Music, me and mental health

Research shows that music has the ability to increase the “happy hormone” dopamine in your brain, causing your mental health to improve

Music can help in bringing people together in a safe space that’s healing and a welcome distraction to whatever trouble and strife is going on in our lives.

We sat down with The Legendary Mackabee Studio International’s Daddy Sly, Mikey Magic, Nelson Irie, and Asha Banton to talk about their journey through music!

“This started out as a vision, locals lads with the means of getting together and doing. If you going to do, you need to do it properly, think big!”

Mackabee Sound aka Mackabee Studio International, an amazing group of local pioneers who started out as teenagers ranging from 17-19 years old, who changed the game of the sound system! They are the only Coventry sound system left standing from the 80’s, and have grown an international presence which spans over 5 decades!

In 1979, a group of 7 young Black men had a dream to create their own sound system. At the time, reggae music was being played in homes, and social clubs, with nightclubs only tending to play soul music.

Black people who wanted to listen to reggae music, sought to create their own spaces, having house parties and “blues”, and playing the sweet sound of the Caribbean in social clubs. At the time, reggae music was “underground” and the West Indian Club in Coventry provided a space to share this music together.

From 1979 – 1981, Mackabee Sound worked full-time jobs, saved money, and brought and created their very own sound system! Everything from the speakers they used, to the promotional materials. Each member had their role to play, and they played it well! They travelled the country, doing research and speaking to other people who had created their own sound systems. They spent time learning the ropes, before then doing their first gig in 1981.

“I’m on top of the world and I don’t come down for nothin’! – Asha Banton”

Mikey shared what he feels has made the group so successful “lot’s of unity and friendship. Everyone has their role. We are like an engine, and everyone loves doing it!”. The group have continued working day jobs throughout, alongside working the Sound System circuit. Mikey shared that the group love to entertain people, and with each passing decade they have evolved with the times, and made sure that the music they play and the equipment they use is in keeping with the times.

Sly feels that his primary goal now, is about creating a legacy, and is moving towards his son now taking over.

Being able to still be present in our community, after all these years takes something special, and this group is so inspiring. Mackabee Sound were asked what they thought their favourite decade in Mackabee Sound has been. Most of the group agreed that the 80’s was there favourite decade. It was new and exciting, and the music was pure reggae, straight from Jamaica. The music was rich in philosophy, pure roots music.

The group have many stories about their experiences over the years, with Errol Judah having the best stories to tell. The group have been present, not just in social clubs, but in Nightclubs, festivals and more intimate moments in people’s lives; like christenings, weddings, birthday parties and funerals. The group has shared music with people in their most joyous and saddest moments which has created special relationships within our community.

When asked what advice they would give to other young people, trying to get into the industry Mackabee Sound shared their words of wisdom. Asha Banton [who joined the crew in 1990] said “you have to be all in. You can’t have your feet in two boats” and everyone said that “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”. Sometimes these things take time, which is why they made sure that they studied their craft, learnt the ropes, and saved money before launching into delivery. They were clearly showing a level of maturity beyond their teenage years. Mikey feels that this is another reason why Mackabee Sound are still going strong. They were always in it for the long run.

“Music is supposed to inspire, How come we ain’t gettin’ no higher?”

It’s a shame that we only had a short period of time to talk, as these men clearly have a lot to say and a lot to give. The amount of joy they have spread throughout the years through the universal language of music is unfounded!

One more question before we wrapped up was around what song brings them the most joy. Asha Banton shared that he loves reggae music from the 80’s, as the music was philosophical, about life, about our people and the ways of the world, very unlike some of the artists today, but if he had to choose, he stated that Lauryn Hill would be his choice, anything by her, and we have to agree.

Nelson picked “Emmanuel” by Dennis Brown or “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley. Sly picked “Rise & Shine” by Bunny Wailer, and Mikey said anything from early 80’s-81 pure reggae.

