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It's Not Our Wish (That We Should Fight) - Aswad

Like Phil Collins, but completely unlike him, Angus Gay, known to all followers of British reggae as Drummie Zeb, started off in the band Aswad as a drummer that sang from time to time, eventually became the most prominent singer of the group. At the time of his death in September of this year aged 62, he was the last remaining member in the group from the original line-up.

Aswad formed in 1975 and were one of the first British reggae groups, and certainly the first to be signed by a major record label. The best reggae, to me, has always really been terrific soul singing to a reggae rhythm, and Aswad, and in particular Drummie Zeb has always been one of the best examples of this.

Aswad, too, were the first British reggae band to regularly address the issues facing the UK Afro-Caribbean community.

"It's Not Our Wish (That We Should Fight)", from 1978, reflects the aftermath of the Notting Hill Carnival riots of 1976, and, more recently, the so-called "Battle of Lewisham" when the National Front organised a march from New Cross to Lewisham in London, that deliberately provoked a major reaction from the large Afro-Caribbean Lewisham Community.

In 1988, while working for the London Borough of Islington Arts and Entertainments Department, we had one of those moments of good fortune. We were trying to develop the Polytechnic of North London theatre on Holloway Road, now known as "the Rocket Theatre", and we booked Aswad, a still young, up-and-coming reggae band who, between the time we booked them and the agreed performance date, had a number one hit single with "Don't Turn Around". Unlike certain other groups that I could mention who were booked one day and had a smash hit the next, they didn't blow us out, or demand a higher fee or expensive contract riders.

They were just very professional, turning up on time for the sound check, and getting away promptly afterwards, and doing a fine, fine gig. Otherwise, it was my first experience of an enthusiastic, packed house, from a promoters' point of view, with all the terrifyingly hard work that went with it.

Drummie Zeb took lead vocals on both "Don't Turn Around" and "It's Not Our Wish (That We Should Fight)", the latter a gentle rumination on the art of not putting up with prejudice and violence, the dub style echo and reverb of the instrumental back half of the song emphasising the immutability of Aswad's own London culture. "We're here to stay" they are saying, "we're not going anywhere."


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