Jah Shaka AKA Zulu Warrior, the soundsystem pioneer and dub and reggae legend has died, according to multiple musicians close to the Jamaican icon on social media.
Horsepower Productions’s Benny Ill was one of the first to share the news, with a Twitter post earlier this afternoon (April 12). Accompanied by a photo of Shaka DJing, it read “Rest In Power Jah Shaka”.
He was responsible for a number of dub and reggae’s most iconic tracks, as well as running his own record label, Jah Shaka Music, releasing tracks from the likes of Max Romeo and Johnny Clark, as well as his own productions.
He also owned his own soundsystem – The Jah Shaka Sound System, which he had been operating since the 1970s – built after learning and working as a soundsystem engineer under Freddie Cloudburst.
Born in Jamaica, Shaka moved to London in 1956, where he encountered a hostile and racist environment towards Black people, many who had moved recently as part of the Windrush Generation.
In an interview quoted by In Sheep’s Clothing Hi-Fi, Shaka said: “In the Windrush time, in London, on the doors of the houses, there were signs saying ‘no Blacks, no Irish and no dogs.’”
He said that in response, families would building their own soundsystems, as a means of celebrating community and music in the face of hostility. “In the 1950s and 1960s in London, there were house parties – 50, 60 people with only record players,” he continued. “It helped families know other families, which was important at that time because the people were forced to be segregated.
Many of these tensions were dramatised in cult 1980 movie Babylon, in which Jah Shaka starred as himself. The film follows a DJ and soundsystem collective as they navigate xenophobia, Thatcher’s Britain and the National Front.
Other musicians and fans have been paying tribute since the news broke. DJ Jumpin Jack Frost wrote: “The king of Kings has left us. The greatest soundman that ever lived.”
Dubstep producer The Bug wrote: “So sad to read Jah Shaka has departed this planet.. Rest in peace. A heroic figure who kept Dub alive, when few cared… I spent many all nighters being transfixed by his passion and selections..”
Read some more tributes below:
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