Maroon Town
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Maroon Town

London, England, United Kingdom | INDIE

London, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band World Reggae


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"Rocksteady Legends return home to launch their new club night"

LOCAL Ska group Maroon Town have travelled the world with their music - even giving former Soviet states in Asia a taste of their rocksteady sound. On 12 December they will be back in Brixton for the launch night of a new ska-influenced night, Booted and Suited at Brixton Jamm. Founding member Deuan German speaks to Lambeth Life about life in the band.
Tell us about your music and your musical influences?

We got our inspiration from 60sJamaican music - ska and rocksteady - there's a transcendental quality about those old grooves and for a couple of guys starting to play instruments and start a band there's something attractive about a genre of music that seems easy to play. But a really telling experience was seeing south London band Potato 5 in the Fridge at the tail end of the eighties - they were a big band playing no compromise early Jamaican ska with big brass melodies and conscious lyrics. They inspired us. The exuberance of that band meant that hundreds of fans were getting regular intense workouts dancing at their gigs. It was a fun scene.
How did the band get together?

The amazing thing was it was so easy and we never did any auditions. It was two of us who started the group, so we had guitar and bass covered. Once we had the name we began recruitment.
I was sitting on the tube and a woman got on wearing a cap with a drum kit badge on. She became the drummer. At a party I got talking to a girl who became the trumpet player. I went to a gig and got blown away by the sax player. Went back stage and she joined too. I roped my sister in as singer, an old mate as lead guitarist and one advert in a Brixton music shop brought in the sole respondent - our tenor sax player. All in two weeks. Within a year we had self released a single with loads of Radio 1 airplay, and done a Radio 1 session. We could run an alternative seminar on how to recruit for a band.
You are more than just a band, and put a lot of work into community projects and charity work around the world. How and why did you decide to do more than just play music?

The idea came when we were asked to go to Jamaica with the British Council. Apart from getting us to play in a high security prison (and you have to wonder about the sense in getting a British, largely white reggae band to play in a prison) they asked us to do a workshop in the Alpha Boys School for orphans run by nuns and which has produced some of Jamaica's finest jazz musicians. It's grown from there and it's become a regular part of what we do. Incidentally the day after our Jamaica prison gig, 27 inmates escaped. Some joker quipped to me "they heard you were coming back."
This summer you went to play in Tajikistan, can you tell us what you were doing there and how you got involved with playing over there?

We have been touring the central Asian 'stans' for the past eight years. The British Council have been facilitating these trips and we get to see and experience a lot of these countries including their schools, prisons and grand theatres.
This summer was our second trip to Tajikistan as when we were there in 2008 we collaborated with a Foundation dedicated to developing Tajikistan's great wealth of culture and music and they helped to bring us back to perform and collaborate with a well known Tajik band as well as going out to villages to perform.
You have been going for 20 years - what have been the highlights?

Undoubtedly all the global travel we have experienced from Central Asia to South America. In Indonesia it's customary for a foreign band to go through an audition to assess its morality and appropriateness for public consumption. Before the tour began we had to perform privately to a group of Islamic elders who also grilled us on the suitability of our lyrics. Happily we passed the test. We also found out it is not cool to turn your back on your audience or to raise your foot and display the sole of your shoe.
You are kicking off a new, regular ska and rocksteady night at Brixton's Jamm in December - what can people expect from that?

Suited and Booted is what the night is called and we are opening its first night along with a great line up covering ska, reggae, soul, funk and Latin. It's Brixton, its Saturday night, what more can we say apart from get your gladrags on and get on down to the Jamm for a wild, winter warmer.
What are your plans for 2010?

We have some seriously good new members in the band and we have been playing and writing together since the beginning of the year so we are excited about next year's prospects. We have made a wish list for 2010 and one or our goals is to overthrow world tyranny and create a world of freedom, fulfilment, love, peace, fun and happiness for everyone - why else be in a band. Oh yes, we will also be releasing an album and playing live endlessly.
- Lambeth Life

"Maroon Town in Jamaica"

As the band van weaved its way through Kingston's lunchtime traffic, the sight of barbed wire fencing and watch-towers triggered a collective intake of breath from the passengers on board.

The ebullient and irreverent dancehall track that had been pumping out of the stereo suddenly felt oddly inappropriate. A sign confirmed suspicions : "South Camp Adult Correctional Centre." We had reached dreadpoint - the prison-gates - and were about to go in and play our distinctly South London cocktail of ska, dub, techno and rap to a crowd of inmates, most of whom are locked up for gun-crimes.

