"Before language became a formation of words,
music was, and still is in other spheres,
the means of communication between souls"
Suns of Arqa creator and mentor Michael Wadada has been continuously investigating the supernatural potential hidden in the Classical Raga structure of the music of India. His mission – to mix the cerebral and illusive cosmological vibrations of Raga, with the mother earth rhythms of Niyabinghi drumming that were surfacing in England in the guise of Dub Reggae. An epic sonic mission which began in 1979, over 200 artists from around the globe have collaborated with Suns of Arqa, interpreting the various indigenous, tribal and classical folk traditions, and creating some of the most sublime Dub - World - Dance - Raga - Reggae Music in the world today.
In 1979 Wadada set about recording the ground breaking Suns of Arqa album Revenge of the Mozabites with his friend, On-U-Sound creator Adrian Sherwood. Together they formed the ‘4D Rhythm’ label – the world was not ready! Wadada retreated to the Pennine mountain range in Lancashire, Adrian Sherwood went on to create the formidable ‘On-U Sound’ label. Three years went by before a a very curious Peter Gabriel came across a rare copy of that first Suns of Arqa album; he was putting together the very first World of Music and Dance festival (WOMAD), and asked Suns of Arqa to come and perform.
Manchester was the ideal melting pot for Wadada to form the first Suns of Arqa live band. At the same time the Belgian label ‘Antler Subway’ released the LP ‘Wadada Magic’.
Next came the legendary collaborations with Prince Far-I, which can be heard on A Brief History of SOA which as the title suggests is a potted history of Suns of Arqa. On 7th December 1982 Prince Far-I did one last show in Manchester with Suns of Arqa; on his return to Jamaica he was murdered by an unidentified gunman. This last performance can be heard on Suns of Arqa Live with Prince Far-I.
Wadada went into hiding again, this time to the Cornish fishing village of Polperro where he produced the epic Seven. An album where the Requiem mass of Gabriel Fauré meets Heavy Dub, Hindu Gods meet Celtic mythology and Soul meets Reggae. With a cast of thousands, including John Cooper Clarke, Professor Stanley Unwin, Feso Trombone, Helen Watson, Eric Random, James Young, Choirs, Hurdy Gurdys and Wadada’s very own musical invention, the Sajoe.
The following album went back to the roots – Suns of Arqa’s roots that is! With Wadada’s bass line gelling together the beautiful hues of Tim Wheater’s flute and the whirling shenhai sounds of Kadir Durvesh, this deleted ‘Antler Subway’ LP can now be heard, wonderfully remixed by Youth on Jaggernaut Whirling Dub. The purely meditative Cradle again had Kadir Durvesh (whose credits include work with George Harrison as well as a Kula Shaker album) and Tim Wheater blending heavenly melodies with the haunting violin of Poland’s Marek Miczyk.
The prolific works of Wadada and the Suns of Arqa continued, with the ambient dub collaborations, featuring the great Bamboo flute maestro from Bombay Ragunath Seth on Kokoromochi. This album also has two 20 minute tracks from the long lost ‘India?’ LP. Although these albums were not readily available in the shops, they were on the turntables of Dostor Alex (The Orb) Patterson, who was at that time A & R man at Robert Fripp’s EG Music. Wadada played sitar with The Orb on their October 1998 tour.
Wadada was also inadvertently, or otherwise, influencing a whole new wave of acts such as Transglobal Underground, Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart, Loop Guru etc; and later on a whole new posse, with the likes of Celt Arabia, Afro-Celt Sound System and Kula Shaker. Also, a whole host of World Music pilferers – for instance, listen to Andy Weatherall’s first ‘Sabres of Paradise’ single for unauthorised and unaccredited sampling of Suns of Arqa music.
Alap-Joe-Jhala was recorded in Southall, London with N. Magriel on the Sarangi, Wadada on Bass and Chris Joyce on drums – his last session before going on to join Simply Red. Wadada moved back to Manchester, releasing a series of hard-edge Dance Singles. First came Govinda Go produced with 808 State’s Graham Massey, followed by Govinda's Dream, the Suns' very first Jungle track with A Guy Called Gerald. All these mixes can be heard on the Aberglaube and Govinda's House albums, together with some Drum & Bass workouts from Zion Train, Sounds From the Ground, Kopeikin, Youth and MuslimGauze. It even has the very first recording of another of Wadada’s proteges Finlay Quaye.
Wadada could be credited with the creation of Acid Folk music for his collaboration with Astralasia 'Sul-E-Stomp', which can be heard on Total Eclipse of the Suns along with some other interesting artifacts.
