The Dug Out Story
  Back to Vaults

Bristol has a vibrant reggae scene. It developed in the 1970s when various DJs, sound systems and bands would play in venues such as the Bamboo Club, Blue Lagoon, The Dockland Settlement, a variety of `blues' venues such as `Ajax' and then more recently in the Malcolm X Centre and The Black Swan (Stapleton Road, Easton). In the early days there were two main bands to come out of Bristol; Black Roots and Talisman. Black Roots came from the St Paul's area of Bristol and had a long lasting impact on the British reggae scene. They were championed by John Peel and Kid Jensen on Radio One and recorded many sessions for both DJs. They released ten albums in their career and were seen all over the UK at festivals, venues and on the college circuit. Talisman was a multi-ethnic band who again got played by John Peel's Radio One show and became favourites on the festival circuit. Other local reggae acts contained characters that would become local legends. Restriction had a young guitarist called Rob Smith who would later team up with Ray Mighty to form Smith and Mighty. They also had a young engineer called Dave McDonald who would later become the `fourth' (referred to as such because he was an engineer rather than a musician) member of Portishead. There are still many reggae bands in Bristol; Devan and his band One Drop (Devan was a member of Talisman) being one example but today much more in evidence are the sound system crews and producer led acts. Armagideon are a St Paul's based sound system that has produced many of their own albums (they have toured often with Massive Attack as their support act). One man; Gaffa writes the music and DJs aided occasionally by others including legendary horns players; Vin Gordon, Deadly Headly and Bobby Ellis (Vin Gordon had also played with Black Roots). Other systems and DJs important to Bristol's scene are the Roots Spot Crew who include DJ Stryda, Kama Dread, Addis and Henri and Louis (who have played with Smith and Mighty). Legendary reggae singer Horace Andy also is connected to Bristol through his continuing work with Massive Attack. Sound System music has always had a big effect on Bristol's musical consciousness. Systems like Jah Shaka's, the Mad Professor, and more recently Irration Steppas have always been part of the musical architecture of Bristol's nightlife. Many of the venues these acts used were to become the central venues for the early Wild Bunch sound system parties.