Originally published on AltReading on 12th November 2015
You would be genuinely forgiven for thinking that the best that Reading had to offer this week in terms of music and entertainment was watching David Hasslehoff dancing around on stage at the Hexagon pretending to be an ‘ibeffa’ DJ, and two Z-listed celebrities from ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ switching on the Christmas lights.
For the musical connoisseurs amongst us we can breathe a huge sigh of relief in knowing that we will be graced with the presence of DJ royalty when Sir David Rodigan MBE takes to the stage and decks at Sub89 on Friday night, as part of his Ram Jam Autumn 2015 Tour.
I am fully aware that not everybody reading this will know who David Rodigan is, and that some have been very aware of the music specialist for some time now, but either way I will explain.
For the last 35 years David Rodigan has been known worldwide for his passion of dancehall and reggae music, which has seen him win countless trophies from reggae soundclashes in Jamaica through to Japan, whilst spreading the musical vibe over the airwaves on radio stations such as Radio London, Capital Radio, Kiss FM, BBC Radio 2 and the British Forces radio service across Europe.
He is also a local lad (well sort of) spending his early years up the road in Oxford, where he was bitten by the musical bug upon hearing ska music for the first time in the late sixties. He used to DJ on his lunch breaks at Gosforth Hill School in Kildington which was probably a wise choice as I suspect that the food provided at school back then was pretty dire.
He left school in the early seventies to study acting for three years, and landed himself several theatre parts and TV appearances such as this small part in Doctor Who, where he played a heavily bearded character called ‘Broken Tooth’.
It was very clear that Rodigan’s passion for music got the better of him, and he chose to pursue a career in music. What followed was a strong career as a professional DJ and selector which has spanned over five decades and counting. He has competed in hundreds if not thousands of soundclashes with top soundsystems in the UK, American and Jamaica.
I had an idea of who David Rodigan was and what he did when I was growing up, but his name became more apparent to me when he started doing his regular show on Kiss FM back in the nineties. One of my older siblings attended a showcase at RG1s down the Caversham Road in the early nineties with one of his schoolmates Danny, who asked my brother when Rodigan was arriving, to which my brother informed his friend that “Rodigan is the guy carrying the records on stage”. This was verified when Rodigan picked up the mic and started speaking, which left my brother’s mate Danny with a stunned look on his face when he saw what the unlikely looking champion of reggae music looked like.
The best way I can put this scene into perspective is to borrow a quote from David Rodigan himself reminiscing about one of his first live appearances in Jamaica:
“I walked out on stage and I could hear this stunning silence, as several hundred Jamaicans stared at me, expecting to see a black Londoner, but instead saw me, a bald headed white guy who looked more like a doctor or an accountant”.
When I first saw what David Rodigan looked like myself which was on a flyer for a gig that he did at the Central Club over the Easter weekend back in 1997, I laughed quietly too myself because it validated that it doesn’t matter what background you come from, music is music, and it’s all about a certain feeling you get from it.
This was the one and only time I saw Rodigan deejay and I could see that he absolutely loved music, and he wasn’t just playing to pay the bills, and from then on he became one of my musical heroes.
Rodigan has always been an in demand DJ in the clubs, at soundclashes and on the radio. Two days after Kiss FM won their legal licence at Christmas 1989, once the champagne ran out their MD Gordon Mac started the process in poaching Rodigan away from Capital Radio where spent 11 years doing his ‘Roots Rockers’ show.
Kiss wanted him to not only to bring his reggae show with him to Kiss, but also needed experienced presenters to present weekday daytime shows on the new station. It must be noted that Kiss was only on-air at weekends when it was a pirate radio station.
The process was put on hold as David’s wife was also in a process herself, in giving birth to their son Jamie who has also followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming a reggae and dubstep DJ some 20 years later, along with his younger sibling Oliver who produces music and deejays himself as well under the name of ‘Cadenza’. Rodigan adventually accepted the offer from Kiss FM where he remained at for 22 years, before moving to his current radio home, BBC Radio 1Xtra.
Rodigan has been awarded accordingly for his career in radio broadcasting, in 2005 he was inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame, winning several ‘Gold’ Sony Radio Awards along the way. But it was in 2012 that he would receive his highest accolade by being rewarded an MBE at Buckingham Palace for his Services to Broadcasting over 35 years.
And this weekend, David Rodigan returns to Reading for the second time this year, after performing at the Reading Festival with bass superstars Chase and Status, Rage and Shy FX collectively known as Rebel Sound.
Who knows who his guests will be this Friday night, but you can be guarantee a memorable night full of basslines and good vibes will be in order for everybody in conjunction with the one of the hottest speaker systems in town being tested to full capacity with custom dubplates, classic and new material, from the one and only David ‘Ram Jam’ Rodigan and guests.
I’ll see you by the speakers in the company of a wrestlemanic/reggae fan, and my posh friend from Caversham who is swapping his cucumber sandwiches and pot of Earl Grey Tea to nod his heads to the beats being provided by one of mutual musical heroes.