October 5, 2021
Jamaican music has always held a place of pride in the United Kingdom. Thanks to the Windrush Generation, that wave of migrants from the Caribbean who took their culture with them, as a means of stemming the homesickness which overcame them as they tried to settle in their new surroundings.
Over the years, Jamaican acts have experienced varying levels of success in Britain and acts such as The Wailers, Millie Small, John Holt, and Alton Ellis were among the trailblazers to pave the way for the current breed of artistes to enjoy success across the Atlantic.
Here in the UK, we have a new generation of artistes blooming, many of whom are first or second generation born in the UK from Jamaican parents. This new generation, who grew up listening to their parents reggae and dancehall collection as well as British home-grown music such as jungle, UK garage and drum n bass, are now fusing all those influences and incorporating Caribbean music from the diaspora to create a hybrid sound.
Artistes such a Stefflon Don, Unknown T, Digga D and M1llionz have amassed huge fan bases in the UK and have crossed over into the mainstream market while still retaining an underground following. Their sound is rooted in dancehall music in terms of the lyrics and bass-driven sound, but also takes on other musical influences such as Drill (Woii – Digga D) and Baile Funk (Dip – Stefflon Don). A testament of this hybrid sound was Wiley and Idris Elba’s Boasty track back in 2019 which was a global hit.
The UK has a thriving dancehall scene with new acts emerging in the last two to three years such as Yung Saber, Alicai Harley and Big Zeeks. These artistes have found a new sound and are taking on the baton passed on by their predecessors and portraying life as they see it here in London and the wider UK. Their music is regularly championed on mainstream radio such as Capital Xtra and BBC Radio 1Xtra and it is great to see these radio stations getting behind UK talent and supporting them in their careers.
Not so long ago it was much harder to get these stations and others to take note of dancehall artistes and support the music on daytime radio aside from the evening specialist music shows. However, it is clear that streaming platforms appear to be controlling the narrative in terms of relevance in the marketplace. Whilst radio playlists still play a role in helping artistes gain traction in the industry, the focus seems to be ever increasingly on securing a place in editorial playlists on digital streaming platforms. In light of the recent UK Government response to Parliament’s report on the economics of music streaming, the Intellectual Property Office published a new report called Creators’ Earnings In The Digital Age, putting the spotlight on how little income music makers are able to make from these streaming platforms. Artistes now more than ever need to take greater control of their art and seek out other forms of revenue streams such as NFTs (non-fungible tokens) or Bandcamp and embrace the new technology surrounding this.
London recently saw it’s first major reggae event take place since the pandemic began. City Splash Festival saw headliners from Jamaica, Beenie Man and Lila Ike, being supported by UK acts such as Marla Brown, Kiko Bun and The Ras Ites. The event took place in the rural settings of Beckenham Place Park with patrons coming from far and wide to take in the impressive lineup over three stages. The festival provided a great platform for UK acts to share the stage and rub shoulders alongside their Jamaican counterparts. What we now need in the UK is more of these reggae and dancehall-focused festivals to provide a platform for new artistes to perform which in turn will nurture the sound and elevate the culture. Without these spaces I think the music will suffer and stagnate. We have already seen a dramatic decline in clubs and spaces dedicated to the music in the UK as well as European cities. The popular Notting Hill Carnival has been postponed for a second year running. This has been compounded by the pandemic and the general misconception that reggae and dancehall is not the once thriving industry it once was in the so-called golden age of the 80s and 90s.
It’s great to see more and more collaborations developing between Jamaican and British artists such as Kranium with Young T & Bugsey, M1llionz and Popcaan. Stylo G is a testament of this in his ability to bridge the gap between both markets and make hit records consistently. Another positive is artistes such Popcaan branching out into the fashion market with his recent collaboration drop alongside Daily Paper. I feel it’s a template that emerging acts could benefit from to increase revenue streams and diversify their brand.
Whilst the dancehall movement has accumulated momentum with an injection of new talent, the traditional reggae scene simply is not what it once was in the UK. With the exception of Kiko Bun and Aleighcia Scott, we have not had any acts breakthrough. Afrobeats is without a doubt dominating the space. The emergence of the Official UK Afrobeats Chart just goes to show how far the sound has come. I’m still waiting to see the UK Official Reggae and Dancehall Chart even though the music is over 50 years old, whilst Afrobeats is still in its infancy stage. My hope is that reggae can receive the respect in the industry that it truly deserves and that the dancehall movement continues its upward trajectory.
Originally hailing from West London, Jamie Rodigan has grown up with music in his blood. Being the son of the legendary radio broadcaster Sir David “Ram Jam” Rodigan, music has played a pivotal role throughout his life. He developed a love for reggae music through his trips to Jamaica in his youth with his father. He was captured by the sweet sound of reggae music. His eclectic DJ sets today reflect these musical experiences growing up. It’s not just reggae that has formed Jamie’s musical education. He was exposed to a wide range of music from rare groove and house to jungle and garage.
Rodigan started playing music at house parties during his university days where he formed the sound Extra Stout. When he got the call for Extra Stout to play at Rototom Sunsplash in 2008, it was an unmissable opportunity. In 2011, Extra Stout established the dancehall night Mudd Up! in east London. With Jamie Rodigan as a resident selector there, the night grew in popularity.
In 2013, he released Paranoid Riddim on the New York label Dubshot which featured appearances by Ras Demo and UK dancehall star Fowlie Don. In more recent times Jamie has been bursting through the dancehall scene with notable performances at Rototom Reggae Sunsplash and Toddla T’s Carnival Stage for BBC 1Xtra. 2015 saw a year-long residency at Hoxton Square Bar. With regular dates in the UK and Europe and a new residency in Dalston, east London, Jamie has established himself as one of the top dancehall selectors from the UK.