Roots Reggae from St Pauls Bristol UK since 1979
30 years after Black Roots released their debut album they went back into the studio to record and produce a set of new and original songs. And in September 2012, 20 years after the release of their last studio album, Sugar Shack Records, a label based in Bristol UK, puts out these recordings on CD, Vinyl and Download in an album entitled On The Ground. With these new songs they are reborn. They have bridged that gap between their 80’s heyday and now, writing and composing new songs almost as if they had never left the reggae music scene for a number of years. Their sound is once again delivering ‘.. powerful messages hand-in-hand with lovely melodies and well-layered arrangements; with thought rather than anger.’ Brian Robbins – Jambands.com (15th Nov 2012)
Then in September 2014, they follow up this release with a second album of new material, entitled Ghetto Feel. It is released, via Soulbeats Records, an independent label based in Bordeaux France, on Cd, Vinyl and Download. It is a powerful set that does not compromise the deep roots sound of the band and continues to deliver a radical message. Once again, as shown with On The Ground, it is ably produced by the band and Jeff Spencer and mixed by Louis Beckett. This collaboration with Soulbeats fits the musical development of the band perfectly as it is on the continent that the band are breaking down barriers and getting more recognition for their unique and original style of roots reggae music.
‘.. "Ghetto Feel is the place where the forgotten live, all the forgotten of this world,” explains the group. Ghetto Feel isn’t made for those who live on life’s sunny side. This record aims at those left alone to fight life’s daily struggles, at those that have been rendered hopeless and voiceless by the shitstem. The twelve tracks of the album are pure upliftment and motivation to fight the necessary struggles, keep one’s head up and ultimately succeed against all odds...... Ghetto Feel is the perfect soundtrack for these times of crisis.’ Valentin Zill – Reggaeville (29th Sept 2014)
These albums are followed by a new release Son Of Man recorded and produced by the same team that came out on 22nd January 2016 on Vinyl, CD and Download on Soulbeats Records. 11 new songs of tight harmonic vocals, punctuated by strident horns, melodic guitar and keyboard playing laid over a thumping bass and drum section delivering a powerful message. It is another uprising and uplifting collection of full on deep roots. Classic Black Roots that will not disappoint.
And now on the 22nd August 2016 the band are putting out 5 new mixes of the classic Black Roots’ song ‘Move On’, on digital download only, that first papered on their debut 12” vinyl release in 1981 just over 35 years ago.
Although the band no longer tour extensively they have played a series of selected live shows both in the UK and the Continent, since 2010, that include Bristol Veg Fest UK, ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror curated by Portishead at Alexandra Palace London UK, Sardinia Reggae Festival Italy, WOW Festival in the Isle of Wight UK, Festival Ecolozicalizes in France, Glastonbury Festival UK, Lambeth Country Show in Brockwell Park London UK, Garance Reggae Festival Bagnols Sur Ceze France, Banlieues Bleues Jazz Festival Paris France, Dour Ferstival Belgium, Ostroda Reggae Festival Poland, Reggae Sun Ska Bordeaux France, Octopode Festival Geneva Switzerland and Nancy Jazz Pulsations France.
Back in the 1980’s, Black Roots rose up in the UK alongside groups like Steel Pulse, Aswad and Misty In Roots in what grew to be the World’s second most important reggae scene. They played a militant style of deep roots that is still influencing and driving the music they are performing today. Their brand of roots reggae drew in people seeking to find a voice that spoke out against the injustices and alienation caused by the pace of political reform introduced in Thatcherite Britain. Black Roots’ uncompromising lyrical content was that voice. That voice is resonating once again as austerity bites the poor, the disenfranchised and dispossessed. Then add to this cauldron the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the wars being waged close to Europe’s borders.
They gained national prominence in the 80’s when they released their debut 4 track 12” Bristol Rock in 1981 on their own label Nubian Records. John Peel picked up on it gave it national airplay on his BBC Radio 1 show and hailed them as one of the best new reggae bands in Britain. From these beginnings, the band start to do shows up and down the country and broke into the European circuit following a support slot in 1984 on UB40’s European tour. Right up and until the early 90’s Black Roots work the live circuit extensively, playing clubs, colleges, venues and universities, and make regular appearances at Glastonbury, WOMAD, Elephant Fayre and other major festivals. They also make several radio and television appearances.
They released several singles and albums well into the 1990's, Black Roots (1983 on Kick Records); The Frontline (1984) and In Session (1985) on BBC Records and Tapes and Allday Allnight (1986), Live Power (1989), Natural Reaction (1990) and With Friends (1993) on their own label Nubian Records. They also released a series of 3 dub albums called Dub Factor featuring dub mixes of Black Roots’ rhythms by The Mad Professor and Dub Judah between 1991 and 1995. Then all goes quiet.
It was Makasound, a reggae label in France, who sowed the seeds for their comeback by reissuing some of their back catalogue. First comes a 14 track CD On the Frontline (2004) and this is followed by a reissue of In Session (2007). Live shows in France follow and the band’s rebirth is almost complete. It is cemented by Bristol Archive Records that started putting out more of their back catalogue, a compilation of their singles The Reggae Singles Anthology (2011) and a reissue of Allday Allnight (2011) with bonus tracks.
Today’s line-up includes 6 of the original members of the band Errol Brown (vocals), Charles Bryan (vocals), Kondwani Ngozi (congas and vocals), Jabulani Ngozi (rhythm guitar), Cordell Francis (lead guitar) and Carlton Smith (vocals). They are supported in the studio and on live shows by top UK musicians like Colin McNeish (bass guitar), Anthony 'Drumtan' Ward (drums), David Henry Holder (keyboards), Winston Rose (Saxaphone), Henry ‘Matic Horns’ Tenyue (trombone), Evan Emrys Clegg (Trumpet) and Patrick Anthony Tenue (trumpet).