirety during this tour, as well as a set of latterday hits. To some, this will herald a welcome return to the band’s more political repertoire – UB40 having become synonymous with covers of Jamaican reggae classics in recent years. This is only part of the story however and their reputation for political commentary is still richly deserved, as Robin Campbell explains.

“A lot of people think we stopped being political in 1983 and stopped listening to us after that,” he says, ruefully. “We gained a whole new audience, but I think we lost a lot of people after Labour Of Love. Some of the hardliners became disappointed and thought we’d lost our edge, but if they listen to some of the later albums they’ll realise we hadn’t so it’ll be nice to see some old faces who bought the first album.”

Robin’s brother Duncan had replaced Ali Campbell as UB40’s lead singer by the time they recorded TwentyFourSeven, released in 2008, yet songs like End Of War, Securing The Peace and Instant Radical Change Of Perception left us in no doubts as to the band’s stance. Its predecessor Who You Fighting For, contained its share of uncompromising lyrics too, underlining how the band’s original remit remains undiminished, despite thirty years of unbroken success.

The first time UB40 played venues like Leicester’s De Montfort Hall John Lennon had just been assassinated, Ronald Reagan was US President and Britain was bracing itself for ten years of civil unrest and race riots under Margaret Thatcher. This was the climate in which UB40 emerged but their journey had begun two years earlier, when Ali, Jimmy and Earl had started up a branch of the Claimants’ Union. They, like Brian, had attended Moseley School Of Art in Birmingham’s Balsall Heath.

“When we started it was the beginning of Thatcherism,” says Brian. “We’d left school to no work but the choice of reggae was even more political because all of my black mates were forced to be part of white culture. There was no black television. There were no black role models and the only times you saw black people on television they were being made fun of and subjected to all kinds of racist behaviour. That’s why we were all a bit political as young men. You couldn’t help it because we had the National Front marching through our cities and we were all naturally opposed to that. The most political thing we could do wasn’t to write songs about how wrong-headed the right wing was, but to support black culture. That’s how it came to be ingrained in us. Everyone was doing something, and the Campbells were very political too. Their father was a Communist who belonged to the CND movement and so it was a natural thing for us to head down that route.”

Fortune smiled upon them when Ali was awarded £4,000 compensation for an eye injury he’d sustained in a pub brawl. He spent some of it on instruments and he, Earl and Jimmy started rehearsing at the Cannon Hill Arts Centre. Robin saw them, thought they were terrible and declined to join them! Next, they commandeered the cellar below Earl and Brian’s flat in Moseley. Brian had started to learn the saxophone; Jimmy Lynn joined them on Stylophone and Yomi Babayemi played percussion. Norman of course was already a regular, having been a friend of Ali’s from childhood. Anchored by Earl and Jimmy on bass and drums, the band gradually became more proficient and by Christmas 1978, Robin was impressed enough to buy a secondhand Fender Stratocaster and join in.

After a while, Yomi was deported back to Nigeria and keyboard player Mickey Virtue replaced Jimmy Lynn. The band then started playing their first gigs and recruited Astro, who’d been the MC with Duke Alloy’s sound-system. They were known by various names, including Jeff Cancer & the Nicoteenies before a friend suggested UB40, since most of them had those yellow unemployment cards by then. Their first proper gig was at the Hare And Hounds in King’s Heath, at a friend’s party. Word soon got around there was an exciting new band in town. This led to Jerry Dammers offering them a deal with 2 Tone Records, which they turned down as they wanted to explore their own brand of dub reggae, rather than rehash old ska numbers.

It was a brave decision, since money was scarce and most of their gigs badly paid. Local butcher Dave Cox lent them money to record demo tracks, which led Island supremo Chris Blackwell to declare that UB40 had “no commercial viability whatsoever.” Eventually they struck a deal with Graduate Records, who agreed to pay the costs of recording and manufacturing an album. The label and band would then share royalties between them. Graduate’s choice of producer was Bob Lamb, who’d been the drummer with Steve Gibbons and was well known in Birmingham for making demos with up-and-coming bands.

