Not even Bob Marley can match the success that Chaka Demus and Pliers have had on the British Charts. Between June 1993, and January 1995, they notched up a record five consecutive UK Top 20 entries, including ‘Twist and Shout’; their number one hit with Jack Radics. The duo became household names. Pliers' yearning vocals, coupled with Chaka Demus' rockstone chat proving to be irresistible to their new-found global audience. From their debut album ‘Tease Me,’ released on Island Jamaica (which earned them double platinum disc), a success story was born.
However, with their record company failing to promote their follow up, ‘For Every Kind of People’, they parted company with Island and returned to their homeland. Chaka Demus and Pliers launched their own labels: Pliers sharing Bonner Productions with his younger brothers Spanner Banner and Richie Spice (both singers in their own right), with Chaka Demus controlling Bright Star, whose roster included the likes of Freddie McGregor. As a recording duo, Chaka Demus and Pliers continued to record, contributing the lead single ‘Every little Thing She Does is Magic’ to the Virgin album ‘Reggae Mondatta: A Reggae Tribute To The Police,’ and ‘What's the Move?’ to the soundtrack of seminal Jamaican movie Dancehall Queen.
As good as these songs were, they represented slim pickings for an act that had toured all over the world, and crossed every boundary (musical and otherwise) in the preceding five years. Then, after signing to Unexpected Entertainment (France ), the only direction was back up, with the release of ‘Dangerous’; their third to feature the production skills of Dennis Charles (of Eternal fame) and Sly and Robbie, who remain unchallenged as Jamaica's premier rhythm section, and whose understanding of contemporary music trends is second to none. It was their rhythms which had propelled the likes of Tease Me and Murder She Wrote, Twist and Shout and She Don't Love Nobody to overground fame. By weaving Latin, hip hop and club beats into their usual tapestry of infectious dancehall backdrops, they have provided the ideal platform for Chaka Demus and Pliers to compete at the highest level once more.
Still enjoying the kind of enduring widespread appeal that many only ever dream of, the story of their humble beginnings has been documented countless times over the years. Both were born in Kingston, Jamaica, winning their early reputations on the vibrant local dancehall scene, just as computerized rhythms were changing the face of modern reggae music forever.
Chaka Demus (real name is John Taylor), whose jovial demeanour and strong moral character provides a welcome contrast to the bad-bwoy ragga stereotype, derived his moniker from the late Jamaican MC, Nicodemus. He honed his skills on a number of Jamaica’s sound systems, from Roots Majestic & Supreme, to the King Jammy's Champion Sound system, stationed in the nearby ghetto community of Waterhouse. It was Jammy's who produced Chaka Demus’s debut songs, ‘Increase your Knowledge’ and a 1995 hit, ‘One Scotch’, which he shared with fellow DJ, Admiral Bailey. The affable Chaka rose quickly to prominence thereafter, recording hits for Black Scorpio, Harry J. Skengdon, Bobby Digital and Penthouse before teaming up with Pliers in 1991, after a chance encounter at a Miami stage show.
Pliers, (real name: Everton Bonner), was raised in the Rockhall District of St. Ann and was initially known as Blues Melody, before being renamed Pliers because of his resemblance to another DJ, named ‘Pinchers’. His early hits included the very first version of Murder She Wrote as a vocal for Pioneer Musik in 1986. Encouraged by Yellowman, he had already marked his debut with the stark reality song ‘Babylon a Brutalize We’, a good three years previously. With his fluent warble weaving a pretty path between original songs and cover versions, Pliers was the archetypal mid-to-late eighties dancehall singer. Finding the ideal foil in Chaka Demus, a legend was born.
Their first collaboration, ‘Gal Wine’, was recorded for producer Ossie Hibbert and spent over three months on the reggae charts in 1992. The success of this song led them to Sly and Robbie, who originally built the mesmerizing ‘Murder She Wrote’ for guitarist Lloyd "Gitsy" Willis, whose nimble handiwork can be heard on a number of subsequent Chaka Demus and Pliers releases. Released on Sly and Robbie's own Taxi label, together with a solo song by Pliers called Bam Bam, ‘Murder She Wrote’ became the biggest selling reggae dancehall single of 1992, inspiring a host of other Chaka Demus and Pliers duets' for producers such as Jah Screw and Exterminator's Fatis Burrell, before the duo eventually signed to Island Record's Mango subsidiary.
It was contagious dancehall/ska track ‘Tease Me,’ written by Spanner Banner that provided their debut U.K chart hit the following year: The Jamaican twosome strike a perfect balance between grassroots credibility and pop success, setting the pace for the extraordinary musical journey of the last fourteen years.
Fast forward to 2004, and Chaka Demus and Pliers are back in the UK with a bang. With the dancehall friendly single, ‘Dance Baby Dance,’ dropping this summer, before the all-new album ‘Back Against the Wall’ follows shortly after; the duo are back with full effect. With reggae and dancehall enjoying an unprecedented amount of global popularity, the slick production of Sly, Robbie and Dennis Charles, all contribute to make the new album something that will appeal to all ages and styles. From the summer dancehall bump and whine beats of opening track ‘Say Yeah,’ to the ragga-infused ‘Happy Say Yeah’; the tender sentiments of lovers’ rock track ‘Treat Her Right,’ to the all-out party vibes of ‘It’s You,’ the new album firmly stamps Chaka Demus and Pliers as masters of the Jamaican sound, brought bang up to date with the excellent production and finesse that experience brings. Look out for Chaka Demus and Pliers playing live in Europe, with a prestigious live set at the Olympics in Greece in August, before a full UK tour in the autumn.