It’s important to move slowly around vinyl specialists in Paris. It’s not that people are nervous there, but space is at a premium in Paris and there’s a lot of vinyl around. IRIE UP recently spent a few days in the French capital, knocking over stacks of vinyl in shops, basements and apartments all over the city.
The London-based MC Brother Culture is one of the most active MCs on the reggae circuit. Regularly travelling to work with new and established sound crews, he has watched the styles and fashions of reggae change over the years, from his early days with the Twelve Tribes organisation to the fusion styles now popular in reggae. While he is best known as an MC rooted in the UK steppers style, he’s also recorded with grime, hip-hop, jungle, drum and bass and dubstep producers. Recently, he sat down with IRIE UP magazine to set the record straight.
Reggae music and Rastafari seem to be such a rich vein of stories for filmmakers, yet there have hardly been any mainstream movies about reggae, and even the few well-known films such as Rockers, Countryman, or The Harder They Come were produced in Jamaica rather than Hollywood, and remain cult movies.
It’s 14:00 on Friday afternoon, and most of the traffic is headed the other direction as the Irieland crew – Jah Seal, Aldubb, Mr Glue and Pierre-Antoine Foulquier – arrives from the motorway into Hamburg. We follow the Reeperbahn towards the harbour, and down past the fish market. Pierre is the gourmet of the group and he’s on the lookout for some good street food to get us started. “Later we have to have a fischbrötchen with white wine,” says Pierre. We nod in agreement. We’re already hungry, but there’s something more pressing to do. We’re vinyl addicts on the way to a record factory.
Ameise Records, which describes itself as the smallest pressing plant in the world, is in Blankensee, ten kilometers west of Hamburg, and as we drive past the massed cranes of the deepwater port on the river Elbe, and out into the countryside, past many impressive villas looking out over the river, we are reminded of the merchant history and wealth of Hamburg, which has been for long stretches an independent city state, and one of the major European ports. Today, much of the trade into northern Germany still arrives through Hamburg. We arrive at the address on Sibbertstrasse in Blankensee, a long low building with no sign of life. There’s no sign of the Ameise office, and we walk around into the back yard, where there is music coming out of a small concrete building. There’s a ‘Wood Workshop’ sign over the open door, but just inside the door are boxes of records, and in the back, a single green pressing machine is in action. Ameise founder Martin Sukale greets us, and we sit outside in a pleasant corner of the yard for kaffee and kuchen.
Sugar Minott is one of the foundation artists and producers of reggae music from roots to dancehall and raggamuffin, with a string of famous hits from ‘Vanity’ to ‘Herbsman Hustling’. He’s also been one of the most active independent promoters of young singers through his own record labels and soundsystems. He’s one of the artists who stayed a yard, and today he still lives in the Maxfield Park area in Kingston, Jamaica, close to his beloved Studio One.
Collective security for surety, ye-ah!
Don’t forget your history, know your destiny”
Bob Marley, ‘Rat Race’
We got to realize we are one people,
Or there will never be no love at all.”
Peter Tosh, ‘One Foundation’
If you’re a music fan, you will know the work of David Madden, even if you don’t know the name. He is the trumpeter who played on many of the great reggae hits of Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Beres Hammond, Dennis Brown, The Heptones, Culture and Gregory Isaacs. The list goes on and on. He was one of the founder members of the Revolutionary Zap Pow, the mighty Jamaican backing band that produced some of the funkiest, most groove-charged reggae music of the 1970s.