Ipswich Regent-bound Aswad shine on and on

I’D love to hear Aswad’s take on Alexander O’Neal’s Criticise. This Sunday could be my chance.

The reggae legends will share the Ipswich Regent stage with the soul star, as well as funksters Shakatak and Ipswich Has Got Talent 2010 winner Simon Chiverton, for Down On The Street.

“Who knows,” laughs Aswad founder and bassist Tony “Gad” Robinson when I suggest the idea. “We might remix one of Shakatak’s tunes on stage.”

The group are no strangers to remixes, recounting a trip across America with an Eagles-loving bus driver called Dwayne.

“We spent three weeks on this bus with him and every morning he’d be throwing out Eagles at us. One day we went up to the front of the bus and said ‘do you know Bob Marley’ and he went ‘who’s that’?


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“We were in shock. So we’d been taking in these Eagles’ songs all the way and at one point he must’ve played Best Of My Love. We said to him ‘we’re going to redo that in reggae’ and he says ‘you can’t make that into Reggae’.

“When we got back to England we did and it came out on a LP, but I don’t know if he ever heard it,” laughs Tony.

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He hasn’t ruled out collaborations with the other acts, adding who knows what’ll happen on the night.

Three decades and more than 20 albums on since forming in West London’s Ladbroke Grove in 1974, Aswad - a name derived from the Arabic word for black - remain one of Britain’s best-loved reggae bands.

Among the first homegrown acts to prove Caribbean music could successfully take root in Europe, they’ve recorded and performed with countless artists including Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer; known to refer to them as the Young Wailers.

The Grammy nominated and Outstanding Contribution To Black Music MOBO Awards winners haven’t recorded for the last three years.

“As a musician, to have a gig, that’s the ultimate. If you haven’t got a gig to do then you don’t feel like a musician. Once we’re on the road and we’re playing that’s what we enjoy the most,” says Tony.

“It’s about time we started recording again. We’ve started writing, but with musicians you’re always writing; you’re just putting it altogether and see what comes of it.

“We’re in that mode at the moment, thinking of getting our next LP together. Well it’s not even an LP no more is it? It’s not even CDs, it’s MP3s,” he laughs.

Reminiscing about the days of listening boothes; Tony’s flabbergasted at how quickly the music scene as changed thanks to technology.

“Music has always evolved. We used to record music to tape, now you’re recording it to computers. We used to have studios, now you don’t need studios; all you need is a room and some equipment and you’re away.

“You almost don’t need other musicians if you can play everything yourself. It’s sad; in the early days making music was about four or five people coming together, creating a sound that was yours. When people heard it you think ‘yeah, I know who that is’. These days a drum machine sounds the same anywhere in the world.”

What hasn’t changed is Aswad’s passion to make music.

“That’s what keeps us going. If it wasn’t for the passion, enjoying what we do, then we probably wouldn’t be here now. There is that feeling you get of creating something, hearing it, going on stage and playing it and people singing it back at you. That’s a beautiful feeling.”

Tony guarentees Sunday’s audience will leave with a big smile on their face.

“That’s the most important thing. If that doesn’t happen you haven’t done your job and I hope [after the show] we see them again,” he laughs.

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