Legendary dub and reggae soundsystem pioneer Jah Shaka has died

Tributes have been paid to Jah Shaka, also known as the Zulu Warrior, who has died aged 75.

The Jamaican-born singer, producer, musician  and label owner was a pioneering leader in the UK’s soundsystem culture, operating the Roots Soundsystem since the early ’70s –  releasing some of the scene’s most seminal records and spearheading the influential Jah Shaka Sound System.

Soundsystem culture went on to inspire dance genres such as dubstep and house, as well as be the foundation of historical cultures like grime and Notting Hill Carnival.


The news of his passing was confirmed by his close friends on social media this afternoon (April 12). In touching tributes to the legend, DJ Jumping Jack Frost wrote: “The king of Kings has left us. The greatest soundman that ever lived.”

The dubstep producer The Bug also made a tweet in honour of Shaka, writing that he was “A heroic figure who kept dub alive when few cared… I spent many all-nighters being transfixed by his passion and selections..”

Jah Shaka migrated to south east London in 1956 as part of the Windrush generation. In his move, he witnessed the overt racism and hostility towards Black people at the time.

“When people left Africa for the Caribbean, all they could bring with them was their music, their songs and their memories from home,” he said in a 2014 Red Bull Music Academy lecture.


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“So, over the years, this is all that people had to keep them together. In the 1950s and 1960s in London, there were house parties – 50, 60 people with only record players. It helped families know other families, which was important at that time because the people were so forced to be segregated.”

He helped show this experience by playing himself in the 1980 cult classic Babylon; a film detailing the struggles of fronting a soundsystem in Thatcher-era London.

His spiritual message and unique sounds went on to inspire the likes of Iration Steppas and Jah Warrior as well as the Slits and Public Image Ltd.

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Tributes from across the scene have since flooded in. Trevor Jackson wrote of his impact and influence, writing: “Had a lot of wild club experiences in my time but nothing could beat stumbling into the Rocket hazy headed & bleary eyed becoming overwhelmed by the power of bass. Formative years, divine sounds, THE master.”

Writer Nadine White quoted Shaka saying, “The sound system was formed as a vehicle to bring a message of peace; to bring people together.”

See more tributes below.

His cause of death has not been revealed. Shaka is survived by his son Young Warrior, who runs his own sound system.

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