Tapper Zukie was born David Sinclair in 1956 and was raised in the infamous Trench Town and Greenwich Farm neighbourhoods of West Kingston. His mother and father were typically disadvantaged ghetto people - In a remarkably frank interview for the book 'Solid Foundation' Tapper recently told the writer Dave Katz; 'my parents, pressure reach them and they didn't have any time to think about we'. out of parental control he was living on the street from the age of 12 and became feared as a hot-tempered youth and tenacious little fighter. It is also no secret that as a teenager he was sucked in to the political violence that then plagued the poorest parts of Kingston. Respected UK soundman Ken 'Fatman' Gordon was a close friend of his older brother Roderick ('Blackbeard') Sinclair and remembers young Tapper as; 'not really such a bad youth at heart - him more like a lion in the jungle doing what he have to do to survive'. Recently this same view of ghetto morality has been forcefully echoed in the film 'Cry Of God' (a harsh portrayal of life in the slums of Rio) and lyrically by dancehall deejay Bounty Killer on his chillingly blunt 45s 'Look' and 'Anytime'. It was music that provided Tapper with a means to escape from a negative and quite possibly short life of badness and political violence. In the yards of West Kingston he had grown up with music was all around him (his elder brother 'Blackbeard' already had his own sound system) and like many ghetto youths Tapper was drawn towards the exciting new sound of deejay music. with a voice barely broken and inspired by foundation toasters such as U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone, he became one of the first  boy-deejays toasting on ghetto sounds such as Maccabees and I-Oses Hi-Fi.

In 1973 Tapper's mother, aided by 'Blackbeard' and his friend Bunny Lee, arranged to send the troubled youth for a prolonged stay in England in the hope that this would be far enough away from the bad influences that surrounded his life in Kingston.

During this visit that Tapper got the opportunity to make his first recordings following successful appearances at shows Bunny Lee had sponsored in London. Lee (Reggae's original Mr. Fix-It) arranged sessions with South London entrepreneur Larry Lawrence and UK producer Clement Bushay. Although he recorded just one 45, the unremarkable 'Jump & Twist', for Lawrence's Ethic Fight imprint. Tapper cut a whole album's worth of strong material for Bushay. Later that year the set was released as an LP on Count Shelley's Third World Records under the provocative title of 'Man A Warrior'.

Although sales of the album were slow the record had a raw energy that captured both the deejay's volatile personality and the disaffected mood of black youth at the time. The LP gradually achieved cult status among hard core roots fans, and although much is written about the later 'after the event' championing of the record by American 'New Wave' singer Patti Smith it was originally the relentless promotion of Tapper's talents by UK Reggae writer Penny Reel that ensured 'Man A Warrior' eventually reached it's wider audience.

Zukie returned to JA in late '74 and began working for Bunny Lee as a bodyguard/enforcer. Aside from physically protecting his boss the job entailed ensuring that the artists were cooperative and that debts from shops and distributors were settled on time. At the time Lee's empire needed a little extra muscle. With his flying cymbal rhythms running things in both Jamaica and the UK Bunny found himself in the position of currently being Jamaica's most prolific and successful producer.

By now Tapper viewed music as a definite career choice, but his employer seemed reluctant to record him so it was another of Lee's associates, Lloydie Slim, who record the young deejay's debut Jamaican single, 'Judge I Oh Lord' early in 1975. This record saw a seemingly reformed Tapper devoutly chanting a message of peace and love over Ronnie Davis' haunting 'Jah Jah Jahovia', a vocal piece on Bunny Lee's excellent early '70s cut of the Soul Vendor's 'Drum Song'. The record sold well enough to warrant release in the UK on the Birmingham based Locks imprint becoming something of an underground hit.

Bunny eventually recorded Tapper on a few of sides but his indifference to the young deejay caused a mood of simmering resentment. This boiled over into a full blown violent quarrel regarding Lee's release of one of the songs, 'Natty Dread Don't Cry', abroad. The ferocity of Tapper's clash with his boss warranted the intervention of the police. The pair soon after patched up their difference with Lee giving him the use of several of his rhythms as part of the settlement and to this day Tapper still regards the producer as having been like a father to him. There followed three JA 45s recorded in collaboration with cults roots producer Vivian (Yabby You) Jackson, 'Jah Youths', 'Don't Get Crazy' and 'Natty Dread On The Mountain Top' (using the awesome 'Jah Vengence' rhythm).

