Ari Up playing with the Slits at the Beat the Blues Festival, Alexandra Palace, June 15, 1980.
|Ariane Daniele Forster|
|Baby Ari, Madussa|
17 January 1962|
|Died||20 October 2010
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Genres||Punk rock, reggae, dub, techno, dancehall|
|The Slits, Nina Hagen, New Age Steppers|
Ari was born in Munich, Germany. Both her parents were involved in the music industry: Her father Frank Forster was a German schlager singer who had some success in the 50s and 60s while her mother Nora was a friend of Jimi Hendrix and dated Chris Spedding for three years. Ari's maternal grandfather was the wealthy German newspaper proprietor Franz Karl Maier, owner of Der Tagesspiegel. Her godfathers were Austrian singer/composer Udo Jürgens and Jon Anderson, the singer of the group Yes.
Nora later married the Sex Pistols' lead singer, John Lydon, in 1979. Their home was known to be something of a punk domain, where Nora would take in poor musicians. The constant presence of punk music led to Ari experimenting with it herself, learning to play the guitar from The Clash's Joe Strummer.
In 1976, at the age of 14, Ari formed The Slits with drummer Palmolive. Within a short time, guitarist Viv Albertine joined the group and found herself deeply impressed by the young singer. "English was her second language," Albertine noted in an interview. "It was not easy for her and she had to fight to be taken seriously." She succeeded: "Ari was the most dynamic woman I have ever known," said Albertine. "The way she carried herself was a revolution."
By the late 1970s, The Slits were touring as the opening act for The Clash. Ari Up's love of reggae led The Slits into a "jungly" dub style. She was the most flamboyant member of the group, becoming known for her wild hair and odd stage outfits. She can be seen briefly in The Clash film Rude Boy, associating with the band backstage. Her 1977 performances with The Slits are featured in The Punk Rock Movie, a documentary release of various punk group club performances, principally at The Roxy.
After The Slits disbanded in 1981, Ari moved with her husband and twin sons to jungle regions of Indonesia and Belize and lived among indigenous people in those areas. Later, they moved to Jamaica, eventually settling in Kingston. She continued to make music, first with the New Age Steppers, then as a solo artist, using the stage names Baby Ari, Madussa, and Ari Up. In 2000, Lydon and Nora became legal guardians of Ari's twin boys; as Lydon explained "[Ari] let them run free. They couldn't read, write or form proper sentences. One day Ari said she couldn't cope with them any more. I suggested they came to us because I wasn't having them abandoned. They gave us hell, but I loved having kids around." Ari's first full-length solo album, Dread More Dan Dead, was released in 2005.
In 2008, Ari was diagnosed with breast cancer. However she refused the physician-recommended chemotherapy. Lydon later commented "Who refuses chemo because they don't want their Rasta locks cut off? Ariane was just...not sensible. She thought she could cure herself with witch doctors. We spent hundreds of thousands trying to save her, but it was too late." Despite the diagnosis, she performed in July, 2009, with Perry and Austrian dub band Dubblestandart in Brooklyn, New York, just prior to the Central Park SummerStage festival. One of Ari's last recordings took place in May 2010, in New York with Lee Scratch Perry. The sessions were recorded by the Subatomic Sound System and released in August 2010 on 7" vinyl, titled "Hello, Hell is Very Low" b/w "Bed Athletes." The Slits' final work, the video for the song "Lazy Slam" from Trapped Animal, was released posthumously in accordance with Ari's wishes.
On 20 October 2010, Ari died in Los Angeles, aged 48. Her death was initially announced on Lydon's homepage. At this time, Lydon and Nora also became guardians of Ari's third child, Wilton.
A tribute Punky Reggae Birthday Party was held in at the Music Hall of Williamsburg by Dunia Best, Aram Sinnreich and Vivien Goldman on Brooklyn on 16 January 2011. Neneh Cherry, Tessa Pollitt, Hollie Cook and other former members of The Slits performed, along with members of the True Warriors, New Age Steppers, and other friends and associated.