Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ari-Up: Punky Reggae Queen of Many Names

Even before the breakup of all-girl punk outfit the Slits in 1981, Ariana Forster; aka Ari-Up (aka Ari Stepper; aka Baby Ari; aka Madussa; aka Whatever the hell she wants us to call her this week) began lending her extraordinary vocal talents to various ground-breaking earthbeat productions. Even if the press didn't see it, artists such as Nina Hagen, Talking Heads, Adrian Sherwood, and Neneh Cherry valued her contributions to their expanding world-view.

When one lays out the recorded work Ari-Up either fronted, contributed to, or appeared on from 1978 until disappearing to the dancehalls of Jamaica in 1983, it is perplexing that the woman's influence on the world music explosion of the mid-80s is not better noted by music scribes.

Then again, music critics, video DJs, and latent feminists proclaimed Paul Simon's wonderful Graceland (1986) as 'the most refreshing thing since oxygen tanks' in trying to celebrate that albums 'innovative use of world music in Tin Pan Alley Folk-Pop'. The hucksters.

After gushing their ignorance so blatantly, who can fault music historians for missing the boat so badly on Ari-Up. They've got the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to worry about. Not to mention the burden of perpetuating the myth of Björk's originality.

That's a big responsibility!

- The Slits (L-R), Viv Albertine, Tessa Pollitt, Ari-Up

It has been suggested by journalists interviewing the woman that Ari-Up's growing interest in reggae and dub during the late 70s was the catalyst of the shocking change in musical outlook of the Slits from sonically brash to the experimental. An interesting, if not butt-kissing assessment. I would tend to credit the many converging influences surrounding the Slits during the 1977-79 period - including, but not limited to legendary Roxy DJ Don Letts managing the band for a spell, Nora Forster, the mother of Ari, dating and eventually marrying reggae aficionado John Lydon, and the general influence of Public Image Limited's first two releases. But what do I know? I do not get paid for this!

Whatever the influences, the Slits' output during the bands lifetime was remarkably different from any of their first wave U.K. punk rock brethren. You know - the ones that got all of the press and after-thought recognition.

Good thing I do not trust anyone in the mainstream that reports on the many forms of entertainment we gorge ourselves on. If I did, I'd probably be blogging about Amy Winehouse. Or Metallica.

He sold more records than Elvis and The Beatles, you know.

The recordings of Ari-Up, 1978-1983

Nina Hagen Band - S/T (Front), 1978 -- CBS Records #CBS 83136
Contribution: Music & Lyrics, Pank (track 11)
Frisian's Other Favorites Blog

On-U Sound Records #On-U LP 01
Contribution: Vocals
Not Rock On Blog

Rip Rig & Panic - God (Front), 1981
Virgin Records #V 2213
Contributions: Vocals (track 4)
Down Underground Blog
Cherry Red Records #BRED 21
Contributions: Piano, Organ
Global Groove Blog

On-U Sound Records #ON-U LP 05
Contributions: Keyboard
Devotional Hooligan Blog

Statik Records #STAT LP 02
Contributions: Vocals, Piano, Percussion
Rocket Remnants Blog

On-U Sound Records #ON-U LP 21
Contributions: Vocals
Rocket Remnants Blog

Note: Besides the Slits albums and Talking Heads' Fear of Music, which can be found elsewhere on this blog, the only Ari-Up appearances during the period in question I am unable to link to is the My Love 12" and 7" singles by New Age Steppers (both released in 1981) and Prince Far I & The Arab's Cry Tuff Dub Encounter Chapter III (1980) - which features Ari providing backing vocals on 'Shake the Nation'.


  1. CABOOSE SUPE! now there's an artist worthy of daily worship! just wrote to him in Oregon, he's selling dvd's of his greatest skits online, u can go here, and even see some current pics of his alter-ego Marty Sullivan >>>

  2. gracias por el post.tras regalarnos toda su magia postpunk durante estos años, ari-up descendió al paraíso el 20 de octubre de este maldito año 2010.

    rest in peace, ari. te vamos a extrañar

    m.h (buenos aires, argentina)