Outbox: David Rodigan
- Words: Ken Taylor
Reggae has a lot of icons—but probably only one who's white, British, and looks like "a dentist or an accountant" (his words, not ours). The legendary selector David "Ram Jam" Rodigan worked his way through record shops and school dances before making it to Radio London in 1978, where he co-hosted Reggae Rockers—and really hasn't looked back since. Besides keeping it fiery in the dancehall (seriously, YouTube the guy), and holding down a Sunday-night slot on London's all-dance station, Kiss 100, Rodigan was recently tapped to contribute installment number 54 of Fabric's venerated FabricLive mix series. We got the 59-year-old father of two to tell us about his many nicknames and untouchable dance moves.
XLR8R: How'd you get the nickname Ram Jam?
David Rodigan: It was because I repeatedly played an instrumental by Jackie Mittoo called "Ram Jam," and so my friends started to call me Ram Jam Rodigan. I also had a records shack in a street market where I sold vinyl back in the '70s and it was called Ram Jam's Record Shack.
What's all this "'Sir' David Rodigan" business about?
The 'Sir' tag has nothing whatsoever to do with me. Promoters just keep putting it on fliers.
What's your favorite Jamaican delicacy?
Ackee and saltfish with fried dumplings for breakfast.
Your dance moves are legendary. Can you teach us one?
Dance moves... haha. I can't teach them because I don't know what they are. I just move to the music as I feel it. No dance move I do is planned or rehearsed. I just have to dance when I am playing music; I have always done it.
So how did a white kid from the UK infiltrate Kingston's reggae scene? Did you encounter much resistance at first?
I have never experienced any prejuduce in Kingston. I went there for the first time in 1979 and met people and just kept going back. I had to go because I loved the music so much.
Who's got the bassiest soundsystem of all time?
Sir Coxsone Sound UK, back in the '80s.
What other jobs have you held in your time besides selector?
I worked as an actor in theater in the '70s.
Some of his aforementioned dance moves. Epic.
Have you got any kids? If so, do you ever embarrass them with impromptu sound clashes in the living room?
Yes, I have two sons, aged 25 and 20, and no, I try not to embarrass them. I try to keep the clash thing out of home life as my wife starts yawning!
What's the worst thing that's happened to you on stage?
Every selector's nightmare scenario is when you play a brand-new dubplate at a crucial point in a clash and it's a lead balloon—no forward from the crowd, and worse still if the boos kick in!
In your history as a DJ and radio broadcaster, who's been your favorite interview?
Prince Buster in 1984. He was Jamaica's first big international star in the early '60s who not only recorded his own songs but produced other artists. He was a powerful force as a young independent producer and artist who formed his own label. He is a fantastic storyteller, and the interview on Capital Radio is still spoken of with reverence by reggae fans in England, as he revealed so much of the early history behind the birth of ska... his clashes with Derrick Morgan, his clashes with Duke Reid and Coxsone, his Voice of the People Sound System, how he had to tough it out to make it.
What's the most important thing to remember when you're on the mic at the dancehall?
To speak clearly and relate to the music you are playing.
If all else fails, what do you do?
If you have nothing constructive or interesting to say, then keep quiet and let the music breathe.
What's the last thing you do before you go to sleep each night?
I read one of the Psalms of King David.
David Rodigan's FabricLive 54 is available now on Fabric.
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