Sly and Robbie

Tributes continue to come in following the passing of noted reggae musician Robbie Shakespeare of Sly and Robbie fame.

Shakespeare, who was ill for some time, died from renal complications on Wednesday.

In his tribute, Ewan Simpson, chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), noted that Shakespeare made an indelible mark on the local and international music industry.

“The Jamaican reggae industry has lost an innovative pioneer, one half of the legendary 'Riddim Twins' of Jamaican music. JaRIA mourns the loss of our life member and past awardee who will be immortalised in the many hypnotic tracks on which the sound of his bass was laid. We salute the General, Robbie Shakespeare,” he noted.

Simpson's vice-chair at JaRIA, renowned hornsman Evrol “Stingwray” Wray, also echoed the legacy sentiment and he paid tribute to Shakespeare.

“Robbie Shakespeare is one of the most creative bassist in the history of our music. From Black Uhuru's simple sliding two notes bass riff on Shine Eye Gal to the more complex bass line of Botanical Roots, as one of the tracks taken from reggae's first Grammy Awards album Anthem by the aforementioned group. His serious demeanour sometimes will intimidate you but he was a jovial soul behind the scenes. He's not only known for his bass lines, but also for many notable rhythm guitar riffs, which can be heard on the Taxi label. One that comes to mind is Dennis Brown's Sitting and Watching. Robbie was also a lead and support vocalist and you may have seen him singing live during a Sly & Robbie presentation. To say the cliché thing, that a void will be left is not so. Robbie has played so much music, that's unreleased, that a void will not be left. We will be hearing Robbie's bass lines for years to come. His bass line will be synonymous with Bob Marley's Bad Card lyrics, you ah go tired fi hear Robbie's bass lines, but you can't get him outta di race,” said Wray.

The Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliates Union (JFMAU) and its president, Omar Lawson, also saluted the fallen hero, calling Shakespeare a national treasure, musical genius and an international icon.

“Always committed to his bass, honed his craft to the highest level and produced some of our greatest hit songs. He kept our live music alive and made Jamaica proud. His musical technique was unmatched and taught many young entertainers the art of playing our reggae music properly. We at the JFMAU express our sincere condolence to his family and friends at this time and will continue to keep his legacy alive,” Lawson told the Jamaica Observer.

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

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