Having the privilege of listening to these men talk about their achievements was truly inspiring, and lots has been learnt. Asha shared that “life is about how you value yourself”, a true statement spoken. Black History Month comes once a year, but to learn all year round about our different communities can really help for people to learn more about one another, being brought together by our differences, and embracing our similarities.

What can bring people together more than music?

Mackabee Sound will be playing next on Saturday 9th October at Fargo Village as part of City of Cultures’ celebration of The SOUND System. Trio of events to celebrate Coventry’s ‘Sound System’ culture – The Coventry Observer

Mackabee Studio International – current members of the crew –  Daddy Sly, Mikey Magic, Nelson Irie, Errol Judah, Asha Banton, Master D, and IceMan


People’s choice Black History Month playlist

Celebrating Black History Month – a selection of black music selected by staff, volunteers, friends and service users of Coventry and Warwickshire Mind. Listen on spotify. Scroll down to see the Spotify playlist link… Spotify accounts are free to set up – follow the link and follow the instructions. 

Bob Marley “Redemption Song” Chosen by Charles

This song is so special and was written a few months before Bob’s passing. The lyrics are so meaningful and means a lot to me.

Yarbrough & People’s “Don’t stop the music” Chosen by Jade

This song never fails to get me up on the dancefloor. The beat is funky and very 80’s!

Bob Marley “Three little birds” – Chosen by Yvonne

This song always gets me in a good mood. Bob’s voice, the lyrics and the melody is absolute perfection.

Beyonce “Black Parade” – chosen by Rachael

This song is a full celebration of Black History, culture and strength. This song helps to motivate me and puts me in a good mood no matter what is happening.

Pharrell Williams “Happy” – chosen by Marvin

This song always reminds me of my nieces and nephews, smiling and dancing around to the beat. This song brings a smile to my face every time I hear it.

Stomzy “Superheroes” – chosen by Leeya

Black queen, you’re immaculate

Is coming at the world, they aint ready for your magic yet

And that was never your fault

Man, I guess they couldn’t hack it yeah,

World domination,  you ain’t even taken off your jacket yet,

So effortlessly fabulous

Whenever I hear this song, particularly this line of the verse, I think of black women now and before me, who have owned their space with pride and elegance, intelligence and greatness, articulately driven to succeed at whatever they put their mind on, to do, and beautifully at ease in peace whilst they take on their piece of the world. Head held high, crown slightly slanted.

K’NAAN ” Wavin’ Flag” – Chosen by Nas

Whenever I hear this, it just makes me think of celebration, family and back home [Somalia]. It’s such a happy song, and really brings all people together.

Lauryn Hill “Doo Wop (That Thing)” – chosen by Jo

The whole of “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” album should be listened to by everyone on this earth. It is a masterpiece. It was so difficult to choose, but I would say Doo Wop brings me the most joy. It’s a celebration of Blackness and a real club banger!

Lizzo – “Good as hell” – Chosen by Shan

Lizzo is so full of joy and laughter, she’s comfortable in her own body, and really celebrates her culture. This song is universal in bringing people joy, and always puts a smile on my face

Dennis Brown “Revolution” – chosen by Rue

This song fills me up with joy and sunshine

Beres Hammond “Come Down Father” – chosen by Aston

This makes me happy and makes me dance

Koffee “Toast” – Chosen by Khy

Whenever this song comes on, I can’t help but dance

Beyonce “Brownskin Girl” – chosen by Kelly

I love this song!

Lil Baby “The Bigger Picture” Chosen by Tyler

The lyrics to the song are big! Should have won the Grammy

“Something inside so strong” by Labi Siffre

This was Betty Campbell’s favourite song and sums up all of her spirit and work she has achieved throughout her life.

Chosen by Mackabee Sound System

“Emmanuel” by Dennis Brown Chosen by Nelson

“Rise & Shine” by Bunny Wailer Chosen by Sly

Listen on spotify

In celebration of Black History Month, we’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of clean versions of these tracks. Unfortunately, not all tracks are currently available on spotify. Take a listen here.