Black Roots are a roots reggae band from the St. Paul's area of Bristol, England that originally formed up in 1979. It wasn’t long before their brand of roots reggae started to draw in people seeking to find a voice that spoke out against the injustices and alienation caused by the pace of political reform introduced in Thatcherite Britain. Black Roots’ uncompromising lyrical content was that voice. They gained national prominence when they released their debut 4 track 12” Bristol Rock in 1981 on their own label Nubian Records. John Peel picked up on it gave it national airplay on his BBC Radio 1 show and hailed them as one of the best new reggae bands in Britain. 2 live radio sessions followed one in 1981 and the other in 1983.
From these beginnings, the band start to do shows up and down the country and broke into the European circuit following a support slot in 1984 on UB40’s European tour. Right up and until the early 90’s Black Roots worked the live circuit extensively, playing clubs, colleges, venues and universities, and made regular appearances at Glastonbury, WOMAD, Elephant Fayre and other major festivals. They also make several radio and television appearances including BBC TV’s Oxford Road Show. They released several singles and albums well into the 1990's, Black Roots (1983 on Kick Records); The Frontline (1984) and In Session (1985) on BBC Records and Tapes and Allday Allnight (1986), Live Power (1989), Natural Reaction (1990) and With Friends (1993) on their own label Nubian Records. They also released a series of 3 dub albums called Dub Factor featuring dub mixes of Black Roots’ rhythms by The Mad Professor and Dub Judah between 1991 and 1995.
And then everything goes quiet. The band seems to slide off the ends of the earth and nothing happens until 2004. But that loyal following of theirs continues to search out their music and it is this loyalty that leads to their re-emergence. Then Makasound, a reggae label based in France, contacts a member of the band and they agree to rerelease some of their back catalogue. First comes a 14 track CD On the Frontline (2004) and this is followed by a reissue of In Session (2007). Live shows in France follow and the band’s rebirth is almost complete.
It is cemented by Bristol Archive Records that started putting out more of their back catalogue, a compilation of their singles The Reggae Singles Anthology (2011) and a reissue of Allday Allnight (2011) with bonus tracks. This collaboration culminates in September 2012 with Sugar Shack Records (a sister label) in collaboration with Nubian Records releasing the band's first studio album in over 20 years entitled On The Ground (September 2012) on vinyl and compact disc. It is followed with On The Ground In Dub (March 2013).
The band then signs to Soulbeats Records, a French Independent Label. The first release on the label is an album more new material, called Ghetto Feel (September 2014). This is a powerful set that does not compromise the deep roots sound of the band and continues to deliver a radical message ably produced by the band and Jeff Spencer and mixed by Louis Beckett. It is followed by a third album of new material once again produced by the band and Jeff Spencer and mixed by Louis Beckett called Son Of Man.
Later the same year in August 2016 the band released 5 new mixes of the classic Black Roots’ song Move On, on digital download only, a song that made a first appearance on their debut 12” vinyl release in 1981 just over 35 years ago. And on the 26th May 2017 they released another 4 remixes I Believe a song that came out on their first studio album after their come-back ‘On the Ground’ on Sugar Shack Records in September 2012. It features Jah Garvey and Buggsy, 2 emcees also hailing from Bristol who add their own conscious lyrics into the mix.
Although the band do not tour extensively any longer, this new interest has led to them playing a series of selected live shows both in the UK and the Continent that include Bristol Veg Fest, ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror curated by Portishead at Alexandra Palace in London, Rototom Reggae Sunsplash Benicassim Spain, Nomade Reggae Festival in Frangy France, Sardinia Reggae Festival in Italy, WOW Festival in the Isle of Wight, Cabaret Sauvage in Paris France, Festival Ecolozicalizes in France, Glastonbury, Lambeth Country Show in Brockwell Park London, Garance Reggae Festival Bagnols Sur Ceze France, Banlieues Bleues Jazz Festival Paris France, Dour Festival in Belgium, Afro C Belgium, Reggae Sun Ska Bordeaux France and many others.
NUBIAN RECORDS SEPTEMBER 2017