Interview with U-Roy at the Dub Lights 3 Festival in Sète, France on Saturday 16th of June 2018
During this interview, he talked about his love for Jamaica, Rastafarism, his sources of motivation, and his love for music, among other subjects. You may click here to the view the table of contents.
Alongside, Mad Professor, and Lee “Scratch” Perry, the Jamaican deejay U-Roy performed at the Théâtre de la Mer in Sète, France on June 16th, 2018. When we asked him how he felt earlier on stage, he replied:
It was good you know. It was very good. Audience was very nice, and stuff like that. Nice to see some young people come around to watch the show. It was great for me.
When we evoked the Spanish Reggae festival Rototom Sunsplash, where he had performed in 2017, he said:
We asked him what motivates him to keep on touring up until now, and he answered:
To me, it’s just my work. Okay. It’s just my work. So, I just go on doing it until Jah tell me to stop. Him don’t tell me to stop as yet, so I just continue to do what I got to do.
U-Roy was was 20 when Jamaica became independent. When we asked him how this major event in Jamaican history affected his life, he expressed his love for Jamaica:
It changed quite a few things because Jamaica becomes independent, it means that you’re independent. The Queen used to respond for us down there in Jamaica, and now everything has kind of changed, you know.
It’s nice to be independent. I feel proud of the country, even though it’s a poor country. But I still feel very proud of my country. I love my country very much.
In 1963, the Coral Gardens incident shocked the the parish of St James in Jamaica. So we asked U-Roy how he perceived this event when he was younger. He recalled:
At the time, I was very young you know. I hear about it, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. One thing I wanted to say is this is discriminating Rasta you know, and I don’t like that part of it at all. But now, it’s a different thing when it comes to Rasta people because they are more recognized now. They’re taking more position in different places, you see me.
For me that is a great honor, because sometimes when I was young, you couldn’t tell people about Rasta. Even my parents, they didn’t like that to say that you’re a Rasta man, they didn’t like that. But I do what I have to do, and I’m serene about what I do, and I have no regrets about what I do. I just give thanks and praise to Jah, because to me Jah bless me straight along with my talent, with everything, helped me to go through life, everyday without problems. That’s great. I’m definitely a Rasta man, and I will always give thanks and praises to the most high Jah.
When we asked him when he became a Rasta man, he recounted:
From I was very young. From I was young, because I have young friends that used to tell me about King Selassie, and tell me about the blessing that you get from the most high Jah. I took on to the work of the most high because I’m very much interested in what I heard about the culture. So, I am proud of that. I just tell you, I am proud of what I do, I have no regrets. I will always be a Rasta man.
He added that up until now, his faith in Rastafari was still strong:
Very strong. I can tell you that. I’m happy, because to me whatever place I reach in life, I believe strongly that is the power of the most high, help me to reach there, to get across from point A to point Z. That is good for me.
We asked him if he had ever met people that lived in the Pinnacle, U-Roy replied:
I heard about it, but I didn’t meet those people. I heard about them. So, I think they done probably what they wanted to do. Because, like I’ve just said you couldn’t tell people in my country.
My mum, my grand mother, I grew up with those people, and when you say that you’re a Rasta man is like you’re saying the worst things at the time. But I didn’t care, because, I just tell you, I said to my mum: “Okay, you have your religion. You go to your church on Sundays. You pray to your God. Let me give thanks and praises to my God.”
[Interrupted by a fan who got his record signed]
While he was expressing his faith in Rastafari, a fan interrupted him to get his record signed. Then U-Roy explained that the love of the his fans keeps him motivated:
See, these are some of the things that keep me doing what I’m doing, keep me alive, keep me happy. When I see young people that is many years younger than me, come to me and say “Hey, I’ve been listening to you from I was a young kid! My parents tell me about you, my parents introduced you to me.” Those things is things that keep you alive and keep you happy. It make you think that: “Okay, whatever I was doing, there’s got to be something good or else there wouldn’t be so many people that is interested in what you do,” you know.
So these things, for me, is great honour for me that I tell you. Out there tonight on the stage, in the whole audience is 90% young people, which is younger than me. So these things for me is great upliftment. I really appreciate that to the max. I’m out of my country now, I’m talking about this. I’m in other people’s country, like France, Germany, Japan, and those places, and you see, all this audience come out and have been clapping and enjoying theirselves when you’re doing what you’re doing. For me, that is just a blessing. I can’t say it no other way than that. It’s a blessing from the most high.
I think Jah bless me every time to do what I have to do. And to make so much people all around the world know about me, it’s the more powerful of most the blessings. I am so happy with what’s happening. Give thanks for the time.