“David Girr [of Graduate] went to Bob Lamb and said if he recorded the album in his studio, then he’d pay the bills,” recalls Robin. “It was only later that we discovered he’d offered to share his split with him. That’s how Bob Lamb ended up with 25% of that record. Lucky man!

“Basically he’d retired from being in a band and set up his studio in this flat just off King’s Heath High Street, but he was a great engineer and absolutely loved what we were doing. We just went in there and recorded every song we had. We’d go in there in the mornings and him and his girlfriend would be still in bed. They’d climb down the ladder, she’d go and make everyone a cup of tea and he’d be sat there in his dressing gown…”

“Bob lived in a tiny flat in one of those old Victorian houses with tall ceilings and he’d built this bed on stilts,” adds Brian. “All his studio gear was kept underneath and there was an electricity meter that took fifty pence pieces. We used to joke how the album cost fifty pence to make, because we just booted the lock off and had it so the same coin kept going through over and over! Bob was groaning about it but we said, ‘don’t worry. When this is a hit we’ll sort it out.’ We were never in any doubt that our first record would be successful…”

The sessions started during autumn 1979 and despite Bob’s limited resources, the sound of the record has stood up remarkably well. The band had a full set of originals by now, although they’d still play the odd cover such as Randy Newman’s I Think It’s Gonna Rain Again and Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit. Burden Of Shame was among their first recordings and it’s probably the finest-ever song written about post-colonial guilt. “Bloody deeds have been done in my name,” they announced. “Our children will bear the blame. I’m a British subject and not proud of it, while I carry the burden of shame.”

Tyler was an appeal to the Governor of Louisiana on behalf of Gary Tyler, an African-American jailed for involvement in a murder he swears he didn’t commit. King was another highlight, and written in tribute to American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King. Food For Thought, deriding politicians who make money from other people’s suffering and Little By Little, which is a song about inequality, continued in similar vein. The rest of the album was comprised of instrumentals – mainly because Ali was a reluctant front man and had originally wanted UB40 to be a dub band. Brian’s jazzy sax playing gave this material a different sound to anything else around at that time, either in Britain or Jamaica. UB40 were unique, and a number of influential DJs were quick to recognise the fact.

Robin Valk was the first to play tracks from the album (on Birmingham station BRMB), and then Radio 1 favourite John Peel followed suit in December 1979. This session’s now included on the 30th Anniversary edition of Signing Off, which also includes UB40’s appearance on the Kid Jensen show from February 1980. Shortly afterwards the band embarked on a mini-tour of London, which is when Chrissie Hynde stumbled across them and invited UB40 to support her and the Pretenders on a forthcoming UK tour.

Graduate released UB40’s first single Food For Thought mid-way through that tour and it went to No. 4 in the charts. This was in March 1980. The band were now stars in their own right and so once the tour was finished, they rebooked the same venues with themselves as headliners and then released their second top 10 hit, My Way Of Thinking. To describe their debut album as “eagerly awaited” is an understatement. British audiences couldn’t wait for it to reach the record stores and when it finally arrived in September, Signing Off immediately became one of those albums you heard everywhere – in clubs, bars and at friend’s houses… First pressings were accompanied by a 12” EP containing three extra tracks – Madam Medusa, Strange Fruit and another captivating jazzy, dub/instrumental, mischievously called Reefer Madness.

The band had recorded these tracks at the Music Centre in Wembley, where they had access to 24-track facilities and would soon begin work on their follow-up album, Present Arms. Their inclusion on the 30th Anniversary edition – together with rare television footage, filmed by the BBC as part of the series Rock Goes To College – is guaranteed to delight long-time admirers, as well as shed light on the band’s early history for younger fans.

Signing Off would stay on the UK album charts for nearly eighteen months in total, peaking at No. 2. It sold 100,000 copies within the first few weeks and would soon sell over a million. All of a sudden, that 50% split with Graduate seemed over generous. By the end of 1980, even as The Earth Dies Screaming became their third straight UK Top 10 hit, UB40 and Graduate parted company; not over money disputes, but after Burden Of Shame had mysteriously disappeared from the album in South Africa.