If anyone was going to be vociferous in their contempt for an amateurish pastiche of their own music, then it was going to be these guys -and everyone in the band knew it. Talk about taking coals to Newcastle ! It may have been billed as "a unique day in Jamaican penal history", by one of the organisers, but right there and then we didn't care. We were scared shitless.

For the nine-piece band, Maroon Town, this was definitely the Ruff'n’Tuff Guide to Jamaican Music. I am a trained journalist by profession but because I started the group as a ska-junkie over a decade ago, I'm luckily still tolerated as a member. And anyway, no music journalist could gain this kind of insight just by being on a typical Caribbean freebie with Sting. This was no gentle heritage tour with drinks parties in Kingston’s rich Beverley Hills district.

No, this was a week-long mission to the island's troubled capital and a million miles away from the corporate fanfare of most orthodox band tours. Sure, we're a tight band with pedigree in our musicianship and a good smattering of success in the commercial sector thanks to collaborations with the likes of Basement Jaxx and Morcheeba. But on this trip we were the equivalent of an extended family on a pilgrimage to Mecca. With the modest patronage of British Council funding, Maroon Town were flown over partly to help blow apart images of a mono-cultural Britain but also to pay respects to the roots of the music we play. And this pilgrimage didn't involve champagne riders and groupies. It meant checking out the grassroots and that included jamming with convicted criminals. A few days before the band had held an intense discussion as to the point of doing this gig at all. And we were nearly spared the trouble when it transpired that some of the evangelical Christian fraternity in the prison objected to our using the Demon Internet service in our E-mail correspondense. Particularly around Christmas time. But they relented and now we were about to enter the lion's den.

Two hours later and we're ecstatic. The prison governor who bears an uncanny similarity to Haile Selassie is hugging one of the singers. The gamble has paid off. Too often globalisation means multi-national media and entertainment conglomerates plundering talent from developing countries and then flogging it off for huge profits. But there is another version, whereby ordinary people from different cultures meet, swap ideas and destroy a few preconceptions along the way. From the moment we walked in and Prisoner Abdel Wright demanded that we join him for an impassioned rendition of Oasis's "Wonderwall" we kind of grasped that. The jam session was a triumph, with the bedlam on stage and in the courtyard never going beyond exuberant showmanship on the part of the inmates. Our initial confusion over who were prisoners and and who were visitors or staff became irrelevant as the music swung from ragga and dancehall to ska classics and gospel. The sheer energy and talent that were unleashed that afternoon was breathtaking and it was clear that these prisoners considered reports of the demise of reggae a tad premature.
So what exactly is the state of health of popular music in Jamaican ? The common diagnosis from the outside for some time now is that in the post- Marley era, the country has never really recaptured its form. But according to charismatic RJR radio presenter, Jerry D, this viewpoint dismisses the current popularity of dancehall amongst younger Jamaicans people at its own peril. "Every generation demands an expression of itself - every generation !" he exclaims to me in his radio studio during an effervescent interview with the band on his show. He leans back, adjusting the squashed sides of his cream Kangol- style hat. "Today that expression is dancehall music which may well continue for several years. So we have to appreciate our reggae heritage but also appreciate the dancehall scene which after all is a derivative of it, but faster - There are parallels with the way music has developed in Europe." After making half the band rap spontaneously on air over a dancehall backing track (largely, I suspect, for his own amusement) Jerry D proceeded to explain that thanks to technological progress, dancehall contenders are pouring out of the shanty-towns. CD burners make recording far cheaper and easier for the burgeoning MC.

But this according to fellow radio presenter Paula-Anne Porter of Fame FM, this proliferation of product has created new problems. "The landscape has broadened so much", she argues. "There are so many people who are trying their hand at dancehall, at being a DJ as a means to financial success. So everybody’s doing it and you get a lot of one-shot hits (one -hit wonders)". Jerry D accepts that one skill that has suffered in the rush is attention to craft and detail in recording and mixing.

Current artists who gain the respect of music aficianodos include Luciano and Buju Banton on a more melodic tip and Lexxus and Capelton on the chatting and toasting side. But curiosity compelled us to go and check out newer talent. On the advice of a local producer we went on an impromptu crawl of all the recording studios to see what's going on, ending up at the Mixing Lab in Dumbarton Avenue. Outside the studio, a large group of Jamaican youths sat smoking and talking. With stage names like Egg and Bread, Gummy Ninja and Mega Champion they launch into excerpts of their material for our benefit. The only woman amongst the MC's is a shy but original talent called Kizzy B. who eschews the sexual bragadaccio of most of her colleagues.

