Tony Robinson, November 11 1957

Past membersBrinsley Forde
Angus Gaye
Donald Griffiths
Courtney Hemmings
George Oban

Members of Aswad are descendants of immigrants from the Caribbean who immigrated to the UK. There was a school called John Kelly/Holland Park School where they attended. It is believed that Aswad was formed in 1975 in the West London area of Ladbroke Grove.

A band called Aswad was formed in 1977 by guitarist/vocalist Brinsley “Chaka B” Forde, drummer/vocalist Angus “Drummie Zeb” Gaye, lead guitarist/vocalist Donald “Dee” Griffiths, bassist George “Ras” Oban, and keyboardist Courtney “Khaki” Hemmings. Aswad played the role of the backing band on Burning Spear’s 1977 Live album recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London. Among the other contributors to the work were Vin Gordon, and Karl Pitterson.

There was a time when this band was producing music in the roots reggae vein. Members contributed songs individually, while Forde acted as the principal songwriter for the band. Despite this, the dynamics of the band soon began to change as time passed. Hemmings left the group shortly after the release of their self-titled debut album in 1976, and was replaced by Tony “Gad” Robinson (the only time in the group’s history that a departing member was officially replaced by an incoming musician). As a result, the band released their second studio effort, Hulet, in 1978. Robinson then took over the position of bassist and keyboardist for the remainder of the band’s existence. It was only the following year that Griffiths left the band, leaving Forde as the band’s only guitarist. During this period of their history, they were distinctly different from Jamaican reggae acts in that they wrote songs that dealt with the issues surrounding the experiences of black youths growing up in the United Kingdom, such as “Three Babylon” and “It’s Not Our Wish”, as well as the powerful instrumental “Warrior Charge”, which is influenced by jazz.

In the mid-1980s, Aswad had a steady line-up of Forde, Gaye, and Robinson, which allowed the band to develop a more commercial reggae style, gaining a wider audience with the New Chapter album (1981). The group then continued on to release the Michael Reuben Campbell-produced A New Chapter of Dub LP, which was a re-recording of the entire New Chapter album in dub form. An album called Not Satisfied was released in 1982 by a group of London roots-reggae musicians. In August 1982, Aswad played a live dub set at Meanwhile Gardens on the Sunday of the Notting Hill Carnival. This gave birth to the live album Live and Direct, which is a faithful recording of that event, in which they played a live dub set. As a result of its use as the backing rhythm for Dennis Brown’s “Promised Land”, “Love Fire” gained wide recognition.

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