When we asked U-Roy what are his thoughts about politics, he replied:
Politics, right around the world, segregates people. Segregation is not good. Unity is strength. Love people is very good. When you love people, it means that you have a heart for people. If you see your brother or your sister going down, you will try a way to pick them up. When you see a person say “I’m hungry, I don’t have no money to buy some food,” is the quickest thing if I have a money to give it to buy some food. I can give you that, because look, he’s just going to eat some food. That keeps you alive. So, I’ll be giving that.
So, I’m not a politician. I love people. So, I show them my respect as long as they show me their respect. I will always return that back to them. I don’t like to disrespect people because I don’t want people disrespecting me. What you don’t love for yourself, you don’t do that to other people. Because you want to be like just like yourself. You know what I mean.
He highlighted that:
Okay, I’m a black person. If a one person come to me and say “Hey, U-Roy, can I take a photograph with you?” It is not a problem man. It is my work. It’s my business to take a picture with you, if you feel like you want to take a picture with me. That’s cool for me.I tell you I don’t believe in segregation, I believe in unity. I always hear from my parents that unity is strength. Respect people, no matter what color, class, or race they may ever be. As long as they show you respect and love. Love them back. That is my belief.
U-Roy began his career in the 60’s, and began recording during the early 70’s. We asked him if he had ever expected to become so famous. He replied:
Oh my God! I would never ever think that, I could never ever. I could never sit here and tell you that: “yes, I knew from that time.” No! I never have no idea, not even just like the idea that one of these days I’m going to be here today at this time. Because, I’m in this business over 50 years now. Okay.
When I do my first two songs, I just tell myself “Oh, this is not going to go on more than two months or so.” You know, because at the time deejay music wasn’t something that people recognize in my country. So when I hear my two songs been playing on the radio, I been saying that is just a 2 month thing, it’s not going to go nowhere.
U-Roy added how surprised he was to see that people actually liked his work. Once again, he expresses how much the love of his fans brings joy to him.
So, it’s the biggest surprise for me to see until this time, I have to be talking to young people about this. It’s really honorable for me, trust me. It’s a joy in my heart every time I think about this. But I did not ever know. I used to tell myself when I was small that France, Germany, England, America, Africa, I’m not going to know these places because I don’t have no money to buy my ticket to take me to those places.
I used to tell myself that there is no way that I’m going to know these places, I can only say I heard about these places but in terms of going to these places I will never reach there! Listen to me, I come to France, almost every year. So you see what I’m talking about now.
You just never ever know what tomorrow is going to be. When I come to France, and thousands of people. I’m on those festivals and stuff like that. You see thousands of people out there “U-Roy!” I would have to feel good in myself to see that something that I would never believe was ever going to happen for me.
Even though U-Roy has been active until 2021, he has probably been the most active during the 70’s. He’s well known for dubbing classic Reggae songs from way back then. Nevertheless, he’s been keeping up to date, and has also collaborated with artists of the current generation:
Yes, yes, I have done that also. Because I do a couple songs with Tarrus Riley for his album, and many other young people. Many other young people call me to do stuff. So, I have no problem doing recent songs, even with young people. I have no problem to do that because like I’ve said it’s my work. When it’s your work you just got to know what to do.
So it’s not a problem for me to record a song with Tarrus Riley or Beres Hammond or nobody. Because the whole thing is timing. Timing with the music. Whatever the singer is singing, you just got to know where to come in. What’s part you come in that you don’t mix up with the singer. You don’t clash with him, whatever he’s doing. I can do that without problem.
U-Roy was an original from back in the days, with true ingenuity when it comes to lyrics. About his writing process, he said:
Listen to me, in terms of writing, sometimes I might sit down and write something and by the time I get into the studio all these things be put in my back pocket. I don’t read nothing on no paper. I just go in front the microphone, open my mouth, and that’s it. The words just keep coming out.
So, look this night, Lee Perry call me on the stage. He’s just like “Hey!” It’s like a carpenter who builds a house. He knows what’s he’s going to be build before he starts building the house. You know exactly what you’re going to build. You want to build a nice house. So you know what you gonna have to get to build a nice house. It’s like that. It’s not hard. For me, it’s not hard. At first, in the beginning, it was hard. But, understand in my life there is nothing about my work that is hard for me. It’s never been hard for me by this time.
U-Roy began recording in the early 70’s. At the time, recording in one shot was the norm. However, recording techniques have evolved a lot ever since, and it is more common to record a song sequentially nowadays. When asked how he preferred recording, he replied:
Sometimes, you know, because when I just started recording in Jamaica, you have two tracks. In the studio, 2 tracks. The music is on one track, and your voice is on the other track. If you make a mistake, any part of the song where you make a mistake, you going to have to start back from the top. I have seen people in the studio for like a half a day, and they still don’t complete one song. You understand. And, I try my best never to make this happen for me. I just love, most of my songs that I do is wrapped one caught. One, just one single caught. The first time I go in front of the mic “Yeah, and rae, and whatever, whatever, and my song is finished.
