Legendary reggae dj David ‘Ram Jam’ Rodigan is yet to peak. Thirty four years after he took to the airwaves on Radio London and forty-six years after he started spinning tunes at his own school disco he’s still rising.
This time last year he was rinsing the Queen’s hand for his MBE, being bestowed with a Sony Gold Award for his BBC show and winning the World Sound Clash competition in NYC.
Now he’s got 2013 firmly lined up in his sights and is calling for a shot in the arm of Jamaican music: “There is very little coming out of Jamaica that stands up sufficiently,” frowns the broadcaster. “The new music in Jamaica, not all of it, is what I would call ‘island pop’, or ‘hip-hop in a Jamaican sty-lee’ with Jamaican accents. But the thing we would know as bashment or dancehall, there’s very little of that and there’s also not enough new, young, invigorating and fresh reggae - and that’s the problem.”
Furthermore sound clashes are dying. One of the most exciting musical spectacles known to obsessive man is a sound system clash. From Kingston to London the fierce sights and sounds of two vast sound rigs battling each other, face to face for the affections of the attendant crowds, is a visceral thrill. But sound system culture is in decline.
Yet Rodigan has a solution to revitalise the scene: “The problem,” rattles off the exuberant sixty-one-year-old, “is the young sounds are up against an impossible task because these old sounds have dubs by artists who are dead. So the young sounds can’t cut those dubs and those dubs are the dubs that count in the one-to-one. So in my opinion what should happen to bring clashing culture back up to speed, is to have a rule in the one-for-one that no old dubs can be played. That’ll be the only way of bringing back some spirit and some life into it, cos frankly it’s watered down, it’s boiled down to the gravy now.”
2013 will also see Rodigan continue to push his ‘Ram Jam’ activity; his longrunning and meandering namesake now pops up at festivals regularly and hosts the sonic cats that pepper modern bass culture from ska through to dubstep. He explains: “Ram Jam is a name I had from a track called ‘Ram Jam’ by Jackie Mittoo, which came out in 1967/’68. In those days a DJ could have a signature tune - in fact was supposed to have - and this was my instrumental signature tune in my little world. And my mates started calling me Ram Jam from then and I had a little record shack in Camden.”
These days Ram Jam is as likely to pop up at Fabric as it is at Bestival or indeed any other party where it’s deemed necessary for Rodigan to ‘bring his signal’. Come April he’ll be taking his fire to the ice: “I did Snowbombing two or three years ago with Toddla T and it was a bionic night in a bar somewhere in the Alps with everyone going crazy and I’m really looking forward to doing it again this year. It’s been a whirlwind. For this scene I was on the outside looking in. I’m not twenty-five, I’m not a dubstep DJ, I’m none of those things and yet in the past three years, probably from James Breakage sampling my voice, from Caspa putting me on his album, I’ve been invited into this world that I wasn’t privy to.”
And with this Rodigan rounds off with a smile: “I have been so touched by the way in which the bass culture world has welcomed me.”
To see what Rodigan will be doing next visit www.rodigan.com
To find out more about snowbombing 2013 and to buy tickets, visit www.snowbombing.com
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Photography: Dan Wilton