“I was doing an interview with a South African journalist and he said to me, ‘how come you’ve taken Burden Of Shame off the album?’” Robin explains. “I said we haven’t and told him that no one would do that without us knowing about it and believe me, if there was one place in the world we’d want Burden Of Shame to be heard, it was South Africa. But what happened was, Graduate had sanctioned the track to be dropped without consulting us, and we couldn’t stay with them after that.”

UB40 was and still is a democracy, with each member receiving an equal share of the band’s earnings and having an equal say in the decision-making process. Whilst the world is a very different place to how it was back in 1980, it’s reassuring to know that some things never change except believe it or not, Signing Off sounds even better than ever…

Luciano: Man Of Africa


Luciano always seems to enjoy his trips to London. Island Records were here whilst he was signed to them; early television appearances on The White Room (backed by Sly & Robbie) and Later With Jools Holland were both filmed in West London and who could forget that first Brixton Academy show, where Luciano gave the performance of his life, backed by the Firehouse Crew dressed all in khaki? London was also where he voiced the Great Controversy album over a single weekend and in the midst of heated contractual disputes. His popularity’s fluctuated since then, but was given a welcome boost by a headline performance at the One Love concert and a brilliant new album for “Frenchie” – a Frenchman based in London who learn his craft behind the mixing-board at Dub Vendor’s Fashion studios, where a procession of JA and UK reggae stars strutted their stuff throughout the nineties.

Released on VP Records via Maximum Sound, United States Of Africa shares many qualities with Luciano’s classic output for Xterminator. The weight, attention to detail and musicianship are all there, as is the professional standard of production and mixing. It’s not often you get class and roots authenticity in the same package, but this blend – together with the more disciplined approach it entails – appears to suit Luciano well.

“What I admired in Fatis was his requests for originality,” he says, peering into the hollowed out gourd he carries on his belt. “Some producers just take whatever you give them but not Fatis and this is what I love about Frenchie too. Most producers, you can pass by the studio, sing a little something for them and they’ll say, ‘Alright Luchy, respect,’ but Frenchie’s not like that. He’ll listen and say, ‘boy Luchy, I don’t like that second verse because it sounds flat…’ You have to come good and I love that! He’s outspoken and I like that about him too. There’s a spirit in him and he has a deep knowledge of this music. You can see where his heart is from his rhythms and I really admire that about him. He’s deep, I tell you.”

Africa has been a recurrent theme throughout his career, beginning with songs like Back To Africa and One Way Ticket. Luciano is no separatist however. He’s a Rastaman who believes in love, peace and harmony, and celebrates his African roots as the source of his religion, as well as race. This latest album isn’t called United States Of Africa by accident, as it reflects his continuing involvement with Africa to greater extent than ever. Several of the tracks on it refer directly to the Motherland, whilst the remainder explore themes such as political corruption, greed, gun crime and the corroding effects of capitalism. Even the autobiographical I Will Follow reads like a parable, whilst the album’s only love song is addressed to his Nubian Queen.

It’s a concept album in essence, led by songs like Unite Africa and the title track, and another milestone in a lengthy career decorated with some of the most enduring hits of the post-Bob Marley era. Luciano says he may well record another album for Frenchie but fans of the Messenger should note that further album releases loom on the horizon – two for producers with Atlanta connections and the other a self-produced effort intended to win over international audiences.

“Yes, I’ll be concentrating on making a different kind of album in future,” he promises. “I want to make a softer, more meditational album because I play flute and I play drums… You’ll hear me playing guitar more on it too, because I don’t get to use my guitar much if you notice. I just get to use it for my hobby or when I do a little unplugged show like in Jamaica or on 1Xtra. Nothing on a major scale, so I need to utilise this more, and show people another side of me.

“I’m searching for something that’s more universal, and I want to hear different instruments in my music that’ll take it further than ever before. I’m thinking so much about things like that right now, and I’m looking to make my music more accessible too, just like how Burning Spear has done to a certain extent. Yes man, so all those who say that me a done, they’ll see that me just a come!”

By his own admission, Luciano’s been a little over-prolific at times. People talk about all the mouths he feeds back in Jamaica but according to him, he just wants to get the message across and leave a decent legacy of what he calls “beatitudes” – i.e., songs that address how people live. Making records is his way of reaching people, and what’s said on them is more important to him than the business side of things. This may be why he’s not signed to a major label, because he’s not had anything like the exposure his talent deserves since leaving Island.

