LOCAL reggae and ska band Boss Sound Manifesto are set to release their debut album at what should be an unforgettable gig on the Belfast Barge this weekend.

The West Belfast outfit was founded in 2011, but with members coming and going, and after years of crafting an original sound, the album has been a long time in the making. Their eponymous new release began at least four years ago, the intervening years bringing virtually all of life’s major events to the lads, including two weddings and a funeral. Fitting, then, that the 12 original tracks cover topics such as love, loss, addiction, dancing – and the need to celebrate life.

Above all else, as band saxophonist Cormac ‘Buzz’ Ó Briain explains, people can expect “millions of dancing”.
“Most of it is dancey,” he says. “We write about life and trying to be positive about life, but also taking into consideration that life’s tough. We try to give a positive message about how you have to go on, never give up – most of it is upbeat. We’re there to give people a good time and have a good time ourselves.”

While Belfast has long had an affinity with reggae and ska music, most notably during the ska revival of 1980s that brought with it the two-tone sound, Boss Sound Manifesto were intent to put their own local stamp on the music.

“We’ve got an original sound because we were very aware that lots of people have tried to do that sort of music,” Buzz explains.

“You get some people trying to sing in Jamaican accents – that’s ridiculous. It’s all original ska and reggae – early reggae, which is a more aggressive reggae.”

Although the album is the end result of years of dedication to their sound, for bass guitarist Máirtín Ó Briain it also marks the beginning of a “new chapter.

“We’re continuously writing new stuff anyway, so we’re on our way to another album,” he said.

More music in the pipeline is undoubtedly exciting news but first there is, of course, the matter of that gig on the barge. Boss Sound Manifesto have gained a reputation as a must-see live band, and will be accompanied by Sligo ska band the Mad Bad Beat in what should be a sellout gig.

Looking forward to show, Buzz laughs: “It’s on a f*****g boat – I’ve never done a gig on a boat before. It’ll be good craic. It’s only for 100 people, so it’ll be rammed. There’s no tickets, so we’re saying to people that if you wanna go, you have to go early.

“We want people to see the band from Sligo as well.

“The first 30 people through the door get a free album and a Boss party pack – blow up saxophones, blow up guitars, pirate hats, eye patches, swords. They’ll get some free punch as well.”

Doors open at 9pm on Saturday and the gig is bring your own.