John Masouri

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John Masouri is a journalist, reviewer, contributor and author for reggae music and several of its musical offshoots including dub, roots and dancehall. He was born in 1953 in Nottingham, England. According to The Caribbean American News, who conducted an interview with him that was published 5 March 2013, he was born to a working-class family. Between 1964-1969 he attended Carlton-Le-Willows Grammar School. His love of music flourished during this period and would encompass rock, blues, soul, folk and Blue Beat, which he discovered during visits to illicit house parties known as "blues" or "shubeens", in an area of Nottingham called the Meadows.

After leaving school, he worked in design studios as a paste-up artist and made freelance contributions to the local magazines Third Eye and Platform. In 1973 he moved to London and worked for two years at The Tate Gallery where he met artists like Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol - fleeting experiences that inspired him to renew his enthusiasm for fine art painting. After moving to Brighton in 1976 he worked in bookshops and art galleries whilst exhibiting his work - mainly large scale oil paintings, but also lino cuts and pen and ink drawings - in group and one man shows. His work also featured in multi media events co-hosted by the Jamaican poet James Berry, who became a close friend and mentor.

In the early eighties, he began DJing reggae music in Brighton clubs and house parties. This led to him becoming a presenter - again playing reggae music - on Radio Falmer, local pirate station Faze FM and community station Festival Radio, where his fellow presenters included Norman Cook and Carl Cox.

His work as a music journalist specialising in all forms of Reggae, from Ska to Bashment began in 1989 when he started writing for Echoes, a leading UK weekly black music newspaper formerly known as Black Echoes. In 2000 this publication became a monthly magazine, still called Echoes, for which he continues to write full-length features, singles and album reviews on the genre's most newsworthy artists and producers.[1][2] For the first eight years he worked in tandem with portrait photographer Tim Barrow on location in the UK and Jamaica. John Masouri's extensive list of interviewees from the past thirty years include Jimmy Cliff, Bunny Wailer, Gregory Isaacs, Toots and the Maytals, UB40, Burning Spear, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Sean Paul, Shaggy, Maxi Priest, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Chronixx, Vybz Kartel, Garnet Silk, Sizzla, Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Bounty Killer, Capleton, Prince Buster, Augustus Pablo, Alton Ellis and Beres Hammond, among many others.

He has written album liner notes and promotional material for record companies including Virgin, EMI, Island Records, BMG, Sony, Greensleeves, Jet Star, VP Records, Xterminator, Sanctuary, Trojan, Island Jamaica, Charly Records, Maximum Sound, Cherry Red and Pressure Sounds.

In 2011 he appeared as a talking head in the film The Story of Lovers Rock directed by Menelik Shabazz. Additionally he has contributed to several radio and television documentaries commissioned by the BBC (The Story Of Jamaican Music, and Blood And Fire), Channel 4, and the BBC World Service. In 2015 he was commissioned by VP Records to conduct interviews with leading Reggae artists and producers for two DVDs released as part of their Reggae Anthology series. The first was Gussie Clarke: From The Foundation released in 2015. The second, Bobby Digital: Xtra Wicked was released in 2018. Both these compilations included his extensive liner notes.

His articles on reggae have appeared in Mojo, Music Week, The Guardian, The Observer and NME, as well as magazines in the US (The Beat), Japan (RM) and Germany (Style Magazine). He remains a regular contributor to reggae publications in Germany (Riddim Magazine) and France (Reggae Vibes).

In 1994 he was a major contributor to The Guinness Who's Who of Reggae and a follow up volume, The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae (1998).

In 2008 he completed an in-depth, authorised biography of Bob Marley and the Wailers called Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley's Wailers for Omnibus Press.[3]

Work on it began in 1998 when he was approached by Aston "Family Man" Barrett to write an authorised biography of The Wailers, telling of the band's history and their time spent touring and recording with Bob Marley. He accompanied Family Man and The Wailers on tour throughout Europe and the US on numerous occasions over the following nine years. The resulting book was described by Marley authority Roger Steffens in US publication The Beat as 'a monumental achievement. Of the nearly two hundred Marley books out there, this may be the best ever, a fan's dream come true.' His next book, also for Omnibus Press, was the first ever biography of reggae star and former Wailer Peter Tosh called Steppin' Razor: The Life of Peter Tosh published in 2013. The trilogy was completed in 2015 with the publication of Simmer Down: The Early Wailers' Story which traces the history of the original vocal trio featuring Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer.

In 2008 he was presented with an award for outstanding services to UK Reggae at a ceremony held at the Brixton O2, London, featuring the Lovers Rock artists Sugar Minott and Errol Dunkley.

He has written the introduction to several books including the Japanese publication Jamaican Patois Dictionary by Yvonne Goldson 2014, the graphic novel Wake Up & Live! The Life of Bob Marley by Jim McCarthy & Benito Gallego (Omnibus Press 2017) and ECHO / Fuel For Fire by Jamaican poet Oku Onuora (Iroko Books 2018).

As a co-curator of the London Sound System Culture exhibition at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill, London during January 2016 he provided essential research and wrote all the accompanying text. Later that same month he was a guest speaker at the London Sound System Culture symposium held at Goldsmiths College, New Cross.

He has also been a guest speaker and panelist at numerous other events, including the Rototum Festival (in 2008, 2012 and 2017) and the Reggae Symposium of Film and Music held at Nottingham Broadway Arts Centre in 2015.

Publications[edit]

  • Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley's Wailers (2008), Omnibus Press, ISBN 978-1-84609-689-1
  • Steppin' Razor: The Life of Peter Tosh (2013), Omnibus Press, ISBN 978-1-84772-836-4
  • Simmer Down: The Early Wailers' Story (2015), Jook Joint Press, ISBN 978-0-9933759-0-3

References[edit]

  1. ^ New statesman society, Volume 5, Issues 222-233 (1993), p. 34
  2. ^ "Ear to da Streetz: Record producer Stewart Brown visits Archived 2011-08-12 at the Wayback Machine", Jamaica Gleaner, retrieved 2010-11-02
  3. ^ "'Oh, what a Rat Race!' - Wailers come to life in new book". Jamaica Gleaner. 20 May 2008. Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2010.