Remembering ‘Zulu warrior’ Jah Shaka

A memorial gathering for “Zulu Warrior” Jah Shaka is being held in London this month, writes Claudia Lee.

Dubbed the father of contemporary reggae and king of the sound system, Shaka passed away earlier this year on April 12.

To celebrate his life, the memorial will be held in a large, industrial-style venue in Pennington Street, Shadwell on October 22.

In a career that lasted more than 55 years, the self-styled Zulu warrior from Jamaica transformed the sound system landscape, focusing exclusively on contemporary reggae that was spiritually uplifting and politically relevant.

Shaka moved to South London from Jamaica as a child in the late 1950s as part of the Windrush generation.

He settled in Lewisham but had strong roots across the south of the capital.

Shaka’s stage name is an amalgamation of the Rastafarian term for God and that of the Zulu king Shaka Zulu.

He reinforced his shamanistic persona by never revealing his given name or other details of his personal life.

Through his masterful use of a pre-amp and a home-made siren box, he made his sound system sessions completely immersive.

Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Zulu warrior could be seen regularly at venues like Studio 200 in Balham, Cubies in Dalston, and most famously in the basement at the legendary Phoebes in Stoke Newington where he had a Friday night residency for several years.

For the memorial, venue doors will open at 2pm and a day and night celebration hosting some of the best reggae bands and dance groups will begin.

Young Warrior Sound System – the son of Shaka – will headline the event.

Playing all over Europe, Young Warrior has developed his own unique sound as well as working as a producer for many years.

The Young Warrior’s DJ set plays roots and culture dub music from the 1970s until now to connect with all generations like his father.

Also appearing on the music stage will be British reggae rhythm section Mafia and Fluxy Band, international drumming group, Beat Alliance, and The Twinkle Brothers – now led by Twinkle Brothers founder Norman Grant.

The Twinkle Brothers were formed in 1962 by brothers Norman Grant on vocals and drums alongside Ralston Grant on vocals and rhythm guitar who grew up in Falmouth, Jamaica.

Shaka’s legacy lives on through the Twinkle Brothers – who he produced.

Earlier this year in June they played a half-hour main stage musical tribute on Roots Day, at the Lambeth country show.

But the celebration is more than just music.

The east London venue will have three rooms, a live stage show and sound system, a film room showing rare interview footage, visuals and memorabilia of Shaka and a room serving Caribbean Food, that will be decorated with legacy posters for people to get together and reflect.

Head down to Pennington Street, Shadwell, on October 22, to experience the official memorial of Jah Shaka.


Picture: Jah Shaka Picture: Anviss, Flickr

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