Jumbo was at the forefront of reggae and African music -Island, Virgin Frontline and of course Earthworks. I will not use the term World Music as Jumbo regretted that term. It confused the mesage, too many different types of music and diluted the attention from his main love African music.
This is a tribute on Facebook by John Armstrong.
“Jumbo – has passed away after an illness. Jumbo’s input to the international recognition of African music- especially his beloved mbaqanga, but everything else too- is almost inestimable. In 1976, at a time when few outside specialist fans and Nigeria had heard of Fela Kuti, one could walk into Virgin records in Notting Hill and hear Expensive Shit playing over the shop, filled with rock and punk fans- because Jumbo had put in an order for a few copies the week before. At a time when it was nigh impossible to hear any South African music- let alone buy the records- Jumbo, later with the able partnership of Trevor Herman, was releasing shedloads of the stuff on the Earthworks label. For a few weeks at Dingwalls in the early 80s, Jumbo put on a weekly night called Worldbeats- probably the first ever use of the phrase anywhere. Only just recently, a sought-after Shina Williams Earthworks 12″ – £250 a copy on Earthworks original 1986 issue- has been reissued to great acclaim. And all of this is not even to begin to mention Virgin Frontline reggae, the label which perhaps more than any other in the Uk propelled reggae from niche to worldwide, and which- again- had major input from Jumbo. Another time, he was the first to bring back the sound of Kassav’- George Decimus’ classic Ka’Dance (on a cassette!) was probably the first zouk record I played at the Bass Clef in, what, 1984? But the real beauty of this man was his unassuming generosity. Not for Jumbo the ‘I discovered the record I’m not going to share the knowledge with you’ thing that so many record collectors and music lovers have. No, Jumbo used to share his knowledge happily and lovingly. I remember once (early 80s) when he returned from a Paris wholesale distribution trip with a large box of mint Congolese 7″ records – at 50 pence each. I had a fair few of those, and I’m pretty certain that most other London Afro djs of the time did too. I hope others will share their memories of this giant of a man – in more ways than one!”
I arrived in London in the summer of 1984, I think. I had been living in Zimbabwe as a teacher and had then travelled up through Zaire tasking in the music as I went.
Don’t recall how I met up with Nick Carnac and Jumbo but he was just about to release his first Mapfumo album and the indestructible series was getting attention. It was heady times for African music and Jumbo was keen to hear all about my times seeing Thomas, Oliver and all the Zim bands. I ended up writing an article on Zim music for Chris May’s Black Music mag which delighted Jumbo.
Such was the generosity of the man that he invited me down to a weekend in a cottage in Wales with his family and Nick Carnac. No one was that keen on cooking eventually Nick relented. I recall the dish was some cauliflower and cheese sauce elegantly put on the plate. My lasting memory was the look on Jumbo as that somewhat modest dish came out as his evening meal.
Funny the things that stick with you.
Gonna be an Earthworks day.