Tag Archives: Brinsley Forde

Lots of fine dubs on One Fine Dub

sly-and-rob-cover-2One of my most anticipated albums in 2016 was former Aswad lead singer Brinsley Ford’s new album with Sly & Robbie. Unfortunately, it has been postponed until 2017, but the next best thing arrived the other day.

One Fine Dub is the dub counterpart to the yet to be released vocal version. This is an unorthodox and unusual approach, but very welcome.

The album is produced by Sly & Robbie along with Guillaume Bougard and mixed by Paul “Groucho” Smykle, a legendary engineer responsible for the innovative Dubrising released two years ago.

The set kicks off with the atmospheric Until Dub and the moody soundscape continues throughout the eight remaining cuts. Creation Dub, with its ethereal harmonica, is one fine example. One Fine Dub, with its militant drumming and apocalyptic synthesizers, is another.

This dub album certainly bodes well for the upcoming vocal version, a set that according to Guillaume Bougard needs to be hard and heavy with a Jamaican sound.


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Brinsley Forde’s solo journey

Brinsley Forde is a living legend. He’s a skilled musician, talented singer and founder of legendary UK roots outfit Aswad. Last year he dropped his debut solo album Urban Jungle, a set produced by acclaimed duo Not Easy at All Productions. Reggaemani caught up with him on the phone while he was in London rehearsing for a show.

Legendary reggae singer Brinsley Forde.

Legendary reggae singer Brinsley Forde.

Aswad is possibly the most well-known roots reggae band from the UK. They formed in the 70s and dropped their self-titled debut album 1976, to wide critical acclaim. They had – or have since they are still active – a conscious and social approach and much of their early output was hard and spoke to the angry youths in the UK.

The band formed in 1975, the same year as another roots rocking outfit – Steel Pulse. The nucleus of Aswad – meaning black in Amharic – was vocalist and guitarist Brinsley Forde, bass man George Oban, keyboardist Courtney Hemmings, lead guitarist Donald Griffiths, drummer Angus “Drummie Zeb” Gaye and Tony ”Gad” Robinson, who later replaced Courtney Hemmings on keys and later George Oban on Bass.

They reached pop-chart success with Chasing the Breeze in 1984 and the smooth chart-topper Don’t Turn Around in 1988. But their best song to date is probably the hard-hitting Warrior Charge, used for Dennis Brown’s Promised Land and later versioned by Nas & Damian Marley.

No longer part of Aswad
When I reach Brinsley Forde he is in London rehearsing for a show where he together with Jazz Jamaica All Stars and the Urban Soul Orchestra performs an orchestral interpretation of The Wailers’ legendary album Catch a Fire. The first shows were held in 2012 and were so successful that another round had to be scheduled in 2013.

He’s no rookie in performing music originally recorded by reggae legends. In the 70s he and Aswad guested with a number of Jamaican singers, for example Dennis Brown and Burning Spear on his album Live released in 1977.

Brinsley Forde is no longer part of Aswad. He left in 1996, but didn’t take the name; even though he’s the one who came up with it.

“For me it’s like marriage and family. The band was like a unit, but it was time for me to move on. I wanted to take a different journey, but I’m grateful for everything. I still call Aswad family. And after so many years of singing and one love, we never argued about money or whatever,” explains Brinsley Forde over the phone, and adds:

“But it might come a time when we come together and work again. It’s one love between us. It was a break-up, but we can still work together.”

He wanted to take a different journey and left for spiritual reasons. Today he lives on the Canary Islands, about 100 miles west of Africa.

“It’s a little piece of Africa, and it’s a long story. You have to leave it to the Father. It was his decision I ended up there, but it’s a great place to write,” he says.

Friend inspired him
On the Canary Islands he has over the years done a little bit of everything. He has had a bar there and was also one of the DJ’s to open the UK’s first digital BBC radio station with his reggae radio show Lively Up Yourself.

“I wasn’t doing music seriously for some years, but I had a friend on the Canaries, guitarist Marco Vavassori, who played in a band, and he asked me if I could come and jam with them. So I went to see how it felt,” he says, and continues:

“To sit and play with people just for the love of music steered my whole vibe and I understood why I started with music. It inspired me to start working with music again.”

