It was all over for British pre-teen David Rodigan in 1962 when he saw ska crooner Millie Smalls sing the Cadillacs’ classic “My Boy Lollipop” on Ready, Steady, Go! He was in complete and utter love with Jamaican music and would collect and spin as many great reggae records as he could in a lifetime.
Over the next 48 years, Rodigan went from DJing school dances to legendary show slots on Radio London, Capital Radio, and Kiss FM, humbly championing reggae throughout the UK and getting royal respect with every visit to Jamaica. Most famously, he’s made his name as a champion in reggae sound clashes. His dapper fashion sense, professional demeanor, and historian’s aura at clashes* worldwide have made him known variously to reggae fans as “the rude gentlemen,” “the James Bond of sound,” or simply “Fadda” (father).
Below you’ll find Rodi in action at the UK Cup sound clash a couple of years ago, playing the role of selector as his assistant operators play the actual dubplates. His mastery at hyping tunes is evident…but first, for the uninitiated…
A primer on sound clash:
In the reggae world, sound clashes are events in which two to five “sound systems” or “sounds” (DJ teams) battle each other by playing tunes that garner the most audience approval.
Audiences respond best to dubplate specials—popular tunes commissioned by a sound and custom re-recorded by the original singer so that he or she can name and praise that sound. These one-of-a-kind tunes can be expensive, so the more dubplates that any sound can play at a clash, the more dedicated they’re perceived to be, and the more crowd response they get.
In regular reggae dances, when a regular record gets enough crowd roar, the DJ stops and rewinds the record, lifts the needle, and plays it again. In a clash, a dubplate gets a rewind and then usually it’s on to the next tune at a frenzied pace.
After the jump: unearthed new footage of Rodigan spinning a hectic dance in 1985 at legendary producer/sound man King Jammy’s yard on St. Lucia Road in the Waterhouse district of Kingston, Jamaica…