Alan Kingpin: a Jah Shaka Dubplate Story

Text: Seb Carayol

For years, a legendary dubplate, simply known as “Shaka a Serious Warrior” drove Jah Shaka sound system’s aficionados crazy – who could be behind such a one-away tune? Time did tell: it was one Alan Kingpin, co-frontman and singer of the band Reggae Regular. A Muslim man in a Rasta environment, Alan King based the dub off his “Little Jimmy” release. Like the song, the man is as different as he is elusive. In 2006, Seb Carayol finally got the chance to cross his path.

Have you always been between England and Jamaica?

Yes. I was born in England but my parents moved back to Jamaica when I was five years old, and then came back here five years later. I started my first band when I was 17; it was called Power Cut because the electricity used to always cut out where we lived. We only played one gig together but it was really successful.

Did you already have the nickname Kingpin by that point?

My name is Alan King, and when I was in secondary school my friends and I would tinker with our bikes. The kingpin is what connects the handlebars to the body of the bike. Kingpin is also what you call someone at the head of an organization, so I ended up keeping the nickname.

Then you joined Reggae Regular?

Yes, after having spent some time with Precious Wilson. I met Drummie and Trevor Salmon of the Regulars through some of the members of Power Cut. At that point, they were playing in a band called Safran, but when I arrived we brought in Flea and did a bit of a clean, then Tony Benjamin joined us, and it went from there. After having done some backing vocals for the Morwells around 1978 – thanks to Castro Brown, Trevor’s cousin – our first record was also Greensleeves’ first release, a tune called “Where is Jah.”

What did you do after the Regulars?

One year after having made “Black Star Liner” for Greensleeves, we were given the opportunity to make an album for CBS but the production was disappointing. We then worked with Peter Tosh and even Bob Geldoff, but we ended up separating. That is when we were taken up by Mad Professor, who was launching Ariwa.

You actually went on to make two albums for him?

The deal was that I would make two albums for him, and in exchange, he would give me some work with live shows. So I made God of Love and Letter from Jail for him, but he could never bear the fact that I was still in between two countries because he always wanted me to be in his studio. It’s been 19 years and I have never earned one cent from those two albums.

Letter from Jail is based on a personal experience?

Yes, I went to jail on July 7th, 1977, for 7 weeks.

Did the song “Little Jimmy” come out of that?

A bit later, actually, in 1982. It was never recorded at Mad Professor’s but on Easy Street, with some members of the Regulars, Aba Kush, and Aquizm. It was originally a dubplate I had produced for Jah Shaka. It was my favorite sound system, so naturally I recorded two specials for him; the one based on “Little Jimmy” was called “Shaka A Serious Warrior” for him. When I dropped them off at his shop, he was in prison but he at least got one of them, which he played for years. I never told him it was me that sang over it, he found that out when Mad Professor included the version on the album Letter From Jail, which was only released in 1990. He was surprised.

Were you already Muslim?

Yes, since 1983. As a Rasta, I used to think that it was the most advanced understanding of ‘truth and rights.’ This now makes things more complicated, but I don’t care. I don’t need the company of people who don’t want to make the effort to properly understand Islam. I cut my locks because of commercialism, to distance myself from that side of the music industry. All these years I never really disappeared. I am about to finish writing a book that I started in 1980! I was waiting to become famous from my music to write a book, and vice versa. I had other projects. I am raising my kids in Jamaica, where I have a small coffee plantation.

Are there any plans for a Reggae Regular reunion?

Let’s say that some ex-members are still touring under the name The Regulars, but I find that funny because without Kingpin and Tony Benjamin I don’t think you can have Reggae Regular. But you know, their stories don’t bother me. Anyway, the most important thing is to push the younger generation; at 56 years old I don’t have the energy of my youth to go back on tour, and everyone has a job nowadays. We will see. When we get a solid offer, we will start practicing again.