20th March 1999 @ The Mandela Centre, Leeds
Born in Germany forty-seven years ago, David Rodigan came into the
not knowing which direction his life would take. However, in present
day he is known world-wide as one of the major disc jockeys in the
reggae music arena and has generated a multitude of fans whilst
commanding a high level of respect from his peers.
Rodigan was born of Scotts/Irish parentage having a Scottish father and
an Irish mother. His birthplace, Germany, was to be his home for the
first four years of his life. Being what is colloquially known as an
'army brat', Rodigan was raised in a few countries where his father was
posted during his service with the British Forces.
At aged four, his family relocated to North Africa where the ensuing
four years found David living in Libya and also in Derna on the edge of
the Sahara desert being as he recalls, "reared with the Arabs". His
first glimpse of England came at the age of eight when his family moved
to the United Kingdom.
During his formative years and into his early teens, young Rodigan dwelt
in a small village in Oxfordshire totally oblivious to anything outside
of his own culture, least of all black music and black people. He
recalls that during this time he "wasn't near a black community per se"
and his ambition in life was to be a teacher, but although he qualified
in this field, the call of the stage was too hard to resist and he took
up theatre due to his love of Shakespeare. His aim was to become a
member of the Royal Shakespeare Society after three years of attendance
at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. On embarking into the
theatrical forum, Rodigan began with some theatre work in Sheffield,
South Yorkshire, and then moved onto television appearances in shows
like 'Sherlock Holmes' and 'Dr. Who'.
At the age of approximately fifteen, Rodigan began buying records
leading up to his first playing out date at age sixteen in 1967. The
first arena for Rodigan's DJ skills was a youth club playing to
teenagers like himself. It was at this point in his life in 1968 that
he acquired his well-known nickname of 'Ram Jam'. This name stemmed
from his signing on and signing off at events with his signature tune by
Jackie Mittoo entitled 'Ram Jam'.
After college, Rodigan moved onto playing out occasionally in the North
of England until he got his break into radio in 1978 doing a weekly
reggae show Sunday lunch-time on BBC Radio London. Up until this
his love of reggae music prompted him to learn more about the people,
the culture and the musical genre itself. His early influences included
the legendary Ska beat as he recalls that "the music fascinated me
because it was this driving beat" which was unlike anything he'd ever
heard before. When Rock Steady made it's appearance, Rodigan
reminisces, "I was a big fan of Delroy Wilson. One of the most
significant records for me was a song called 'Dancing Mood'. I first
heard that in 1967".
As time progressed, Rodigan moved on from BBC Radio London in 1979 after
being approached by Capital Radio. His Saturday night reggae show
proved very popular and then during the early eighties, he began doing
links with Jamaica, namely Barry Gordon of Irie FM. 1984 saw
move onto his current UK radio slot with Kiss 100 FM. More
has been working on a New York radio station called Irie Jam every
Saturday afternoon of which he's very enthusiastic saying it's a "half
hour programme and it's getting a very good response". Throughout his
time on the aforementioned radio stations, one thing not widely known is
that Rodigan has also been playing on British Forces radio for the past
fifteen years. He tours extensively with this and does shows all over
Europe including Germany, Rome, Milan and France.
Rodigan's talents are not restricted to radio play as most people can
attest to him playing out in various arenas, specifically dancehalls and
nightclubs. In 1979 alongside his oldest and dearest friend, Donald
Facey aka. Copper Face, Rodigan started a reggae club in
End called 'Gossips'. He recalls it as being "the longest running
residency in the West End of any club" as they were a permanent fixture
for nineteen years until leaving last year.
Constantly evolving, Rodigan continued juggling as a DJ, but in 1991 he
entered the specialist area of clashing whereby a DJ must use his verbal
and record selection skills to out-do his opponent in a dancehall forum.
By using dubplates, some specially created for the event, and getting
the crowd behind him, the DJ aims to come out the winner based on crowd
response. Most people thought Rodigan had gone crazy when the first
sound system he decided to challenge was the legendary clashing sound
system , Bodyguard. In addition to him taking them on, he travelled to
their turf of May Pen in Clarendon, Jamaica. He fondly remembers
"everyone saying I was mad, but it was a dance no-one will ever forget.
I surprised a lot of people, but I took it from a fun point of view".
Since then he has been up against some of the most notorious clashing
sounds, not least Ricky Trooper of Killamanjaro. However,
in 1997 was not without it's problems. The event was held in New York
and as far as Rodigan was concerned, he came out the winner, but his
opponent was not happy and he says "there were some racist remarks near
the end that was unnecessary". After receiving an apology from Trooper
over the telephone, Rodigan always the gentleman, accepted and put the
issue behind him. Surprisingly, he harbours no malice and when asked
who his hardest opponent in the clash arena, he pinpoints Trooper and
elaborates "he's an inspiring selector and he has tremendous energy and
commitment. He's a very tough nut to crack".
All is not roses in the musical genre he loves so much and he admits to
disliking the "negative aspects of some of it. Sometimes it seems
obsessed with violence and I think it's negative". However, he also
sees positive signs starting to come back into being and names some of
his favourite influences of today as Luciano and Morgan Heritage.
One of his most memorable experiences as a DJ stems from a dance in
Bermuda on Horse Shoe beach in 1995. A tranquil look comes over Rodigan
as he describes the atmosphere of "a full moon and thousands and
thousands of people on the beach". So many people were there that some
had to get onto boats and moor them in the harbour of the bay. As
Rodigan signed on with Bob Marley's 'Natural Mystic' he saw "about six
or seven thousand people on the beach put lighters in the air" and sway
from side to side. To Rodigan it was one of the most moving experiences
he's ever had.
Rodigan has future projects lined up including a recently launched
Wednesday reggae night at Club Subterania on Ackland Road in London's
Ladbroke Grove area. Over the past few weeks, he has had many famous
people pass through including the Wailing Souls. He also plans a
syndication of the radio programme in New York.
Constantly evolving and progressing, David Rodigan has had a significant
input into the reggae DJ arena spanning over twenty years. He is an
inspiration to up and coming DJs regardless of creed or colour as he's a
prime example that the colour of your skin makes no difference when it
comes to being a skilled DJ and having love for the music, the people
and the culture. No doubt, he will continue playing music and fuelling
his passion for reggae through various means, but his last words sum up
his humility, "I would really love to say thank-you for the support.
All I'm doing is sharing the music. It's a tremendous feeling to have
people share that with you. The message is thank-you, thank-you".
David Rodigan can be heard on Kiss 100 FM (http://www.kiss100.com) every
Sunday evening between 8 and 10pm and also on Irie Jam in New York every
Saturday afternoon. For bookings contact Reel Deal Music London,
0171 619 1030 or Larry Dixon at Classic Productions (Florida,
407 282 2929.