Reggae footprint distinct in the UK, says Chips Richards
After 47 years in the music business, Anthony Richards, also known as ‘Chips’, is still spreading Jamaica’s reggae and dancehall genres on the global scale. The former marketing and promotions manager of Trojan Records, the British record label that was instrumental in introducing some of reggae’s heavyweights to the world, was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the recent Tribute to the Greats ceremony held at Curphey Place, St Andrew.
Richards, who helped to steer many records on to the United Kingdom’s (UK) national singles charts, is the pioneer of many initiatives in the music industry, including the first-ever commercial reggae radio show in Britain and introducing reggae to the BBC World Service.
“London is the hub where all these reggae-related projects launched, and because of that, reggae is now in countries like Brazil and Japan. The Japanese are among our biggest audiences, and I can say that because I took it there in 1974, when I organised the first-ever reggae music tours of Thailand and Japan with the Pioneers and the Cimarons,” Richards told The Gleaner after accepting his award.
Richards also claims to have personally contributed to the exposure of reggae works to other countries like Thailand, Japan, Nigeria, and Brazil, which were not familiar with the music during the ‘70s.
Even though the marketing executive branched off on his own in 1975 after Trojan Records was liquidated, he remained loyal to the promotion of Jamaica’s reggae artistes and its culture.
“Trojan Records has evolved through difficult times, from institutional racism to passing through the hands of various owners, yet we continued the reggae march. The catalogue was kept alive and energised and the music that ended up with the label within that period still remains some of Jamaica’s best works,” Richards said.
He added, “The reggae footprints are there and clear. All artistes of that era were (and are) successful. Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals, Ken Boothe, John Holt, Gregory Isaacs, and Errol Dunkley all hit in England first, and any debate there is, those persons will have to look at the track record where reggae’s international success started. Reggae, including the music of Bob Marley, wasn’t launched from Jamaica, but from England.”
Speaking of the genre’s evolution, he said that it has gradually seen a change but that for him, the ‘60s and ‘70s are still the best periods for reggae music. He also noted that a large reggae community was built in the 1960s in London and challenged all the upcoming acts to learn more about reggae’s development, struggles, and resulting success to become more appreciative of the music’s legacy.
As the newly revived label prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary last year, Richards was invited by Bertelsmann Music Group to assist with the launch of its reggae catalogue throughout the United States and is actively engaged in the promotional campaign. He has been celebrated for rekindling the relationship among the surviving reggae entertainers, recording artistes, musicians, and producers with the current Trojan Jamaica after being separated from them for a period of approximately 40 years.
“The old company died, but with Bertelsmann Music Group’s investment in Trojan Records (rebranded to Trojan Jamaica), its legacy is potentially growing bigger, and I continue to volunteer my services to them for the love of the music,” he shared.
As the only survivor from that period of the Trojan Records business, Richards communicated that it is becoming harder for him to keep up with the latest. He said, “I can’t do it much longer now because I am old and not doing very well.”
Prior to coming to Jamaica for the awards ceremony, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and spent several days in the hospital recovering.
“I will continue to volunteer my services because of the deep love that I hold for that period, the artistes who have all become friends and are like family to me,” he concluded.
Richards is currently the coordinator of a major project at the National Library of Jamaica, which is preparing a database on Jamaican vintage musicians who reside in the UK.