History of: Jah Shaka

Published on Thursday 14 July 2022

Jah Shaka is a Jamaican-born soundsystem operator, spiritual message sharer and all-around legend. After absorbing the sense of unity evoked by roots, reggae and dub in London's Caribbean community during the 50s, Jah has championed these genres ever since.

Today, he's a revered DJ, label boss and soundsystem artist, and we're thrilled to welcome him to the Warehouse for the Carnival Edition of Alchemy on 27th August.

Arriving from Jamaica to London in 1956, Jah spent his childhood surrounded by fellow black British immigrants, discovering soundsystem culture and hanging out at house parties. These gatherings brought the community closer together during a time when signs saying "No blacks, no Irish, and no dogs" appeared on shop fronts and homes around the capital. It was a challenging time for Shaka and his family, and music offered respite.

At school, Shaka carried a mouth organ, despite a strict toy-free policy in place. After a teacher caught him out, he asked Shaka to play rather than confiscate it. He performed a melody, and after gauging his classmates' jubilant reaction, he realized he could entertain people through music.

As a youngster, Shaka joined Freddie Cloudburst Sound System and played vinyl records, gaining confidence and skill the more he played. In the late 70s, he built his own sound system, which is when Shaka's trajectory took a significant turn. He gradually gained popularity by producing a sound that blended spirituality and vibrant rhythms, and developed his signature Jah Shaka touch. He even landed a role playing himself in Franco Rosso's cult reggae film Babylon.

Films aside, it's the world of music where Jah Shaka belongs. He launched his own label, Jah Shaka Music, in the 90s and released productions by a plethora of Jamaican artists, including Max Romeo, Johnny Clarke and UK groups like Aswad and Dread & Fred. While some sound systems started to lean towards dancehall in the 80s, Shaka stayed true to his style and creative vision. As he became celebrated for his palette of reggae, dub and roots, he brought his sound further afield to the United States, Europe and Japan.

Nowadays, Shaka's soundsystem events bring a broad audience from all backgrounds, races and ages. His music has largely influenced the evolution of jungle and drum'n'bass, and has inspired many young producers to delve into reggae. His son Young Warrior is also an acclaimed artist, and the pair regularly join forces.

Without Jah Shaka, there would be a significant gap in the history of soundsystem culture, and he continues to add value, verve and colour to everything he does.

We are looking forward to hosting him on Saturday the 27th of August in our warehouse for an all-night long session.

Tickets/Info here