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When Chris Flanagan first found the song, it was listed as “Roots Jamaica” by Shella Record on an obscure compilation Warzone released by Toronto’s Monica’s Records. No more than 500 copies of Warzone were ever pressed, making it an extremely rare album only known to the deepest reggae collectors.
During the search, Flanagan discovered the song is actually “Jamaican Fruit of African Roots” by Sheila Rickards produced by the legendary hitmaker Bunny “Striker” Lee.
The vocal track was never actually released in Jamaica, however the dub version (instrumental ‘remix’) was included on the 1975 Creation of Dub album, mixed by dub-pioneer King Tubby, considered one of the great albums of the genre. The “Jamaican Roots Dub” was the stand out track on the album, but Sheila’s song that it was remixed from remained totally unknown and has been a mystery for dub collectors for decades.
In 2013, while still searching for Sheila, Chris Flanagan licensed the original track and King Tubby dubs from Bunny Lee. Chris started Shella Records, a record label to re-release the Sheila Rickards song in a limited run. The 500-record run sold out and has been played by DJs, radio stations and sound systems around the world.
Reviews and comments on Jamaican Fruit of African Roots
Reknowned BBC DJ Gilles Peterson played the track on BBC 6 in 2013 - 150,000 people tune in weekly to listen live, and Peterson has more than 3 million followers on Soundcloud.
“Rickards' haunting vocals blend Broadway and jazz influences over a reggae backing track as she sings ..with an infectious spirit of celebration and resistance.” “Jamaican Fruit is a unique musical curiosity rescued from the brink of obscurity and a must for reggae collectors.”
“…don’t sleep on this one. With celebrity UK broadcaster Gilles Peterson already hyping it like a new Galliano joint on Brownswood, the entire pressing run may sell out before word spreads to dealers that there’s also a documentary film in the works.”
Further details about the release, including the original musicians and full liner notes available here:
A rare recording of Sheila Rickards' more typical Jazz output from the very early 1960s .This studio Lp was a taste of what the band would play at the Myrtle Bank Hotel in the early 60's. Though only a teenager her voice is still incredibly powerful.
Another rare recording of Sheila Rickards in her more typical Jazz style before Reggae existed in Jamaica.
Shella Record - A Reggae Mystery
Shella Record - A Reggae Mystery is a feature documentary by Chris Flanagan
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