Castor Brown, UK reggae music pioneer, passes away

BRIXTON-BASED music promoter, record producer, sound system operator and businessman, Castro Brown, passed away in London on Saturday (May 11) just a few days short of his 69th birthday.

Reports suggest that he had suffered a heart attack at home and was admitted into hospital in Croydon, south London where he passed away a few days later following further complications from the sudden illness.

Brown, originally from Portland, Jamaica, migrated to the UK in the early 1960s and from a very young age immersed himself in the music scene and joined a long list of sound system pioneers who brought Jamaican reggae music to the forefront in Britain.

He has also been hailed as one of the creators and promoters of the Lovers Rock music genre after helping to establish the unique sound in his studio with UK artistes and especially with his collaborations with the Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Emmanuel Brown, when he was based in Britain.

Together they established the DEB Music label which produced a flurry of songs by artists based in the UK and Jamaica, including Alton Ellis, Al Campbell, Junior Delgado, Errol Dunkley, Leroy Sibbles and The Tamlins.

Castor Brown also worked closely with fellow Jamaican, Lloyd ‘Lloydie Coxsone’ Blackford of the influential Sir Coxsone Sound that dominated the sound system clashes in the 1970s which included other operators like Count Shelley, Sir Jessus, Peoples Sound, Shaka, and Duke Reid to name a few. It was Brown’s ability to bring pre-released records from Jamaica which made Sir Coxsone one of the leading sounds at the time.

Later, he founded Morpheus Records which produced songs by a number of musicians including his brother Jackie Brown, deejay I-Roy and Gregory Isaacs.

Outside of the music business, Brown also operated a popular Caribbean food restaurant in Cold Harbour Lane, Brixton, called ‘Nyam Food’ which was a popular stop for many Jamaican stars when they were on tour in the UK.

Brown returned to Jamaica in the late 1980s and launched New Name label and recording studio in Kingston. There, he worked with artists like Lady Saw, Mikey Spice and Luciano.

Commenting on his passing, popular music journalist Mandingo has this to say: “Castro Brown, aka Fidel aka Jugu, was the great reggae music pioneer and entrepreneur in various fields of business including boxing, horse racing and food establishment.

“He was a reggae shop and label owner, a record producer, music studio owner, reggae spokesman and show promoter among many other accomplishments. I saw him Saturday May 4 and was to see him the following week but alas it was only to see him in the hospital and not at his home. Condolences to his family and friends.“

Mandingo was Brown’s PR representative who wrote and issued press releases on his behalf and who also emceed the many stage shows that he promoted in the UK.

A memorial event in Brown’s honour was held last Sunday at the Saint Martin’s Community Centre, Abbots Park, Tulse Hill, London. Funeral service will be held at a later date.

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