“It’s all about the 45/Something about the feel and the vibe“
“MACKA B is always about social commentary,” states the veteran British reggae DJ as he launches into ‘Sex Machine’ and gets the crowd to chant its chorus, “She’s more than a sex machine/The woman is a human being”.
It’s just one more song from a vault of danceheall favourites that typify the Wolverhampton native’s approach, honed over more than 30 years as a solo recording artist, of delivering positive messages to vibrant reggae rhythms.
Previously Macka was a DJ, or toaster, on sound systems in the West Midlands and he can sometimes sound detached from the music on his recorded work; as if he has no greater relationship with the music than a DJ on a sound.
But live on the Friday night stage Macka works in perfect union with his four piece Roots Ragga band. Lyrics, points of view or punctuation marks are delivered in perfect timing to the crash of a drumbeat or flourish from the keyboard player.
The message is crucial to Macka B’s songs which are delivered with clarity from an assured mic man who also rightfully acknowledges the sound engineer when he introduces the band to the February 26 audience. When the lyrics are so important it’s good to be able to hear them with perfect clarity.
Macka’s delivery draws you in, even on songs you don’t know, his lyrics are so well thought out you can easily follow his chain of thought. But this is no dry lecture, Macka is as well-known for his wit and gentle persuasiveness as he is for his uncompromising, principled personality clearly shaped by his Rasta faith.
He commands the stage, easy when you’re “6ft 3″ and double extra-large”. The patron of the Vegan Society revealed his personal details as he introduced ‘Wha’ Me Eat’ in which he reels off a list of his favourite food stuffs, inspired by the bemused questioning of promoters who want to know what they can feed him as he tours the world.
During his first hour on stage Macka only performed one song, ‘Rasta Tell Them’ from his new album ‘Never Played a 45’, released on the Peckings label. The album is a reflective effort from a middle-aged performer. ‘Rasta Tell Them’ celebrates the vindication of many of Macka’s previous teachings, from ganja’s medical benefits to what meat eaters are swallowing: “Look now what come to pass/Nuff a them yam the horse with the Reggae, Reggae sauce”.
When Macka returns for a 30 minute encore, he brandishes a round shiny, black disc, which he holds through the large round hole in the middle of it. He asks if younger audience members know what it is, of course they do. It’s the perfect prop to introduce his latest single.
‘Medical Marijuana Card,’ also from the new album follows and Macka invites tonight’s support, Cardiffian Sun I Tafari back on stage to perform their single, ‘Jancro’ a take on Bob Marley’s ‘Crazy Baldhead’.
Sun I had earlier played a 55 minute support set with his band of local musicians, the High Jah Vibes Band showcasing his original new roots music and gruff vocal style.
Like Macka B, Sun I first touched the mic as a soundman, as part of Cardiff roots devotees Ascension Sound. If it can be hard as a sound system in the small reggae scene in Cardiff it must be harder still as a vocalist or musician but Sun I has persevered and is breaking through. As well as recording with Macka B, Sun I is working with Seanie B, the DJ and producer who contributed to Morgan Heritage’s ‘Strictly Roots’ album which this month won the best reggae Grammy award.
Also representing the Cardiff reggae scene was DJ Reno of Love & Harmony Sounds who acted as host to introduce a headliner who represents the past and present of British made reggae music and a support act that promises a fruitful future as well.