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'Big up my selector: David Rodigan, we salute you'

Royal approval: David Rodigan has been awarded a MBE

FOR OVER 30 years, he’s graced the airwaves and club nights with some of the finest reggae music.

And now, it seems that even Her Majesty has become aware of the selector’s skills, as David Rodigan has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) as part of the Queen’s New Year honours list.

It was announced at the end of 2011 that the respected DJ was amongst the names who received the Queen’s annual nod, earning his MBE for his services to broadcasting. And in an exclusive interview with The Voice, the 60-year-old revealed that he is humbled by the honour.

“I’m humbled and at the same time honoured that I was seen fit to receive such an award,” says Rodigan. “I think more than anything, it’s recognition for the music that we all love, because let’s face it, that’s what I’ve been broadcasting for over 30 years.

“My love has always been reggae music and I see this honour as an honour for our music. I’m delighted that our music has been recognised in this way.”

With over three decades as a professional DJ under his belt, David Michael Rodigan began showing off his skills on radio stations including BBC Radio London and Capital FM. But it’s his 22-year career on radio station Kiss for which the DJ is arguably best known.

Joining the station in 1990, Rodigan presented a variety of daytime shows, but soon became known for his reggae show Rodigan’s Reggae, which he still presents every Sunday night.

In addition to his radio broadcasting career, Rodigan earned popularity in club land, hosting unforgettable nights at west London’s Subterania and the south London nightclub Mass.

As if that wasn’t enough, the popular selector has also earned huge acclaim on the soundsystem front, clashing with top soundsytems in the UK, America and reggae’s birthplace, Jamaica.

Born in Hanover, Germany, Rodigan grew up in Oxford and originally trained as an actor. However, it was his passion for reggae, which was to eventually shape his career.

Developing an obsession with the music of Jamaica after hearing ska in the early 1960s, his passion led him to accumulate an immense knowledge of the genre. (I can vouch for this; Rodigan has schooled me with some serious reggae history over the years!)

He began his broadcasting career in 1978 on BBC Radio London, before moving to Capital Radio in 1979, where he remained for 11 years, broadcasting his legendary Roots Rockers show.

His popularity building, Rodigan cemented his credibility when he began clashing with Jamaica’s champion DJ, Barry G on JBC Radio in Jamaica. In fact, Rodigan’s longtime affiliate and fellow reggae DJ Daddy Ernie recalls that when Rodigan made his first public appearance in Jamaica in the mid-80s, much of the crowd were stunned to discover that the selector was a white man.

“The night when Barry G introduced him to the crowd in Jamaica, there was stunned silence,” Ernie recalls. “Before that, Jamaicans had heard about Rodigan and I think many of them thought he was a well-educated, black Englishman."

“So Barry G introduces him, and out walks this white man. The crowd fell into silence!”

Indeed, off-stage, Rodigan’s unassuming appearance has caused many uninformed audiences to express shock that he’s a famed reggae DJ. I myself remember a story a friend told me years ago, in which he recalled going to Rodigan’s club night at Mass with one of his best friends.

Upon seeing Rodigan enter the building – which was formerly a church – my friend’s friend chortled, “Look! The pastor come to lock up the church!” Suffice to say, my friend’s friend was stunned to learn that this middle-aged white man was not a reverend, but the David Rodigan.

But despite his laid back off-stage persona, Rodigan unleashes his showbiz alter-ego as soon as he gets behind the decks. A true showman, he has wowed crowds – and continues to wow crowds – across the world with his energetic delivery of the finest reggae tunes.

One of his most notable acts of flamboyance came in 2007 when he took to the stage at a clash in New York, dressed up as Elvis Presley!

However, off stage, Rodigan is simply a reggae enthusiast. Passionate about the genre, Rodigan has been outspoken about the music’s evolution, condemning the elements of it that seem to glorify violence, whilst praising newer acts like Tarrus Riley, who he feels have given reggae a new lease of life.

Perhaps the description of him on the Kiss website sums it up best: “What legendary selecta David Rodigan doesn’t know about reggae and dub isn’t worth knowing,” it says.

Daddy Ernie expresses a similar view, tipping his hat to Rodigan’s knowledge. “Rodigan is like the trainspotter of reggae music,” says the Choice FM DJ, who has known Rodigan for over 30 years. “He’s immersed in reggae culture and he’s made an immense contribution to the music. His MBE is well-deserved.”

Ernie’s sentiments have been mirrored by Rodigan’s fans and friends all over the world. And while the selector is grateful for all the messages of support he’s received, he admits he’s been particularly touched by the support he’s received from Jamaica.

“I’ve had a tremendous response from Jamaica,” he says. “Journalists in Jamaica have been incredibly responsive and I’ve been blown away by it.

“Sometimes we forget that Jamaica isn’t just about dancehall. Jamaica has always been a centre for the arts and it saddens me sometimes that the wider view of Jamaica is of yardie gangsters, bashment and girls skinning out in batty rider shorts."

“It’s only when you live in Jamaica or visit Jamaica and go to the art galleries, or the literary festival in St. Elizabeth, that you see another side. Jamaicans are very proud of their culture and their response to this [MBE] is indicative of the pride they have for their country and their music. I’m very grateful for the love they’ve given me.”

For delivering countless hours of reggae music on air and in the clubs; for continuing to champion and express love for the genre; and – on a personal note – for being a fountain of reggae knowledge and history every time I’ve rang you for a quote, David Rodigan, we salute you.

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