Legendary reggae icons Aswad graced the Jazz Café with their presence as swathes of fans filled the club.  With a career spanning over thirty years Aswad took British reggae to the mainstream giving Britain its first ever British reggae number one in 1988 with ‘ Don’t turn Around’. The band’s name itself meaning ‘Black’ in Arabic, have been performing since the mid 70’s, the group all met at Holland Park School in west London and all lived in the Ladbroke Grove area Home of the Notting Hill Race Riots of 1958 and for the past fifty years the infamous Notting Hill Carnival. To date, the band has released twenty one albums and has toured extensively since the seventies.

Doing themselves and the venue justice, the crowd were more than impressed not only with the performance, but the set list, mixing early seventies roots reggae with some of their lighter more mainstream songs.  The multi instrumentalists kept all eyes on them throughout each song and the entire venue was buzzing with excitement as certain songs were performed for the first for some in years.  As someone who had been brought up listening to Aswad and regarded them as local celebrities, hearing some of these songs live was always somewhat of a myth.  Blowing the entire audience away with the cleanest bass lines I’ve ever heard on stage, the band sang smoothly through ‘Hooked on You’ and caressed the audiences ears with ‘I need your love’ with a full band on stage and a carefully thought out instrument solos the band not only performed a banger of a show but also amazed us all by playing musical chairs with the instruments. Playing a total of 22 songs, and of course ending the show with their 1994 mega hit ‘Shine’ which soared to the charts and put British reggae and Ladbroke grove on the map.

Speaking to the band before the show we spoke about the changes in the music industry.

‘When we first started off in music there was no such thing as computers or drum machines so I’m not saying how long we’ve been around but we’ve been around for a little while. Now things have changed so much you’ve even got computers that make music. We make the music ourselves, the human makes music not the machine.  But when we started there was nothing about computers or machinesand we’re vex

London has lost a number of small music venues over the past few years, the latest being the infamous Passing Clouds which this year saw its lease dropped in favour of developers…

‘ It’s a sign of the times, back in our day there were so many reggae bands and so many venues and I think we’re kind of being whittled down.  Basically you have to try and bring that forward because if you listen to most of the adverts on TV now it’s all reggae based.’

‘The funny thing is, I think there’s more bands around now than when we started out. I actually think it’s easier to start a band now because the equipment’s a lot cheaper and there are more musicians but not a lot of places to play. So what’s happened is everyone’s ended up on YouTube which is mad, it’s all computer generated. ‘

‘Touring itself really hasn’t changed because the same things we used to do in the early days of touring, is the same thing we do now.  There’s always a bus and the whole band gets on, the only thing that’s changed is a lot more people know the shows are on. You don’t have to walk the street with posters, people look online and there are gig guides. We used to have to advertise in magazines like The Gleaners, NME and The Voice. That’s the sweetest part of being a musician that’s one part they can’t take away, live music. But that’s the only thing that’s changed really and you CYAN COMPUTERISE DAT!’

Aswad themselves have already left a legendary legacy among their fans and contemporaries, when asked about musical inspiration and creativity they stated that

 ‘The love of the music and the talent that was given by Jah it doesn’t matter how hard things get you just persevere and keep going on. We’ve been going for a while but we still have the intention to conquer the world even after all this time, the intention is still to mash up the place. ‘


 Photography credit Roxene Anderson