Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah
|Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah
Photo: Kishi Yamamoto
Arriving in Britain in the late 1960s from Ghana, Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah (aka Bonjo I, aka Bonjo), On-U's percussion-meister in waiting, first entered the UK music business as a roadie for Dandy Livingstone and his band, only stepping into the limelight for the first time when the band's conga player failed to turn up for a gig.
Following a spell working with Clem Curtis' Foundations, Bonjo's re-encountered the reggae music of his youth via Charlie "Eskimo" Fox, who in the mid 1970s was a member of both the reggae fusion outfit Freedom Fighter and UK/JA union that was Creation Rebel, the latter of course being the part brainchild of a very youthful Adrian Sherwood, then taking his first steps as an engineer and producer. Bonjo was soon recruited into Creation Rebel and naturally thereafter was drawn into the wider world of Sherwood's On-U Sound from 1980 onwards, providing the perfect platform for his own creative development (if not always financial reward in the struggling early days of the label).
Freed from the constraints of conventional recording imprints and contracts, the free-form, anything goes nature of early On-U saw Bonjo write, record and collaborate under his own, now synonymous, African Head Charge (AHC) name, but also contribute to many of On-U's other projects, such as by Bim Sherman, Dub Syndicate, Mark Stewart, Gary Clail, the New Age Steppers, Annie Anxiety, Playgroup, and the Singers And Players. He also played his part of many On-U live shows, where Sherwood took many of his current "massed bands" on the road, lining them up back-to-back on the bill of many an all-night auditory spectacular.
As he grew in confidence, he fulfilled his burning desire to step out and front his own band, and both recorded and played live as Noah House Of Dread (NHD) - becoming a popular favourite of many a festival-going crowd in the process. His close working relationship with Sherwood remained largely unbroken until the mid 1990s, when he decided to return to Africa and become a devoted family man, timing that was also coincident with the start of further financial problems for On-U Sound and a period when many of Sherwood's other long-standing personnel either actively moved on or just drifted away from the label.
Several recordings on Acid Jazz, Go! Discs and his own labels followed as both AHC and NHD, until finally in 2003 he returned once again, if only temporarily, to the UK and to On-U Sound. Once more under Sherwood's guidance, by all accounts, Bonjo's music was back to its cutting edge and progressive best.
In 2005 Bonjo's AHC went on the road supporting Asian Dub Foundation, live-mixed by Sherwood just like old times. AHC's first new studio album for On-U Sound in 12 years was released in the same year (ON-U CD9014), initially only to Japan. Though times have changed and Bonjo's most productive days at On-U have probably now long since passed, the alliance forged between Bonjo and Sherwood back in those heady early days will almost certainly mean that the On-U studio door will forever remain open to this most highly talented and loyal of performers.