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Joseph Hill and CULTURE


When I sat with Joseph Hill at the reception the night before the RSMA show and then snapped a couple of pictures the night of the awards, I never thought it would be the last time I would get to see Joseph. 

On August 19, 2006, the Reggae world lost one of its most outstanding voices and torch carriers for "conscious" Reggae Music.  The leader of the veteran reggae group, Culture, Joseph Hill unexpectedly passed away from a sudden illness while the group was in Berlin, Germany at the mid-point of a European tour.

Recently, Hill had received a number of honors - including an induction into the Jamaican Reggae Walk of Fame and a 2005 Independence Award presented by the Prime Minister of Jamaica. This year the group continued to draw rave reviews with typically upbeat performances at the 'Bob Marley 61st Birthday Celebration' in Ghana and 'Reggae Sunsplash 2006'.  This year also saw him get another major award - a "Living Legend" Award at the 13th Annual Reggae Soca Music Awards on Saturday, May 27, 2006.  There are only a handful of people in Reggae Music's Living Legend class and Joseph Hill was certainly one of them. 

SEE RSMA Report for more...

Formed in the rich tradition harmony trios in 1976, Culture quickly became a part the vibrant, politically charged Jamaican reggae scene of the day. Originally known as the African Disciples, the lineup consisted of Joseph Hill, Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes.  Hill was the only member of the trio who had prior studio experience - having worked at Coxone Dodd's legendary Studio One as a percussionist with the Soul Defenders group in the early 1970's. It was also at Studio One that Hill first recorded as a vocalist.

Shortly after Culture came together, they began working with the 'Mighty Two' _ producer Joe Gibbs and engineer Errol Thompson. While at Gibbs' studio they recordĀ­ed their successful debut album 'Two Sevens Clash'. This initial release was hugely popular in both Jamaica and England. The lyrics demonstrated Hill's keen awareness of the connection between Jamaica's history and it current social climate.

After their success with Gibbs, the group went on to make a string of albums for producer Sonia Pottinger. Culture began working with some of the premier musicians of the day including Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar, Ansel Collins, Cedric Brooks and the ever present percussionist Sticky. Virgin Records picked up the albums, and that enabled Culture to gain an even larger following outside of Jamaica.

In 1982 the three singers went their own ways. Joseph Hill carried on using the Culture name but in 1986 the original line-up reformed to record two highly regarded albums - 'Culture in Culture' and 'Culture at Work'.

In 1993 Kenneth Dayes left the group and was temporarily replaced by the singer from Dub Mystic _ who was their backing band at the time. With Dub Mystic, Culture reached new heights that included the release of two popular studio albums, 'One Stone' and Trust Me' and a live album 'Cultural Livity'.

While Culture has been around for 27 years, Joseph Hill and friends had showed no signs of slowing down. Hill had lost none of his striking stage presence and fiery energy over the years .. The group had sustained their lengthy career by being both true to their cultural roots, and at the same time able to incorporate new sounds and ideas into their mix. To their credit the group never was content to be a mere oldies act. Culture has proved to be one of the few acts in Reggae that can always be relied on - both on record and on stage. As Reggae music goes, a Culture concert was always both a tribute to the past and a glimpse of the future ... Not to mention a whole lot of fun!

Joseph Hill and Carlene Davis backstage at the RSMA


Culture: Two Sevens Clash (Original Cover)



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