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Personnel Prince Far I

Prince Far I
Prince Far I
Photo: Norbert Bauer

The seventies is the decade recalled as the golden age of roots reggae, primarily due to the fact that during these years many legendary artists came to prominence. Amongst those singers, DJs, vocal groups, musicians and producers perhaps the best-loved by the UK audience was the man known as Prince Far I - not so much a DJ in the classic style, but more a chanter of words. Prince Far I was born Michael James Williams in Spanish Town, Jamaica in 1945. Growing up in the Waterhouse area of Kingston he attended dances MC'd by the early DJs who would become his inspiration. With confidence and experience he assumed the role of lead DJ with the Sir Mike the Musical Dragon Sound System.

Bunny Lee first recorded Far I in the early 70s with a tune called 'The Great Wooga Booga'. He went on to cut tunes for Coxsone, notably 'Natty Farmyard' and a version of 'Queen of the Minstrel'. In 1973 the Cordell's 'Simpleton' appeared on the Lion label, with the flip being a strange half-sung half-chanted version by the Prince entitled 'Simpleton Skank'. In 1974 he voiced 'Let Jah Arise' for Enos McLeod at King Tubby's.

After some self-productions which appeared on Pete Weston's Micron outlet, Prince Far I hit a period which included two of reggae's greatest DJ albums. Firstly the 'Psalms For I' collection (CGLP 1002), a straight chant of bible word, produced by Lloydie Slim and Micron on top of a set of ultra-tough rhythms from Striker Lee and Scratch. This album found Far I totally into his own style, distinct from all other DJs, primal yet righteous - the real 'voice of thunder'.

Prince Far I and Adrian Sherwood in 1978
Prince Far I and Adrian
Sherwood in 1978

In 1976 Prince Far I set up his own label in Jamaica, Cry Tuff, with the sub-title Wisdom Man. The former issued Far I's productions in Jamaica. His UK business ran through the fledgling label Hitrun, co-created with Adrian Sherwood. This arrangement was almost one of master and pupil, as the Arabs / Roots Radics became Dub Syndicate with Sherwood learning the studio craft as both producer and engineer. The rhythm tracks were laid in Jamaica by Style Scott & co., the mix and overdubs being taken care of in London, creating a tradition which continues to this day. With albums also out on Virgin and Trojan, Far I was a regular visitor to the UK in the late seventies becoming a firm favourite within the synergy that sparked between punk and reggae.

'Cry Tuff Dub Encounter Chapter III' by Prince Far I and the Arabs was originally released in the UK by that most avuncular of record shop proprietors Keith Stone of Daddy Kool. The whole affair was racked out in rapid studio time, conforming with the can-do ethics of the time, not to mention the lack of cash. The set features super-heavy deliveries by the Prince, pre-ambient doodlings and quirky noises from David Toop and Steve Beresford, and backing vocals from the Slit axis of Ari Up together with Viv Goldman and Elizabeth Archer. The album is important for those concerned with the history of reggae in the UK. It marked the handing on of the producer's baton from Far I to Sherwood, soon to launch On-U Sound at a time when many critics considered reggae to be a finished force.

Far I went on make a series of notable vocal appearances for On-U Sound under the banner of the Singers And Players on tracks such as 'Bedward The Flying Preacher', 'Autobiography', 'Merchant Ship' and with a wicked sense of humour on the track 'Virgin' (ON-U DP1) - where Richard Branson is well and truly put in his place following the considered mis-treatment of the DJ by his UK record company! The influence Far I had on Sherwood can sometimes still be felt today in the sampled use of his vocals on modern day On-U Sound releases.

Prince Far I, a man to grace any style with wisdom, a chanter to quake the walls of the city, a preacher to strike fear in the weakheart, humble in the garden and proud in the city, was shot dead in Jamaica, September 15, 1983 one year short of his 40th birthday.

(Text adapted and supplemented from Steve Barker's sleeve notes to the Pressure Sounds reissue of 'Cry Tuff Dub Encounter Chapter III'. Far I/Sherwood photo taken from the same)

Al Jourgensen
Alan Branch
Alan Pillay
Ari Up
Bernard Fowler
Bonjo I
Bruce Smith
Carlton "Bubblers" Ogilvie
Congo Ashanti Roy
Crucial Tony
David Harrow (aka James Hardway)
Dr Pablo
Jah Wobble
Jah Woosh
Keith Levene
Kishi Yamamoto
Mikey Dread
Neneh Cherry
Pete Holdsworth
Prince Far I
    . Biography
Shara Nelson
Steve Barker
Steve Beresford
Style Scott
Talvin Singh
Vivien Goldman

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