Review: Macka B, at The Jazz Cafe

Reggae legend makes you leap around while delivering home truths

Thursday, 21st April — By Dan Carrier

macka b jazz cafe

MACKA B lives in a utopia – a place where people are kind to each other, don’t hurt any animals, enjoy personal enlightenment, worship Mother Earth, treat everyone with respect – and it is all set to a glorious backdrop of superb reggae music.

It may sound like a big ask, but this seminal British reggae master carries the burden of being possibly the nicest, coolest musician on the planet lightly.

It helps that he has a wealth of talent in his voice and song writing to draw on and knows exactly how to take his audience with him to visit this idealised land of righteousness.

The singer, who performed with his Roots Ragga band at the Jazz Cafe last week, invites the crowd to enter his morally impeachable space: a Macka B show not only offers uplifting music but a sense that stays with you long after, that you can be a better person and make the world a better place.

Marching on to the stage with his anthem, Here Comes The Rastaman, produced by Camden Town based reggae record shop owners Jake Travis and Gil Cang, Macka B launches into an hour and a half of reggae bangers.

Prompting his band to ‘play the track’, and then, after an opening eight bars,  calling on them to rewind, this seasoned crowd pleaser knows all the buttons to push.

Mixing newer tunes – he takes some from his ‘Medical Mondays’ YouTube films – with an extensive back catalogue which showcases the best of British reggae music, Macka B moves from rootsy numbers like Jah Jah Children and Never Played A 45 to more Dancehall infected bass lines.

On top of that, his incredible intonation mean the lyrical splendidness of tunes like Medical Marijuana Card ring out with clarity.

With songs that have a beautiful, rolling, skanking rhythm Macka’s poetic lines enrich, humour and inspire.

We were treated to his 10 CC mash up I Don’t Like Reggae, given some dietary advice – enough to put anyone off a post-gig kebab – called Wha Me Eat and then an extended funk’d up version of Gangster, his tune lamenting the rise of gun culture and crime in reggae music, which he also managed to link to the war in Ukraine.

Macka B does politicised reggae – he argues the music can be no other way – and it’s gloriously refreshing to watch a performer with his depth and back catalogue stand up and say with great pride what he believes in.

Ignorant critics would say disparagingly he is ‘woke’ – for those who are not insularly thinking and mean of thought, his work over the past 40 years basically tell us home truths.

They range from tunes praising the life of Nelson Mandela to why you shouldn’t eat McDonalds.

Other highlights include his eulogy to the reggae music gateway drug that is Bob Marley.

In his tune Bob, he manages to name check a raft of Marley numbers and forensically unpick what it is about the legend that made him just so good.

The ingredients Marley mixed is a recipe Macka B has successfully whipped up too.

His fans range from older reggae heads – there were many a thinning head of locks – to a refreshingly young crowd, who showed their infatuation with this Midlands born 56-year-old by belting the lyrics out of each song and leaping energetically about to the Ska-infused punky breakdowns many of the middle eights of his songs contain.

Macka B is a British reggae legend who remains on top of his game.

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