courtesy Hackney Libraries

“Sounds of Ethiopia stepping out of Babylon; sounds of Zion stepping out of Stoke Newington. JAH Tapper Zukie, King of sounds and blues, rocking the musical atmosphere, under heavy duty manners…” – Penny Reel

7:00am Stamford Hill and the cold is biting into my shoulders like something highly metaphorical that I am sure I would be able to come up with if I was more awake. The train timetable is freaky at this time of day and I’ve just missed the bus. “MPLA… Natty going on a holiday”. Yes, Tappa! But what were you thinking of, eh? Conservative JLP militant pens ode to Angolan Marxists. Gets released on Virgin and lauded by Patti Smith. Dyon Dyon… Dyon Answa. De doo De doo de doo doo. You can do little version excursions in your head like that sometimes.

“King of sounds and blues, rocking the musical atmosphere, under heavy duty manners. Truths and rights from Ras Tafari inspiration- know your dread, sound say, know your culture.” – Penny Reel

Rewind to the early 90s. Tom Headbanger’s editorial mentions that it takes an almost superhuman effort to get out of a warm bed and leave a warm woman to cross the cold Denver morning and print up a newsletter. That’s it in a nutshell, Tom.

76. The seven and the six clash. On the top deck with my bag in the aisle seat. Because at this time in the morning I don’t want to be sociable with anyone elses’ outer thigh – even those cute, but sorta warrior-looking commuter girls who seem like they spend about 2 hours getting ready in the morning. And I’ve not even had breakfast yet.

“From the lickle youth of sixteen years, who made I and I jump and twist with Viego Sound System; from the iry dub vendor, feeling high at the Four Aces…” – Penny Reel

Dalston Junction. The Four Aces, formerly the Dalston Palace of Varieties – opened in 1898. Soon to be picturesque ruins. And then the East London Line. “You’re gonna wake up one morning and know what side of the bed you’ve been lying on! Loves… /A chance to do it for more than a month without being ripped off/The Anarchist Spray Ballet/Lenny Bruce/Joe Orton/Ed Albee/Paustovsky/Iggy Pop/John Coltrane/Spunky James Brown/Dewey Redman/KING TUBBY’S sound system/Zoot suits and dreadlocks/Kilburn & the High Roads/Four Aces Dalston/Limbo 90–Wolfe/Tiger Tiger–Bester/…”

“right now, I man lick I cup and you can never get a suck; right now you can only I chew the smell, as I would say- from messages to pork eaters and black cinderellas; from chalice to chalice and I live upright;” – Penny Reel

I live upright but that doesn’t mean my eyes are open all the time. Echo, phase and those blazing horns. Sleep…

“from Zukie fashionwear, and Junior Ross and the Spear with ‘Freedom’, ‘Babylon Fall’ and ‘Rasta Man A Say’; from ‘MPLA’- seven miles of Black Star Liner coming in the harbour- to rockers in a Camden Town; from them was looting down in a Ladbroke Grove;” – Penny Reel

The City of London. “Babylon you are a sore. Babylon you bound to fall.” Tappa – you knew who to get in the studio, didn’t you? Junior Ross & The Spear, Prince Alla, Knowledge. Class. Pound those riddims into the dust of the control room floor.

“from Judge I O Lord God Ras Tafari; from my father before, and his father before, and his father before, tell I about Marcus Garvey- when Zukie day ah, we all go cross the river out of Babylon.” – Penny Reel

Hold tight across Blackfriars Bridge. The wind, the moon, the water. One foot in front of the other, one step forward, two step backward, step out of Babylon. Take a wrong step and you might end up underneath, with bricks in your pockets.

“Right now the weird thing’s right and I man no care if there is no light: for right now, rhythm rule I. Tapper pon top and a weak-heart drop.” – Penny Reel

And yet, incredibly, the sun has actually risen. You have to give Ra his due, he has to go off on a big ruck with the denizens of the underworld every single fucking night. All I have to do is show up at an office and make convincing noises at a keyboard. The-weird-thing will be mollified by coffee. You must appease the beast.

“I would like idren and bretheren, Sons and Daughters of the most high JAH Ras Tafari, and all friends and fans of the star Tapper Zukie to learn their culture, as the brother would play. No matter who you are or who you may be. Make we sing great songs, down in a Babylon. Love it uni-versally; love it i-fficially. Awake from your slumber and answer this call.” – Penny Reel