Different being solo
Rumors about a solo album from Brinsley Forde have been circulating for a number of years, so Urban Jungle came as no big surprise. But he reveals that he has a number of albums cooking – one for a producer from Germany and one for Sly & Robbie.

Brinsley Forde strumming his guitar.

Brinsley Forde strumming his guitar.

“This was meant to be the first, but there are more albums to come. I love my music and I love what I do, so this won’t be the last,” he reveals, and continues:

“But it’s also difficult. I have been working with great musicians like Drummie and Tony and I needed to re-educate myself. You have other people to bounce with when you are on your own. You can’t have any doubts in yourself, and this time everything has worked out fine.”

Working with Not Easy at All
Urban Jungle was released via Dutch label JahSolidRock and Platinum Roots from the UK with production by Marc Baronner and Manu Genius, formerly known as Not Easy at All Productions.

For this album Brinsley Forde was approached by Ras Denco, owner of JahSolidRock and he told him about Marc Baronner and Manu Genius. But when talking to Brinsley Forde about recording a new album it was not an easy decision.

“Music business is a different thing. It’s difficult to be both commercial and being artistic. I struggled with it for a long time. Because once you have success it’s hard to maintain your integrity. Stick to what you believe in and stay true to yourself. It’s a learning process and I had to decide what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do,” he says.

Brinsley Forde had heard a couple of productions by Not Easy at All and liked what he had heard. So Marc Baronner and Manu Genius sent him a couple of riddims. The first being the one used for She Don’t Want to Try and the second being Can’t Stop Me Now, lifted as the first single off the album.

“The vibes were great,” remembers Brinsley Forde, and continues:

“I went to Holland and met them and it was instant. They loved the vibe of early Aswad and early Steel Pulse. Roots music. That was the kind of album they wanted. But for myself, it was ‘do we really want go there or move forward’? But it has been a blessing. It sounds relaxed. Manu wanted the 80s vibe and he really captured it. It was a great collaboration and I really enjoyed making the album.”

A conscious effort
The album was recorded using two studios – one in Holland and one in the Canaries, and according to Brinsley Forde the mixing and production were meticulous.

“I wasn’t just voicing an album and Urban Jungle isn’t a riddim album. It was like a production and it took a lot of time to finish. Each track has a special feeling and we bounced ideas back and forth. It was a constant molding of ideas. Rhythms were changed, drum patterns were changed. Hope it shows,” he says and comes back to working with what you believe in:

“I’m struggling with this business. It’s about having hits and recording commercial songs. I want to make a good song that maintains what I believe in.”

Urban Jungle is a conscious effort in many respects and several songs have deep and spiritual meanings, like the title track.Brinsley-Forde-Urban-Jungle_01

“The song Urban Jungle is just an observation of a couple of wars that have taken place over the last few years. Like Europe coming together and joining up for war. The countries bankrupt themselves,” he says and gets into a discussion about the actual motives behind certain wars:

“We have been told it was about this and that, but what was the reality? You have to make your own decisions. The title invokes all that. It’s an urban jungle and the strongest will survive. And I want to ask a question – what do you see? This is what I see,” he explains, and continues:

“We were told about weapons of mass destruction, but my view is that it was all about economics.”

But there is also a song like Sodom & Gomorrah, a track with a more local perspective.

“It’s about what has happened in London. Mark Duggan was shot in Tottenham and it’s still believed to have been unjustly by the police and it sparked the riots,” says Brinsley Forde.

“You have to believe what you are saying”
Brinsley Forde’s first solo album certainly echoes from the 80s, but the music scene has changed a lot since he started almost 40 years ago. Digitalization and technology improvements have been key for these changes, but also globalization and the rise of consumerism.

“I remember Bob [Marley] saying I and I is the root. And reggae music is the root of modern day music. Just take rapping. Herc [Kool DJ Herc] from Jamaica was playing his sound system in New York City, and if it wasn’t for him, hip-hop would not have been here today,” he believes, and continues:

“Technology has caused quality control to go out the window. You have to know your craft in this time when music is disposable and quick,” he says, and concludes:

“I’m hearing more cultural music coming from Jamaica. This is what we need. Social commentaries last. Not just jumping up and down and sing. Lyrics are important and you have to believe what you are saying. You owe it to yourself.”

