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The Road To Reggae - Our Stories Our Lives

Updated: Jan 28, 2023

The following article appeared in our magazine ‘Hands on Handsworth’ in January 2011


Basil Gabbidon is a founder member of Steel Pulse, the phenomenally successful reggae band formed in Handsworth in the 70s. He was born in Buff Bay, Portland (Jamaica) and moved to Britain in 1964 when he was eight years old. He has been a Handsworth resident for most of his life. The following interview marks the relaunch of his most recent album, ‘Reggae Rockz.’


Bob Marley and the Wailers were a major influence. When they came along, I realised they were just up my street.

What are your earliest memories of music?


I started listening to music on the radio, then listened to Jamaican music such as Ska and Bluebeat on the jukebox in the café I used to go to after school. This was a big influence as I got older.


How did you get involved in music?


I went to Handsworth Wood Boys School, where I learned to read music and play the trombone. I also taught myself to play the guitar. I wasn’t so much into the Beatles but I did like the Stones. I was interested in revolutionary music such as Jimi Hendrix and a Funk band called Mandrill.


What reggae artists first inspired you and why?


Niney’s ‘Blood and Fire’ first got me into reggae. I also liked John Holt, though I was always more interested in bands than singers. I liked roots music and heavy dub, and anything that expanded creativity.


What about Bob Marley?


Bob Marley and the Wailers were a major influence. When they came along, I realised they were just up my street. They were different as they had guitar solos, which reggae didn’t have before. And of course the lyrics were different too; they were revolutionary. When ‘Catch a Fire’ came out, Bob Marley became a cornerstone, the man for reggae. He, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer spread the music all round the world and brought different cultures together more than any other genre.


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