Sunday, August 17, 2008

Matumbi - UK Reggae Innovators Mix Roots Reggae, Pop and New Wave

Matumbi was formed in London in 1970 and from the very beginning they embodied the essence of the emerging UK reggae scene. The man behind Matumbi was Dennis Bovell who, in his many projects, established British reggae as a viable force independent from its Jamaican cousin. Recording in various lineups as Matumbi, African Brothers or African Stone as well as backing many successful solo acts - from Janet Key and Susan Cadogan to Linton Kwesi Johnson and Lee Perry - Bovell contributed to the invention of many reggae subcategories, such as "lovers rock" and "dub poetry."

Matumbi's strongest side, however, was a smooth blend of righteous roots reggae with pop and, more importantly, newly introduced New Wave of the late seventies. Punks and Rastas mingled freely at the time and did some amazing "crossovers" even before the term was coined. You can hear echoes of these exciting times in the music of Matumbi and, despite their preferred format being roots reggae, it is one of the key elements that distinguished British reggae act from its Jamaican counterparts.

No matter how important they were in establishing the scene, Matumbi never had the success of UB40, Aswad, Steel Pulse or Maxi Priest who followed in their foot steps. And Matumbi are not alone: Black Slate, Misty in Roots, Black Roots are only some of the acts who produced high quality output around same time, but never received recognition. The reissue of the "Empire Road" LP corrects some of that injustice. It covers all of their great singles and important album tracks from 1978-1981, plus some rare 12" versions.

Here is a video of the band performing "Empire Road" live:

Here is a video of the band performing "Rock" in the studio:

Here is a UK TV program from 1976 on the British reggae scene including interviews with members of Matumbi:

Here is the track listing for Empire Road:

Bluebeat & Ska (Single Version)
Empire Road
Music In The Air
Hook Deh
Breakdown (Single Version)
Point Of View (Squeeze A Little Lovin) (12" Dub Version)
Guide Us Jah
Straight To My Head
Ordinary Man
Come With Me
Nothin At All (12" Dub Version)
Black Civilization
Blackman (Single Version)
Bluebeat & Ska (12" Dub Version)

Here is the download:

Matumbi - Empire Road


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