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Powerful debut solo album from Brinsley Forde

Brinsley Forde Urban JungleBrinsley Forde has been at the heart of UK reggae for more than 40 years, even though he has kept a low profile on the Canary Islands since he left Aswad in 1996. He has made occasional recordings and concerts, and rumors about a full-length album from him have circulated for many years. And together with the PlatinumRoots label Dutch JahSolidRock Records finally made the project materialize.

Urban Jungle is Brinsley Forde’s excellent debut solo album produced by Marc Baronner and Manu Genius from Dutch Not Easy at All Productions. These two musicians are known for their work with artists such as Earl Sixteen, Chezidek and Apple Gabriel as well as their higher than high quality.

Their standard is always way above par, and Urban Jungle is no exception with its live instrumentation and full horn arrangements. Far from it. It may be their finest work yet and they’ve managed to capture Brinsley Forde at his very best.

He sings with leisure and passion about personal experiences of hardship, violence, love and relationships. In album opener Sodom & Gomorrah he describes a London in decline and in Blaze it Up he reminisces about smoking ganja back in the day.

David Hinds from Steel Pulse lends his voice to several tracks and Brinsley Forde also uses no less than seven backing singers, eight including himself. The result is stunning with grand and beautiful choruses as well as catchy ooo’s and aaahhh’s.

Aswad has made a number of immortal albums essential in any record collection and with Urban Jungle Brinsley Forde has shown that he’s capable of making a rock solid album on his own. File next to Hulet, New Chapter and Showcase.


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Zion Train strengthens their position

About a year has gone by since Zion Train dropped the first single from their tenth album State of Mind, released earlier this week. Rainbow Children was a strong version of Aswad’s Rainbow Culture and featured its original vocalist Brinsley Forde alongside Ras Pyton and Dubdadda.

State of Mind sees Zion Train in great shape and as forward thinking as ever, even though several tunes echo from the outfits early days.

This twelve track set offers less vocals compared to its predecessor – the award-winning Live as One – and producer Neil Perch has invited Katrien Peeters to lay violin and viola on top of some of the tracks. The result is astonishing.

The tunes get a 1930’s blues and jazz touch to them. It’s like techno and dub producers are invited to a jam session in a studio in New Orleans. The most grandiose result is the frenetic and danceable Semper Augustus or The Black River Incident.

Classic Zion Train can be heard on the pulsating Ital Stew with its effective percussion or Great Leap Forward with its echo laid horns.

The most schizophrenic moment is A Tribute to Shura that borrows from Rolling Stones’ Paint it Black. It starts off as an electronica tune but transforms into a frenetic ska beat with a distorted bass line. Moments later it’s back in the electronica terrain again.

With Zion Train you never know what to expect other than great music. It seems that Neil Perch sees no boundaries and that is probably why Zion Train once again secures their position as leaders in the reggae/dub genre.

State of Mind is available as CD, LP and digital download.

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Neil Perch travels back to the roots of Zion Train

State of Mind is Zion Train’s first original album since the 2007 award winning Live as One. Reggaemani got a chat with Neil Perch – Zion Train’s front man and producer – on the making of the new album.
Zion Train has been around for over 20 years and earlier this year they were honored with a “best of” album, the ultimate award for long and faithful services.
Over the years Zion Train has explored and tried a diverse set of music genres, but the music has almost always been rooted in reggae and dub.

Neil Perch is a UK dub pioneer.

“The new album is going back to the roots of Zion Train,” explains Neil Perch over the phone from his home in the German city of Cologne where he lives with his wife, two cats and a big dog.
He is multi-tasking during the interview. I hear clatter and it turns out he is making a vegetarian version of Gnocchi alla Sorrentina with tomatoes from their garden.
“We’re vegetarians,” explains Neil.
But cooking and vegetarian recipes aren’t the reason for this interview.
State of Mind steps in two directions
State of Mind – Zion Train’s tenth studio album – is released on Monday October 3rd. It has taken four years to make – two years for the concept and two years for recording and mixing.
“It has grown organically and reflects a creative period. It’s the sound of places we’ve visited,” explains Neil, and continues:
“I like to think it’s a step forward. A drive to do something new. It’s a step in two directions. It’s a step towards roots with less voice and we’ve introduced violin and viola. It’s also a bit more electronica compared to Live as One. It’s back to the roots of Zion Train. Dub electronica and natural ambient.”

