*Interview published Sept 2014
Sama Roots is a sound system and record label based in Sheffield, UK. They have been operating for nearly a decade and have worked with artists on their label such as Dougie Conscious and Ghetto Priest, as well as playing festivals around England. We caught up with Callum from Sama Roots to find out more.
The Sama Roots story started twenty-five years ago when Father Waq (operator) and Callum ‘The Guardian’ (selector) met in Nottingham. Back in 1990/91 the dominant influence on the free party scene was The DiY Sound System. Such was the impact of DiY that they inspired a huge following and played a key role in the largest illegal rave ever put on at Castlemorton Common Festival, 1992. At the time, most people followed or wanted to start their own House Music sound system.
SR: We were always trying to get a bit of Reggae on, but if they let us near the decks it wasn’t until seven o’clock in the morning. If you stopped a tune to flip it over and play the dub, after ten hours of dancing to a continuous mix of House, it used to freak people out! That’s when the dream of having our own Reggae sound system started.
Sama Roots, like many, we’re inspired by the likes of the Mighty Jah Shaka but also the early nineties generation of sounds; Manasseh Hi-Fi and Boom Shacka Lacka.
SR: We’ve never listened to Roots music exclusively, but we’ve always wanted to be a sound system that keeps the roots vibe of the sounds that influenced us. Our other ambition was to be cleanest, clearest Reggae sound system on the road.
It wasn’t until Waq settled in Sheffield and co-founded the studio and rehearsal rooms at Yellow Arch Studios that Sama Roots were ready to get serious. Waq was one of the original partners at Yellow Arch and it gave Sama Roots a base where they could make a lot of noise, store equipment and build up the sound. It was in 2004 that Sama Roots properly started as a Sound System.
SR: The early days were all about getting used to what we had. There was a lot of stringing up in basements and bars; testing the sound and making the lights fall down or the ceiling cave in! Sama Roots has always been heavy. Everything would end up covered in dust because our b-line would dislodge dirt in the roof that had been undisturbed for years.
We have to give thanks to our friends Dubsomanic who got us a residency in Leicester in the early days. Leicester has loads of Roots dances now, but at that time they were fairly rare. We used to do the carnival after party and other nights at the Charlotte. They were really up for it. Sometimes a crowd would be hanging around whilst we were stringing up and when we dropped the first bassline during sound-check they would cheer.
Inevitably the running a sound system led to making music, an integral part of the culture. Teaming up with the likes of Dougie Conscious and Ghetto Priest, Sama Roots have produced deep roots music made for sound system: Such as the huge 7” Nereus Joseph – The Calling / Ghetto Priest – The Dark Room
SR: Looking for exclusive music to play on the sound lead us to start Sama Roots Records. Dougie from Conscious Sounds was involved from the beginning and Inyaki from the BDF band, who played hammond organ on our first release, has been like a mentor. Ghetto Priest, who has been on both the riddims we’ve put out, is exciting to work with; a very flamboyant and unconventional Rastaman. However the highlight was probably recording Nereus Joseph at his studio in Balfron Tower, a massive council block in Poplar, East London. Nereus and Donovan Kingjay totally head-topped the lyrics, literally conjuring a song out of the herb smoke.
Obsession with sound system lead Waq to build up his company Mustt Audio and he left Yellow Arch, spending much of his time on the road doing tours, festivals and other events. Consequently Sama Roots have had to acclimatise to these new conditions and commitments.
SR: Luckily we’ve found two festivals that allow us to run sessions in the way that we want. For the last two summers we’ve played on our own system at the Secret Garden Party and YNot festivals. We’ve done 5 hour sessions at YNot. At Secret Garden we play all day, with the Mustt Audio guys taking care of the live bands on stage.
Ever developing and growing, Sama Roots are still active and very much alive. The big news from 2014 is that Barrydred (MC) has joined the crew; a dynamic character and great vocalist.
SR: Barry is a sound system aficionado. In his time he’s heard all the greatest British sounds. He’s got stories to tell about dances with Coxsone, Shaka, Quaker City, Saxon, Wassifa…you name it. He heard something he liked in Sama Roots and kept turning up at all the dances. He’s not the type to try to jump in and get on the mike wherever he goes; but the vibes have been right with Sama Roots and now he’s part of the family.
There’s a lot more to come from Sama Roots in the future, not only from their label but also as a sound system; they are due to celebrate their 10 year anniversary this year.
SR: It’s exciting to feel so complete. We believe we have got the cleanest sound system out there and by playing big festivals and carnivals over the last couple of years our selection has become as versatile as we hoped it could; without losing the true Sama Roots vibe. In Sufism, Sama is the practice of gathering to listen to music, chant and dance to produce a state of religious ecstasy and mystical trance. It should purify the soul. We see Sama Roots as our Reggae Music Meditation.
SR: The only unfulfilled hope for 2014 has been the chance to properly celebrate our tenth anniversary in Sheffield. Dates and venues haven’t come together in the right way yet. Hopefully they will before the year is over.
It’s been a pleasure to catch up with Sama Roots. They continue to enrich Sheffield with sound system culture and we’re looking forward to celebrating their 10th birthday with them . To keep up to date with Sama Roots follow the link >>>> SAMA ROOTS