He was signed to Chris Blackwell’s label when making his first trip to Africa back in 1997. He, Sizzla and Mikey General travelled to Senegal with Xterminator, whereupon Luciano shared a track with Baba Maal called Africa Unite. A decade later and he expresses regret that his meeting with Baba Maal didn’t blossom into something more far-reaching. He’s performed in Africa on numerous occasions since and whilst nothing gives him greater pleasure than returning there, he feels there’s still a cloud hanging over his visit to Zimbabwe a while back.

‘How did you come to visit Zimbabwe?’ I ask him. ‘Did you get an official invite?’
“Yes, actually they sent a Rastaman as a middleman and he came to me with talk of putting on a big show and everything but he wasn’t what he seemed. It was Mugabe’s government who sent him and he came with some of the money as a deposit and all that but when we went there, we should have all gone together and carried on with the mission, which was to promote the music but it turned out he wasn’t ready for it and that meant the government had to take it over, once they realised we nearly didn’t go to Zimbabwe at all.”
Because you didn’t have your band with you…

“Well he talked to me about carrying the band, so we had all of that in mind at the planning stage because we’d just gone to Ghana to perform with John Legend, so the band was very close by. A brethren from England named Doctor Quenzi called my office in Jamaica and said he was still interested in me doing the show in Zimbabwe, and that the government wanted me to come. It was at that point the government took it over but in all honesty, they used the opportunity for their political endeavours. They had ulterior motives and if I hadn’t have been careful, brother Mikey General and myself would have got drawn in to this land scraping thing. I nearly get caught up in all of that so I have to say thanks to the Almighty because I almost get in one whole heap of trouble down there, I tell you!

“And then somehow the musicians get stalled somewhere because instead of going straight over to Zimbabwe from Ghana, they were sent back to Jamaica before coming out again. After they got back, it’s like they start to worry about things, like their safety or something like that. People try and talk them out of it too. Anyway their tickets were bought for them but somehow they came off the plane. I didn’t know what was happening with them at the time but that’s when this man from the cultural department of Zimbabwe seized the opportunity to gain some political mileage by going on the news and telling people it was the British authorities who took the band members off the plane and didn’t allow them to come, which just wasn’t true. It turns out that two of them never had visas but the Zimbabwean government had their agenda, blamed the British and I couldn’t stand for that. I really felt away about it and I’m glad to have this opportunity to explain because it was wrong to blame the British authorities, and I really couldn’t support the man and his theory…”
I remind Luciano that in 1991, Robert Mugabe gave asylum to Mengistu, leader of the Deng who deposed Emperor Haile Selassie I and is even reputed to be his killer, thereby bringing to an end the world’s oldest surviving monarchy.

“Yes! And that’s why so much curse is taking them down there man!” he exclaims. “The only reason I went to Zimbabwe was for my fans, because they really loved the show when I performed for them but I could not support Robert Mugabe. I am not for that and never could be. I’m hearing that it’s changed a bit since then and it’s less of a monopoly now, or rather monotony. You have to be so careful man, because after I go there I start to get some threats… Mikey General and I were in a press conference when a man stand up and say, ‘Luciano. Do you realise that people are planning to assassinate you?’ Well Mikey General, his eyes almost pop out his head, I tell you! I have to keep my composure and say, ‘No, I’ve never heard of that. That’s news to me,’ but after the meeting finish I immediately pull him to one side and ask him where he got that kind of information from. The organisers rough him up bad and take away his tape… All these years I avoid politics in Jamaica, only to get caught up like that in Zimbabwe. Needless to say I haven’t been back there since, as the situation there is way too delicate and whilst I’ve been getting requests, I don’t let them touch me again. I have too many fans there from the white communities, as well as the black… As an artist I have to appeal to the minds of all conscious people. I believe in the Rainbow Nation, and want my music to reach people from right across the world – people who have good intentions, and who are willing to come in and be a part of this.”

Whilst costly, his Zimbabwean adventure hasn’t dissuaded him from getting involved with various projects involving Africa, including schemes to educate and employ young people.

