David Rodigan ‘blown away’ by national honour - OD for global promotion of Jamaican music
In the ‘60s, a young, white English boy had what could be called a galactic musical experience that has taken him on a journey that has been just out of this world. Five decades later, that boy, who is now a man, is being honoured for being an ambassador for the very same music that has defined his career. On that day in October 2020 when Jamaica will celebrates her heroes, standing tall among stalwarts, and representing for Jamaican music, will be selector David Rodigan. The British radio DJ known for his selections of reggae and dancehall told The Sunday Gleaner that he was surprised by the honour, which was made public on Thursday when the list of awardees was published.
“I was absolutely surprised. Totally blown away. I had no idea,” he said. “I was phoned by a friend yesterday. It transpires that my manager knew about it but didn’t tell me,” Rodigan, who has played on stations including Radio London, Capital 95.8, Kiss 100, BBC Radio 1Xtra, BBC Radio 2, and BFBS Radio, shared.
His reggae journey has been dubbed a love affair, and as his official bio states, “The key to his success has been an unsinkable passion for reggae music, which first took a hold of him as a schoolboy when he heard ska music in the early ’60s. ‘I fell in love with the music, ska then rock steady. I have always been hooked on the dynamic energy and passion in the music and the messages of hope and inspiration. The music touches my soul and always has done. It’s also wonderful music to dance to, and I love to dance’,” he said during the interview.
Over the years, Rodigan, owing to his being a knowledgeable student of the music, has emerged as a sound-clash titan, “killing” many a homegrown selector, rated as the best in the game. And the reason for that is that Rodigan “developed an obsession with the music of Jamaica that generated an encyclopaedic knowledge of the island’s every artiste, every song, and every rhythm track”.
Having been involved in some legendary clashes, Rodigan went back to the genesis. “It started in 1983 when I clashed with Barry G on JBC Radio one Saturday night, and Jamaica loved what we did. The most famous clash was in 1985. It’s now known as the ‘Sleng Teng Clash’. Then we took the clash to the Brooklyn Empire in ‘85, and it was a roadblock!” he recalled.
By the early ‘90s, he had started clashing with the big Jamaican sounds like Bodyguard and then Kilimanjaro and Bass Odyssey. “I then started playing in World Clash shows promoted by Irish and Chin, and I won World Clash in 2012, which was a great night,” he shared.
With the rise of the term cultural appropriation, which some say is an attempt to redefine cultural appreciation, Rodigan could very well be perceived as an ‘outsider’ who would fall into the category. And, the selector, who, for close to 40 years “has been the top dog in the ganja-scented, bass-heavy atmosphere of Britain’s reggae dancehall was unafraid to voice his opinion when asked. “Yes, I do have issues with that term [cultural appropriation] because I fail to see why someone’s genuine love and appreciation of a particular culture, art, or music should be seen as an appropriation of it simply because they are not from the culture that originated the art form,” Rodigan told The Sunday Gleaner.
He added: “But I do strongly object to individuals and organisations that misuse a culture by hijacking for monetary gain and then discarding it. That’s totally unacceptable, but it has always pervaded the world of business and commerce. The arts, in all their truest forms, from music to dance, etc, are created by artists, and it’s morally wrong for the world not to be allowed to appreciate it.”
When the annual National Honours and Awards ceremony takes place on National Heroes’ Day, October 19, David Rodigan “the best black music presenter on British radio” will be honoured with an Order of Distinction (OD) for his global promotion of Jamaican music.