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Men at work


“IF WE stand next to each other, it’s like a queue in a job centre! But it just works.”

This is how one of the members of Birmingham band X.O.V.A, pronounced crossover, describes the synergy among the multi-racial and inter-generational six-strong reggae group that is making waves in the city and the wider UK.

Fresh from their own version of Olympic glory where they were invited to play just outside the main stadium in the Spectator Experience, X.O.V.A is transcending boundaries, while not forgetting their roots.

Although there may be a wide age gap among members of the group, with some being old enough to be the fathers of the others – it has served as a positive source of strength rather than being a problem for the group.

Yet the group of reggae entertainers is kept even closer by life altering circumstances, each member’s being different. For instance the band’s drummer, known as Skins, lost his son Dimitri to Birmingham’s gun culture when he was shot dead four years ago.

It was a tragedy that pulled the band together and inspired their single Knife Crime City, which was part of their first album The Pressure of Life, released in 2010.

“We were playing in Holland when Dimitri was killed,” says Skins, who was originally part of reggae star Pato Banton’s band Reggae Revolution. “It really brought it home to me that this can happen to anyone. At the time the band was a great source of strength to me.”

Skins explained: “That’s why we want to get a message out through our music about important issues which affect the whole community.”


When the older members spoke to The Voice, it was clear they all have a social conscience, possibly drawn from the vast experience developed by the many years spent on the road touring across the globe with household names, such as Sting and Peter Gabriel.

“We were the first reggae band to play at Sydney Opera House when we toured with Pato,” Skins, added proudly, with Mikey on keyboards and James on saxophone smiling and nodding in agreement.

For them one of the highlights of their many tours is giving free tickets to people in Brazil who had no chance of being able to buy their way into the gig.

“I remember dreaming for years of being on Top of the Pops,” said Skins. “But when I actually got on there it was all a bit of a letdown!”

According to the drummer, “sometimes you just get more out of helping others to enjoy your music like giving away tickets to people who are too poor buy them. They will have remembered that.”

Now managed by businessman Andy Cliff and Steve Hughes, the band has a new lease on life and is about to release their latest album Synchronise Your Leaders, which touches on the issues of gang warfare.

Andy, who runs the international artiste management firm Stratosphere Music Ltd, said: “You will not see six harder working musicians. They work really well together and it’s definitely their time to shine.”

In the meantime, XOVA will be shining during Birmingham’s ArtsFest in September.

They will be on stage at 4 p.m. in the city’s Chamberlain Square on Sunday 9 September.

Watch them at www.xova live. com

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