Dennis Bovell

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Dennis Bovell
Dennis Bovell performing live on Druga godba festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 28 May 2015
Dennis Bovell performing live on Druga godba festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 28 May 2015
Background information
Also known asBlackbeard
Born (1953-05-22) 22 May 1953 (age 68)
Saint Peter, Barbados, West Indies
GenresDub, lovers rock, reggae, post-punk
Occupation(s)Musician, record producer
InstrumentsBass, guitar
Years active1968–present
LabelsLKJ Records
Associated actsLinton Kwesi Johnson
Janet Kay
Bobby Kray
The 4th Street Orchestra
Bovell (left) playing with Matumbi, Cardiff, 1978

Dennis Bovell MBE (born 22 May 1953[1]) is a Barbados-born reggae guitarist, bass player and record producer, based in England. He was a member of the British reggae band Matumbi,[2] and released dub-reggae records under his own name as well as the pseudonym Blackbeard.[3] He is most widely known for his decades-spanning collaborations with Linton Kwesi Johnson.[2]


Born in Saint Peter, Barbados, in 1953,[1] Bovell moved to South London and became immersed in Jamaican culture,[when?] particularly dub music, setting up his own Jah Sufferer sound system.[4] Running the sound system brought trouble from the police and Bovell was imprisoned for six months on remand, but was later released on appeal.[4] Bovell was friends at school with future rock musicians including keyboardist Nick Straker and record producer Tony Mansfield, both of whom later worked with Bovell.[4] He formed Matumbi in the mid-1970s.[1]

Bovell also worked as an engineer at Dip Records, the precursor to the Lovers Rock label, and he was a key figure in the early days of the lovers rock genre. He is also known for attempting to fuse disco rhythms with reggae, most notably with the hit song "Silly Games" by Janet Kay. According to Bovell, he wrote "Silly Games" with the sole intent of it being a hit song.[5]

He has produced albums by a wide variety of artists including I-Roy, The Thompson Twins, Sharon Shannon, Alpha Blondy, Bananarama, The Pop Group, Fela Kuti,[6] The Slits,[7] Orange Juice and Madness. He has collaborated with poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson for much of his working life.[2]

Bovell also co-wrote and co-produced the majority of material by British reggae singer Bobby Kray.[8]

In 1980, he wrote the score for Franco Rosso's film Babylon. Bovell has also written music for the 1983 television drama The Boy Who Won the Pools and Global Revolution (2006).[9]

In the BBC's Reggae Britannia, Bovell related a tale of strange goings on in the leafy London suburb of Barnes, where the John Hassell Recordings studio was based in a residential house, in a quiet street at 21 Nassau Road. John Hassell, aided by his wife Felicity, cut reggae dubplates with such finesse and understanding that the studio's output was to feed sound systems throughout the UK.

In 2012, Bovell produced the album Mek It Run.[10]

In 2013 he collaborated with dub producer / musician Gaudi, playing bass on his track "I Start To Pray" featuring Lee "Scratch" Perry and The Orb, included on Gaudi album In Between Times Six Degrees Records.

In Steve McQueen's 2020 film Lovers Rock, the second in his five-part anthology series Small Axe, Bovell has a cameo role and his song "Silly Games" is prominently featured.[11]

Bovell was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2021 Birthday Honours for services to music.[12]


  • Strictly Dub Wize (1978), Tempus – as Blackbeard
  • I Wah Dub (1980), More Cut/EMI – as Blackbeard
  • Dub Conference (Winston Edwards & Blackbeard at 10 Downing Street) (1980), Studio 16 – with Winston Edwards
  • Brain Damage (1981), Fontana
  • Audio Active (1986), Moving Target – as Dennis Bovell and the Dub Band
  • Dub Dem Silly (1993), Arawak
  • Tactics (1994), LKJ
  • Dub of Ages (2003), LKJ
  • All Over the World (2006)
  • Dub Dem Silly Volume 2 (2006), Arawak – Dennis Bovell featuring Janet Kay
  • Corean Jamaican Connection, Powerslave – Yoonkee meets Dennis Bovell
  • Dub Outside (2011), Double Six – Steve Mason & Dennis Bovell
  • Mek It Run (2012), Pressure Sounds[10]
  • Dub 4 Daze (2015), Glitterbeat Records


  • Decibel: More Cuts and Dubs 1976–1983 (2003), Pressure Sounds
  • Dub Master (1993), Jamaican Gold
  • Vibrativa – Mas Que Mirar (2010), Sonofotron Records



  1. ^ a b c Huey, Steve, "Dennis Bovell Biography", Allmusic. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Veal, Michael E. (2007). Dub. Wesleyan University Press. pp. 231–233. ISBN 978-0-8195-6572-3. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  3. ^ Thompson, Dave (2002), "Reggae & Caribbean Music", Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-655-6.
  4. ^ a b c Larkin, Colin (1998), The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae, Virgin Books, ISBN 0-7535-0242-9, pp. 35–36.
  5. ^ "Dennis Bovell: UK Reggae, Lovers Rock, and the Power of Linton Kwesi Johnson". Afropop Worldwide. 2013. Archived from the original on 19 March 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014. To this day, that song is still on the radio constantly. But that song, it was constructed to be a hit.
  6. ^ Cumming, Tim (30 March 2006). "Dennis Bovell: The dub master". The Independent. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Dennis Bovell and the Dub Band". Barbican. Archived from the original on 27 May 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  8. ^ Lester, Paul (13 June 2007). "No 122: Bobby Kray". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 6 May 2009.
  9. ^ "Dennis Bovell (I)". Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  10. ^ a b Jeffries, David (17 July 2012). "Mek It Run – Dennis Bovell: Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  11. ^ Bakare, Lanre (23 November 2020). "Could Steve McQueen start a lovers rock revival with Small Axe?". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "No. 63377". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2021. p. B16.

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