Mikey Murka Interview (part 1)

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In the mid eighties, Tottenhama€™s Unity sound was at the top of their game. Only a handful of competitors could approach their status as one of Londona€™s most venerated sound systems. With a versatile and deep roster of deejays and singers, the set brought out crowds in droves. Mikey Murka was one of the many talented artists to earn his stripes with the legendary North London sound, performing at dances and parties around the city. Eventually Unitya€™s in-house production team of Ruddy and Red Eye decided to bring the young singer into the studio, yielding a handful of digital-era masterpieces like a€oeRide the Rhythma€A, a€oeWe Trya€A and a€oeControl the Dancehalla€A on the seta€™s Unity Sounds label. As the nineties dawned, Londona€™s sound systems quieted down as conditions and musical tastes turned away from their favor. Mikey Murka was one of many artists who left the spotlight during this period. Fortunatelya€"like many of his counterpartsa€"he is back on the scene and has a new album out on the Reality Shock label. I caught up with Mikey in Kinga€™s Cross, London a few months back and the following discussion ensued.

Tell me a little bit about how you first got your start in music.

Well you know its while I was growing up in Jamaica as a little youth going school. In my area in Jamaica we used to sing on a lot of sound systems and a lot of area dances used to keep in my areaa€"this is in Clarendon, this is in Jamaica, you know, and thata€™s where I grown up. Anyway from there thata€™s how it really started. And eventually coming to England in my teenager years, at first I went to Manchester, UK, and I was with a band called Fourth Generation. Now, Fourth Generation consist of Twelve Tribes members, you knowa€"at the time everybody was Rasta, I myself was Rasta I had locks on my shoulder. Man is still Rasta in the heart, but at the time where it was on the shoulders, now ita€™s just in the heart. But yea so thata€™s where it all started out still, you know, it started in Manchester in the early eightiesa€"I would say eighty-one, and I was singing with the band called Fourth Generation, and another group used to sing with the band called the Hearticals, you know, Rootsman, and many more to mention still.

So how did you end up getting involved with Unity sound in London?

Well, how I get involved with Unity sound now, just a couple of years later I came to London now, and thata€™s where I been ever since. So while I came to London I was first in a sound called JahRevalation sound, which is the Twelve Tribes sound of UK, London. And then I moved to East London and thata€™s where I met Unity sound.

Around what year was that?

I would say that was around 1983-84.

As far as your personal style were you influenced by what was going on in the UK or more by the Jamaican style that you grew up with?

To be honest bredrin ita€™s straight Jamaican, you know what I mean? My influence is strictly from Yard. At that time, a lotta people used to define the UK artists at that era, they used to like to compare with the UK artists of Jamaica. Because of that a lot of English UK artists was looked upon like, a€oh, just home-grown talenta€™. But you know, I myself and one and two other UK artists at that time was likea€"man would say a€yea Mikey Murkaa€™ or for example a€Tippa Irie is a UK artist but dem man deh sound proper Yard stylea€™. At the time thata€™s how it was, you know. There was a next artist, a man called Errol Bellot, Gideon Zinger, Richie Davis, you know, dem man deh did kinda sound authentic Yard style from long time still. So thata€™s where it start, you know?

So when you were here in England did you keep up with Jamaican sounds on cassette?

Yea, back in them days man we used to listen bare cassettes man have, you know? Of all the big sounds thema€"wicked Stur Gav with Charlie Chaplin, Josey Walesa€"whole heap of sounds man, so many sounds to mention, you know what I mean. Killamanjaro, Black Harmaony Hi Power, Jah Love, too many sounds to mention.

During your time with Unity who were the sounda€™s biggest rivals?

Wella€¦ yea, that is a wicked question man. [laughs] Back in those days Unity had many rivals. As you know back in them daysa€"to be honest the three talked about sounds in the eighties era in London, UK would be Unity, Saxon and Coxsone, so you know, the biggest rivals in a way were Saxon and Coxsone. But at the same time, because they were on the same levela€"near enougha€"there was still a lot of respect. But then there was a lot of other sounds that are not in the same rank who would try to test, you know? [laughs]. Test the veteran sound Unity.

How did you make the transition from singing on a sound to recording and putting out records?

Well, at the time there was so many artists singing live in the dances, cause the dances was the place where it was at, you know what Ia€™m saying. It was an art at the time and there was nuff sound clashesa€"sounds clashing another sound, artists dropping words on another sound and deejays vice-versa. Most of the artists in that timea€"myself like other artists were getting so hot in the dancehall. The girls and the fans, you know, were starting to saya€"the dancehall was getting so hot that there was no other option than people like Ribs, and Fathead from Saxon and certain man, you know, Blacka Dread from Coxsone, have to say a€you know what these artists we have to put them in the studio.a€™ And thata€™s where my first voicing came along. My first voicing came alonga€"a guy called Ruddy Rankin from Unity, he had Ruddy and Red Eye, and Ruddy Rankin had brought me to Unity, you know, and hea€™s the first one who brought me to voice for Unity.

:::::Part 2 Coming Soon:::::text by: Tristram Keefe
photo courtesy of Mikey Murka

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Posted: September 5th, 2008
at 9:06am by Black Ock


Categories: music

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