R.I.P JAH SHAKA
Died 12 April 2023
also known as the Zulu Warrior, was a Jamaican reggae/dub sound system operator who operated a South East London-based, roots reggae Jamaican sound system since the early 1970s. His name is an amalgamation of the Rastafarian term for God and that of the Zulu king Shaka Zulu.
Jah Shaka started out on the Freddie Cloudburst Sound System as an operator, before setting up his own sound system. By the late 1970s Shaka’s system had rapidly gained a large and loyal following due to the combination of spiritual content, high energy rhythms, massive sonority and his dynamic personal style. That following notably included many of the pioneers of post-punk such as Public Image Ltd and The Slits. In 1980 Shaka played himself in the film Babylon (directed by Franco Rosso, although he directed the scene he appeared in), operating his Sound System in a soundclash at the climax of the story.
Shaka stayed true to his spiritual and distinct musical style during the 1980s when many other Sound Systems had started to follow the Jamaican trend towards playing less orthodox styles tending towards slack dancehall music. In 1989, Shaka visited Jamaica and worked with many musicians there, including King Tubby.
On 23 September 2000, he suffered numerous injuries during a house fire. In 2002, Jah Shaka appeared before a large crowd in New York City’s Central Park. Live footage of Shaka is featured in the documentary All Tomorrow’s Parties based on the musical festival, which was released in 2009. The Jah Shaka Sound System continues to appear regularly in London, with occasional tours of the United States, Europe and Japan.