“One of the most pulsating live acts humankind will ever witness are storming stages again due to overwhelming popular demand.”
And in 2017 they are back, stronger and hungrier than ever…
Maroon Town formed in Brixton, London, by two childhood pals, fuses the spirituality, and cinematic sound of classic ska with contemporary street rap and a cheeky slice of Latin funk.
This eight-piece explosion of ska, rap and brassy dub has been tearing up audiences around the world for thirty years – and they’re hungrier than ever. They have played at many world famous festivals across the world as Glastonbury, Boomtown, the London International Ska Festival Sheep Festival; Freedom Sounds Festival (Germany); Reggae land festival/Poland,) in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Brunei, Sri Lanka, Kosovo and Argentina, Barcelona, Madrid..
Number one tracks and extensive radio play around the globe include songs like “Fire”, “Pound to the Dollar”, “Cumbia Infernal”, “Ya Ya Lemme Tell Dem”…
Members past and present have also played with Groove Armada, Morcheeba, Maxi Jazz, The Streets, Dub Pistols, Freestylers, The Heatwave and Mika among others. ,
After playing more than 40 gigs last year in the UK and on the continent including a triumphant tour of Spain in October, the band are focusing on a new album – due for release in Spring of 2017.
And for those who feel like reading the long story….. here you go…
Back in 1987 fresh out of college, turned off by the idea of having to get a regular job, an idea emerged between us – two best mates from childhood, Deuan and Rajan – whilst spending a few months with Deuan’s brother in the small village of Walderston high up in the hills in the middle of Jamaica.
We had a lightbulb moment when Theophilus Beckford’s classic ‘Easy Snappin’, inspired by the shuffle blues of early New Orleans and Memphis R&B and an early illustration of ska’s distinctive offbeat, came on the decrepit old jukebox in the village’s only bar. At that moment we just knew that the song’s irresistible groove could form the foundation of a ska/reggae band, an idea we had had for a while (only held back because neither of us played an instrument despite our love of Jamaican and Jamaican influenced music!).
We knew we had to do something about it and that we would need get over our self-doubt and learn to play instruments. Back in London Rajan bought a bass and I borrowed a guitar. Within a few months of shredding our fingers we managed to get a sound approximating that of ska. We even managed to get musical master tips from Prince Buster who we met at DJ and London legend Gaz Mayall’s flat in Notting Hill which helped us to perfect the ska groove.
Before even forming the band we had a name for it. The name was inspired by a map of Jamaica – the country Deuan was born in – on my living room wall in Wimbledon. Knowing a little of Jamaican history, when Rajan and my eyes fell on ‘Maroon Town’ in the parish of St James, we knew we had our name. The Maroons were the runaway slave rebels who escaped from the British plantations and who formed free autonomous communities beyond the reach of the Queen’s soldiers responsible for recapturing them. The name defined perfectly what the spirit of the band would be – freedom and self-reliance!
With the necessary part of learning how to play complete we began to recruit musicians to form a band. With just a desire and not much of a plan we did just that. We met the people who became our first line randomly around London – on the tube, at parties and gigs. We were 3 guys and 4 women and there was a creative magic between us.
The next stroke of serendipity : Rajan in some reception area in a North London building, only goes and bumps into the drummer of the Specials – his teenage heroes – the band that symbolised black and white unity during the racist climate of the 70s and 80s UK. They bonded and Brad went on to produce the band’s first single ‘City Riot’ which was a version of Cannonball Adderley’s ‘Jive Samba’ which had also been covered by Prince Buster. We pressed up our own 7 inch vinyls and almost immediately John Peel was playing it regularly. In a very short space of time it led to a Radio One live session and we started to get a lot of recognition which was great for a band that we had only just launched from our flat in South Wimbledon.
After two years while teaching at Goldsmiths college, Rajan met rapper Stevie Bee who was working behind the bar. A jam was arranged to which Stevie Bee brought the other two members of his rap group ‘City Limits’, a trio that had been cutting it up in the newly burgeoning London rap scene. There was an immediate rapport between all of us and it sealed Stevie Bee’s place in the band.
We went onto record the EP ‘Pound to the Dollar’, Stevie Bee’s lyrics – a superb treatise on global inequality (https://youtu.be/DzHtTPwNbso) and which we produced ourselves in a small South London studio. It was released on the newly formed Staccato Records label set up by Sean Flowerdew of the Loafers and Pama International fame. It received huge acclaim and straight away earned us a two page feature in ‘The ‘Face’ magazine. It was an inspired move as it was the first time that anyone had added rap to ska. It seemed obvious to us at the time as both rap and ska have direct blood lines directly back to Jamaica. It had never been done before and is now so commonplace one would think it was always like that!
Fast forward 30 years and we would have to write a book to cover the adventures we have had (which we plan to write in 2017!). In short in our own shambolic and do it yourself way we managed to release 5 albums, a handful singles and EPs which got us considerable attention and radio play as well as column inches newspaper, magazines and skazines.
We gigged in Jamaica and India! To 30 million people on prime time TV in Brazil! Without any record company support
We explored and toured in most of central Asia, ventured into numerous countries and cities in South America, the Caribbean as well as throughout Europe and the UK. We connected with numerous arts and culture organisations and movements. We even did workshops and performed in high security prisons in London, Jamaica and Central Asia and participated in many charity events. For example following a tour in Kazakhstan, a country that has a terrible problem with heroin addiction amongst its young people we even raised funds to buy a tractor for a drug rehabilitation unit we had played at in the country from a benefit gig in Brixton.
We have also organised and performed at several fundraising concerts for UK charity ‘Communities Empowerment Network’ which provides advice, support and representation to children who have been expelled from school and who we have a close connection with (Deuan was a founder member). (www.cenlive.org) Exclusion of pupils from school in England is a big problem especially among kids with special education needs and who come from disadvantaged economic backgrounds).
In 1995 we became the recipient of the biggest ever sponsorship deal for an independent, unsigned band when the Chairman of Dr Martens awarded us £100,000 to further our dream of international adventure. It was an incredible show of support as we were given total freedom how to use the sponsorship. We will be forever indebted to Stephen Griggs for his support which allowed us to build a relationship with the British Council as well as the British High Commission facilitating tours in countries not associated with the conventional music biz such as Indonesia, Venezuela, Barbados, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Kosovo and many more where we not only played gigs and festivals but jammed in prisons, did workshops in Jamaica and India and much much more
That’s all for now folks…. the adventure continues…