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Born in Barbados in 1953, reggae guitarist Dennis Bovell (sometimes known simply as Blackbeard) was one of the key figures on the London reggae scene of the late '70s and early '80s, not only as a solo artist but also as a producer. The band Bovell co-founded in the mid-'70s, Matumbi, was one of England's first self-contained reggae bands, and also one of the best; in addition, Bovell released several albums of solo dub experiments, which often featured jazz-pop keyboardist Nick Straker and producer Tony Mansfield (Captain Sensible, New Musik), both old school chums. As Blackbeard, Bovell released Strictly Dub Wize in 1978; he quickly became involved in production work for experimental post-punkers like the Slits and the Pop Group. I Wah Dub appeared in 1980, carrying on Bovell's eclectic sensibilities; Bovell reverted to his real name for 1981's Brain Damage, which began to move away from dub towards rock, R&B, boogie-woogie, etc. Bovell spent the early '80s working with artists like Linton Kwesi Johnson and Alpha Blondy; he returned with a mostly straight reggae album in 1986, Audio Active, recorded with a group tagged the Dub Band.
Dennis Bovell (born 22 May 1953, Saint Peter, Barbados, West Indies) is a reggae guitarist, bass player and record producer. He was a member of the British reggae band Matumbi, and released dub-reggae records under his own name as well as the pseudonym 'Blackbeard'. He is most widely known for his decades-spanning collaborations with Linton Kwesi Johnson.
Bovell moved with his family to South London at the age of twelve. He became immersed in Jamaican culture, particularly dub music, and set up his own Jah Sufferer sound system. Running the sound system brought trouble from the police and Bovell was imprisoned for six months on remand, but was later released on appeal. Bovell was friends at school with future rock musicians including keyboardist Nick Straker and record producer Tony Mansfield, both of whom later worked with Bovell.
Bovell also worked as an engineer at Dip Records, the precursor to the Lovers Rock label, and he was a key figure in the early days of the lovers rock genre. He is also known for attempting to fuse disco rhythms with reggae, most notably with the hit song "Silly Games" by Janet Kay.
He has produced albums by a wide variety of artists including I-Roy, The Thompson Twins, Sharon Shannon, Alpha Blondy, Bananarama, The Pop Group, Fela Kuti, The Slits, Orange Juice and Madness. He has collaborated with poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson for much of his working life.
Bovell also co-wrote and co-produced the majority of material by British reggae singer Bobby Kray.
In 1980, he wrote the score for Franco Rosso's film Babylon. Bovell has also written music for the 1983 television drama The Boy Who Won the Pools and Global Revolution (2006).
In the BBC's Reggae Britannia, Bovell related a tale of strange goings on in the leafy London suburb of Barnes, where the John Hassell Recordings studio was based in a residential house, in a quiet street at 21 Nassau Road. John Hassell, aided by his wife Felicity, cut reggae dub-plates with such finesse and understanding, that the studio's output was to feed Sound systems throughout the UK.
In 2012, Bovell produced Mek It Run, his latest album.