Monday, 3 June 2019

Black Uhuru

Sinsemilla (1980)

Happiness/World Is Africa/Push Push/There Is Fire/No Loafing (Sit And Wonder)/Sinsemilla/Endurance/Vampire               

Black Uhuru released this album in 1980, and reggae was beginning to change direction slightly after the roots boom of 1975-1979. What would eventually morph into “ragga” rhythms was beginning to make itself known - a harder, less melodic, more stripped down and instrumentally basic sound. Thumping synth drums, synthesised percussion, rumbling reduced bass notes, keyboard loop samples and the occasional bit of guitar. Personally, I prefer the lighter, more inventive sounds of The GladiatorsBunny WailerAswad and Burning Spear. For me, the great years for reggae were from 1969 to 1979.

Black Uhuru had a great vocal sound though, and their vibrant, insistent rhythm is certainly intoxicating. Their lyrical preoccupations are mainly oppression, racial awareness and lots of references to the joys of marijuana, as opposed to religious devotion.
Happiness is a shuffling, staccato piece of heavy-ish roots with dance-ish style drums and a big, pounding bass. Black Uhuru are definitely more dance and rhythm-influenced than some of the lighter, more instantly accessible roots artists.


World Is Africa is upbeat and catchy and a great vocal and guitar parts behind the thumping drum beat. Push Push is a slow groove, with that electric sort of synth “boop” percussion sound. No Loafing and There Is Fire follow the same musical path, with the former condemning apartheid in its lyrics. Sensimilla speaks for itself - a ganja song. It has a hypnotic, mesmerising groove, however, and it the best cut on the album.

Every Dreadlocks is a lively concession to Rasta concerns and has a great beat to it, up there with Sensimilla. It again features that funny percussion noise, but to great effect. It is probably the most naturally reggae song on the album. Vampire isn’t bad either, rhythmic, with a nice drum sound on it, proper drums and a rousing vocal. This is very much an album of reggae as it was in 1980, facing considerable changes.

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