Royal salute for reggae's golden anniversary

Observer senior writer

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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Reggae was still taking its baby steps in Kingston, Jamaica in 1969. In London, England, home to a growing West Indian population, the rebellious new beat caught on like wildfire.

On March 12, British radio icon and reggae historian David Rodigan and a cross-generational cast, backed by the Outlook Orchestra, saluted the music's golden anniversary with a sold-out show at Royal Albert Hall in London.

Artistes from Jamaica and the United Kingdom celebrated the evolution of reggae since 1969, in a two-hour spectacle narrated by the animated Rodigan.

“I am over the moon about the turnout because the show was sold-out online in three hours last November, when tickets were put on sale. That's over 4,000 tickets sold in three hours at the Royal Albert Hall, that really is a remarkable achievement and we didn't even announce the name of any of the artistes, we wanted to keep that as a surprise on the night,” Rodigan told the Jamaica Observer.

It marked the second year Rodigan worked with the Outlook Orchestra, a classically trained 25-piece band, which is at home playing ska, rocksteady, dub, roots-reggae and dancehall. He collaborated with them in March last year when he celebrated his 40th year in broadcasting.

Bitty McClean, Christopher Ellis, Holly Cook, Winston Francis, Maxi Priest, Horseman, UK Apache, General Levy, Kiko Bun, The Newham Generals, Sharlene Hector, Kevin Mark Trail, Freddie McGregor and Julian Marley were the acts who performed.

Fans rocked to songs that made an impact in the UK, such as Mr Fix-It by Winston Francis, Dawn Penn's No, No, No, which was performed by British singer Hollie Cook; Police and Thieves done by British singer Kiko Bun, Wild World performed by Maxi Priest, Big Ship by Freddie McGregor and Redemption Song by Julian Marley.

“I chose the line-up along with the orchestra leader Mr Tommy Evans, who then set about transposing and writing arrangements for every instrument on every song; truly a mammoth task, but the end result was seen and heard at both the Royal Festival Hall last March and again on Tuesday at the Royal Albert Hall,” said Rodigan.

Born in Germany to British parents in 1951, Rodigan's radio career started at the BBC in 1978. He became popular in Jamaica during the 1980s through his sound system clashes with disc jockey Barry “Barry G” Gordon of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation.

Rodigan, who hosts the weekly BBC Radio 1Xtra radio show, covered his career in the 2017 autobiography, Rodigan: My Life in Reggae. Last year saw the release of the documentary, David Rodigan: Reggae Fever.

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