Black Roots Return

Reggae | Tuesday 25th September 2012 | Osh

After a musical abstinence of over 20 years, Bristol-based Black Roots have returned with their new album On The Ground

It was a sad day for reggae when Black Roots decided to split. They had left behind a legacy of ten albums and eight singles before they stopped touring in the 90's. Their 'militant pacifist' roots reggae earned them a reputation throughout universities and festivals nationwide. During the recording of their 1982 BBC Radio 1 sessions LP, John Peel was quoted: "If anyone tells you that there is no such thing as good British reggae, first tell them that they are a herbert and then listen to Black Roots”.

Herberts aside, it seems that this excellent reggae band has slipped under the radar over the past 30 years, since their formation in 1979. Their first album, which was self produced (and self titled) didn't appear until 1983, due to their prolific touring. Their track 'Juvenile Delinquent' was roaring through British clubs and sound systems, repatriating the sound of late 70's Jamaican reggae.

Many people are now comparing Thatcherite Britain to today's political climate, and though there may be differences, Black Roots formed during a time when prospects were relatively bleak for young people - particularly Jamaicans. Black Roots still have a pertinent musical style which addresses the 'sufferation' of everyday life, and the lyrics reflect this: “The iron lady is returning/can’t you see we is hurting”.

The new tunes produced on the album, drive a steady and catchy rhythm which does not compromise. The band opted for a single, unified vocalist as opposed to the 3 part harmonies of early Jamaican reggae. The lyrics themselves are brazenly political, which might explain why the band never had the popularity that Steel Pulse or Aswad were afforded, who preferred to produce gentler 'pop reggae'. Regardless, there's an upbeat delicateness behind the heavy content. Musically, the band are as tight as ever, and the bass lines are particularly good. This is a band who are more comfortable with their style than any other British reggae artists that I know. Their album launch is on 10th November at the Malcolm X Centre in Bristol. You can buy me a ticket, too.  


MJH Milner