THE BEAUTIFUL BARGAIN
to Cecil Reuben
One of the greatest concerts I've ever attended, was the first time I saw Bob Andy. Another memorable live performance, is the one and only time I've seen Don Carlos. The reason I mention these sweetest of souvenirs, is that they come to me, due to the efforts of Cecil Reuben. Where other promoters have been defeated by the endless problems with licensing, finances and visa issues, he has persevered. Through his perseverence, we've been blessed with the presence of iconic figures, such as Freddie McGregor, the Abyssinians, Prince Alla - and the Twinkle Brothers.
During a 2011 interview with Angus Taylor, in answer to a question about how he came to be involved at the Hootenaany, he said...'' I did it because this is Brixton – and Brixton was the central place for reggae music at one time but it lost its title to Harlesden where you had Jet Star and many record shops and artists. So I decided to bring back the title to Brixton and the only way was to put on some big shows at the Hootananny. The first show we put on was the Congos – which was a wicked show...
And so it has gone on, so that now, if you want live Roots Reggae on a Thursday night, all roads lead to the Hootananny. As you enter the location, you pay the gateman on the left – the very reasonable fee of £3 – then going through the paved garden, there's the elder on the right, selling fish: and as you enter, there's the immeadiate embrace from Jah Revelation sound, warming up for the live acts. Of universal acceptance, there is an extra fee, for those performers coming from across the waters.
As well as the Jamaican heroes, he also showcases the best of the UK singers, such as Ras Keith and Donovan Kingjay. So I think to myself, what better deal can you get on a Thursday night? For three pound! Cecil Reuben invites us to the beautiful bargain: of live roots and Jah Revelation.
Ahhh Cecil, if not you – who? If not you, we would be suffering from something close to starvation: the hunger of the roots people. Let me give the reader an example. When Don Carlos appeared on the Hootananny stage in 2010, that was his first UK appearance in fifteen years!
So we give thanks for Cecil Reuben, for keeping the roots scene, from becoming Sahara: dry. For keeping it live: fresh and luxuriant. For nurturing the younger and supporting the elders. For bringing us Big Youth, Cornell Campbell, as well as UK residents, like Wayne McArthur and Ziggy Anderson.
Apt that I sit here thinking of the first time I saw Bob Andy, as October approaches, when we celebrate the birth of the great man. I saw him sometime later, at the Jamaican Independence celebration at 02 London; although I enjoyed his performance – who wouldn't - it couldn't compare with the enchantment of the first time. Give thanks for perseverence: give thanks for Cecil Reuben.
(c) Natty Mark Samuels, 2016, The Dub.
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Celebrating the early Black journalists and roots reggae songwriters
written by Natty Mark on Reggaediscography