Culture formed - 1976 (St. Catherine's Parish, Jamaica)
||replaced his father —>
|(January 22, 1949 - August 19, 2006)
|Albert 'Ralph' Walker
||Roy 'Kenneth' Dayes
In 1977 Joseph Hill and his group Culture released the archetypal roots reggae album "Two Sevens Clash," a masterpiece that Rolling Stone recently ranked 25th on its list of The 50 Coolest Records. Celebrated for its brilliant mix of scorching reggae rhythms, militant protest lyrics and Hill's passionate lead vocals, the politically-charged album was a major influence on London's burgeoning punk rock scene.
Today, some 26-years after "Two Sevens," Hill and company are still making topical, incendiary music as evidenced on Culture's latest release "World Peace." The album is another tour-de-force of organic roots reggae featuring all the classic elements of the genre tailored for contemporary audiences - an impressive milestone given that "World Peace" marks Culture's 30th album.
"It makes me feel younger," says Hill about reaching his 30th long player. "Fact is that I had almost considered retiring for a while but then something told me that I should go on. I just feel like cranking up - like I put a new gear box in, rebuilt my engine and I'm ready to go again."
Hill's renewed sense of energy is palpable throughout "World Peace," especially on blistering cuts that attack poverty, war and injustice like "Time is Getting Harder," "No Segregation" and the title track. The singer/songwriter, whose fervent, gospel-based tone is one of the most recognizable voices in reggae, recorded "World Peace" earlier this year at Mixing Lab, one of Kingston's premier studios.
Richly arranged and tightly-produced with a full horn section, background singers and cracking rhythm section, "World Peace" features some of Jamaica's top studio musicians including the Firehouse Crew with veterans Dean Fraser (saxophone), Robbie Lyn (keyboards), Dwight Pinckney (guitar) and members of Shaggy's band. Like the rest of Culture's deep discography, "World Peace" is a full bodied album with heavy rhythms ranging from dancehall style beats to traditional Rastafarian-inspired drumming all played on real instruments.
"Dealing with digital sound is like trying to talk with a dead man," says Hill. "But dealing with live sound, then you are there making life so simple and realistic."
The self-produced album marks Culture's first release of new material for Heartbeat Records. Over the years, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based label has reissued some of Culture's classic material from the late '70s and early '80s.
Hill was enthusiastic and well prepared for the "World Peace" recording sessions. "He would spend about 15 minutes talking to the musicians, but not about music," says Heartbeat's A & R Director Chris Wilson. "It would basically be a pep talk. And after this little discussion everybody's on the same wavelength. A lot of the songs on the record are first takes."
That spontaneous, live feeling comes through on the album's dramatic title track recorded just as the U.S. war in Irag was starting. Over a rolling, ominous bass line, Hill implores "We can't take another war, we want world peace…mass destruction, deep corruption, cover up."
"People can live more peaceful than the way they are living at present," says Hill about the song's message. "We don't have to be animalistic to each other. This is a time when people should think about each one as a brother. And if that could be added on top of the beauty of the plants and the birds and all the rest, then the world would be a double beautiful place."
Hill (now synonymous with the name Culture) is reggae music's leading elder statesman - part of an exclusive fraternity of veteran roots reggae artists still singing potent songs of truth and rights a quarter of a century after first emerging on the Kingston music scene. Alongside Burning Spear, Dennis Brown and Bob Marley, Culture helped popularize Rastafarian-influenced reggae around the world with several internationally released albums on the Virgin Records label and countless worldwide tours.
In addition to building a solid and lengthy international career, Hill has always remained on top of the local music scene and is revered in Jamaica as a survivor of Kingston's cut-throat music business as well as for his stature as a musical freedom fighter.
"Hanging out with him in Jamaica for two weeks," recalls Wilson, "everywhere he would go people would be trying to hail him up - beeping in the cars, shouting out the windows, it's amazing."
Hill's influence on the younger generation of reggae stars can be heard in the passionate vocals of current hitmakers such as Sizzla and Anthony B who view Hill as a musical godfather of righteous reggae.
