Sly on tour with Peter Tosh, 1979
|Birth name||Lowell Fillmore Dunbar|
10 May 1952 |
|Associated acts||Sly and Robbie|
Dunbar began playing at 15 in a band called The Yardbrooms. His first appearance on a recording was on the Dave and Ansell Collins album Double Barrel. Dunbar joined a band Ansell Collins called Skin, Flesh and Bones.
In 1972 he met and became friends with Robbie Shakespeare, who was then bass guitarist for the Hippy Boys. Shakespeare recommended Dunbar to Bunny Lee as a possible session drummer for the Aggrovators. Dunbar and Shakespeare decided to continue performing together. They worked with Peter Tosh and his band until 1979, recording five albums.
Dunbar noted about the Mighty Diamonds' song "Right Time": "When that tune first come out, because of that double tap on the rim nobody believe it was me on the drums, they thought it was some sort of sound effect we was using. Then when it go to number 1 and stay there, everybody started trying for that style and it soon become established." According to The Independent, the entire album Right Time was "revolutionary", the breakthrough album of "masters of groove and propulsion" Dunbar and Shakespeare, with "Sly's radical drumming matching the singers' insurrectionary lyrics blow-for-blow."
Dunbar and Shakespeare formed their Taxi Records label in 1980. It has seen releases from many international successful artists, including Black Uhuru, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Ini Kamoze, Beenie Man and Red Dragon.
Dunbar plays drums on several noteworthy tracks produced by Lee Perry including "Night Doctor", Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves", and Bob Marley's "Punky Reggae Party" 12" track (although the track was produced by Perry, Dunbar's drum track was actually recorded at Joe Gibbs Duhaney Park studio).
Sly and Robbie also played on Bob Dylan's albums Infidels and Empire Burlesque (using recordings from the Infidels sessions). Other sessions include their appearance on three Grace Jones albums, and work with Herbie Hancock, Joe Cocker, Serge Gainsbourg and the Rolling Stones.
In 2008 Sly Dunbar collaborated with Larry McDonald, the Jamaican percussionist, on his long awaited debut album Drumquestra for Executive Producer Malik Al Nasir and his "MCPR Music" label in Dubai. The album featured Toots Hibbert, Bongo Herman, Steel Pulse producer Sidney Mills Sticky Thompson from the Wailers and Dollarman from The Easy Star All-Stars. Sly Dunbar performed in an orchestra of drummers; conceived by Executive Producer Malik Al Nasir and Larry McDonald, which Larry described as a "drumquestra". The album was recorded live in the Harry J Studio in Kingston Jamaica and mixed at Wyclef Jean's Platinum Sound Recording Studios in New York, by Serge Tsai.
In 1979, Brian Eno remarked of Sly Dunbar: " (...) So when you buy a reggae record, there's a 90 percent chance the drummer is Sly Dunbar. You get the impression that Sly Dunbar is chained to a studio seat somewhere in Jamaica, but in fact what happens is that his drum tracks are so interesting, they get used again and again."
- "Biography by Craig Harris". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
- Bradley, Lloyd (2001). This is Reggae Music: The Story of Jamaica's Music. Grove Press. p. 479. ISBN 0-8021-3828-4.
- Murray, Charles Shaar (12 March 1999). "The rhythm kings Drum and bass are at the heart of popular music and for 20 years Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have been acknowledged the best. But who are their own favourites?". The Independent. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
- "The Usual Suspects Part III: Sly Dunbar interviewed by Dermot Hussey". Retrieved 31 January 2014.
- Coleman, Nick (31 May 2009). "Album: Larry McDonald, Drumquestra (MCPR)". The Independent (London).
- "Platinum Sound Recording Studios". Platinumsoundny.com. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
- Paul Tingen. "Secrets of the Mix Engineers: Serge Tsai". Soundonsound.com. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
- "Downbeat – PRO SESSION – The Studio As Compositional Tool". Music.hyperreal.org. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
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