Here in FK we still keep a soft spot for roots reggae and dub music. Reggae music is a belief-laden musical galore with its own large body of history full of musical innovations landmark albums, important figures etc. A lot of contemporary music like electronic or hip-hop has some roots back in the small island of Jamaica. Reggae has been a source of inspiration for black consciousness and anti-colonialism not to mention how much it has fueled countless artists, musical genres and social struggles in all corners of the world. Protest and spirituality combined with infectious basslines, danceable and meditating tunes and an overall positive, universal message. We couldn’t ask for any better!
Vivian Jackson, better known as Yabby U, was a prominent reggae artist mostly active during the ‘golden’ era of reggae( that ‘shook’ Kingston throughout much of the 1970’s). While he is largely famous from the crucial dubs of King Tubby (check ‘Conquring Dub’) he was both an important singer and producer himself. His career started in 1972, when after surviving from poverty and malnutrition he formed the group ‘the Prophets’ (which included the singers Michael Prophet and Wayne Wade, who later became famous themselves). Yabby U is a nickname he got from his characteristic ‘’ be u-yabby-yabby-u’’ vocal intro in ‘Conquering Lion’ single which was released in 1972. It meant to be one of the most important songs of his entire career: apart from giving him his artist name, it paved a road for him in reggae while it was dubbed by King Tubby, toasted by Big Youth which in turn remixed by Tayo some 35 years later.
After the success of his first single, he continued with several other singles which often featured dubs from King Tubby on the b-sides. His first album, named ‘Conquering Lion’ again (but released as Ram-A-Dam in UK), is a reggae masterpiece packed with classic songs, which captivated the real Jamaican feeling of that era. The album is marked by the soulful voice of Yabby U, who is chanting skillfully over his religious, spiritual themes. A dub version of the album was produced by King Tubby, named ‘Prophecy of Dub’ and limited to 500 copies (it was re-issued by Blood & Fire records in 1994).
Other notable releases from Yabby U include 1977’s ‘Deliver me From My Enemies’, 1978’s dub album ‘Beware, 1979’s ‘Vocal & Dub’ with Michael Prophet as well as the thorough compilation ‘Jesus Dread’by Blood & Fire records that covers the period 1972-1977. Yabby U has collaborated with Mad Professor, Sly & Robbie and Scientist among others. He has actually produced some of the best dubs of the 70’s and early 80’s – so I recommend to all the dubheads to dig into his work.
Most of all, Yabby U is a prime example of will and self-determination. He was a sufferer; he left home to work at a furnace when he was twelve years old. He was living in poverty, when he was stricken by the effects of malnutrition. Wondering in the streets of Kingston with a weak physical condition did not provide him an easy living. He suffered arthritis ever since; sometimes he was coming to stage with the help of crutches. That was the real life of many reggae artists of that era and you can feel the passion and honesty when listening to their music.