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KINGSTON, Jamaica —

It is well documented that drum and bass and reggae go hand-in-hand. For 50 years, the music has produced a number of great rhythm teams.

Drummer Immanuel Walsh and bassist Ian ‘Bassheart’ Knight have been playing together for 25 years but it was not until 2011 that they formalised their partnership with the band, Black Blood.

Black Blood

Walsh and Knight, who spend much of their professional time in Japan, recently released Transfusion, Black Blood’s first album. It is a joint production between their Jah Sey So and Beat Root labels.

In July, the duo kicked off promotion for the set with a seven-city tour of Japan, making stops in major reggae markets such as Osaka and Tokyo. Transfusion has nine songs including three instrumentals.

Walsh is in Jamaica marketing the album. He credits the “spiritual connection” he and Knight have for making a reggae album the “elders” would be proud of.

“Wi try bring back the real sound because if yuh check out most reggae coming outa Jamaica now it mix with hip hop or some other genre. Wi kinda lose respect for reggae so wi trying to get back dat feel,” Walsh told the Observer.

Though they have built a name for themselves on the Japan reggae scene, Walsh says pitching Transfusion in that country has not been easy.

“The Japanese market is not really functional right now. People there are into so many genres yuh have to push even harder to get their attention,” he said.

The two musicians first met in 1988 when their respective bands were contracted to play in Japan which at the time was reggae’s fastest growing market. After returning to Jamaica in 1994, Walsh and Knight formed a band that backed artists such as Dennis Brown, John Holt, the Mighty Diamonds, Pablo Moses and Garnet Silk on live shows.

But while they recorded with Japanese artists for Tokyo-based BK Productions, they never did any major projects together.

Reggae has produced a number of outstanding rhythm sections, beginning with Lloyd Knibb and Lloyd Brevett of The Skatalites in the early 1960s. The sibling team of Aston and Carlton Barrett drove the Wailers sound for many years while drummer Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis and Phillip Fullwood did the same for the Soul Syndicate.

In the 1970s, drummer Sly Dunbar and bass player Ranchie McLean made a formidable team at Channel One. That decade, Dunbar found another key partner in Robbie Shakespeare, a partnership which still stands.

In the late 1970s, bassist Errol ‘Flabba’ Holt and drummer Valentine ‘Style’ Scott’s patented beats made the Roots Radics an in-demand band.

While Black Blood have utilised social media to promote Transfusion, Walsh says he and Knight will depend mainly on the tried-and-proven route of touring to market the album. They are scheduled to start another round of shows in Japan by mid-October.

-Howard Campbell



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