As in the prison, I am struck by their thirst for more knowledge of what is happening musically and culturally outside the Caribbean. The youths are well-aware of the power of global outlets like the BBC and CNN and curious about life in modern Britain, particularly after the World Cup heroics of UK-based Jamaican footballers like Deon Burton and Robbie Earle. Mind you, even though Maroon Town are a multi-racial outfit with some Jamaican lineage, these kids couldn't get their heads around a contemporary band drawing on ska and classic reggae for musical inspiration. It is akin to a new Jamaican group citing Jim Reeves and Gerry and the Pacemakers as influences.

"Youth culture is very sophisticated and quite cautious in Jamaica", it is explained to us later by a promoter. "Events here are promoted in a very particular way, there are certain agencies who are respected and people have to trust the organisation before they commit themselves. In spite of our worldwide image as being loud, noisy and extrovert , Jamaicans have a certain reserve. They tend to hold back . Maybe it's because they have this reputation."

And further evidence of an unwillingness amongst Jamaicans to be typecast, is the rise in interest of "alternative music." It seems Prisoner Abdel Wright is not alone. "Alternative music has come on the scene pretty recently", Paula Anne Porter informed us. "It's developed through a love of pop through exposure to European and American artists in the eighties and ninties. Nowadays you find persons who perform rock - although to be fair it is a a growing middle class uptown trend. The grassroots people prefer dancehall and hip -hop."

As far as Maroon Town was concerned our highlights related to our own musical influences . Performing at the National Arena, we were suddenly called upon to play authentic ska grooves so that local dancers could come up on stage and perform traditional ska moves and steps. We held our own although the temptation was to drop our instruments and just gape at the grace and verve of what was taking place in front of us.

And then there was the ultimate pilgrimage to the Alpha Boys Music School. This has been an academy for generations of deprived and often orphaned kids who then went on to join national orchestras, direct the London Symphony Orchestra, tour with Louis Armstrong and most significantly for us, develop ska and reggae. It is the alma mater of ska heroes like Tommy McCook, Joe Harriot and the legendary, tragic figure of Don Drummond after whom we named our last album.

As we entered the tattered but proud school hall, a thirty strong big band launched into a medley of timeless ska greats penned by old boys. Classic original album covers adorn the walls alongside brass instruments donated by alumni like McCook and Harriot. And next to them, somewhat anomalously, was a framed album cover by the British 1980's ska outfit, The Potato Five. Respect is due, as they say in Jamaica, to the Potato Five.

For the band the the ultimate accolade came from the school's musical director Winston "Sparrow" Martin, a veteran of the world-famous Studio One set-up and one-time member of Jimmy James and the Vagabonds. First he played congos when we performed one of our original tunes to the school. Then he complimented our sound as being "more physical, more natural, more rootsy". "So we're OK ?" I asked with a nervous laugh. "You're OK", he smiled.

It was all a long way from our initial apprehension when we first arrived in Kingston to find we were sharing a hotel with members of a travelling circus which had just pitched up in town. I must admit I wondered briefly, which one of us, Maroon Town or the circus, would the locals regard as more of a freak show ? What I should have realised is that owing to their humility, most Jamaican musicians do not realise the impact their music has had on the rest of the world, even today. If our trip achieved something, hopefully it was by going some way to correcting that misconception.
- The Guardian

"Urban Myths - album review"

****1/2 out of 5

In 1997, MAROON TOWN released ‘Don Drummond’, the band’s fourth full-length in just under a decade. Since then though, it’s been all quiet on the South London front… sort of. While the Brixton collaborators haven’t been all that prolific in terms of records, a serious amount of Air Miles have been wracked up. Having played shows across the globe (from Brazil to Kazakhstan; from Kingston to Indonesia), the band now returns with ‘Urban Myths’, an album 15 years in the making…sort of.

The first thing to point out is that while ‘Urban Myths’ is technically an album, there are only actually five brand new tracks on offer. The first half of the release - let’s call it ‘Side A’ - is full of shiny, glistening new tracks. ‘Side B’ then, is full of shiny, glistening tracks pulled from the back catalogue, namely 1997’s offering.

The first half of the release sets some truly unique standards. Opener ‘Ya Ya (Lemme Tell Dem)’ has a flowing vibe of Jamaican ska with a touch of The Specials, kneaded together with hip-hop vocals. ‘Lion’ has been basted in rocksteady, with the strings and keys not sounding like they’d be out of place on a 007 soundtrack. ‘Latin Moshpit’ is akin to a dirty Havana back-alley, all jazz arrangements and big brass melodies. ‘Wreckless’ (featuring London MC trio The Wreckless Crew) fits today’s urban scene, a banging number that maintains that sunny JA essence. ‘Bella Cosa’ is a more relaxed number, reimagining prohibition era jazz whilst throwing in a little spit. This is the sort of material Rancid would have had a field day with back in the mid-90s. Simply put, if this were an EP, it’d be a five-starrer.

