Dubbing with The Observer: Niney The Observer Live tonight at Mau Mau Bar, Portobello Road

Niney The Observer (right) with Bunny 'Striker' Lee and Reggae Historian David Katz (middle). Photo: Louis Rougier

Okay, so I know this is really short-notice but I just had to tell you about a great gig that’s happening tonight at Mau Mau Bar over at Mau Mau Bar on Portobello Road. Tonight, Mau Mau will play host to the legendary Reggae producer Niney The Observer who, along with his contemporaries Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee and King Tubby, transformed the sound of Reggae in the late 60s and 70s and has continued to play an important role in the music ever since.

First of all, let’s deal with the basics. Who is Niney The Observer and why should I bother to get myself across London to the Mau Mau Bar tonight in this horrible weather? Niney’s music career kicked off around 1968, when he recorded for with legendary Ska and Rocksteady pioneer Derrick Morgan, Niney’s big break came in 1971, when he voiced and produced the legendary single, Blood and Fire. This song went on to be voted Jamaica’s Record of the Year and is notable for its extremely raw rhythm and its uncompromising Rasta sentiment. The song has gone on to inspire the name of famed Reggae re-issue label Blood and Fire and has been sampled by artists as diverse as The Next Men and PJ Harvey.

If Niney’s career had stopped at recording Blood and Fire that would be pretty notable in of itself but thankfully Niney’s output was highly prolific in the 1970s. Furthermore, like a Reggae Ringo, Niney’s catalogue has been boosted with a little help from his friends. As well as working closely with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (of Bob Marley, Max Romeo, Junior Murvin and The Clash fame) and Bunny Lee (Delroy Wilson, Johnny Clark and John Holt and MANY more), Niney was good friends with one Osbourne Ruddock, better known as King Tubby. Working with King Tubby and his super-tight studio band The Observer All Stars, Niney was responsible for some of the best instrumental Dub music ever committed to tape. Along the way he even found time to establish the career of Dennis Brown, going on to produce the Crown Prince of Reggae’s signature tune, Money in My Pocket.

Whilst most prolific in the 1970s, Niney has continued to make music ever since. You can find out more about Niney’s life and times in this great interview he gave Exclaim.

Lastly, why is Niney called Niney? Niney’s real name is actually Winston Holness. Niney got his nickname when he lost his thumb in a workshop accident. And The Observer bit? Well, with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry getting known as The Upsetter no self-respecting producer could rely on just one nickname, of course.

Niney will be playing at the Mau Mau Bar from 7.30 pm. Entry is FREE.  The bar is located on 265 Portobello Road  London, Greater London W11 1LR. The nearest tube is Ladbroke Grove. You can find out more by visiting Mau Mau on Facebook by clicking here.

Niney’s Greatest Hits

Here’s a quick run-through of my favourite songs from Niney The Observer.

Niney – Blood and Fire

Dennis Brown – Money in My Pocket

Niney – Dubbing with The Observer

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