Brothers are still keeping it real

1:19pm Friday 7th April 2006

By Emma Clayton

Twenty years ago three teenage brothers and a few schoolfriends from Bradford formed a ska/reggae band called Spectre that went on to support acts like Aswad and Lee 'Scratch' Perry.

The band had quite a following and continued until 1990 when they went their separate ways.

But the brothers carried on jamming together and this year they reformed, as Real Eyez.

Still influenced by the ska/2-Tone movement of the early 1980s, the band is causing quite a stir on the local scene and has two high profile gigs scheduled for this month.

They are one of the acts at Family Affair 2, an eclectic mix of music and poetry at the Love Apple Caf, and the following night they're playing at the opening gala of Bite the Mango, Bradford's international film festival at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television.

Imani Hekima, who formed the band with older brothers Stuart and Roger, says the social comment that characterised their music back in the Eighties is still a driving force.

"These days it's all about bling-bling but that's the opposite of what we're about, " he says. "We still have the reggae, 2-Tone influence with a social message but we don't hit people over the head with it, it's more subliminal.

We play catchy dance music.

"The band's name is a play on the word 'realise'. The dictionary definition is to 'become aware of, comprehend, get the message, grasp, take in, understand' or 'achieve, accomplish, carry out or through, complete, do, effect, fulfill, perform'. That's what we're aiming for with the music.

"We grew up with reggae, then the 2Tone movement was up front in the Eighties when we were all in our early teens. We weren't particularly sophisticated but we caught onto the social messages coming from bands like The Specials, these were songs about ordinary life, they spoke to us.

"These days music is more about the bling, the quick fix of material wealth that has stemmed from the music scene in America. I think there's room for a balance between that and the kind of music we're producing."

Imani joined Spectre in 1981 while at Yorkshire Martyrs school. The band supported a variety of artists, including Aswad, Augustus Pablo, Lee Perry, The Redskins, even Sandie Shaw.

"We went our separate ways when 2Tone and ska started to fizzle out, " says Imani. "We were young and didn't know how the industry worked.

So we went back to real life!"

After the band's demise Roger and Stuart played with fellow Bradford ska outfit Natural Riddim while Imani did a degree and taught in colleges.

In 1999 he returned to performing, his musical impetus being 'nu-classic soul' artists like Erykah Badu and D'Angelo, and last year he started working with Bradford author and poet Nick Toczek under the name Two Shaven Heads.

Earlier this year Imani, Roger and Stuart started holding jam sessions and writing new material. Out of that came Real Eyez and their debut gig was at this year's Bradford Festival, supporting jazz trombonist Dennis Rollins. They also appeared at Family Affair at the Love Apple, sharing the bill with Nick Toczek, indie band Working With Kenzie and R&B/soul artist Shamaine Pierre.

"We still have supporters from the old days which is great, and we're building a new following too, " says Imani. "We're into loads of different styles - jazz and soul as well as reggae and ska - and we're proud of not fitting neatly anywhere."

Real Eyez will be at the Love Apple Caf, Great Hor ton Road, on Thursday and at the Bite the Mango opening gala at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television on Friday. For more about the band visit www. realeyez. co. uk

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