“I heard ska, aka blue beat music, as a young mod in the mid sixties,” says Rodigan of his introduction to the genre. A few years later, an opportunity arose: “I was given an audition by BBC Radio London in 1978 because the DJ who presented the show decided to quit,” he remembers.
I asked Rodigan if it was hard to win over a Jamaican audience. “Not really,” he explains. “Because Jamaicans are very forthright, especially when it comes to competitive games. They want to be good and they want to succeed. So, anyone who comes along and knows their subject wins the respect of a Jamaican.” His passion for and knowledge of the music was the key for Rodigan’s success on the island: “They realised that although I was not Jamaican, I did know about their music and that’s how I earned their respect.”
What really propelled his status was the soundclash; events that see rival DJs or crews spin their most exclusive dubplates on the biggest soundsystems available, in a sort of musical boxing match. “The soundclashes enabled me to get to know other Jamaican selectors, and because I knew what I was doing, they showed me respect even when we were clashing, and in later years we all became very good friends.” Rodigan’s most memorable soundclash? Not in Jamaica, surprisingly, but “the clash against Killimanjaro with Ricky Trooper in ‘97 in New York” of which grainy YouTube footage still exists.
When asked about the future of reggae, Rodigan cites Chronixx in particular as having “great potential.” And when asked how reggae has changed, there is one key difference for him. “The messages are often less positive than they used to be, too much hype over substance.” That explains the support for Jamaican star Chronixx, who’s known for his conscious output and meaningful lyrics.
DIY soundsystem culture is back on the rise throughout the UK, and Nottingham follows suit, with crews like RubberDub and Tumble Audio having raised the noise levels in the city over the past few years. Rodigan looks at the movement fondly: “I think it’s fantastic what’s been happening.”
Rodigan says he’s “always received lots of love from people in Nottingham, so playing there is always fun.” But what to expect from his February show? “Lots of big classics from the past fifty years. A great set comes about when the selector shares his or her passion for the music. You become a conduit for the energy and love, and you pass it out into the audience.” Forty years in the game and it’s clear his enthusiasm for the music is as great as it was on day one. We tip our hats.
Detonate and Reggae Take Over present Rodigan’s 40th Anniversary Tour at The Brickworks on Friday 16 February, 10pm. Tickets available online.
David Rodigan website