On-U Sound in Poland


“Disturbing the comfortable, comforting the disturbed”.

(On-U Sound’s motto)

Born in the heart of London’s vibrant music scene in 1980, independent record label On-U Sound Records continues to push boundaries today. Producer Adrian Sherwood, aptly nicknamed the “mega dub master,” is the label’s visionary founder. His innovative work blends dub, reggae, post-punk, world music, funk, jungle, dubstep, and industrial into a genre-defying sound that has captivated music lovers far beyond the club scene.

On-U Sound boasts an impressive catalog of over 150 albums featuring iconic artists like Dub Syndicate, African Head Charge, Tackhead, and Creation Rebel. But Sherwood’s influence extends far beyond the label. A critically acclaimed solo artist and a sought-after producer and remixer, he’s collaborated with a diverse range of artists, from Nine Inch Nails and Ministry to The Fall, Sinead O’Connor, Depeche Mode, Blur, and even contemporary acts like Asian Dub Foundation, Congo Natty, Primal Scream, and Air. Recent years have seen the release of acclaimed albums featuring Jamaican legends like Lee “Scratch” Perry and Horace Andy.

He has also been a great friend of Poland for many years.

Every story has a beginning. This one dates back to March 1986, when Polish Radio journalist, publisher, and promoter Włodzimierz Kleszcz, a pioneer of reggae and world music in Poland, traveled to London to meet Sherwood. This meeting sparked the first visit of an On-U Sound delegation to Poland.

At the “Reggae is King” festival in Poznań, Adrian Sherwood, Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah, Gary Clail, and Mark Stewart likely presented the first reggae DJ session (sound system) ever witnessed in Poland.  Sherwood also mixed for the performing domestic bands, and his skills and revolutionary approach to the mixer caused a sensation.

A lasting memento of this visit is “Jedna miłość, jedna nienawiść (Adrian Sherwood mix),” the London version of a track by the band Gedeon Jerubbaal, which appeared on the international compilation “MIR: Reggae from around The World” (RAS Records 1988). Sadly, the rest of the Poznań band’s material was stolen from a car in London.

In 1987, Włodzimierz Kleszcz and his brother Jerzy returned to On-U Sound’s London headquarters. Their interview with Adrian Sherwood, both broadcast on Polish Radio and published in “Non Stop” magazine, significantly fueled the growing interest in dubbing in Poland. This impact extended beyond Poland’s thriving reggae scene, sparking a wider fascination with the art form.

In the early 1990s, Włodzimierz Kleszcz founded the Kamahuk label and frequently approached Adrian Sherwood for studio collaborations. Jerzy Kleszcz’s regular trips to On-U Sound with Polish tracks bore fruit in a series of beautiful mixes. These ranged from traditional ethnic music by Rawianie & Sąsiedzi to Mamadou Diouf & Kinior Orchestra. Even the iconic album “Twinkle Brothers & Trebunie-Tutki” got the Sherwood treatment, with “Higher Heights & Twinkle Inna Polish Stylee.” The fusion reached new heights with Trebunie-Tutki’s album “W Sherwood” (a fitting title!), featuring a collaboration with African Head Charge and 2Badcard from On-U Sound. Kamahuk further solidified the connection with the release of the cassette “On-U Sound for Poland,” which even included a special greeting for Polish fans from Lee “Scratch” Perry himself.

The next decade brought the first live representative of Adrian’s label to Polish soil: the radical Bristolian, Gary Clail. He made a surprise appearance at Toruń’s Odnowa club, even filming music videos for two songs, one shot remarkably within a local cathedral.

A rising tide of popularity in the UK, which was starting to catch on in Poland,  wasn’t enough to ensure a packed house for Gary Clail’s surprise gig. Unfortunately, Polish fans only learned about it after the fact.  Three years on, however, the situation had changed dramatically. Clail returned, paving the way for On-U Sound in Polish clubs with well-attended gigs in Tychy, Kluczbork, and Piła. This time, the fans were ready.

Poznań’s Trops club became the scene of a landmark event in 1997: the only Polish concert by Revolutionary Dub Warriors. Their music, released and mixed by Adrian Sherwood at the peak of their creative fire, continues to captivate fans of the most radical live dub even today.

