A FEW THOUGHTS ON: LEGENDARY UK SOUND MAN LLOYDIE COXSONE TALKS REGGAE MUSIC & DAVID RODIGAN
First of all I’m not getting into a debate about this interview with Lloydie and his views on Rodigan… so I’m just going to say this once.
In my life as a writer and a devotee of reggae music I consider Lloydie Coxsone as one of my mentors. Coxsone sound system was the first big Sound that I heard back in the early Seventies. The place was the Jamaican Club in Gloucester and it blew my mind. Lloyd was the first person from the reggae music community that I interviewed. I was a follower (along with photographer Jean Bernard Sohiez aka Frenchie) of Coxsone sound system. We knew the team and understood the runnings – good and bad – having travelled with the sound numerous times. In fact, the words under this video look like my own.
I’ve read David Rodigan’s book and I suppose I’ve contributed to the media frenzy around it by reviewing it. You can read the review at https://ancienttofuture.com/2017/02/20/david-rodigan-a-life-in-reggae-roddy-you-a-dubwise-smody/. The book is a lightweight affair that makes no real attempt to contextualise reggae music in the UK. It’s a book about the man himself. As such, I can totally understand why Lloydie – “representing 500+ sound system across the UK”- is more that vexed that “David Run’n’gwaan” has been touted as the godfather of reggae music in the UK. There’s no escaping the fact that the media – National TV, “quality” newspapers, music press, internet – the whole shebang – have been totally at ease promoting a somewhat offbeat white thespian as a saviour of reggae music while ignoring the people who ran the reggae record shops, indie labels and, of course, the underground sound system operators who toured the length and breadth of the country, week in and week out, from the 60s onward. They are the saviours of reggae music. They created the foundation that others profited from.
It’s therefore easy to understand that, from Lloydie Coxsone and his idren’s perspective, all the hubbub and press that surrounded the publication of Rodigan’s book is just another instance of life in racist Britain. Once again the Afro Caribbean people who actually created the music and promoted it within their community and way beyond it beyond are being written out of UK history – a history which should inform future generations and provide a basis for them to build on. Lloydie Coxsone’s own history says it all. He arrived in London from Jamaica in the early Sixties. He worked on the Underground and saved to buy his first amp. He worked for Count Suckle at the legendary Roaring Twenties in Carnaby Street and he went on create a cup winning sound system that was indeed the benchmark against all others were judged. Reggae music and Sound System are his life. For decades he dedicated himself to promoting and introducing generation after generation of Jamaican artists. How many amazing voices, lyrics, tunes, dubs… has Coxsone Outernational sound system introduced? Countless!
As Coxsone himself would say “a life in Sound System is hard” and, while there is increasing recognition of the role of Sound System in shaping UK culture today, the real story has yet to be told. Personally, I have no problem with David Rodigan. He is a knowledgeable and affable guy who, despite his somewhat offbeat theatrical antics in rarified world of international sound clashes, is primarily a talented broadcaster whose shows on BBC Radio London, Capital and KissFM were limited to the greater London area. So, whenever we talk about the evolution of reggae music in the UK and its pivotal cultural role in shaping the musical genres that hold sway among the youth of today – jungle, drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep, grime – credit needs to be paid to those who, for decades, paved the way.
Ask yourself one question, if a book was published tomorrow portraying Lloydie Coxsone’s Life In Reggae Music & Sound System – a story that shows the evolution of Sound System alongside the music (ska to dancehall) and also offers a deeper insight into the cultural resistance of the Afro Caribbean community and rise of Rastafari in the face of racist attacks and fire bombings, Police and SPG harassment and consistent marginalisation – would Coxsone be feted in the press and invited to talk about it on national TV? I don’t think so. And if that’s the case maybe we all need to reflect on that and ask ourselves, “What role can I play in this struggle for recognition – for truth and rights?”
Paul Bradshaw – Straight No Chaser