I was happy to be able to accept an invitation from the Federation of Reggae Music (FORM) UK and Brent Council to attend the Bob Marley & The Wailers Heritage Blue Plaque Commemorative Unveiling Ceremony at 15, The Circle, Neasden NW2 7QR on Saturday 8 September 2012, and to open the proceedings by pouring Libation to the Ancestors.
The Blue Plaque Ceremony was the first in a series of Reggae Focus ‘Sounds of Jamaica’ events to honour the lives and careers of iconic Reggae artists and promote Reggae to global audiences. The prestigious Blue Plaques will be unveiled in Brent districts including Harlesden, Neasden, Willesden, Cricklewood and Kilburn.
Invited Guests to the event included the Mayor of Brent, Councillor Michael Adeyeye, the Leader of Brent Council, Cllr Muhammad Butt, FORM Chairman Delroy Washington (who also lived at 15 The Circle with Marley and co.), Cllr Lincoln Beswick, a long serving Brent Councillor and Dawn Butler, former Brent MP and High Commissioners from various Caribbean countries.
The event formed part of the Reggae Focus ‘Sounds of Jamaica’ Initiative – a 3 year marketing and PR type strategic campaign to create awareness of Reggae and its significance to African-Caribbean and global culture. FORM is seeking to regenerate the UK Reggae sector and has a focus on the Borough of Brent in the first instance.
The event was chaired by Delroy Washington and attended by, among other artists of the period:
– Guitarist Locksley Gichie who founded The Cimarons, the UK’s first Roots Reggae band. Gichie, along with keyboard player Carl Levy, played with The Wailers when they lived at 15 The Circle. The Cimarons were famous for being the session players most in demand and for providing the backing for visiting Reggae acts and additionally leading UK acts of the 1970’s, such as The Marvels. Cimarons were the first Reggae band to visit Africa, particularly Ghana and Nigeria. The Cimarons were signed to Paul McCartney of The Beatles and appeared in his hit single video ”Ebony and Ivory” with Stevie Wonder.
– Alex ‘Dimples’ Hinds of ‘The Marvels’. His daughter Donna Hinds who did her first recording at age 9 and her first record release at 11 when Bob Marley and the Wailers burst into her pre-teens life was also in attendance, taking to the mic now and then to lead the singing of some of the old time favourites with Delroy Washington.
– Dennis Al Capone (Dennis Smith), one of the originators of Jamaican DJ music called ”Toasting” back in the day; he is famous for songs such as ‘Al Capone Guns Don’t Argue‘ and ‘El Paso‘. Dennis is a contemporary of U-Roy and Big Youth.
– Singer/producer Lee Francis was at the event in his own capacity, as well as representing his father, the great Winston ”Mr Fix It” Francis, who was unable to attend due to touring engagements in Argentina where reggae is very popular. Lee Francis is one of the rising stars of UK Reggae and is blessed with a great voice.
– There were also members from the Eastern Caribbean’s UK Reggae band ‘Wisdom’, Dub poet Kalamawei and I–Jay, Rebecca Johnson’s former husband who did the acoustic guitar renditions of Bob Marley’s songs. Rebecca herself recently got involved with FORM.
– Michael Riley, an original member of the legendary UK Roots Rock Reggae band, Steel Pulse, who has produced hit songs for Maxi Priest. Michael was also the founder of the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. He is currently Head of Music Production at the University of Westminster.
– Uwimana, also known as Sonia ”Benjy” Davis, a former member of the Nyahbinghi group: ‘Ras Angels and Ras Messengers’. Uwimana also works on Omega Radio as a presenter and is currently part of a group that is restoring the house in Bath (Avon & Somerset) where H.I.M. Haile Selassie once lived.
– Walter Fraser, producer from Vision Sounds Records, Guyana, was also a guest along with members of his family. Rita Marley’s younger brother Leroy Anderson founder of the legendary Dread Broadcasting Corporation (DBC) Radio was also in attendance. DBC was London’s first Black Community Pirate Radio.
– Radio presenter DJ and producer Joey J who lives in Africa and the UK was also there.
– Producer Bolaji Okunnu, aka General Stockade, of Stockade Records.
– Bang FM Radio’s Errol Dee.
Some of those artists spoke passionately about their involvement with Reggae and the music industry in Jamaica, other parts of the Caribbean and Britain, sharing reminiscences about Bob Marley and the Wailers as individual personalities and as artists.
The Mayor and the Leader of Brent Council both spoke about Brent’s African Caribbean population and the part that Caribbean music has played in the lives of all residents of Brent. The leader pledged the Council’s support for the FORM initiative and congratulated the organisers for helping to identify key people and events in the history of Brent.