Starting in Bristol in August and finishing in Manchester in September, Toots and the Maytals will be back touring in the UK after a three-year hiatus from performing and recording. The eight-piece outfit from Kingston are one of the most influential and successful groups to have risen from Jamaica’s ska movement in the 60s. Their classics, such as 'Monkey Man', 'Pressure Drop', ‘Sweet and Dandy’, ‘Funky Kingston’ and of course the anthem '54-46 (That's My Number)' have become synonymous with the sound of the Caribbean island.
Frontman Frederick "Toots" Hibbert, who some argue is the most soulful singer to ever emerge from Jamaica, has spent the last three years recovering from a head injury he sustained at a concert in Richmond, Virginia. A pissed up fan throwing a glass vodka bottle onto the stage was the cause of the injury andthe 73-year-old has only just been given the go-ahead to resume touring by his doctor.
The incident caused Toots to instruct lawyers to file a $20 million lawsuit against the people behind the event – it was settled in March of this year for an undisclosed amount. “It’s been the hardest of times but I’m happy to be back on the road again,” the veteran singer told Don’t Panic when we caught up with him last week. “It was a terrible setback for my career, my fans and my family. We’ll leave it at that.”
He was keener, however, to chat about the new projects that he’s been working on recently. “I’ve been producing in my own studio, it’s called Reggae Centre,” he said before telling me about two forthcoming releases: a single called ‘Crazy Conscious’ and a ska-heavy rework of Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’. “I will start to release them as soon as my management agree”
Toots was the first person to ever coin the term reggae in a song (his 1968 hit ‘Do The Reggay’) and many genres have come and gone since. I asked him what he thinks it is about that particular musical style that has allowed it to transcend generations and maintain popularity for so long. He reckons it is due to the music’s originality. “A song can only be reggae if it has good lyrics, a song that tells a good story - one that is true - and music that is specially put down,” he explained.
"Reggae is a different flavour y’know? There’s a certain way to play, a certain way to write the songs and a specific way to tell history. Reggae will always be here and the people that brought it, not just me but musicians like Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley and loads of other great people, have caused the new kids to learn it. I think that has allowed reggae to keep extending.”
What inspires a 73-year-old man to start a new tour? “It’s the people, the audience that inspire me,” he insisted. “I see them and I want to do it for them; give them what they need and what they want – good songs and a good performance. I haven’t been to England for three years but when I play there the crowd are always fantastic,” Toots recounted after advising me to make sure that I get to one of the gigs. You don't have to ask me twice.
Wednesday, 31st August @ Bristol Motion
Thursday, 1st September @ Cardiff Tramshed
Friday, 2nd September @ Brighton Dome
Tuesday, 6th September @ Canterbury Marlowe Theatre
Wednesday, 7th September @ Norwich UEA
Thursday, 8th September @ Nottingham Rock City
Friday, 9th September @ Newcastle The Boiler Shop
Saturday, 10th September @ Manchester Academy
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