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‘Being straightforward is better than going round the t'ing!

REGGAE: Daddy Ernie, pictured at last year's UK Entertainment Awards ceremony in London. (Photo credit: Chima Luke/UK ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS)

CELEBRATING 46 YEARS in the music industry is no mean feat and yet, the Daddy Ernie says that he never imagined being at the top of his game for this long when entering the industry as an enthusiastic teen.

He reviews 2017 in reggae, discusses what lies ahead for this year and more, in a candid conversation with Nadine White of Life & Style.

Life & Style: We’re at the beginning of a brand new year. What were some of the highlights of 2017, as far as reggae music?

Daddy Ernie: Definitely Bitty McLean, live at ‘The Venue at the 229’ (which took place on 22 September). That, for me, was my concert of the year. Anybody who was there would tell you it was special. From Bitty’s performance to how the crowd reacted. It was good to have, in my opinion, a UK act really flying the flag last year, on that level.

FRATERNITY: (L-R) Christopher Ellis, Daddy Ernie & Bitty McLean. (Photo credit: Facebook)

In general, I think some of our UK acts did very well in 2017. Christopher Ellis has impressed me, definitely. We have this new singjay Ras Charmer, who I definitely think has stepped up his game. Tenor Star, Papa Crooks. Macka B delivered a tremendous album and his Youtube channel/viral videos plays a stake in that.

The BT dances were a tremendous success – Easter and Christmas. That’s in about its 22nd year.

L&S: You mentioned Macka B who has, indeed, had a successful year. We picked up on this, and publications such as Vogue, BBC, The Huffington Post and The Daily Mail have featured him. Macka’s been about though, hasn’t he? Far from new to music.

DE: Macka’s been in the industry as long as me. I can definitely remember him from the early days. So, he’s put in a lot of work; always working, always soaring. This album, ‘Health is wealth’, has taken it up to different level.

L&S: Which reggae & dancehall artists are you listening to?

DE: In addition to the UK artists I mentioned, I like what’s coming out of Jamaica, though a lot of people fight it. We, in reggae, haven’t got the volume of DJs that we used to have and a lot of the older artists are now passing on.

But there are artists like Vershon, obviously Chronixx, Masicka, Dexta Daps, Alkaline, Christopher Martin, Jahmiel, doing their thing. When Beres Hammond drops a tune, all hell breaks loose!

As far as the ladies: Shenseea, Spice and Samantha Stream, who’s a new artist. Teshay Makeda is a reggae artist from south London. There’s this guy called Gladstone Anderson, one of the great keyboard players of reggae; Teshay’s sung over tracks from his album. Wicked!

Y’know who I’ve liked for many years? Kashief Lindo. Why he hasn’t performed here recently, I’m not really sure, but I think he’s got an awesome catalogue.

As far as Jamaican acts, the year belonged to Chronixx, any way you wanna look at it.

L&S: Chronixx’s debut album ‘Chronology’ has been nominated for a ‘Best Reggae’ Grammy award – his first nod from the recording academy. Do you think he’ll win?

DE: He should! I don’t really see anything else that really deserves a Grammy award really. These things have a way of not really working out how it should.

L&S: You’ve been in the game for 46 years. What’s your secret to longevity in the music business?

DE: It’s just moving with the times really. I stay relevant by keeping up with what’s going on.

Due to the length of time I’ve been in the industry, producers send me tunes because they know my track record. This helps as well, because it keeps you ahead of the game. I’m fortunate. I think being people friendly is very important, that you connect with people and don’t try to be bigger than anyone else.

Give advice when you can. Sometimes I can be very straight forward and people don’t like it but it’s better you’re like that, than go ‘round the t’ing. They might not say it but I think, over the years, people kind of respect me for that.

THROWBACK: Ernie alongside Sir Lloyd Roberts. (Photo credit: Facebook)

L&S: Coming into the industry as a teenager, did you ever imagine you’d be at it for this long?

DE: (laughs) No, not at this level! When I started out, it was with a little sound system. In those days, there weren’t any radio stations, so you wanted to have a good standard of a sound system.

Moving to Hawkeye in the 1980s, I got my break on LWR then it’s just been a gradual progression. From there to Choice FM – where I spent 20 odd years.

I always said when I leave Choice, I’ll be going back to where I came from and I never felt no way about that. Because I knew that we weren’t gonna get a BBC or a Kiss platform or anything like that. Even now, they don’t have reggae programmes on those stations, really.

When I left Choice FM and went to Vibes FM, it was another natural progression. There were other stations but Vibes was the biggest station for reggae, and still is, so it was a no brainer.

L&S: Since you left Choice FM, more DJs who specialise in reggae/dancehall have been pushed off of mainstream platforms. The music continues to be marginalised. Does this surprise you?

DE: No, it’s been like that from day one. The marginalisation is about fear, more than anything else. Fear of reggae taking over, to the point where they can’t control it. It’s rebel music, init. Anywhere you go in the world – reggae is there.

Nowadays, reggae has cleaned up its act. It can be rebellious when it needs to be but there’s a lot of love and togetherness. We’ve had a couple of unfortunate incidents that – Vybz Kartel, Ninja man, recently, which put a bit of a downer on things.

Then again, in rap, there’s been untold incidents where artists have got involved in unfortunate circumstances. You only have to look to the Biggie/Tupac scenario. But it seems that when its a reggae/dancehall artist, it’s blown up more.

In general, I’m happy with reggae. It’s just that, it doesn’t get the break that it really deserves and it hasn’t over the years. But, hey, we soldier on.


L&S: As your birthday approaches and you get ready to celebrate another year of life, what do you consider to be important to you?

DE: Family, friends. The good things about reggae music; there’s a tremendous amount of good things. There’s some great people in the industry…and some ‘orrible people (laughs), but the good definitely outweighs the bad.

I would love to see another five-day-a-week reggae programme on an official station with the right person in the chair. For 21 years we had it – when I was doing it and before that, it was unheard of.

Keeping good health is important to me. If you ain’t got no health, you’re knackered.

A few of my musical colleagues have passed on, all of whom are missed. Roberto Allen was a good friend of mine – we came up through the pirate stations. When I was on LWR, he was on J-FM, which was kind of a la-di-da-di station - middle class, everything was prim and proper; whereas we, on LWR, were rebels (laughs).

Every year, Vibes FM celebrates his birthday with undiluted reggae selections, in his memory. That, in itself, tells you what position he played within the fraternity. It’s still unbelievable that he’s not with us.

MEMORIES: Daddy Ernie & the late, great Roberto Allen. (Photo credit: Facebook)

L&S: What are you looking forward to, musically, for 2018?

DE: Hosting the Birmingham leg of More Life 2018 in May. Tarrus Riley will be headlining, joined by Cham, Jahmiel, Bass Odyssey, David Rodigan and Nikki Z.

Buju Banton will be released from in December. He’ll come back and take a little time to get into the flow, mind you; get his stage and band together. No doubt, he should have some lyrics galore!

We won’t see him in the UK – that’s for sure. I would think we’ll see him back onstage, elsewhere, around Easter/Summer 2019.

I’m looking forward to Beres Hammond coming back. I’ve heard a few songs which sounds like an album is imminent.

I’m looking forward to Christopher Ellis’ album. Also, over the coming weeks, I will be making an announcement regarding a huge event that I’m a part of. It’s very different to what I’ve done before. Watch this space!

‘Bright Colours’, Daddy Ernie’s annual birthday bash, will be taking place on Saturday 20th January 2017 at the Royal Lounge Banqueting Suite.

For more information/tickets, visit here:

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