Pama International with Sean Flowerdew
Pama International are a dub collective combining 60s soul, 70s Reggae and 21st Century commentary, fronted by longtime musical cohorts Sean Flowerdew, Finny and Lynval Golding, of Specials fame.
Pama International are a who’s who of British music, former members of The Specials, Galliano, The Lee Perry Band, Pop Will Eat Itself, Steel Pulse, Style Council, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Madness and The Selecter have come together to make six critically acclaimed albums to date.
Sean Flowerdew took time out from his busy schedule to chat about Pama International’s new album, UK Tour, and UK reggae/ska music in general.
Your new album have just been released ‘Pama Outernational’ what can we expect from this?
It’s a continuation from last years ‘Love Filled Dub Band’ album, but with a heavier vibe, more dub excursions and hopefully more interesting songs. And more soul… 60’s soul meets 70’s reggae. Stax, King Tubby & Lee Perry Black Ark influences all feature, as well as Al Green, Johnny Cash & Jimmy Radway influences. It features Lynval and Horace from The Specials and is co-produced by myself and John Collins (the man who did Ghost Town). We definitely pull on the classic sounds of yesteryear, but I try and make the songs relevant today through the lyrics. People have got to be able to relate to the songs, otherwise we’d just be in the revivalist business.
You have a UK tour starting the end of October to support your latest album; you must be excited to be hitting the road again?
Yes, we started in Poole back on the 23rd October and did a couple of our own shows. Mid October we got invited to join The Specials on their UK tour, which was an opportunity we couldn’t miss. Unfortunately we’ve had to postpone some dates on our own UK tour. Some are still going ahead though. We’ve just got back from our first trip to Dublin and Belfast which were both fantastic. Hope to make it back there in the not to distant future. The Specials have been amazing. I love playing live, but don’t enjoy touring as much as I used to. I guess that’s what comes with having a family at home. I’m toying with the idea of doing a series of residency’s next year in some key cities.
With an ensemble cast of a who’s who of British music, how did the current band come together?
We’ve recently had a bit of a line up change. Pama Intl has always had a collective vibe, with Finny (lead singer, who I’ve worked with since the 80s), Lynval (Specials) and I being the mainstays. I’m delighted with the current line up. The rhythm section is blistering at times. We’ve downsized to a 5 piece (sometime 6 when Lynval can join us). Dredy on drums (African Headcharge, Gregory Isaacs), Lenny Bignell on guitar (from Acid Jazz soul-troupe Lord Large), Andi Mclean on bass (worked with Frankie Paul, U Roy…). I’m hoping to keep this line up together for sometime.
Reggae and dub are two sounds that predominantly take center stage in your music. What are your top five reggae/dub albums of all-time?
Currently I’d say…
Jimmy Radway & The Fe Me Time All-stars
Joe Higgs – Life Of Contradictions
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Catch A Fire
Black Uhuru – Red
Burning Spear – either one of his first two albums
As someone who has been involved in UK reggae/ska music for 20 years now, in your opinion, how has the music progressed and who should we be on the lookout for in the future?
I’m not sure it has progressed. It’d be nice to think it has. Maybe evolved is a better word for it. Personally, I’m a huge fan of reggae and ska from the 60s and 70s and I find very little today that matches it. I loved 2 Tone as well, but again I’m not sure there’s anyone about today producing music to that standard. But that’s my own personal taste in music and there’s probably loads I’m missing. I get very wrapped up in my own Pama Intl world.
People wanting to check out what’s going on in the ska world today should check out my brothers label and fanzine Do The Dog. The zine comes out every month or so and has an incredible round up of what’s going on around the world on the ska scene. He also puts out alot of upcoming ska bands on his label… one’s to watch there include Jimmy The Squirrel and Rebelation. There seems to be a lot of new bands coming through with something to say, more politically minded, which is extremely refreshing to hear. There seems to be loads going on in Scotland skawise… pick of the bunch for me there would be The Amphetameanies and Bombskare.
Reggae wise… I hear the new Burning Spear album the other day and he sounded as good as ever on it. Lovely vibe to the songs and not as clean sounding as a lot of reggae today. I’d love to do a track with him.
You released an anti-knife campaign album called Pama Intl-Highrise Campaign. How did this come about and what was the inspiration behind the album?
We did a track with Michie One on the ‘Love Filled Dub Band’ album called Highrise, which lyrically addressed the gun and knife issue, particularly facing our kids. It started to get a bit of airplay and press attention, and it occurred to me maybe we could do something good with it. So I approached various people to see if they’d do versions and put out an album of all the tracks, that we could use to raise profile and funds for a couple of charities that deal with the problems facing kids on a daily basis. Billy Bragg, Dennis Alcapone, Michie One, Jimmy Screech, Mungos Hi Fi, Groove Corp and Lynval all got involved. It picked up some great airplay but although being promised coverage for it from press, very few actually featured it at all. I was hoping some of the tabloids and broadsheets would give it some editorial, but the only one to do so was The Sun. It hasn’t been as successful as I would of liked, but we’ll keep pushing it. There’s some great tracks on there. The version featuring Billy Bragg is one of the best tracks we’ve done I think. And it’s a vital message behind the whole thing.
The list of artists that you have shared a stage with is most impressive, Jimmy Cliff, Prince Buster, Lee Perry, The Skatalites, Toots & The Maytals and & Easy Star All-stars to name but a few. You must have some great memories of these shows?
It was fantastic meeting Prince Buster. I’d met him briefly in the 90s. Toots, we supported at Koko in London. He was superb. What a legend. I’d say Toots and Rico Rodriguez were the two best of the older artists we’ve supported. We did a gig with Rico at Islington Academy, maybe around 2004, and he put a brilliant band together for it. We did a gig a week later with The Skatalites at the same venue, but Rico literally blew them away. Supporting The Specials has been amazing. They never fail to impress me. Madness as well. We’ve supported them on three occassions now. Mick Jones was very cool when we supported Carbon Silicon. I’m very proud of who we’ve got to support, but even prouder of who we’ve actually collaborated on record with; Lynval & Horace (The Specials), Lee (Madness), Billy Bragg, Dennis Alcapone, Derrick Morgan, Rico, Dawn Penn, Winston Francis, AJ Franklin, Michie One, Jimmy Screech, Dave & Ansel Collins,. Burning Spear and Marcia Griffiths are top of my wish list for the next collaborations.
With six albums to date, what does the future hold for Pama International?
2010 we’ll be promoting Pama Outernational. There’ll be a string of dates in Feb & March. I think a couple with the Dub Pistols, which should make for a great bill. I’m talking to Mad Professor about doing a dub album of Outernational. Mad Professor meets Pama Intl style thing and then take it out on the road, with him mixing us live. It’ll be a great coup if we can get that to work. Festivals have already started booking us, so it’s going to be a very busy year.
Other then that, I’m continually writing so I’ve already started work on the next album.
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