Suns of Arqa were ready to be seen and heard; the mid 90’s saw a gathering of new musicians. On highland bagpipes, John Snelson, on violin the young and gifted Johar Ali from New Delhi. On vocals, Angel-Eye chanting lyrics from Alice Bailey and Dion Fortune; also, Indian Dhrupad singer Reba Bhaduri and Sumit Bhaduri on Pakhawaj. Delroy ‘Sticksman’ Walker had also arrived, from the twelve tribes HQ in Manchester, taking over on drums. Playing the original reggae rhythms Sticksman was also drumming on Finlay Quayes’ debut album ‘Maverick A-Strike’. Wadada went on to produce one of the most spiritually uplifting AND danceable albums of our time, Shabda.
There followed appearances on the Andy Kershaw and Mark Radcliffe radio shows, TV appearances, Glastonbury, The Phoenix and Trans-Musical festivals, along with extensive touring. The intensity and vitality can be heard on the live album Animan.
In the late 1990s, Wadada met his musical counterpart Laszlo Hortobagyi and the Gayan Uttejak Orchestra produced at their studio in Budapest, Hungary. Suns of Arqa meet the Gāyan Uttejak Orchestra is an album of haunting mystery, ethereal voices and contributions from John Cooper Clarke and Professor Stanley Unwin. Arka Sound have also released an album from Laszlo Hortobagyi called Songs from Hungisthān and toured across Europe in 1999 following the release of these two albums.
The Suns continued to shine with another album Cosmic Jugalbandi produced by John Leckie at Real World Studios in Wiltshire. This features his favourite band of Indian Musicians – Ragunath Seth on Bamboo Flute, Johar Ali on Violin, Shahbaz Hussain on Tablas and Kadir Durvesh on Shenhai. Wadada says "It is the ultimate sound to take us through the changes to come. Where sound is not just a backdrop to life but ultimately it is life itself."
The 2000s saw more albums of new music from Suns of Arqa, including Magiczna Miłość (which means 'Magical Love' and features Polish musicians), Hallucinasia which features Johar Ali and Raghunath Seth, who also appeared on the following album Scared Sacred along with Youth, DJ Guapo Michael Ormiston and Candida Valentino. Four rarely heard ragas found their way onto the next album Know Thyself, and this was followed by a dub album of Leonard Cohen covers called Stranger Music.
The years that followed saw more collaboration with Youth, on the EP Ancient Temples and the albums All Is Not Lost, But Where Is It? and All Is Not Lost, All Is Dub (a remixed version of its predecessor), which also featured The Orb. 2016 saw the release of Wadada, two remix and rarity compilations, and a vinyl re-issue of Acid Tabla. 2020 saw the release of The Wolf of Badenoch, an epic journey through Scottish history featuring the highland bagpipes of the late great John Snelson. The album was arranged and mixed by Brian Hyphen, and featured many long-time Suns of Arqa musicians.
Suns of Arqa have a phenomenal legacy of music having released nearly 40 albums on Virgin, EMI, Interchill Records, Antler Subway, Red Rhino and their own label Arka Sound. They are a prolific and seminal influence on the World Beat sound with some of the world's most renowned talents contributing to this collective including:
Guy Called Gerald, UK producers Youth and John Leckie, Greg Hunter, 808 State's Graham Massey, Finley Quaye, Sounds From the Ground, Bryn Jones aka MuslimGauze, Adrian Sherwood, John Cooper-Clarke, the late great Professor Stanley Unwin, Eric Random, new age guru Tim Wheater, Astralasia, Kopeikin, Prince Far-I, The Orb's Alex Patterson, Zion Train, and more recently Gaudi - who mixed SUNS OF ARQA's EP Ancient Temples.
British music has been richly embellished by an ever expanding number of World-Dub-Dance acts, each with their own ways of exploring the same cultural commotions that have so gloriously distinguished Michael Wadada's work. All these groups owe a debt to the pioneering music of Suns of Arqa who undoubtedly are one of the originators of the whole global groove dance scene.
Wadada's mission to combine the ancient Hindustani raga systems with Piobaireachd and Nyabinghi roots drumming creating his very own unique Suns of Arqa materialising as a global musical collective, who continue to make special appearances at the seasonal festivals and sacred ritual spaces, where they are a vehicle for the positive raising of vibration, connecting with both the sensory and infinite worlds, for the on-going evolution of all sentient beings. Suns of Arqa transmit a deeply spiritual vibration that merges cultures, faiths and musical genres, and are probably best known for their fusion of Indian music and electro dub.
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