Aswad are a long-lasting British reggae group, noted for adding strong R&B and soul influences to the reggae sound. They have been performing since the mid-1970s, having released a total of 21 albums. "Aswad" means "black" in Arabic.
The members of Aswad are UK descendants of immigrants from the Caribbean. They attended John Kelly/Holland Park School.
The original members of Aswad were 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 were the backing band of Burning Spear's 1977 Live album, recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London. Other contributors included Vin Gordon, and Karl Pitterson.
Initially the band produced music in the Roots Reggae-vein, with members' contributing songs individually and with Forde acting as the band's principle songwriter. The band's dynamic soon began to change however. Shortly after the release of their self-titled debut album in 1976, Hemmings left and was replaced by Tony "Gad" Robinson . The band then released their second studio effort, Hulet, in 1978, before Oban departed the band in 1979, with Robinson taking over Oban's role in addition to Hemmings'. The following year saw Griffiths depart, leaving Forde as the band's sole guitarist. During this early period in the band's 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 UK; such as "Three Babylon" and "It's Not Our Wish", and the powerful jazz-influenced instrumental "Warrior Charge".
Once the band's line-up had stabilised into the trio of Forde, Gaye, and Robinson, Aswad followed a more commercial Reggae style, gaining a wider audience with the New Chapter album . They then followed this with the Michael Reuben Campbell-produced "A New Chapter of Dub" LP which was a dub of the entire New Chapter album. "Not Satisfied" was a London roots-reggae album released in 1982. In August of '82 Aswad played live at Meanwhile Gardens on the Sunday of Notting Hill Carnival and the resulting live album "Live and Direct" is a faithful record of that event, where they played a live dub set. "Love Fire" gained wide recognition when it was used as the backing rhythm for Dennis Brown's "Promised Land".
Among Aswad's catalogue of hits is "Don't Turn Around", a UK No. 1 hit in 1988, originally recorded by Tina Turner as a B-side to her "Typical Male" single. They followed this up with UK No. 11 hit "Give A Little Love", and a reggae-flavoured rendition of "Best of My Love", first popularised and written by The Eagles. In 1989, they contributed the single "Set Them Free" to the Greenpeace Rainbow Warriors album. In the same year they performed together with Sir Cliff Richard the song "Share A Dream", recorded the previous year, at Wembley Stadium as part of The Event . Their next hit, "Shine", was released in 1994. Another track was the upbeat 1998 remake of The Police's "Invisible Sun", performed with Sting.
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