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SNWMF '06
PERFORMERS



 

 

Culture

Photo by Diane 'Livonn' Adam

Formed in the rich tradition of harmony trios in 1976, Culture quickly became a part of the vibrant, politically charged Jamaican reggae scene of the day.  Originally known as the African Disciples, the line-up consisted of Joseph Hill (lead vocals), Albert Walker (backing vocals) and Kenneth Dayes (backing vocals).  Hill was the only member of the trio who had prior studio experience – having worked at Coxsone Dodd’s legendary Studio One as a percussionist with the Soul Defenders group in the early 1970’s.  It was also at Studio One that Hill first recorded as a vocalist.

Shortly after Culture came together, they began working with the ‘Mighty Two’ – producer Joe Gibbs and engineer Errol Thompson.  While at Gibbs’ studio, the singers recorded a series of powerful singles, many of which ended up on their successful debut album ‘Two Sevens Clash’.  This initial release was hugely popular in both Jamaica and England.  The lyrics demonstrated Hill’s keen awareness of the connection between Jamaica’s history and its current social climate.  While the songs may have been dealing with serious issues, at the same time the group always recognized the value of a catchy beat – a sensibility shared by U.K. punks at the time.  At once Culture became part of a wave of vocal groups (including the Mighty Diamonds, Black Uhuru, the Meditations and countless others) that ruled the reggae scene for a brief while in the late 70’s.

After their success with Gibbs, the group went on to make a string of albums for producer Sonia Pottinger.  Culture began working with some of the premier musicians of the day including Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar, Ansel Collins, Cedric Brooks and the ever-present percussionist Sticky.  Virgin Records picked up the albums, and that added distribution enabled Culture to gain an even larger following outside of Jamaica.  In recent months Virgin has begun re-issuing most of its reggae catalog from the late 70’s, so once again these early Culture albums are readily available.

In 1982 the three singers went their own ways.  Joseph Hill carried on using the Culture name, and recorded the ‘Lion Rock’ album, which was released in the United States by Heartbeat Records.  For their part, Walker and Dayes recorded a handful of songs on their own – a few of which turned up on an album titled ‘Roots & Culture’.

 


In 1986 the original line-up reformed to record two highly regarded albums – ‘Culture in Culture’ and ‘Culture at Work’.  These releases marked the beginning of a very busy period for the group, including annual albums and countless tours.  The U.S. label Shanachie released a steady stream of new and old Culture albums up to ’Wings Of A Dove’ in 1992.

In 1993 Kenneth Dayes left the group and was temporarily replaced by the singer from Dub Mystic – who was their backing band at the time.  With Dub Mystic, Culture reached new heights that included the release of two popular studio albums (‘One Stone’ and ‘Trust Me’) and a live album (‘Cultural Livity’).

Today, Culture consists of Hill, Walker and Telford Nelson.  After a lengthy career on his own, Nelson joined on harmony vocals in 1999.  In concert the group is currently backed by the DC based band ‘Forces of Justice’.  These accomplished musicians have been behind Culture for many years, playing several well-received tours in Europe, Africa and North America.

Culture continues to be in demand in the studio as well.  In 2000 the group recorded the album ‘Payday’, which was followed by a much-praised dub album mixed by the renowned engineer, Scientist.  In the same year a very cotemporary sounding album called ‘Humble African’ appeared on VP Records.  Since then RAS Records have issued a CD and DVD set titled 'Live in Africa' - taken from a historic show the group performed in South Africa in December of 2000. The DVD, the group's first, offers proof of just how lively and intense a Culture performance can be. More recenty, the US label Roots & Culture have released a live album recorded in Jamaica - 'Live in Negril'. In addition, the group have already recorded material for a new studio album - so fans can look forward to some fresh material later in 2003 (The 'World Peace' CD will be out on Heartbeat Records on June 17, 2003).

While Culture has now been around for 27 years, Joseph Hill and friends are showing no signs of slowing down.  Hill has lost none of his striking stage presence and fiery energy over the years.  The group has sustained their lengthy career by being both true to their cultural roots, and at the same time able to incorporate new sounds and ideas into their mix.  To their credit the group has never been content to be a mere oldies act.  Culture has proved to be one of the few acts in reggae that can always be relied on – both on record, and on stage.  As reggae music goes, a Culture concert is both a tribute to the past and a glimpse of the future …. Not to mention a whole lot of fun!

 - 2003, Jim Dooley

Culture Links:


 

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