Below are extracts from interviews conducted with legendary DJ and broadcaster David ‘Ram Jam’ Rodigan in 2003 and 2004.
Do you think it has been harder or easier for you being a white man in the reggae industry?
It’s a difficult question because there is nothing to compare it to. I suppose the logical answer would be it’s been harder. But all I can tell you is: over the years, I have been given the most all-embracing, warm welcome by black people in Jamaican and abroad, to the point where at times it’s indescribable how affectionate their love is – for someone who is essentially an outsider.
I’m not saying that on occasion it hasn’t been made clear that – as a white man – I shouldn’t be doing this. But considering what the black race has endured at the hands of the white race over the last 400 years with colonialism and slavery; to be given the kind of acceptance and respect I’ve received is very meaningful and beautiful.
You’ve interviewed many legends – who was the most bizarre?
Lee Perry. I asked him where his mother came from and he said: ‘My mother is the river Nile and my father is the air.’
Who are your favourite MCs and singers?
I’m a diehard Bounty Killer fan, but Lieutenant Stitchie ranks as one of my all time favourites. Bob Andy is my favourite singer.
What is your favourite dubplate?
Dubplate Playing In the Ghetto by Johnny Osbourne. It’s a wicked rhythm by the Roots Radics band and dubbed by King Tubby. The lyrics reflect the work of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s Blackbird. Johnny sings it so well and it reminds me of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when sound systems would string up on the lawns outside at night. Another favourite would be Killamanjaro’s Visit of King Selassie where Early B describes Emperor Selassie’s visit to Jamaica in 1966. It’s a powerful piece with a tremendous ambience.
What changes would you like to see in the reggae industry?
I’d like to see the return of major reggae festivals in Great Britain. I’d also like to see more new songwriters and vocalists emerging. Where is the new Bob Andy, Dennis Brown or Gregory Isaacs? Where is the quality control that says we’re not just gonna throw everything at the wall and hope that some of it sticks?
General Levy told me that in Europe you’re known as the ‘Father of the sound system generation’ – how does that make you feel?
Very proud and flattered that something I did had such an effect. It’s important that the music is making such a significant impact in new territories.
How big is reggae in Europe?
In every major European country, there’s a musical revolution going on and it’s totally reggae; it’s like a tidal wave. Thousands of people will come to an event in Rome or Milan just to listen to two or three sound systems. That’s significant because these young people are discovering Sean Paul and then they’re discovering Dennis Brown, Luciano, Delroy Wilson, Studio One, Treasure Isle and King Jammy’s digital recordings from the ‘80s. They realise there is this vast wealth of music that needs to be mined, so they start digging.
What’s your favourite sound system?
I just love everything about Coxsone. The way they set up; the quality of the sound system; how it looked; Festus selecting; Blacker Dread; Natty; Bikey Dread; and then Lloydie Coxsone standing supreme – the boss. He really inspired me.
What message would you like to send to people who look up to you?
The music comes first, that’s the most important thing. It should be respected, put on a pedestal and admired. Don’t be lazy or rest on your laurels. And it’s very important that we help each other on the way.
Top 3 David Rodigan Compilations