“Yes, because you can only do so much in Babylon,” he says. “Alright, you can set up youth clubs and use your talent and popularity to bring about certain things – projects promoting more unity between youths in the garrisons but how much can you do really, in Babylon? I think this kind of exercise is best carried out in Africa and this is what I’m looking forward to right now.

“Certain places like Ethiopia are way behind. Maybe it’s because they don’t speak English or French, and that’s why reggae hasn’t taken off there. They might know Bob Marley but first they need the infrastructure, because everything is more advanced in places like Ghana, Gambia and Senegal. What I find is that the more people get into the music, the more likely government spending will follow. The President of Gambia, he has his own sound-system now, can you believe that? When he saw how many thousands of people came out to watch us, that’s what encouraged him to start investing in the music and send for artists like myself to come and perform there. What you have to look out for though is the middlemen, because you have some of them who are real crafty and they are the ones who cause problems all of the while.”

Whilst Africa is clearly a priority, Luciano also took time out to speak of matters closer to home. Last year police were called to his home in St. Andrews where a gun battle raged for two hours. One of his baby mothers was there with their two children, aged fifteen and five years old. Reports suggest the gunman held Luciano’s family hostage and used his children as a human shield. They escaped unscathed but three policemen were injured, one seriously, before the gunman, Andrew Senior, also known as “Conqueror,” was cut down in a hail of bullets. Luciano wasn’t at the house at the time of the incident, but was later arrested and charged with harbouring a known felon, which he refutes.

“You see what happened … my gate is always open to Tom, Dick and Harry,” he told the Gleaner. “But I’ve learned that that is to my own peril. Out of the kindness of my heart, I open my home to people, but not everyone that comes in has good intentions. That’s the situation I found myself in.

“This was someone I started helping from years ago. He was trying to change his life and yes, he was wanted by the police but he wasn’t advertised as a wanted man, so the way the security forces went about handling this situation was really barbaric. They (the Jamaican government) acknowledged me as a man who was worthy of being given the Order of Distinction; a man who has respect in the community so when they learned that I had a wanted man at my place, they should have approached me better than they did, rather than accosting my property the way they did.

“Even an inspector told me that after the case is over, I could sue the authorities for the way they damaged my property and defamed my character so I know my rights but for now, I just swing low and take it easy. They have nothing on me. My record is clean. They’re accusing me of harbouring a fugitive but it wasn’t like that. The brother was looking for a safe haven and unfortunately, he came to me.”

A song on the new album, Murder And Thief, has the line, “even on a common street, there is no peace with shoot out between bad man and police.” Luciano lives in a quiet Kingston suburb, and yet still trouble reached him.

“That’s the thing; people who need help aren’t going to go to the government because the police will lock them down or kill them so that’s the position that a lot of artistes find themselves in; people come to us for help. Look at Dudus and that pastor. People say he’s mixed up with drugs and some other things but it seems he was a good man and had a good heart. All I know is that from the community’s point of view he was working as a leader, helping people cope from day to day and he was also keeping order because from he became President, a lot of the slackness was stopped. A lot of those doing wrong had to change up their plans because he wasn’t going to tolerate things like robbing people in the street anymore. It’s just that the governments of the world don’t want to see a man like that, loved by the people and keeping the place under order. When people start looking after themselves, then they don’t need any government and that’s the danger for these politicians. Also, it’s the same politicians in power now who helped start the corruption in the first place. It was they who brought the guns into the communities and set up their own garrisons and so it’s they who have to deal with it. It’s like the corruption swell up upon them now so they try and stifle and oppress the very same people they start with…”