Zion is a misused word
The title track of the album is a version of Winston Francis’ Let’s Go to Zion, and according to Neil the term “Zion” is a misused word.
“It’s a romanticized word. We like to think of it as a heavenly state that mankind can achieve. We’ve taken the original concept and made it more global by expanding the word Zion. It’s a global concept available to everybody that reflects the spirit of humanity,” he says.

Dub poetry
On State of Mind Zion Train has also invited dub poetess Jazz’min Tutum, who Neil met when he did a show in Freiburg where she hosts a radio show. He also ended up producing her debut album Share the Flame, set for release in 2012.
“She has a particular perspective. A Jamaican woman living in Europe. She has a third-world perspective. It’s revealing and powerful. She’s a politicized female voice,” explains Neil.

Working with Brinsley Forde
The first single from State of Mind was released about a year ago. Rainbow Children is a version of Aswad’s Rainbow Culture taken from their Showcase album released in the early 80’s.
“It’s a powerful roots album from the UK. Rainbow Culture was originally based on the 12 tribes of Israel. We’ve updated it. It’s a worldly message for those who would like to see a positive change in the world,” he explains, and adds:
“The lyrics are very strong, especially in the first verse. We made it more holistic.”
Zion Train invited Aswad’s singer Brinsley Forde to record their version. Neil met him five years ago at a show at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan, and says that it was an honor to work with one of his great inspirations.

Stand the test of time
Neil hopes that State of Mind offers something that the listeners can relate to and that it will appeal to fans of Zion Train. He also hopes that he can still listen to it in six months.
“I usually don’t like to listen to music that I’ve produced,” he states.
So, how long could you listen to Live as One?
“I could listen to the Live as One album for eight to nine months.”

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Walking through the jungle with Digitaldubs

Digitaldubs fourth album opens with nyabinghi flavored digital drums and a slow and heavy bass line. After almost a minute a melancholic melodica kicks in. The mood is wet, warm and thick. It almost feels like I’m walking through a moist jungle.

That’s the atmosphere when Brazil meets Jamaica in a studio that could have been Lee Perry’s Black Ark.

On #1 Digitaldubs have invited renowned reggae legends Ranking Joe, Earl Sixteen and Brinsley Forde as well as local Brazilian artists Dada Yute, Jeru Banto and Tiano Bless. These are artists sing intense and earnest about justice, love and spirituality in English and Portugese.

That’s the same recipe as on some of their one riddim albums. On Diáspora riddim, for example, they voiced Lone Ranger and Sylvia Tella alongside Ras Bernardo and others.

On top of the vocal cuts there are of course also heavy roots and steppers instrumentals where the dub effects are very much present. Dub Echoes Theme with its hypnotic bass line and flyers style cymbals is a great example.

Digitaldubs has on #1 created a rich album with crisp production, but without sounding polished.

I’m thankful to ROIR for picking up this release from its Brazilian obscurity. If you like Zion Train and Dubkasm this album is a must-have.

#1 is available as CD, LP and digital download.

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Nytt från Da Grynch

Brittiske producenten Curtis “Da Grynch” Lynch går från klarhet till klarhet. Förra året släppte hans skivbolag Necessary Mayhem en av 2009-års bästa låtarYoung Gunz med Million Stylez & Joey Fever.

Nu är han på gång igen med nya låtar som  bådar riktigt gott för 2010. Can’t Take No More heter den senaste rytmen med sånginsatser från Aswad-sångaren BrinsleyForde samt Blackout JA, som för övrigt gjort många stabila insatser för Curtis Lynch tidigare. Rytmen är mer roots-orienterad än vanligt, och släpps på Curtis Lynch nya skivbolag Maroon.

De fyra låtarna – två vokala och två dub – finns att beställa i fysiskt format från bland annat Dub Vendor eller som mp3 via Reggae Sound Network.

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