Barbados-born Dennis Bovell has been an integral force of the British reggae scene since its very inception. He’s made such an important contribution in so many different styles of music that it is difficult to summarise, but suffice it to say that his achievements include being a founding member of the groundbreaking band Matumbi, a key part of Sufferer, one of London’s best-loved sound systems, and a chief architect of both the roots and lover’s rock streams of British reggae, be it as the in-house producer for Dennis Harris’ Eve and Lover’s Rock subsidiaries, producing I Roy albums for Virgin and dub LPs for EMI, as well as being the producer and bandleader behind Linton Kwesi Johnson’s best-known work. As a producer is his own right, Bovell initially faced prejudice from roots fans who felt that ‘real’ reggae only came from Jamaica; to get around such reductive thinking, he launched the Rama label (as an echo of Kingston’s Rema district), issuing some product with little or no information on it, to make it seem that the release was a Jamaican import. Sista Beverley’s ‘Rasta Woman’ and Dennis’ own ‘Za-ion’ both date from 1977, and each has a distinctive British roots sensibility; according to Dennis, Beverley was the sister of a friend from Wolverhampton, while ‘Za-ion’ came out of a jam session between him and drummer Jah Bunny, where Bunny sang the bass line to Dennis, and he constructed the rest.
David Katz ©
LABEL: IROKO RECORDS