Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Drummie Zeb RIP

Aswad's Angus 'Drummie' Gaye RIP
Aswad's Angus 'Drummie' Gaye RIP Aswad's Angus 'Drummie' Gaye RIP Aswad's Angus 'Drummie' Gaye RIP Aswad's Angus 'Drummie' Gaye RIP

Drummie Zeb, lead vocalist of pioneering UK reggae icons Aswad, sadly passed away on the 2nd of September 2022, at the age of 62.

From a Facebook statement released by the band: “It is with deepest regret and profound loss that we have to announce the passing of our brother Angus ‘Drummie’ Gaye. Drummie has left us to join our ancestors and leaves a huge void both personally and professionally. On behalf of his family and Aswad - we ask that their privacy is respected at this heart-breaking time.”

Born on September 24, 1959, to Grenadian parents, Angus Gaye attended Holland Park school in London, which is where he met his bandmates. Formed in 1974, Reggae giants Aswad comprised of vocalist/drummer/producer Angus Gaye, vocalist/rhythm guitar/actor Brinsley Forde, George Oban on Bass, Courtney Hemmings on Keyboards and Donald Griffiths on Lead Guitar - on backing vocals were Bunny & Candy McKenzie and lover's rock star, Janet Kay. Following the departure of Hemmings in 1976, Tony ‘Gad’ Robinson (bass) joined the band. Griffiths and Oban departed in 1977 and the band became the trio of Gaye, Robinson and Forde.

Asward, which means ‘black’ in Arabic, was the first reggae act to be signed to Island Records and rose sharply to fame after the release of their debut single "Back To Africa" hit No.1 on the Reggae Chart in 1976. The band went on to garner 3 Grammy Award nominations and release 21 albums - the band’s last studio album was “City Lock” in 2009 - their brand of reggae, which often had r&b and soul influence, combined to make an impressive International catalogue of hits, including “Shine” (1984), “Give A Little Love” (1988) and also in 1988, penned Albert Hammond and Diane Warren UK Chart No.1, an exceptional version of “Don’t Turn Around”, which had been previously covered by Luther Ingram and Tina Turner.

Aswad also contributed to the Free Nelson Mandela campaign with their chart hit “Set Them Free” and performed Mandela's 70th birthday celebrations. An event that Drummie would later cite as a personal highlight of his career. Among other milestones, Aswad were the only British group to have recorded and/or performed in concert with artists; Stevie Wonder, Burning Spear, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Dawn Penn to name but few.

After 16 years 3 became 2 when founding band member Ashley Forde left the band in 1996 for “spiritual reasons" but Aswad stayed relevant and kept performing, spreading their infectious brand of reggae as they toured the world over until recently.

From the Twitter tributes which have poured in, here as just a few:

UB40's Ali Campbell: “Very sad to hear the passing of Aswad’s Drummie Zeb. We’ve lost another U.K Reggae pioneer”.

UB40’s Robin Campbell: "RIP DRUMMIE ZEB. So sad to hear of the passing of Angus 'Drummie Zeb' Gaye, founder member, legendary drummer and vocalist with Aswad. Condolences and deepest sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues”.

Vocalist Matt Hoy: RIP Drummie. Very sad news!! #Aswad

JLS's Ortsé Williams: Maaaan so sad to hear about the passing of the legend that is Drummie Zeb. Your energy and talent was a blessing to us all.? May you live forever through the power of music.

Imagination's Lee John: Special blessings to the brother Drummie from Aswad who passed today. Blessings to his family friends and loved ones a great talent leaving us some great music.

DJ MK: Angus from Aswad RIP. He was my old next door neighbour when I was a kid growing up in Neasden. I remember being 4 years old and he’d pull up blaring tunes from his car. The very 1st time I ever heard reggae music. RIP.

DJ/Radio presenter, Gary Crowley: "Thank you for the music Drummie & touching our lives - Thank you for the music sir. RIP"

Radio/TV presenter, Mark Lamar: "God bless Drummie Zeb"
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