Nowadays largely remembered for being home to Dennis Bovell’s first musical adventures, Matumbi should nevertheless be considered in their own right as a leading voice in the UK’s 70s reggae scene.
Formed in south London in 1972 by Tex Dixon (vocals), the latter assembled a nucleus that comprised Euton Jones (drums), Errol Pottinger (guitar), Eaton ‘Jah’ Blake (bass), Bevin Fagan and Nicholas Bailey (vocals), alongside the aforementioned Bovell (guitar). They took their name from the African word for ‘rebirth’, and in the customary manner of early UK reggae bands, first found employment backing visiting Jamaican musicians. After signing to Trojan Records, early singles included ‘Brother Louie’ and ‘Wipe Them Out’, but it was the subsequent singles, ‘After Tonight’ and ‘Man In Me’, that brought them major commercial recognition. The latter was the biggest-selling UK reggae single of 1976. However, success almost immediately brought internal friction, exacerbated by Trojan’s attitude. They were concerned over individual members’ involvement in outside projects, rather than concentrating solely on establishing the band as a top name. An injunction was finally served, with the result that Bailey and Dixon quit, the former, who went on to solo ‘pop’ successes with Nick Straker, being replaced by Webster Johnson (keyboards). Pottinger had already been replaced by Glaister Fagan, while Jah ‘Bunny’ Donaldson joined in 1976 in place of Euton Jones. The remaining members moved on to a contract with EMI Records subsidiary Harvest Records, bolstering their profile by joining Ian Dury And The Blockheads on tour. Seven Seals was an effective long-playing debut, but it was the follow-up, Point Of View, that garnered most plaudits. The title track, a mix of reggae, soul and Glenn Miller, reached the Top 40, and for a time it seemed Matumbi might occupy the commercial high ground to which many UK reggae bands had aspired. It was not to be, however; a further album followed but popular taste had bypassed Matumbi, and the members resumed their solo projects. Donaldson joined the Cimarons, and Fagan and Blake came to be known as the Squad, experiencing some chart success as such. Bovell pursued his own idiosyncratic vision, working both inside and outside of the reggae medium.