Lovers Rock

Reggae's Hybrid With Full Of Love

The contribution of the Windrush generation in England was very influential in enriching Jamaican music realm in world’s pop culture. The second wave Ska through the ‘Two Tone’ movement is an example. The world also enjoyed another variable thereafter in the realm of music produced by British artists through Lover’s Rock (lovers rock), a ‘hybrid’ of reggae who came with a new taste.

As a musical variant, Lover’s Rock does not come from and carry absolutism. Similar to reggae, it is also an appropriation. In this context, elements of Motown’s soul repertoire are more dominant in Lover’s Rock accompanied by its romantic narrative lyrics.

The embryo of lovers rock can be traced to the late Rocksteady and early Reggae era. It can be found in the discographies from big names like John Holt, Johnny Nash, Ken Boothe, Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs. Most of their major hits are renditions of international love songs. This in turn makes lovers rock such an apolitical counterpoint to political awareness of reggae domination.

John Holt, Johnny Nash, Ken Boothe, Dennis Brown & Gregory Isaacs

In Britain, the second generation of Caribbean community became the figures who “discovered” the formula and made lovers rock to be known worldwide. Lloyd Bradley in his book ‘Sounds Like London’, mentions singers like Janet Kay, Victor Romero Evans, Louisa Mark, (Vocal Trio) Brown Sugar, and Caron Wheeler (a member of Brown Sugar Trio) are important names in the foundation of lovers rock.  London-based sound systems such as Lloydie Coxsone and Fatman also have to be noted for what they did to spread this new ‘hybrid’. The Four Aces Club was a pioneering recreational space that helped expanding lovers rock. Bradley of course also underlined Susan Cadogan (the role model from Jamaica) and Dennis Bovell, the maestro who led to the birth of this “hybrid music.”

Triumphant reggae domination of big names in the 1980s over London, England apparently encouraged local musicians to produce their own materials in overcoming the dullness of monotonous playlists. These local musicians are sons and daughters of Caribbean communities in England. They grew into characters rich in diversity. The mixture of Jamaican culture and their new identity as Britons is evident in enriching their works.

Janet Kay, who is known as the queen of lovers rock became the words of mouth after featuring on “Top of the Pops”. She then recorded in “Guinness Book of Records” as the first black female artist to top the UK charts in 1979 with her single hit ‘’Silly Games.’ The song was produced by the maestro, Dennis Bovell, a Barbadian-born Englishman with a very long list of legendary discography.

The Story Of Lover’s Rock (by Menelik Shabazz)

Bovell took a very excellent approach to ‘Silly games’. In “The Story of Lovers Rock” (documentary) by Menelik Shabazz, Bovell explains that he started with the idea of ​​changing the reggae drum patterns and later incorporated popular elements such as strong harmonies through chord changes. Dennis is known to have a midas touch as a music producer. He gave birth to many seminal and genius works. He said that  “Silly Games” is the first song in a reggae production to use fender rhodes and a Roland SH-2000 Synthesizer as instruments. This is a perfect touch to accompany the distinctive and strong vocal of Janet Kay. The magic is still evident, the song still sounds powerful today.

With “Silly Games” Janet Kay has indeed become an icon for lovers rock. However, the first lovers rock song was actually “Caught You In a Lie”, a timeless song by Louisa Mark when she was just only 14 years old!. ‘Caught You In a Lie’ (is a rendition of Robert Parker) uses a formula of verses & choruses that traditional reggae riddim don’t have. The song was produced by Lloydie Coxsone as a “reward” to Louisa Mark, who won four consecutive Lloydie’s talent shows; ‘Star Search’. Lloydie, accompanied by Dennis Bovell as producer.

Lovers rock as a term, came up from a Jamaican-born British businessman, Dennis Harris. He recruited Dennis Bovell to be an in house musician for his reggae labels, “DIP International” and “Eve“. Harris had already recruited guitarist John Kpiaye (who later became Bovell’s partner in Matumbi and in many music productions). After Bovell agreed to join, Harris asked him to find a name for the project. Finally they agreed on Lovers Rock, which was taken from a song by Augustus Pablo. Harris designed the label’s iconic logo himself. The label then released the seminal song. One of their releases was the song “I’m In Love With A Dreadlock,” a song from the vocal trio Brown Sugar written by John Kpiaye.

Lover’s Rock (label)

Names such as Carroll Thompson, Jean Adebambo, Kofi, Sandra Cross, Sylvia Tella and Winsome then enriched the lovers rock repertoire. In fact, Susan Cadogan, a lovers rock legend from Jamaica, won her glory and had lived in London at that time.

Lovers rock, based on the aforementioned songs and almost all records of other releases, are indeed forefronted by love-theme. Sugar Minott, a legendary singer from Jamaica, (who made the city of London and lovers rock as his home) and Gregory Isaacs the ‘Cool Ruler, The Love Song Champion’ endorsed Bovell and guitarist John Kpiaye because of the infusion they created, which gave birth to a reggae hybrid in lovers rock. From England alone, Peter Hunnigale and Trevor Walters can be noted as another lovers rock’s act. Even UB40, quite a lot, uses rhythm patterns and musical arrangements in the style of lovers rock. However, most of the works of the British lovers rock are sung by female singers.

Dennis bovell – Sugar Minott – Peter Hunnigale dan Trevor Walters

Lovers rock now belong to the world, a musical embryo from Jamaica that was assembled by British musicians. It has already spread to many parts of the world. Even one of the Japanese sub-labels ’15 -16-17′ (under Ki/oon Records) has released 14 series of lovers rock albums. From Indonesia, we can find lovers rock through works including: “Berdetak” and “About Love” from Monkey Boots. (as also said by Jenggo, Monkey Boots’ frontman to Kultur)

Lovers rock is an integral component in England’s reggae landscape. It grows in the social context of the country. An idea to say that Lovers rock is the antithesis of the impulse of “conscious politics of roots reggae”, is an implication of its reflection which only focuses on romance and eroticism.

The ‘consensus’ that lovers rock is the territory of black women while conscious reggae is the domain of black men somehow creates a gap. It poses a binary opposition between the soulful melody of lovers rock and the superior social consciousness of the dense toasting and chanting from conscious reggae.

In the realm of cultural studies which also appeared from Birmingham, England, cultural theorists such as Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy said that lovers rock as a cultural phenomenon also has a political agenda. Lovers rock is a unique transnational cultural project originating from the creative, political and erotic impulses of the Caribbean community in England (Paul Gilroy, 1993). Lovers rock has a unique transnational sensibility that illustrates that the British Caribbean community uses the erotic and political intersection of lovers rock and reggae conscious roots to reconfigure stereotypical representations of nihilism that are not based on love for or for the identity of Caribbean immigrants (blacks) in popular discourse. in British media (Gilroy, 2006).

Through their erotic and political intersection, Caribbean communities create complex discourses that affirm the ethics of love and compassion as a way of expressing and validating the complexities of their existence in the British metropolitan centers that are deeply hostile or hateful to them.

Through Lovers Rock, they present it melodiously, memorable and of course full of love. Quoting Dr. Lez Henry, a social anthropologist, DJ and also an English dub poet; “Love is fundamental! That is why lovers rock is so beautiful as a work of art. And no one can live without love”
(Sam, Yedi)

  • Show Comments (0)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

You May Also Like

Fast Pace Culture Inna Dancefloor

Special Edition: Fast Pace Culture Inna Dancefloor

Joe Higgs

An earthy man who beautifully paint the world of reggae music