With a career spanning four decades, Misty in Roots are one of England’s finest reggae groups.
The band was one of the most powerful live reggae acts to emerge from 1970s London, and they were a major force in the Rock Against Racism movement.
This British based Roots Reggae Band MISTY IN ROOTS have played together for the past 20
years, first coming together in 1975 and working as a backing band for the late, great Nicky
Thomas – one of Jamaica’s all time greats who had achieved national chart success with songs such as “Living In The Land Of The Common People”. Nicky Thomas was the
inspiration from which MISTY developed.
No strangers to adversity and labouring for their love, the Misty in Roots have faced obstacles
during their 40 year career. Their offices were attacked during the Southall Riots, their manager
sustaining serious injury. Today, despite being international stars and having shaped the sound of British Reggae through their pioneering approach, most of the band have second
jobs – including a bus driver and a gas fitter – such is the state of todays music industry.
By 1978 MISTY IN ROOTS began to develop their own orthodox roots reggae sound. Their
powerful lyrics inspired by the economic decline, a growing awareness of their African culture and a spiritual awakening inspired tracks as “GHETTO OF THE CITY”, “SODOM & COMMORA” AND MANKIND” all off which can be found on the band’s first album ‘LIVE AT THE COUNTER
During the period 1977/78 the political situation in the U.K. was a breaking point. Black consciousness was at its peak and racism roamed the streets of London. Unemployment was
affecting both black and white youths and through this depression a new musical alliance was
born, young white youths totally fed up with the status quo turned to playing punk music whilst
atthe same time identifying strongly with the British reggae acts as MISTY IN ROOTS, STEEL
PULSE and ASWAD. With the coming of the Rock against Racism’ movement the musical fightback had begun and for the first time black and white musicians were playing together on the same platform bringing about a totally new concept in musical awareness.
MiR’s contribution to the British Reggae legacy is indisputable – through their reaching out to new audiences in the 1970s with their unique PA and Sound System, they took Reggae to a whole new audience. The band would travel everywhere with their own sound system – meaning they were able to play anywhere. Reaching new audiences by playing venues that couldn’t normally accommodate band like MiR, such as community centres, helped spread the affinity for the band and shaped the future sound of British Reggae, coming to define the very sound that we associate with Reggae music today.
MISTY IN ROOTS one of the most powerful live reggae acts to have come out of London and
noted for their powerful roots reggae sound and uncompromising lyrical vibrations, became
the major force in Rock Against Racism, playing more concerts than any other band in the movement. This opened up a whole new audience for the band who quickly developed a very strong cross over audience, playing with acts such as Tom Robinson, The Ruts and Elvis Costello.
Despite MISTY’S huge success as a live act the band did not release their first album until 1979. The album LIVE AT THE COUNTER EUROVISION, which was recorded live in Belgium during the band’s 1978 tour, is today still proclaimed by many critics as the best live reggae album of all time. MISTY followed LIVE AT THE COUNTER EUROVISION with a string of limited edition singles such as “OH WICKED MAN”, “RICH MAN’, SALVATION”, “HOW LONG JAH” and “SEE THEM AH COME”. The band’s second album WISE AND FOOLISH released in 1982 took on more mellow, jazzy and soulful tone.
By 1982 MISTY IN ROOTS was a force to be reckoned with but because of their determination to
remain independent the band took a major step into Africa spending nine months in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The period spent in Africa had a major impact on the development of MISTY’S following two albums EARTH and MUSI O TUNYA, both of which were directly inspired by the band’s experiences in Africa.
EARTH released in 1983 was moving musical documentation of the devastation caused to mother Earth by mankind because of greed, cruelty and ignorance. The album consist of classic tracks as “FOLLOW FASHION”, “EARTH”, “POOR AND NEEDY”, “OWN THEM CONTROL THEM” and “SERVANT TO JAH”. MUSI O TUNYA released in 1985 was a reflection of the band’s love for Africa. MUSI O TUNYA (THE SMOKE THAT THUNDERS) is a beautiful place where Zimbabwe and Zambia meet and the great Zambezi river gives up all its might to form one of the most beautiful sights of Southern Africa. The falls MUSI O TUNYA are known in English as Victoria Falls. During 1987 MISTY IN ROOTS took their first trip to West Africa, the spiritual home of their ancestors, it was indeed a pleasant experience to set foot in the region after four hundred years in exile. 1989 saw the beginning of a friendship between MISTY IN ROOTS and KAZ RECORDS which resulted in the release of the album FORWARD which saw MISTY reach the heights once again.
Now as we approach the millennium we can look back over the works of MISTY IN ROOTS and
see how immense the combined talents of this cooperative group, producing uplifting righteous
music for all to hear. And how right they were staying with their roots and not following trends such as dancehall music, which has withered away with the new growth of 1990s uprightful conscious roots music – right back where MISTY IN ROOTS were coming from nearly twenty years ago.
Their songs call to mind the difficulties of daily life, youngsters’ problems. “We put the emphasis on the melodies even though we know that Senegalese audiences react more
to rhythms. In our music, guitars stick closely to the voices, and we just play what we feel.”