(Before we begin this article celebrating the life of Jah Shaka, aka Zulu Warrior- we’d like to share a personal sentiment from Tambor Party Founder and Resident DJ- who was greatly influenced and inspired by both the life and unwavering kindness of Jah Shaka.
Stan writes- “One of the great icons in Reggae Sound System has passed on to be an ancestor. Jah Shaka was true to the culture and one of the greats that inspired me to create what I have today.
Years ago (in the 80's) I used to see him play in Seven Sisters, London UK, I think on a Friday night anyway, One night I either got there early or he was late arriving, but I got one of the best master classes of my life. I saw him and his crew set up the sound system. I stood there as I saw no end of 18" scoop bin speakers being wheeled into the venue, when I thought that was it, a few more were brought in. Then they brought in the amps and records. The speakers were placed strategically while Jah Shaka set up his effects, Pre Amp and one Turntable. Everyone was laughing and joking until it came time to "tune up" the sound and Jah Shaka had a serious look on his face. Jah Shaka had his own bass sound that wasn't nice and round his bass was clean with a hint of distortion.
As far as I'm aware he was the only system with this unique distorted bass and I loved it because it jerked parts and DNA in my body that hadn't been moved before. Needless to say, I had a great night from beginning to end, this was a night I will never forget.
I take my hat off to the late great, world-class, master of Reggae Music and Sound System Jah Shaka.
Peace & Love"
WHO IS JAH SHAKA
Jah Shaka is a legendary figure in the reggae music industry, known for his powerful sound system and unique style of music. His sound system, which he built himself, became one of the most popular and influential in the UK and beyond. Jah Shaka is also credited with greatly influencing the dub music genre and for his contributions to the roots reggae movement. Jah Shaka's contributions to the reggae sound system community, roots reggae, and dub music have had a lasting impact on the genre and continue to inspire artists to this day.
Jah Shaka was born in Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, in 1949. At the age of just 8 years old, his family relocated from Jamaica to South London, UK. Jah always had a passion for music and sound- and in the late 1960's he gave in to a burning desire to chase his dreams- playing in a band, and traveling as part of the Freddie Cloudburst Sound System.
JAH SHAKE + FREDDIE CLOUDBURST SOUND SYSTEMS
Freddie Cloudburst Sound Systems was a prominent reggae sound system that operated in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s. The sound system was founded by Freddie Cloudburst, a Jamaican immigrant who had a passion for reggae music and wanted to share it with audiences in the UK.
Freddie Cloudburst Sound Systems quickly gained a reputation for its high-quality sound and its diverse selection of music. The sound system was known for its powerful bass and crisp, clear treble, which was achieved through the use of custom-built speakers and amplifiers.
The sound system played a key role in the development of the UK reggae scene, and it was a regular fixture at dances and clubs across the country. Freddie Cloudburst Sound Systems also helped to launch the careers of many up-and-coming reggae artists, who would perform live sets alongside the sound system's DJs-- and helped refine the skills of legends such as Shaka.
It was during this time that Jah Shaka's reputation as a true icon in the world of reggae music began. While traveling across London, Jah inspired countless artists and fans with his powerful and innovative approach to playing and selecting music which included not only classic reggae tracks but also lesser-known artists from around the world. He was always on the lookout for new and innovative sounds, and he would often incorporate elements of dub, funk, and other genres into his sets. He is known for playing rare and hard-to-find records, many of which have strong reggae roots influence.
Although the Freddie Cloudburst Sound System disbanded in the 1990s, its legacy continues to live on through the work of artists and DJs like Shaka who were influenced by its innovative approach to playing and selecting reggae music. Today, both Jah Shake and The Freddie Cloudburst Sound Systems are remembered as pioneering forces in the UK reggae scene, and their impact can still be felt in the music of today.
JAH SHAKA'S LIFE REVOLVED AROUND REGGAE, RASTA AND REVERB
Throughout the 70s and 80s Shaka fully immersed himself in Sound System Culture and the UK Sound scene- eventually starting his own sound system, Jah Shaka Sound System, which quickly gained a reputation for its unique sound and powerful bass.
Jah Shaka's following adored not only his unique, powerful sound systems but also the meaning and passion behind his work- heavily influenced by the roots reggae movement, which emphasized conscious lyrics and a spiritual message.
Shaka's music is characterized by its powerful bass and its use of dub techniques, which involve manipulating the sound of the music to create new textures and effects- with his musical sets seamlessly blending spiritual and transformative qualities of African spirituality and Rastafarianism.
Rastafarian-influenced music oftentimes centers around an emphasis on spirituality and social justice. The lyrics in this music often reflect Rastafarian beliefs, such as the belief in the equality of all people and the importance of African identity. The music is also known for its heavy use of bass and its infectious rhythms, which helped Shaka attract a vibrant, energetic community of vocally ardent followers who move to his music in ways that resemble African war dances.
Overall, Rastafarianism has had a profound influence on the music of Jah Shaka--- Jamaica, and beyond, with its legacy continuing to inspire artists and listeners around the world.
THE LEGACY OF ZULU WARRIOR LIVES ON
Jah Shaka's contributions to the reggae sound system community, roots reggae, and dub music have had a lasting impact on the genre. His unique sound and approach to music continue to inspire artists to this day, and his influence on the reggae scene in the UK and beyond is undeniable. Shaka is a true legend in the reggae music scene, and his contributions to the genre will continue to be celebrated for years to come.
Throughout his life, Shaka collaborated with many artists across the reggae, house and dub scene including King Tubby. Jah also and helped launch the careers of many more through his own record label. These artists include Max Romeo, Johnny Clarke, Bim Sherman and Prince Alla as well as UK groups such as Aswad and Dread & Fred.
Beyond his personal investment and promotion of artists, Shaka's kindness, determination, authenticity and unique sound has inspired countless artists across the world with his music profoundly influencing genres in the UK like Junglist, a unique, energetic style born out of the UK Sound System Culture. Popular music personas from such as Congo Natty and Don Letts frequently refer to Shaka's influence in world music and punk scene. Even Jah's son- known as "Young Warrior" now produces his own sound systems, following in the footsteps of his father.
Beyond his music- the legacy of Shaka's activism and work throughout Ghana, Jamaica and the UK will forever be remembered. He used his music as a tool for social change and has worked to promote education, unity, and empowerment among young people. Shaka founded the Jah Shaka Foundation with the goal of assisting projects in Ghana. The foundation purchased 7 acres of land in Agri, located 30 miles outside of Accra, and has since distributed medical supplies, wheelchairs, library books, carpentry tools, drawing materials, and records to clinics, schools, and radio stations in the Accra area. Through these efforts, the foundation has established valuable connections with local communities. As a former youth worker, Shaka often encouraged young people to study geography and history to gain a better understanding of past and current events and the individuals involved.
Today, Jah Shaka continues to be a highly respected figure in the reggae and dub scene, and his music and message continue to inspire people around the world.