On-U Sound wasn’t just about studio magic; their artists delivered exceptional live experiences too. Dub Syndicate, the label’s flagship group led by Jamaican drumming master Style Scott, became a familiar face on Polish stages, charming audiences with multiple visits in 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2007. Each performance boasted legendary Jamaican musicians. They graced the Opole Amphitheatre, and their 2001 Warsaw show at CDQ with Jamaican legend Fred Locks even yielded a live album released by the club.

Another unforgettable moment arrived in 1999. Under a swirling canopy of stage smoke, strobe lights pierced the darkness like fleeting bolts of lightning. This electrifying scene set the stage for Audio Active, the psychedelic techno-dub terrorists from Tokyo. A cult favorite from On-U Sound, they descended upon Poznań’s Eskulap club, leaving an indelible mark on the city’s music scene.

Then Poland got a taste of serious sound  when Adrian Sherwood, alongside Pete Holdsworth from Pressure Sounds, landed for the first-ever sound system tour in the country. They performed at an abandoned factory in Warsaw’s Wola district and at Praffdata’s birthday party or in Sopot’s Sfinks club, where Adrian live-mixed the Polish reggae legend, Bakshish. This electrifying encounter sparked a long-term collaboration with Xiądz Maken’s Joint Venture Sound System and Activator. Over the years, their shared passion for music would lead to numerous joint events, insightful interviews, a memorable performance in London, and even Activator’s remix of a track on one of Adrian Sherwood’s albums. Fast forward five years, and On-U Sound System returned under the British Council’s Soundbites programme. This time, Adrian Sherwood himself brought the fire, dropping sizzling mixes straight from his studio. His daughter Denise joined the sonic alchemy, alongside the mic wizardry of Ghetto Priest (later of Asian Dub Foundation). The energy was infectious, with hundreds across four major Polish clubs dancing the night away. The Warsaw performance was even immortalized on a special CDQ/British Council album. To celebrate the premiere at Warsaw’s Centralny Dom Qultury, Adrian brought the unique sounds of the dub-blues-funk band Little Axe.

African Head Charge, another icon of the On-U Sound System family, frequently graced Polish festival stages. Adrian Sherwood himself even took the mixing reins for their set at the 2011 Regałowisko festival in Bielawa. The post-punk scene also saw a connection, with Adrian Sherwood’s frequent collaborator, Mark Stewart, bringing The Pop Group and The Maffia to Polish audiences at Off Festival and Wrocław’s Era Nowe Horyzonty.

Ghetto Priest, a powerhouse vocalist for On-U Sound, became a familiar face in Poland.  He wasn’t just a performer on sound system tours; he actively collaborated with Polish bands like Tumbao, Maleo Reggae Rockers, and Positive Thursdays in Dub. He even brought his talents to Lublin’s Different Sounds festival in 2014, performing alongside Asian Dub Foundation.

Meanwhile, in 2010, Adrian Sherwood himself received recognition in Poland. At the International Festival of Music Producers Soundedit in Łódź, he was awarded the prestigious “Man with the Golden Ear” award for best producer.  He then went on to mix a concert for the American band Tackhead, a seminal band in his long career.

The Polish audience wasn’t just treated to On-U Sound’s classic sound. They also experienced the cutting-edge dubstep explorations of the Sherwood & Pinch project, which performed in Poland twice. Additionally, Adrian Sherwood’s captivating festival sets along the Vistula River are a testament to his enduring connection with the Polish music scene.

Pioneering producer Adrian Sherwood brought On-U Sounds’ raw energy of dubstep to Polish audiences twice with Sherwood & Pinch project and his legendary Vistula River festival sets are well-chronicled in our archives.

On-U Sound and Poland – it’s more than just gigs; it’s a deep connection forged through shared vibrations. Built relationships, hard-earned recognition, and mutual respect – these are the pillars of a musical friendship that fosters unique collaborations and leaves a lasting sonic impression. We simply call out in one voice: disturb the comfortable and comfort  the disturbed.