In The Beginning There Was…

It’s Ari Up week at Bologna HQ so we’ll be celebrating the life and work of spiky dread’s 1st lady with a sift through some Slits favourites, and no doubt a few non-Slits tracks while we’re at it. Skank Blog contributor and Ari devotee Ed Zed has written an in depth piece which we’ll share on the dreaded day but to kick things off I’ve dug out something I penned soon after hearing the sorry news of her passing last October…

Some of you might be aware of my love for reggae made by punks, or spiky dread as Ed Zed affectionately dubbed it on the Mr Trick & Wrongtom show, so this morning’s news of former Slit Ari Up’s death has left a big be-dreadlocked hole in my heart.

You may be reading this thinking “well he couldn’t have been that much of a fan as he never even included Ari on his spiky dread special” but I had far bigger plans for Slits related spikiness, having been pondering the possibility of a documentary on the subject and shopping around the idea for a compilation, The Slits input was to have pride of place alongside other pivotal moments like The Pop Group’s “3:38″ and Patti Smith’s “Redondo Beach”.

But enough about that and on to Ari who at one time fronted arguably one of the most important girl groups in rock history. Some might scoff but the girl group, more often than not, is something of a man-made ideal, and regardless of having plenty of men at the side lines spurring them on, The Slits, on their own terms, carved their name into the flabby arm of an often insecure homme-heavy industry.

Embracing reggae in the punk scene was far from unheard of but very few delved into it’s culture, Ari on the other hand cultivated locks way before you could pop up to Camden to get them done on your lunch hour, spoke fluent patois and, on the one occasion I was lucky enough to catch her live, insisted she wouldn’t start performing until the sound man got the bass sound just right. A sonic tug of war ensued until finally Ari announced she could feel it proceeding to wine & bogle as the band kicked in around her.

I’ll pardon myself from gushing further, this could turn into an essay if I were to carry on so I’ll leave you with this slice of dislocated dubbing from ’81, with spiky stalwart Dennis Bovell working the faders and Ari’s primeval cry working it’s way through the bank of FX, I give you The Slits “Face Dub”.

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