Interview with Tippa Irie
Anthony Henry is better known to his fans as Tippa Irie. A veteran Saxon Studio DJ, Tippa has been on the music scene for 2 decades and is still continuing to progress.
Born 35 years ago in England to Jamaican parents, Tippa was raised in London. He grew up around the Brixton area attending Brockwell Primary and Loughborough Junction school. It was whilst at school that Tippa coined his moniker whilst hanging out with his friend, Skipper. He was called Tippa and says, "I just liked the name Irie."
Tippa's dad was his first inspiration to get into the music business as he has a sound called Musical Mosiah and Tippa recalls, "He used to have shebeens every Friday night." With his dad playing artists like U-Roy, Big Youth and Trinity, Tippa started imitating these artists. After a while Tippa says, "I was getting quite good at what I was doing, so I joined a sound system called King Tubbys (based in Brixton) as a DJ. The guy was the cousin of King Tubbys based in Jamaica."
Although Tippa worked on King Tubbys, a lot of people class him as a veteran Saxon Sound DJ. Tippa joined Saxon when Lloyd Francis and Dennis Rowe approached him after he performed in a talent competition at the Ferndale Sports Centre in Brixton. He says that Saxon were paying him, which was a bonus and after he joined the sound as a DJ, many others including Papa Levy, Maxi Priest and Smiley Culture came after. Tippa still makes time for Saxon if needs be saying, "If he phones me and I'm not doing any other work, I'll go there."
Being a diverse artist, Tippa does both cover versions as well as original songs as he says, "If I do a cover, it's a singer doing the cover version and I still have to come with something to compliment it." He also does song-writing for other artists and this list included his late sister, Miss Irie.
His abilities don't stop there and Tippa is also involved in musical workshops. As he says, "Basically kids between 14 and 16 or 18 come to the workshop and I teach them how to perform and present themselves on stage." Tippa does this work for Youth Expression in Lewisham and prior to that he worked with Boys to Men in Kilburn.
During his career, Tippa has performed all over the world at thousands of shows. Major shows include Reggae Sunsplash, Sting, DJ Roll Call and many more. Tippa also toured Japan with Sweetie Irie and Peter Spence. Most artists and sound systems dream of touring Africa, but Tippa has been there and done that touring the Gambia and Botswana.
After being in the business for so long, Tippa has his likes and dislikes. He enjoys "the perks" of the job, but dislikes the way "people stereotype you." He says, "Because I'm a DJ, they expect me to be a certain way."
His most successful single to date has been 'Hello Darling' (1986) and his 'Best Of' album has been his most successful to date. At present, Tippa has an album out called 'I Miss' and is working on a new album with Musical Sniper (formerly Rapper Robert) called 'Think Twice'. As if that isn't enough, Tippa is also working on an album with Lloyd Brown.
It's noticeable that Tippa does a lot of collaborations and has worked with numerous people including Janet Kay and Peter Hunnigale. More recently he has worked with a group called Jurassic Park from Long Beach and Half Pint. He has also worked with Janet Lee Davis in the past.
Music is not Tippa's only forte as he has acted as well in theatre. He appeared in his first acting role in the play, 'The Magic Dutchpot'.
The music business is something Tippa has some gripes about and he says he's "Fed up with manufactured groups with no talent" and also believes there should be changes such as "DJs talking the negative tings dem like guns. A lot of youths dem do listen and take it on board."
In the UK, one of the major music shows on television is Top of the Pops and Tippa performed on the show in 1987. when asked what it was like performing on the show he said, "It was a very long time ago, but it was cool. It was a good experience. You realise you've got a hit tune when you're on Top of the Pops."
His accomplishments in the industry to date have be renown and he is well known world-wide. He says, "I feel good. I've managed to be one of the DJs that survived through the years. As long as I can provide for my kids, then that is fulfilment."
Tippa advises young DJs to, "Be patient… believe in yourself, push yourself. Be willing to take criticism."
For the future, Tippa wants to keep on making music and would love to one day play Wembley Arena. No doubt with his longevity, determination and clean heart, this dream should become a reality.
If you want more information including booking details, check out Tippa's website at www.tippairie.com.