These releases hit the vibrant UK pre-release market in the winter of 75-76 and greatly added to the growing underground interest in Tapper as a name to watch.

It is quite difficult from a distance of nearly three decades to effectively explain how truly exciting these mid-70s deejay records first sounded when heard full blast during ritual Friday evening record buying sessions at small specialist shops like Ital Records in Tottenham. These eagerly anticipated and highly coveted records with their combination of intense semi-spiritual chanting over crashing dub mixes (usually courtesy of King Tubby's studio) hardly seemed to have been made on the same planet that was then grooving to the sounds of Barry White, status Quo and 10cc. From the perspective of a Reggae fan living in London this new wave of flamboyantly named deejays spearheaded by the likes of Dr. Alimantado, Prince Jazzbo, Dillinger and Tapper Zukie seemed to provide a direct artery into Jamaican roots culture. It was said at the time that in order to find out what was really going on in Jamaica you would need to listen to what the deejays were saying, particularly when records such as 'Poison Flour' dealt directly with current evens in the downtown community of Kingston.

Against this background of unprecedented interest in deejay music Tapper set about producing records for his own Stars label - initially using rhythms he had procured from Bunny Lee, Vivian Jackson and Channel One's Joseph Hoo-Kim. As if in homage to his bad boy past he credited the version sides 'Musical Intimidator'.

From these sessions came his first real hits, 'MPLA' and 'Pick Up The Rockers', using the rhythms to The Revolutionaries' Channel One cuts of 'Freedom Blues' and 'Pick Up The Pieces' respectively. In the UK these two tracks were licensed to the short-lived Klik label where they became strong sellers during the long hot summer of 1976. Klik followed the success of these singles with a best selling LP of strong self-produced material entitled 'MPLA'.

But of more long term significant was the ease with which Tapper Zukie had slipped into the role of producer and that same year saw him begin working with Greenwich Farm roots singers Prince Allah and Junior ross & The Spear (who in other guises also recorded as The Palmer Brothers and Soft & The Nazarenes). The undoubted excellence of tunes like 'Bosrah' (Prince Allah), 'Babylon Fall', 'Hold Them Prophecy' & 'So Jah Jah Say' (Junior Ross) along with later work such as Allah's exceptional 'Heaven Is My Roof' album have lead to the argument that Tapper's talent as a producer far outweighed his importance as a deejay.

Tapper returned to the UK early in 1977 as a name brand deejay. In London the punk rock phenomenon was in full swing and the movement's key players, The Clash and John Lydon (I remember my jaw dropping in amazement when he played Alimantado's 'Born For A Purpose' on Capitol Radio early that summer), cited the rebel stance of reggae as a major influence. The consequence of this more open minded attitude was that roots reggae suddenly found a new white suburban audience (it should be remembered that punk was after all a very much a suburban middle class affair - working class youth cults are always about aspiration - punk was not!) among the more discerning of mainstream record buyers with the result that LP's such as Culture's much hyped 'Two Sevens Clash' even appeared in the lower reaches of the album charts.

Tapper was another artist to directly benefit from all this unexpected attention. His cult 1973 LP 'Man A Warrior' had found favour with arty New York rocker Patti Smith who told the then all powerful music press how the album had been a major source of inspiration to her. 'Man A Warrior' was later re-issued on Smith's Mer label, and the new wave heroine even contributed some embarrassingly pretentious sleeve notes to 'Man From Bosrah', the deejay's follow-up LP to 'MPLA'. These 'notes' reproduced in this booklet and will no doubt raise a laugh from die hard reggae fans.