The second side comes across as a little less sundry. While Maroon Town are still on top form, there is a definite identity here that displays cool, grooved ska music in more of a revivalist style. ‘Bullit’ and ‘Watermelon Man’ (a reworking of the Herbie Hancock jazz standard) are (near) instrumental tracks lavishly rich in tone. ‘Innocent Mind’ and ‘Clarendon Calling’ use soulful female vocals to generate another dimension.

Essentially ‘Urban Myths’ is a contemporary take on the traditional sounds and styles of the 50s and 60s, plying the listener with a diverse but focused dose of modern-day hip-hop and ska. Its intrigue is enough to warrant a listen but it’s the sheer quality on offer that makes it truly stunning. Maroon Town may have been around for a long time - albeit inconspicuously - but this is fresh and vital.


"Urban Myths - album review"

For a band who have been around for over twenty years, Maroon Town sound remarkably fresh. The South Lonon nine-piece were mainstays of the late '80s ska revival scene, releasing the groundbreaking 'High & Dry' album, which mixed Jamaican ska, rap and soul to tremendous effect. Since then they've travelled the globe many times taking their community music to the people and 'Urban Myths' plants them firmly back on the map. The songs strut and swagger with a new found confidence, complimented by the smooth female vocals mixed with the male rap attack. Opener 'Ya Ya (Lemme Tell Dem)' whips up a dancehall storm, 'Latin Moshpit' adds salsa rhythms to the party, 'Bella Cosa' incorporates a heavy reggae and dub vibe and ska instrumental 'Bullit' whips along at a fair pace. Maroon Town are back at the forefront of the cross-cultural sound clash.

Andy Peart - Vive Le Rock

"Urban Myths - album review"

Maroon Town are a well established, hard gigging 9 piece ska fused band that travel the world and play virtually every festival going, meaning that when it comes to making an album, the gang have their groove locked down tight.

Their latest album, urban myths, is coming out via those good people at rockers revolt, and is a wonderful sounding blast of sunshine friendly ska, with a cheeky slice of latin flavour for a little unexpected extra audio goodness.

Pumping grooves, skanking guitars, horns blast and crowd friendly call-response vocals means this is proper party music that will easily get a crowd up and ready for a good time.

But, embedded within the happy vibes there is an edge.

Like the best of the 2-tone era, it’s clear that from their travels, maroon town have been influenced by the social injustices of the world, giving some of the lyrical content a welcome bite, most clearly indicated by the use of the ‘free at last’ vocal snippet by martin luther king in the opening track.

Alongside the jump-n-pump originals is a listener pleasing cover: a stretched out ska’d up dub retake on the jazz classic, watermelon man, which may be one of the most covered tracks in the history of music, but this version is guaranteed to get a crowd smiling and rocking.

All of which makes this a lovely album to drop on the stereo/mp3 player and just kick back and soak it all up. - I Really Love Music

"Urban Myths - album review"

This is my first taste of Maroon Town, how these guys have passed me by I’ll never know. Originally formed by two boyhood friends, the lads named themselves after the original Jamaican Maroons who fought off slavery and the English occupying army, creating their own autonomous town.

Having travelled the world, catching the ear of John Peel, jamming in a high security prison in Jamaica, running workshops in London and the outer reaches of Kazakhstan they now bring us the album ‘Urban Myths’ on the mighty Rockers Revolt record label. The album arrives after an intense period of recording with some of London’s brightest talents. Be prepared to be blown away by this 9 piece, genre-defying fusion of, reggae, ska, Latin beats and hip-hop.

Infectious, upbeat, energetic are just a few of the words that spring to mind when the opening track from the new Maroon Town album drops. ‘Ya Ya (Lemme Tell Dem) is a bouncing, fresh urban anthem featuring fast fire lyrics and blazing horns over a fusion of modern beats, reggae and ska. Drop this track in any club and the dance floor will go crazy! ‘Urban Myth’ takes you on a dynamic musical journey. Tunes like ‘Bella Cosa’ swagger along to a down tempo style reggae beat, while cuts like ‘Wreckless’, which features the Eastend MC trio, the Wreckless Crew, fire along at an intense pace, propelled by blazing ska horns and superb lyrical flare. ‘Are You Ready’ takes a nod back to the traditional deejay days, while bringing the sound bang up to date. Drop the track ‘Bullit’, a huge favourite of mine, and you’ll hear the influences of the legendary Skatalites in full swing. A nice dose of Latin vibes can also be found with ‘Latin Moshpit’ and ‘Innocent Mind’ both being two beautifully constructed tracks. The first features hip-hop styled lyrical delivery over classic Latin beats, while ‘Innocent Mind’ features a beautiful female vocalist over a laid back, sunny day vibe.

