Going Back to His Roots | Living North

Going Back to His Roots

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Levi Roots
On 21 July Levi Roots releases a three-CD album of 60 massive reggae hits curated by the celebrity chef and entrepreneur. We spoke to him about his musical heritage, and picking the best tracks to represent reggae

How did the album come to be?
My first experience in music was joining Coxon Sound System. If you Google it you’ll know we were the main link for any music that came from Jamaica. If Coxon didn’t play it, it wouldn’t become a hit anywhere. Coxon was that powerful in the days before the internet. I was then asked to pick the songs for this CD. For me to choose different songs going back from those days, it was a great thing to do but so difficult. With all the music I grew up with, it was tough, but I was glad it wasn’t my favourite songs. This is about songs that inspire me and a lot of people as well.

How did you narrow it down to 60 songs?
I went looking for inspiring moments. I was thinking about the listener, as well. I wasn’t seeing it just through my eyes. I’m looking at what memories could people have of these great songs. The best way to look at it is: they were all songs that were in the charts and were massive, so that means we’ll all have some connection of when we first heard them and what memories they bring back. All of them for me bring back memories of when I was growing up.

You managed to get some cover versions of your own on there.
That was the clincher for me, that I could have a couple on there. I made sure to tell them: ‘Not the Reggae Reggae Sauce one’, because I was sick and tired of singing that. A couple of years ago it was a joy to go back to Jamaica and record my own new album called Rise Above. These tracks on this album are taken from that.

Has reggae been given the attention it should over here in the UK?
It has been given chances. Many other people find a different way of explaining it, but for me I do think that it’s a changing music, a changing morality, a changing vibe. It wasn’t made for the purpose of other music, and that’s why it’s very difficult to pin it down to one genre. Reggae has been five or six genres throughout the years and they’re all different, as opposed to rock music where if you listen to rock now, it doesn’t feel all that much different to the rock created back in the day by all those guys back in America. Reggae changes all the time: ska and rock steady are different, then the Rastafarian culture came along and brought reggae into it, and now it’s at the dancehall level. If you listen to dancehall now, it has no comparison to ska; it’s totally different. It is the most inspirational music, I think, out of all the genres.

It’s also the perfect music for summer.
It is: the Caribbean is about sunshine, about happiness and great vibes, and reggae represents that. Jamaica has always been a great patriarch for good vibes. I think when we listen to music it has an association with partying and summer, and the record companies hit on that. When we hear Shaggy in the charts, we know it’s summertime. When we hear Sean Paul, we know it’s summer.

Who should we be looking out for now in reggae?
The name in the mix is a young man by the name of Chronixx. He is the new hope. I like Chronixx: I play him a lot on my Radio 2 show. But whether or not he has the Marley factor, I wouldn’t like to answer that at this stage, but he’s a really fantastic find.

Brits are bad at barbecues: what do we get wrong, and what guidance can you offer?
At a barbecue everyone wants to be charge, and that’s not the way to go. There’s always one person that will have a bit more knowledge about how to run things around the barbecue. You should always let him or her do things. Barbecues though need help from others: it’s about pulling together and doing what the leader wants. And there’s no bigger marriage than music and food. 

What’s your favourite view in Yorkshire?
I just did a gig a couple of weeks ago in Malton, and I was struck by how beautiful our country really is. You get out and see the rolling hills of Yorkshire up there, and it’s such a fantastic sight. I had a little bit more extra time to drive around and see. The countryside is amazing, especially if you live in London. We are part of this concrete jungle that is the capital city, and all around us are these concrete walls. Every now and again, I like to escape and go to the countryside, to different surroundings. It’s freeing.

Levi Roots Presents Reggae Reggae Hits: The Ultimate Reggae Album For The Summer is released on 21 July 2017.

Published in: July 2017

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