Although Tapper's own deejay work found much mainstream success his inspirational productions of Junior Ross and Prince Allah remained popular only in the domain of the roots reggae market. Tapper told me about these recordings and the surprise of his own fame during an interview for Blues & Soul early in 1977; 'The first record I made with Junior Ross & The Spear was 'African Border' then 'Babylon Fall' - as well as 'Black Princess' (released in JA as 'Dreadlocks In Love') by Lynford Nugent and 'Bosrah' by Ras (Prince) Allah. But just as I was about to make a second record I left to come up to England. I came up originally only to push Junior Ross & The Spear but it turned out the people accepted me more'. During this interview (Blues & Soul issue 219) Tapper also expressed his desire to use his success to help the less fortunate youths back home. A few months later and as many thousand miles away I encountered Tapper outside Randy's Record Store on North Parade - he enthusiastically told me about a new youth project he had recently set up and arranged to take me down to Lower First Street, Trench Town. Here among the run down tenement yards he had organised a communal space where local youths could gather to make music or even grow food in the carefully tended vegetable garden. At the project's nucleus was a group of youths known as Knowledge for whom he hoped to secure an international recording deal. (Tapper eventually signed a deal for Knowledge with A&M Records but the sound proved to rootsy for the label to successfully market and the group were dropped after their debut album, 'Word, Sound & Power').

Here in Trench Town and on his home turf I got a glimpse of the deejay's other role as a charismatic and respected leader in his community - I always hoped that this was captured in the confident way Tapper posed for the photograph (used for the cover of this collection) that I took this morning.

Soon after in the summer of 1977 Tapper signed to Virgin Records but after two albums ('Peace In The Ghetto' & 'Tapper Roots') acrimoniously split from the label - allegedly over the company's plans to sell his records in South Africa. 1978 saw some of Tapper's most accomplished production work to date with the release of Prince Allah's 'Heaven Is My Roof' album. The set included the wonderfully melancholy title track and other equally strong material like 'Daniel' and 'Gold Diver' and now is rightly regarded as one of the seminal roots records of the era.

Many artists floundered after their all too brief careers on Virgin, but Tapper proved that there was life after the Front Line label and he continued to enjoy huge hits that year with the risqué 'She Want A Phensic' and 'Oh Lord'. These tracks are delivered in a lighter more humourous style which in retrospect seems to have cleverly anticipated the dancehall boom of the late '70s early '80s.

His next big release 'Natty dread A Weh She Want' was even more of a dancehall vibe. It was a 12" discomix collaboration with Horace Andy that used a super re-working of the perennial Studio One 'Hurting Me' rhythm and is one of those rare records that defies the era in which it was made. The song gave Tapper his biggest hit to date and seemed to top the Black Echoes charts for weeks on end.

Of all the 70s deejays, it seemed that Tapper, with his gift for production, would be the most able to successfully continue his career into the dancehall era - but the 80s saw him slow down with recording as he concentrated more on his role as a community leader - yet despite easing off on the music scene he had another hit in 1982 with the sing-jay style tale of ghetto runnings, 'Raggy Joey Boy'.

He remained quiet for the rest of the decade but returned to production in a spectacular fashion during the early 90s. Showing that none of his studio skills had diminished he adapted effortlessly to working with digital rhythms and enjoyed huge hits with artists such as Dennis Brown and Beres Hammond.

For almost a decade there has been little sign of any new musical activity from Tapper's HQ on East Avenue -  but I for one am in no doubt that when he's good and ready the Musical Intimidator will return to rock the dancehalls yet again.


Man a Warrior
Message to Pork Eaters (AKA Jah Man a Come)
Judge I Oh Lord
Pontius Pilate
Jah Is I Guiding Light (AKA Musical Treasure)
No Natty No Cry (AKA Natty Dread Don't Cry)
Ten Against One
Ballistic Dread
Natty Still Waiting
Born to Be Black (12" Mix)
Chapter a Day
Peace and Love
Make Faith (12" Mix)
What's Yours (12" Mix)
New Star
Living in the Ghetto
Liberation Struggle
Natty Princess
Get Ready
Fire Bun
The Other Half
Ragga Muffet (10" Mix)
Enoch Powell
My God Is Real
Man from Bosrah
Natty Dread a Weh She Want (12" Mix)
Raggy Joey Boy (10" Mix)

All material © Trojan Records