‘Urban Myth’ is a joyous album, it has bounce, flare and buckets of energy. It’ll put a smile on your face and a spring in your dancing steps. Go check it now!

Reviewed by: JumpUp - UK Reggae Guide

"Urban Myths - album review"

MAROON TOWN - Urban Myths: Maroon Town the high energy ska rap and dancehall 9-piece are back with a new album! 'Urban Myths' carries on in fine tradition of what Maroon Town have always stood for.

From the early days of this band I knew they were something special and this ten track album shows they've still got it! Listen to the diversity in their music just by hearing tracks suich as 'Ya Ya (Lemme Tell Dem)', 'Wreckless', 'Are You Ready', and 'Innocent Mind'. There maybe only ten tracks on here but every song stands out and they also have their own identity which is important.

Maroon Town have certainly put quality before quantity and I respect them for that. A killer release! 9.5/10 - Street Voice UK


Discography City Riot (single) Township 1988
Pound to the Dollar (EP) Link Records 1989
High and Dry (album) Link Records 1990
One World (album) Intuition Records 1992
New Dimension (album) Alleluia Records 1995
Are You Ready (EP) Township Records 1997
Don Drummond (album) Alleluia Records 1997
Urban Myths (album) Rockers Revolt 2011

Compilations Featuring Maroon Town
Totally Wired III £ to the $ Acid Jazz 1989
The Shack £ to the $ BIB Records 1993
Ska Beats 1Resolution 99 Beechwood Music 1989
Ska for Ska's sake City Riot Skank Records 1989
12 Commandments of Ska Average Man
Skank Records 1990
12 Inches of Pure Ska Welcome
Staccato Records 1990
Ska Explosion Goodbye to the Empire Quattro 1993
Ska for Ska's sake City Riot Dojo 1993
Swinging Ska Pound to the Dollar Quattro 1994
Ska Beats Prince of Peace Emporio 1996
Global Explorer Sunset in Calcutta
Zip Dog Records 1997
Liberation Are You Ready Peoplesound 1997
Amnesia Music Bar Sierra Nevada
Zip Dog Records 1998
Legends of Ska Pound to the Dollar
Emporio 1998



Maroon Town were formed by two boyhood pals, Deuan German and Rajan Datar who shared a passion for classic Jamaican ska and the spirit of the original Jamaican Maroons who fought off slavery and the English occupying army and create their autonomous township. Their debut single, 'City Riot', produced by The Specials drummer John Bradbury, immediately drew the attention of John Peel. Their second single, 'Pound to the Dollar', again produced by Bradbury, was cited by Record Mirror as "an outstanding blend of traditional ska with a poignant lyric...the most innovative single of the year”.

The international world beckoned, taking Maroon Town to all four corners of the globe - Brazil, India, Jamaica, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Argentina, Indonesia and all over Europe. From busking on Barcelona's Metro to performing to 1000's just months later in the same city. From playing to 50 million viewers on Brazil’s top chatshow to jamming with the inmates of the high security Kingston prison in Jamaica. From workshops in inner city London to the outer reaches of Kazakhstan... Maroon Town's politically charged and socially conscious sound delivers a joyous and vital antidote to the world we face today. A band who defy pigeon-holing and are set to reignite venues, the airwaves and soundsystems around the globe in 2011.

Pound to the Dollar, Cumbia Infernal and Ya Ya Lemme Tell Dem. Live TV performances to audiences in their millions and glowing press coverage of both the music and band's attitude.

Soundtrack hits on two major Hollywood and releases and four acclaimed albums - and now a new release in March 2011 through the Rockers Revolt record label!

The band takes its inspiration from the original rebels of Maroon Town in Jamaica who fought off the colonial invaders and set up their own independent community.

Members past and present have also played with Groove Armada, Morcheeba, The Streets, Dub Pistols, Freestylers, the Heatwave, Mika, and also with numerous reggae artists out of Jamaica...the list is endless......

Throughout its rich illustrious history -from busking on the Metro of Barcelona to playing huge stadiums and arenas in Venezuela and festivals across UK, Europe and Asia, Maroon Town have never failed to deliver!