"Makes me feel responsible for the music," says Hill. "It feels good. Everybody is supposed to try to do the best they can as long as they can. If you do the music in the right way, then you are responsible for your self esteem and the well doing of good things in the world."
Hill's concern for humanity has always been evident in his music and "World Peace" is no exception. On the album's opening track, the breezy "Sweet Freedom," Hill sings out for equal right and justice, for all.
"Some people are so free and have so much liberty," says Hill, "but they don't even consider the next person should be free also. And each person have blood run through their veins and each person have some feelings. So that is song is teaching us to be more human to each other."
Never one to rest on his laurels, Hill continues to be one of reggae's most active recording artists and live performers. His strong work ethic is part of the inspiration for another "World Peace" highlight, the sprightly "Long Day Bud A Bawl," on which he admonishes idle people.
"The fact is that the lazy people have to get up and do something," says Hill. "Stop depending on another person to cry out loud for you. Cry out with your own voice or give an assistant crying and the voice will be louder. In other words, do something with your life which is progressive."
And since the '70s, Hill has taught by example, recording some of the most progressive and socially conscious songs in all of popular music. Hill has sustained his extensive career by incorporating new sounds and ideas while holding on to his roots. "World Peace" is as much a milestone for being Culture's 30th album as it is for being another vital message from roots reggae's foremost voice.
-- Courtesy (Rounder Records Group - Heartbeat Records) --
Kenyatta Hill’s debut single, “Daddy,” (Tafari Records), confronts the emotional pain and uncertainty he felt after the recent loss of his father. “While I was writing, I was sitting and crying, because I didn’t understand what was going on. I still don’t understand what’s going on, you just kind of have to go with the flow.”
Kenyatta’s father, Joseph Hill, was the front man of Culture, the legendary vocal trio whose 1977 record “Two Sevens Clash” helped define the roots reggae genre. Over the course of a prolific career spanning more than three decades, Hill’s music broadened the appeal of reggae, boasting particularly large fan bases in Africa and the UK. His skillful songwriting and exuberant performing style earned him an induction into the Reggae Walk of Fame and a Jamaican Independence Award. In August 2006, while on tour in Berlin, Germany, Joseph Hill suddenly fell ill and passed away. Rather than cancel the rest of the tour, Kenyatta, who had served as Culture’s sound engineer since the age of fifteen, decided to step in for his father. “It was a challenge, because I never knew I could sing. I was a nervous wreck. There was pressure, because I had a big role to fill.” Kenyatta seems to have used that pressure to his benefit, earning rave reviews as Culture’s new frontman at both the Tru-Juice Rebel Salute and Western Consciousness festivals in Jamaica earlier this year.
“Daddy” is his first solo effort, a poignant single backed by a masterful roster of musicians, including Sly Dunbar and Dean Fraser. It is part of an album comprised of Kenyatta’s own compositions as well as a few incomplete Culture songs, which he has endeavored to finish himself. “My father still has a message that needs to be sent out. There were a lot of lyrics not finished, so I said, I’ll try to finish them.” The album was recorded in Jamaica, and produced by Lynford “Fatta” Marshall, whom Kenyatta calls “one of the best engineers in Jamaica. This is my first album and I wanted someone who was going to push me to the limit. He was definitely that person.” Named for Jomo Kenyatta, the first Prime Minister of Kenya, Kenyatta is planning a world tour following the release of his album. As far as the record’s success, he leaves it up to his fans. “The people will have to decide whether or not I can fill my father’s shoes.”
Reggae Legend Joseph Hill Passes at 57
It is with extreme sadness that I report the passing away of Joseph Hill the lead singer of the veteran reggae group Culture. Joseph suddenly took ill and passed away in Berlin Germany on the morning of August 19, 2006 while the group were in the middle of a European tour. Hill (born: January 22, 1949) enjoyed a lengthy career in reggae music and will be greatly missed by both fans and peers. The group plans to finish its current European tour and honor all other commitments with Joseph's son Kenyatta standing in on lead vocals as a tribute to his father. In coming days additional information will be posted on this website and Culture's website at http://www.CultureReggae.net Messages can be posted on Myspace at the following link: http://www.myspace.com/twosevenclash