David Rodigan

David Rodigan

David Rodigan, DJ extraordinaire, is an institution in reggae circles. His Kiss FM show has been running twenty years now, although it was his stint on Capital Radio that saw him crowned as Britain’s leading reggae ambassador on the airwaves and also in Jamaica, where his clashes with Barry G became the stuff of legend. “Rodders” has clashed with plenty of other big-name sound-systems since then, including Bodyguard and Kilimanjaro. Whilst armed with more dub-plates than most soundmen could ever dream about, Rodigan doesn’t rely on music alone to engage with his audiences. A natural and highly entertaining raconteur, his shows are live performances in truth, lit up by the force of his personality and the sight of a self-confessed, sixty-year-old “crazy baldhead” throwing down all the cuts that matter and having a whale of a time. At a Rodigan gig you don’t just hear tunes. He takes you inside the music by explaining where it came from, where he was when he first heard it and all manner of other incidentals that bring the songs to life. At no point is his livewire delivery ever too dry or academic. If he just happens to give you a history lesson it’ll be one that’s full of wit and keenly observed, and chances are you’ll never be able to listen to that particular song again without remembering the night he played it. Now that’s what I call a DJ, and the fact that he’s now in demand the world over means a great many other people feel the same way.

As well as his club appearances, Rodigan’s also a major draw at music festivals in the US and Europe. Those audiences aren’t all made up of grassroots’ reggae fans, but younger people who discovered the music in chill-out rooms at drum & bass and garage events, or via those “everything but the kitchen sink” style compilations labels such as Soul Jazz pioneered, and that were clearly aimed at the iPod generation. More recently, Rodigan’s been attracting converts from the dub-step contingent, whose first exposure to reggae and dancehall classics came after hearing them sampled on tracks by the likes of Jah Dan, DJ Madd, Radikal Guru or Marcus Visionary. In the light of “proper” reggae’s dwindling mainstream presence [Gyptian excepted of course], these newcomers are providing the music with much-needed forward momentum and so it was no surprise to learn that Rodigan had been invited to play at London nightspot Fabric’s Friday night sound-clash, and then compile a mix set for their label.

“Fabric has been a whole new experience for me and it’s been absolutely fascinating,” he says. “A few years ago, Jazzie B did a night at Fabric and I played a short set, but one of the main events I was involved with was with Caspa – he’s an amazing dub-step producer, and he wanted me to be on his album, then I was invited to play at the launch and it was an amazing experience because I saw the vitality and energy of young people, and it just reminded me of being sixteen again, when I heard dub music for the first time. I was able to play my vintage Tubby dubs and they just went crazy because it’s the same root, the same origin and the same source… And the love that came back onto the stage was really something to behold.”

Rodigan’s selection kicks off with Augustus Pablo’s King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown, which he fondly remembers first hearing on an Island Records’ 7” back in the mid-seventies. The late King Tubby can also be heard at work on Big Youth’s Waterhouse Rock and the dub master’s own Roots Of Dub. Joe Gibbs & Errol T’s cut of the Burning Spear hit He Prayed continues in similar vein and then it’s old-school dancehall hits like Tenor Saw’s Ring The Alarm and Super Cat’s Don Dada which pick up the baton and run with it. From thereon, it’s nowadays classics all the way courtesy of Collie Buddz’ Come Around, Shaggy’s Church Heathen, Alborosie’s Kingston Town, Cham’s Ghetto Story and Beres Hammond’s Can You Play Some More… True to form, Rodigan doesn’t leave out UK-based artists and producers such as Bitty McLean, Frenchie and Curtis Lynch Jnr, and who would have imagined that Sweden could spawn a dee-jay as good as Million Stylez – star of this Police In Helicopter Remix?

There are those who probably think Rodigan was being diplomatic when choosing from such a broad canvas but in actual fact, this diversity is a true reflection of how the reggae business is right now. There’s room for all comers and whilst many Jamaicans will beg to differ, good reggae and dancehall can result from literally anywhere in the world at present. I should point out at this juncture that Rodigan’s new album [called Fabriclive 54] isn’t a mix set in the accepted sense of the word, but more of a compilation.

“Everyone knows that it is rather difficult to mix reggae because of its pace and tempo,” David explains. “It just doesn’t mix the way that house mixes but I assembled the songs in the order that I thought fitted best in terms of the structure of the music and then we went to the studio and put them together that way with some jingles. We thought about doing a live mix, but decided that it would be more accessible without me doing my whoops, hollers and pull ups.”

