Event of the Week: Jah Shaka Sound


Reggae Rocks North London

Music legend Jah Shaka brought his roots reggae sound to the Tufnell Park area of north London on 26 October when he performed at The Dome. The concert was sponsored by Culture Promotions, a roots music culture agency, management, promotion, and marketing firm that began in 1986.

Culture Promotions “is all about forwarding roots and culture vibrations, making roots music popular and providing a positive and honourable Black Arts administration service.” They used social media and leaflets to get the word out about the show.

Jah Shaka got his start in the Freddie Cloudburst Sound System in the late 1960s, and later formed his own sound system which gained a huge and devoted following due to the combination of “spiritual content, high energy rhythms, massive sonority, and his dynamic personal style.” In Jamaican pop culture, a sound system is a collective of MCs, DJs, and engineers who play reggae, rocksteady, or ska.

Also known as “the Zulu Warrior,” Shaka took his name from the Rastafarian term for God and that of the most influential warrior in the Zulu kingdom, Shaka Zulu. Based in the UK, he’s known for keeping with his roots and cultural agenda in the 1980s when many other sound systems followed the trend of dancehall rhythms and “slackness” lyrics which featured overtly sexual themes. This put him outside of the reggae mainstream but led to a style of dub now common in the UK.

He has run his own label, Jah Shaka Music, since the early 1980s and began the Jah Shaka Foundation to help with humanitarian work in Ghana, where his charity bought seven acres of land. The group has been able to distribute medical supplies, books, tools, drawing materials and records to clinics, schools, and radio stations, establishing important links with local communities. Shaka has encouraged young people to study history and geography so they know “what’s happened, where it’s happening, and who’s doing it.”

Shaka plays frequently in the UK and his shows are known for drawing crowds from a wide variety of ages, backgrounds and races. His concerts are considered “a cultural institution that laid a huge impact not only on the development of dub, but on English popular music altogether.” He familiarized many future supporters of UK dub with roots music, and also influenced mainstream producers and non-reggae artists like Basement Jaxx.

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