This predominantly female group was formed in 1981 by a group of like-minded individuals, including founding member and lead vocalist Denise ‘Jena’ Davis. They originally performed as Abacus, which evolved into their current name meaning Father (‘Abbah’ from ancient Hebrew) Africa (‘Kush’ ? representing the motherland). In 1983, they released their debut ‘AbbaKush’ followed by the hit ‘Physically’. They gained wider recognition when they appeared alongside Misty In Roots in concert and on recording sessions for Misty’s People Unite label. The sessions resulted in the 1984 releases of ‘Rackattack’ and the classic ‘Batta Dem’. During this period AbbaKush were a regular feature on terrestrial television in the UK including the BBC series Ebony, Channel 4’s Bacchanal, and the ITV programmes, Middle English and Clothes Speak. At this time the girls were featured performing with a male guitarist and white female saxophonist, which demonstrated that they were not separatist but an open-minded cosmopolitan group. By the mid-80s the line-up had settled around Jenaba ‘Zion’ Erb (drums), Angela Wynter (vocals; ex-View From The Hill), Jennifer Harrison (vocals), Christine Allen (guitar, bass; ex-Aquizim), while keyboard and percussion duties were filled by session musicians, most notably Zeb and Fari. While AbbaKush is widely considered a reggae group the group incorporates elements of jazz, soca and gospel into their sound. Examples of the group’s diversity can be found on their subsequent releases, ‘Sunshine Island’ (1985), ‘Stand Firm’, ‘Africa’ (both 1986) and ‘Reggae Vibes’ (1988).
From 1988 and 1992 little was heard from the group until they embarked on a critically acclaimed European tour in the latter part of 1992. The group continued touring through to 1994, which culminated in sessions for their stunning debut, Life. In 1998, they released a mini-album which featured Trevor Hartley on the title track. While his performance was faultless the critics and fans alike favoured the re-cut of ‘Batta Dem’ alongside the thunderous dub version. In the spring of 2000, the group joined forces with Akabu, Trilla Jenna and Aisha as part of the Women In Focus event in London’s Camden Lock to critical acclaim. They established a non-hierarchical programme and performed as Sista with members of Akabu and AbbaKush providing the music as well as performing individually. The success of the presentation led to further performances including a notable appearance at the Essential Festival.