Expect a ground-shaking bass-quake as acclaimed pioneer of UK reggae production tops the bill with Ariwa Sounds artists Aisha, Sister Audrey and Canita.
Equally renowned for producing deep roots reggae, trance-inducing dub and bittersweet lover’s rock, the Mad Professor and his Ariwa Sound stable is a veritable institution of British Reggae.
Mad Professor needs no introduction to reggae devotees. He is one of the leading producers of dub music’s second generation and is widely acknowledged to have been instrumental in transitioning dub into the digital age. He has collaborated with reggae artists such as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Sly and Robbie, Pato Banton, Jah Shaka and Horace Andy, as well as artists outside the realm of traditional reggae and dub, such as Massive Attack, The Orb, The Beatie Boys and Jamiroquai.
Born Neil Joseph Stephen Fraser in 1955 in Georgetown, Guyana, he became known as Mad Professor as a boy due to his fascination with electronics. He emigrated from Guyana to London at the age of 13 and later began his music career as a service technician. He gradually collected recording and mixing equipment and in 1979 opened his own four-track recording studio, Ariwa Sounds, in the living room of his home in Thornton Heath. He began recording lovers rock bands and vocalists for his own label (including the debut recording by Deborahe Glasgow) and recorded his first album after moving the studio to a new location in Peckham in 1982, equipped with an eight-track setup, later expanding to sixteen.
Fraser’s Dub Me Crazy series of albums won the support of John Peel, who regularly aired tracks from the albums. Although early releases were not big sellers among reggae buyers, the mid-1980s saw this change with releases from Sandra Cross (Country Life), Johnny Clarke, Peter Culture, Pato Banton, and Macka B (Sign of the Times). Fraser moved again, this time to South Norwood, where he set up what was the largest black-owned studio complex in the UK, where he recorded successful lovers rock tracks by Cross, John McLean, and Kofi, and attracted Jamaican artists including Bob Andy and Faybiene Miranda. Fresh from collaborating on Dubheart’s new album, ‘From the Vaults of Ariwa’, the last time Mad Professor headlined at Wilkswood Reggae in 2017, he managed to make the walls of the main arena shake and rattle: expect a ground-shaking bass-quake again this year.
Mad Professor will be appearing with the Ariwa Posse, a selection of musicians and singers associated with the Prof’s recording studios in south east London. At this year’s Wilkswood Reggae Festival, he will be joined onstage by Aisha, Sister Audrey and Canita.
Aisha (sometimes Sister Aisha, born Pamela Ross in Wolverhampton) is a roots reggae singer who has been working with Mad Professor since 1984. Originally a backing vocalist with the band Capital Letters, she went solo and after a few singles, Mad Professor produced her debut album, High Priestess (1988). A second album, Daughters of Zion appeared in 1993 and Aisha also worked with Norman Grant of The Twinkle Brothers on two albums. She has featured on the Roots Daughters series of albums, alongside artists such as Kofi, Fabian, and Sandra Cross. She first performed in Jamaica in 2000 at the Augustus Pablo Benefit concert and she performed at the 2003 Meltdown festival (curated by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry) at London’s Royal Festival Hall, which saw the Telegraph describe her as “the closest we have to a female Bob Marley”. Since 2006 she has toured internationally with Mad Professor’s Ariwa Posse.
The legendary Sister Audrey is most associated with the Roots Reggae Classic ‘English Girl’, first written and recorded by her almost 40 years ago. English Girl was one of the first songs recorded at the new Ariwa Studios in Gautrey Road, Peckham and was originally released on Jah Shaka’s label after an overwhelming response at dances. One of several Shaka/Ariwa partnerships from the 80s, the song recently re-emerged as the theme of the Windrush Generation, especially the verse: “Now 40 years later, we must go and get some papers”. Sister Audrey (aka Audrey Litchmore, nee Donegan) began touring in 1983 as one of ‘The Ariwa Posse’ with ‘Mad Professor’ and has continued to gain International recognition featuring on promotional tours, supporting Legendary reggae artists such as Lee Perry, Max Romeo, U Roy and Macka B. Other singles include ‘Africa is Zion’, ‘Children of the Ghetto’ and ‘If I Love You’.
Canita maybe the new face on the Ariwa Sounds stable but she is already proving her worth in reggae circles. Originally raised in Kingston, Jamaica, Canita is asecondary school teacher from East London has released her first Mad Professor-produced album ‘So United’ and the first single “Empower’ has stirred up a lot of interest.
More details of the full Wilkswood Reggae 2020 line-up will be announced over the next few days. Keep up with latest news by following us on Facebook.