A pioneer gets his due

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Saturday, August 01, 2015

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OF the many Jamaicans who made their mark in the British music industry during the 1960s and 1970s, Sonny Roberts may be the most unheralded.


Roberts finally gets his due this evening at the 18th Tribute To The Greats show at the Chinese Benevolent Association in St Andrew.


Dubbed 'The British Connection', it honours a number of Jamaicans who helped put Caribbean music on the map in the United Kingdom.


Roberts, who moved to the UK in the late 1950s, was the first Jamaican to open a recording studio in that country.


Though he rubbed shoulders in those early days with other pioneers including Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and Trojan Records founder Lee Gopthal, Roberts' trailblazing feats is not as documented.


Through his Planetone and Orbitone labels, he was pivotal in breaking lovers rock in the UK. Roberts also produced early Afro-beat music by Nigerian band the Nkengas, and was a key figure in the introduction of soca artistes to a wide audience.


Junior Lincoln, another mainstay of the Jamaican music community in 1960s' Britain, said Roberts deserves the belated recognition from his homeland.


"People don't know the extent of the contribution of a Sonny Roberts to the music. I can tell you, it was tough in those years in London so he deserves this award," Lincoln told the Jamaica Observer.


Roberts returned to Jamaica 15 years ago, retiring in the hills of St Andrew with his wife Monica. He spoke about his award from Tribute To The Greats.


"This award means I did the right thing to follow my dreams and pave the way for many black artistes. I'm truly blessed," he said.


Blackwell and Gopthal (who died in 1997) are also members of Tribute To The Greats class of 2015. Others are singer/songwriter Wilfred 'Jackie' Edwards, singers Millie Small, Robert 'Dandy' Livingstone, Laurel Aitken, Owen Gray, Winston Francis, Barry Biggs and Pam Hall; sound system operators Vincent 'Duke Vin' Forbes and Winston 'Count Suckle' Campbell; deejay Dennis 'Alcapone' Smith and the Golding Family.





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