There’s one song on the track listing I haven’t mentioned so far and that’s Stop That Train – a dub-step reworking of the Keith & Tex hit produced by David’s son Oliver, who works under the name of DJ Cadenza. This is something Rodigan hasn’t widely advertised in case he’s accused of nepotism. Naturally enough, he prefers that people judge the track on its own merits, rather than being prejudiced in any way. Its inclusion came about after David overheard his son playing a version of Stop That Train he didn’t recognise. When Oliver told him it was own creation, dad asked him for a copy and started to introduce it at some of the dub-step gigs he was playing.

“The response was absolutely amazing!” he says proudly. “And then I knew my instincts about it were right when some Italian DJs I’d played it to said, ‘What’s that version of Stop That Train and who’s it by?’ I never told anyone it was by my son. I just told them it’s by a guy called Cadenza but then Caspah and some other guys heard it and liked it. There was some genuine feedback to it and so when it came to doing the album I thought, ‘Why not?’ He’s nineteen and he may be my son but this has been created as DJ Cadenza and not as Oliver Rodigan, and you would never realise that unless you knew it already, or had read the small print on the album. Anyway he got it professionally remixed and re-mastered, and then he phoned the original producer, Derrick Harriott, sorted out the contract and the publishing and did everything else that made it possible for it to be included on the album. Technically, it’s Derrick Harriott’s rhythm but Oliver created a new melody so that was a major difference. It was a sample, rather than a version and only a four or five second sample at that but Derrick said yes and so we included it on the album. I think it’s valid, and I hope others do too.”

Like it or not, dub-step demonstrates how reggae has evolved over the years. It’s where the music’s cutting-edge presently resides and even the Marley family agree, after inviting Hatcher C to play at their annual Bob Marley event in Miami early next year.

For the rest of our interview, which took place at Kiss FM’s offices in the West End, David and I talk about the state of play in Jamaica, the closure of so many studios, distributors and pressing-plants and the wholesale changes brought about by the Internet. He’s an astute observer and still remarkably upbeat, despite the occasional outburst about the faster dancehall rhythms flooding out of Jamaica. Then again, he’s every reason to feel enthusiastic. Once upon a time, only London audiences could hear his shows on Capital or Kiss, but now the whole world can listen thanks to the Internet. Yet for radio personalities like Rodigan, there is a downside. For example, there’s even greater competition than ever before and by virtue of file sharing, there’s no such thing as exclusive music anymore unless you make it yourself. Also, we can all turn broadcaster and make our own podcasts and playlists, so how has this affected someone like David Rodigan?
“Well there are so many Internet radio shows, and there are so many pirate or community radio shows as well,” he begins. “The show on Kiss FM has now been reduced to sixty minutes and I work with that because I want to give the best sixty minutes you can get within what I call “the reggae rainbow,” or the spectrum of the music but gone are the days when you’d listen to Steve Barnard on a Sunday lunchtime back in the seventies and that was your only point of access to reggae apart from Mike Raven’s r & b show on a Saturday night, when he might play a few West Indian records. It was that sparse and that barren but now it’s everywhere. You can find any piece of reggae music with ease, whether you Google it or look for it on YouTube and if there isn’t a video on YouTube, then it’ll be some image instead, which is fantastic. Someone sent me a link to Wreck A Buddy by the Soul Sisters and I had to laugh. This is an explicit record that came out in 1970 and they’d illustrated it with photos of Mods from that period so in three minutes and ten seconds I heard this slack reggae record, Wreck A Buddy by the Soul Sisters; looked at some great photos and been given a history lesson. It’s phenomenal, and I have to salute Major Laser as well because what they’ve done, they’ve taken elements of the music and really brought it to somewhere else. They’ve done wonders in introducing a new audience to the music because of their repertoire and their presence… They’ve taken the music beyond reggae and it was a privilege to play with them at Carnival on the Red Bull stage.”
We’ve said for years that if reggae was afforded a level playing field along with every other genre it would conquer the world and we’re seeing the truth of that now…

“Exactly. Just look at the response it gets in European countries like Germany, France and Italy, and then look at what happens when some wise guy in an advertising agency sits down in a meeting and says, ‘This is the music track for the new Heineken ad,’ and starts playing a Prince Buster track or something. Amazing! We’re hearing songs on mainstream television and in cinemas as part of major advertising campaigns that would never have been played on any radio station, and I find that utterly overwhelming, I really do…”