It's a Mad Professor world

"In Israel the people are enthusiastic, intelligent and appreciative," Neil Fraser tells Billboard.

mad professor 88 (photo credit: )
mad professor 88
(photo credit: )
Dub music has become something of a science since it emerged from Jamaica over 40 years ago, spawning teachers, books, new discoveries and unexpected mutations. Sitting firmly in the former category is the Mad Professor, who boasts an extensive and well-referenced bibliography and hordes of students hungry for his musical knowledge, including his two sons, following in his footsteps as reggae producers in their own right. What exactly makes the bass and drum rhythms of the 53 year-old former electrical engineer so addictive is no secret to anyone familiar with his productions and remixes that now feature over 200 different albums during his almost accidental career in music. Anyone left with any questions should take them direct to the man himself - not to be confused with an over-the-top Eddie Murphy movie character. At the two shows the Mad Professor is performing this weekend, starting with an outdoor 'Bush Party' tonight, Friday, in a forest near Latrun, mid-way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, followed by the concrete jungle of Tel Aviv's Barzilay Club on Saturday night. It was only a year ago that the Mad Professor, who grew up in the former British colony of Guyana in South America, last visited Israel for a mini-tour, joined by singer and long-time collaborator Aisha. So why is he keen to come back so soon? "In Israel the people are enthusiastic, intelligent and hungry. They are a humble, appreciative crowd, whether in a place or a small club," Mad Professor, a.k.a. Neil Fraser, told Billboard from his recording studio in south London. "They realize that there is a message in the music," he said, still jet lagged having returned from a show in Mexico the previous night. One consistent message in the Mad Professor's lengthy discography has been the theme of Africa, inspiring long-players including The African Connection and Afrocentric Dub, as well as the singles "Africa is Zion" and the recently re-issued, "True Born African," featuring Jamaican singer U-Roy. "But there are lots of different messages, not just Rastafarian. It's what you call afrocentric, I am an active Pan-Africanist. I'm part of a generation of people who see Africa in a positive light and not in a negative light like in the past few centuries," he explains. Fraser dispelled rumors that he is packing up shop at his London-based Ariwa Studio, initially inaugurated in his front room 1979, finally combining his childhood obsessions with electronics and Jamaican music, and starting afresh on the African continent. Despite having toured in South Africa and Botswana and spending time in Gambia where he owns a house, he is not planning to uproot himself from the Britain Isles just yet. "To be honest and accurate, it's not like going back to Africa. Part of us [black people] is Caribbean, part South American. We've been mixed with lots of different things". Having circumnavigated the globe more than a few times, Fraser has got to know Israel over the years, including an on-stage collaboration with the legendary Lee 'Scratch' Perry, and remains philosophical towards the turbulence in this corner of world. "The Middle East isn't necessarily so different from Europe in some ways. You find out it's the same shit, different ghetto." Support on Friday comes from Tel Aviv's Ganjah Vibes with Ranking Levi on the microphone, as well as a live show from Zvuloon Dub System at Barzilay on Saturday night. Showtime both nights is 10 p.m. Friday night's is NIS 60, call (054) 766-7489 or (052) 340-2013 for mo' info'. Saturday night goes down at Barzilay, 13 Harechev St., Tel Aviv, (03) 687-8090 for NIS 80.