In 2018, David ‘Ram Jam’ Rodigan celebrates 40 years of broadcasting with a series of special gigs and World A Reggae were in London to witness David Rodigan alongside The Outlook Orchestra in one of central London’s most spectacular gig locations, Somerset House as part of the Summer Series.
The crowds gathered early, soaking up the warmth of the London air in this iconic outdoor location dancing and swaying to the roots reggae classics as the sun shone brightly in the heart of central London.
The night started with a big bang when Hollie Cook came on stage and she certainly heated up the night further. To those unfamiliar with her; Hollie Cook is crafting her own dynamic strand of lover’s rock, tracing a path from her West London roots via a diverse range of collaborations, three critically acclaimed records and stand out live appearances.
My first ever experience of a live concert with my sister and parents had got off to a flying start and I was really excited to see who the special guest artists would be!
Just before 9.00pm, The 25- piece Outlook Orchestra came onstage led by London based award -winning drummer, composer, producer, musical director and conductor Tommy Evans. Our excitement levels heightened in anticipation of what was to come next (given that the last time Rodigan and The Outlook Orchestra performed together as part of his 40 year celebrations in March 2018 at the Southbank Centre in London the event sold out within minutes and the audience were given a musical treat with special guest appearances from the likes of Maxi Priest, Horace Andy, and Winston Francis to name a few)
Dressed in a black and white spotted waistcoat complete with a matching hat the ‘Gentleman Rudeboy’ Sir David Rodigan was introduced on stage to huge cheers with his opening greeting being
“Thank you ladies and gentleman, what a wonderful evening for me after 40 years of broadcasting remembering that I saw England take the World Cup back in 1966” (huge cheers) “and it looks like it could happen…what a wonderful feeling to be alive and living in this beautiful old city in this majestic majestic venue make some noise London!”
Rodigan reminisced about the days when we didn’t have mobile phones, texting, Googling, WhatsApp and the days when we used simple conversations to communicate to one another. Whilst technology has moved on, certain things like music have stood the test of time and the evening was introduced as a musical journey taking us back to the roots and origins of reggae music with The Outlook Orchestra.
As a side note, the first reggae basslines first emerged 50 years ago in 1968 and whilst reggae aficionados will often dispute who the title of the first reggae record was made by one thing for sure judging by the warmth and diversity of the people in this crowd it is sure to make an everlasting impact.
First up on stage to celebrate ‘Ska’ was Bitty Mclean, best known for his three UK Top ten hits in 1993 and 1994, including his debut offering “It Keeps Rainin’ (Tears From My Eyes)”, to sing a classic from The Wailers ‘Simmer Down’ closely followed by Hollie Cook singing My Boy Lollipop which certainly got the audience up and dancing.
The Outlook Orchestra then played I’m Still In Love exquisitely before Bitty came back to sing one of his biggest hits to date from Peckings Records ‘Walk Away From Love’ which seamlessly blended into Delroy Wilson’s ‘Dancing Mood’. Rocksteady time was definitely here and the hits flowed with one of the backing singers coming to the forefront to sing the 1971 Phyllis Dillon classic Perfidia wonderfully! It felt like we were being transported back to Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle studios on Bond Street.
Entering into the ‘Roots Reggae’ era of the 70’s with the introduction of Irish singer Maverick Sabre with two amazing renditions of two stone cold roots classics ‘Police and Thieves’ by Junior Murvin and ‘Sun is Shining’ by Bob Marley and The Wailers.
The sun had definitely shone on London just like the summer of 1976 when ‘Police and Thieves’ was first recorded at Lee ‘Scratch Perry’s Black Ark Studios.
Edging closer to the front of the stage, we wanted to get a closer glimpse of the artists and my dad picked us up as Bitty Mclean was coming back on stage to sing a song called ‘Satta Massagana’. My younger sister became excited as she recognised the music and words and started cheering. (If you are unfamiliar with this Rasta hymn by The Abyssinians just Google it and then follow this up with a Google search for Neal Hefti – The Mafista and you will be surprised!).
The ‘Dancehall Reggae’ era saw Kiko Bun come onstage of Somerset House as darkness was falling on London as he sang three classics including Sanchez’s ‘I Can’t Wait’ and Conroy Smith’s smash anthem ‘Dangerous’. The crowd were definitely feeling this one. UK veteran Tippa Irie tore the place down with ‘All The Time The Lyric A Rhyme’ over the orchestra rendition of ‘Real Rock’ as the crowd waved their hands affectionately to the riddim as well as covers of ‘Heads High’ and ‘Who Am I (Sim Simma)’ by Mr. Vegas and Beenie Man. What a celebration this night was proving to be and the crowds enthusiasm and energy was far from waning!
Reggae music has had many offshoots and ‘Jungle/ Drum & Bass’ was ‘represented’ with a great version of The Fugees ‘Ready Or Not’ before Rodigan reminded us that London had witnessed the hottest day of the year so far at 31 degrees –in fact hotter than Jamaica before inviting us to go back to the roots as the orchestra performed a soul chilling version of ‘Redemption Song’ before the grand finale – Dawn Penn’s ‘No No No’ performed by Hollie Cook and sung word for word by the crowd.
What an amazing night at the Somerset House in the heart of Central London in celebration of 40 amazing years of broadcasting- David Rodigan we simply cannot wait for the 50 year celebrations in 2028 and we thank you for inspiring generations of people to listen to reggae music and to Somerset House for hosting such a wonderful evening as part of their Summer Series.