David Rodigan was recently mentioned in the LTW! list of places to find new music but since then he’s got his own show on BBC radio 2. His star is rising and he’s a true hero in the world of music with his reggae show…
If you were playing a game of word association with someone and they shoutedÃÂ “Reggae”Â in your face what would be the first thing you think of? (Apart from, obviously, “Don’t shout in my face, man, there’s nothing wrong with my hearing”Â). Perhaps you’d shout back “Bob Marley”Â, or perhaps “King Tubby”Â or maybe even “Rastafari”Â. All of the above may be my first thought too.
However, as the years pass, it’s becoming more & more likely that what I’d shout back would be the name of the man who quite possibly has single handedly done more for the reputation of reggae in the UK than anyone else, that name being the one of veteran sound system selector, Mr. David “Ramjam”Â Rodigan.
I first became aware of David Rodigan when Zane Lowe mentioned his name in effusively reverential terms.
My love of reggae goes back many goes back ages now, & if I were to pin that love to any one album in particular it would be the album that, famously, was John Peel’s favourite album, Misty In Roots’ “Live At The Counter Eurovision ’79”Â. It’s still an album that never fails to bowl me over whenever I hear it & is also quite easily the album that bags the title “Record I’ve Most Often Had to Buy”Â on account of the many times I used to stand over it as a student with a J hanging out my mouth carefully trying to lift & replace the needle so I could hear “Introduction”Â again. If the needle didn’t scratch the record during the manouvre then invariably a hunk of hot ash would drop off the joint, land on the record & look so pretty spinning round I couldn’t bring myself to lift it off.
Following Peel’s death I’ve regularly been disappointed at how hard it is to find any dj on national radio who’s excited enough about reggae to go looking for new stuff. It’s always struck me as the genre of music most likely to unite people. Just about everyone loves reggae. It goes down well if played at a dubstep club, an indie disco, a punk party or a folky kneesup. And yet apart from the occasional classic from 30 yrs ago no dj’s ever seem to play it much now. Of course there’s nothing wrong with the old classics but I’d quite like to also hear some of the many reissues that are constantly being released or some of the more obscure releases from years ago. And certainly virtually no one ever plays new reggae artists, (with the honourable, occasional, exceptions of Don Letts & Dandelion Radio). I’m thinking of artists like, for instance, Manwell T, Albarosie, Bitty McLean, Etana, Mind’s Eye Dub, Mungo’s Hifi, Dihedral, Million Stylez & the brilliant Dubkasm guys:
So when Zane mentioned David Rodigan I decided to run with his suggestion & hunted down his show on kiss fm , a show I’ve been listening to ever since.
David Rodigan is one of the most respected figures in the world of reggae. I’d even go as far as to say he’s one of the most respected dj’s in the world full stop, across every genre. It’s taken a long time but finally it would appear he’s being recognised as a true hero of the UK’s music scene. You might know him even if you don’t think you know him. His voice has been sampled on quite a few recent releases. For instance that was him all over Breakage Feat Newham Generals “Hard”Â & he has also been on a few Caspa tunes like this one:
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However this year is brewing up to be his true breakout year. It started with an amazing and release at the start of the year for the pioneering and very highly respected Fabriclive series, a mix that brilliantly marries old classic reggae tracks with newer artists work. This is a record that should feature in everyones year ending top 10 album releases. Following this he put in a barnstorming performance at Sonar that, by all accounts, began by totally bemusing the young Spanish audience & ended up with the crowd going properly bannana’s I read a few Sonar reviews & all of them mentioned Rodigan’s set as being the highlight.
Shortly after that performance he was a guest on Gilles Peterson’s radio 1 show. It was easily the best two hours of radio I’ve heard this year, & as you’ll know if you read the LTW blog I did about places to hear new music, I listen to an awful lot of radio. During the show they discussed David’s life, including how originally he started as an actor & just as it looked like he was destined for a glittering career in that profession (he had parts in Dr Who for instance & has actually set foot in the Tardis!) he gave it up to pursue his love of reggae & to dedicate his life to introducing as large a number of people as possible to his passion. Also on the show they discussed how he was responsible for bringing the streets of LA to a standstill due to one of his legendary sound clashes, & heÃÂ talked about his friendships with some of the giants of the world of reggae, people like Bob Marley, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo & Bunny Wailer to name but a few. He’s probably the most knowledgable person in the world about reggae & listening to him talking about all the above plus things like dubplate culture and the effects of the digital revolution on the sound of the music is spellbinding. Unfortunately it has dropped off the end of the iPlayer but you can download & listen back to the show here .
My favourite part of the show was hearing him talk about his sound clashes. Here’s an example of him competing in a Sound Clash in Jamaica 2009
And finally his rise into the nations collective consciousness has been further helped by his being awarded a new show for national Radio 2 . I imagine one of the last places you’d expect to find anyone advising you to tune into radio 2 is in a LTW blog, but here I am suggesting you do just that. He’s only been booked for a 10 show run but I’m guessing if enough of us turn on and tune in there’s a chance he’ll get a regular weekly show. If you listen to the show you can tell he’s obviously conscious that his audience are probably of a more conservative bent than he’s used to, so it’s quite an easy listen. For instance there are no long instrumental dub plates. However I’m hoping that as the show moves on he’ll start getting more adventurous. The first show was last Thurs and you can grab an iPlayer rewind here . If you want to lock into his next show live you’ll need to set your alarm for 11pm on Thursday.
I’m going to finish with one last video. During last week’s show Ramjam played The Abyssinians Satta Massagana. It’s one of my favourite songs ever and all the excuse I need to include it here. The Abyssinians played in Bristol last year at Fiddlers Club and it was priceless, a large crowd of young and old, male and female, black & white people all dancing their faces off in front of three beautiful, serene, twinkly eyed old guys who were obviously in their element and looked like they were bursting with happiness. It was easily the most diverse audience I’ve ever been a member of; it was really fascinating seeing the younger people who’d probably been drawn to the gig through the connection with dubstep all jumping up with their hands raised; all the older audience members doing the opposite, getting down and skanking their booties off. If you ever get a chance to see them live I probably don’t need to tell you to grab the opportunity with both hands.