Sometimes, yes, you don’t… At the time, you never have the type of technology that you can patch in these parts like for instance, you say something at the front the riddim, then you make a mistake, and then you patch back from where you make a mistake. You understand what I’m saying. It never be like that. If you make a mistake, whatever, the riddim is almost finished you’re going to have to go back from the top. Like I just tell you, it’s two track. Your voice is on one, the music is on one.
So, I learn from the time to be trying my best to be the most perfect in every way that I can do this, until this day. I learn that. I keep that. This is your work, you don’t make mistake because you think you can just make mistake. You don’t do that. You concentrate on what you’re doing, you do what you got to do.
Favorite artists of the current generation
We asked U-Roy who were his favorite artists in the current generation, he answered:
In the young generation of artists, I love Busy Signal. Yes, I love Busy Signal. I love Capleton, Buju Banton, those people. Assassin, you know. I respect these artists, these young green artists. They’re young to me. Because I think they know what they are doing. Whenever it’s time for them to put their voice on a song, they know what they’re doing. That’s the best thing about it when you know what you’re doing, and what you’re going to do. You can’t beat that.I’m just happy about the love of the young people like I’ve seen in this business. Those guys are not talking bad stuff about ladies, and stuff like that, calling them gal and… Yeah. For me, I respect them.
Advise to the young generation of artists
We asked U-Roy if he had any tips to give to the young generation of artists. He advised them:
You know I can just say to them that, look here, just be yourself. Don’t make nobody tell you that you can’t reach from point A to point Z. Just be you. Whatever you have to do, whatever you like. Because, first thing: you have to like anything that you’re going to do, and you’re going to master it. You have to love it. If you don’t love it, you’re going nowhere. Nowhere at all. If you don’t love what you’re doing.
Many, many, many times I have problems in things that I’ve done but it’s like you know that you’re telling yourself, I have to get this done. If I don’t get this done, how I’m going to survive, you know. I can just tell them this, just be themselves. Just what do what you know to got to do. Whatever you love, don’t let no one ever tell you or try to distract you from that, or give you bad encouragements. Many times, I see things that are going nowhere for me that I take the trouble going but later on, along the line, it is going to fall right back in my hand for I want it to go.
So I must tell them that, just be themselves. Just be conscious of what you do. In terms of saying things on the music, don’t call ladies “bitches”. Hey, I don’t want nobody call my mother bitch, I don’t want nobody call my sister or my daughter a bitch. So, I don’t like that part of the thing. When you going to call a lady a “bitch”. So maybe that is their thing, so they feel comfortable in doing that. But me, I don’t think of that. I don’t think that is anything comfortable at all. I don’t think that is anything real you should style ladies. Because I just tell you, I don’t want they style my daughter a bitch. I don’t want them to style my sister or my mum as no bitch.
Favorite sound system
U-Roy began his career with sound systems. When we asked him about his favorite sound system, he recounted his youth:
My favorite sound system? When I start playing sound systems, as a youth I used to play for a sound named Doctor Dickies in my area that I lived. Sir George Atomic. There are so many sound systems, because sound systems were my special, very special, love. I don’t know but that is where I am coming from, from the sound system era.
When I was much younger, when sound system is playing down the road, and my parents sent me to the shop, they’re going to wait a long time to see me come back with what they sent me to buy because I’m going to stop and listen. So I have many favorites, many love for many sounds. It’s music you know. So you will always love. At least, me, I will always love to listen to music, no matter what. That is my first love to hear a sound system play.
Then, when I start playing sound system, I been at the garden. It’s crowd a people around me. I been putting on the records, YEAH! People been jumping and dancing. I love these things. This is why I think the most high make I be this type of person that I am, you know.
Apart from Reggae and Dancehall
U-Roy loved music, and not just Jamaican music. When we asked him what he listened to apart from Reggae, and Dancehall music, he commented:
You know what, I listen to every type of music. Every type of music. It could be Indian music, as long as there’s something in the music that I feel. Because music is feeling. You have to feel a song to love it. And true that I listen to Beyoncé, I listen to Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston. I listen to all of these people, I have these people’s music at my house because, when you’re in this business you cannot just [Interrupted by the organizer]… So you know… Bobby Brown, New Edition, Temptations, Impressions. I listen to everybody. I listen to the Four Tops, I listen to the Manhatters, because they’ve been singing some songs that touch you.
As long as a music touch me, I can buy a CD just for listen to one song. If I love this one song, I can buy the CD, and I only listen to this one song, and I will play it over and over. I’m no partial when it come to listening to music because you learn as you go along from everything. Since that other people say you have to listen to these young people because they’ve been saying things that you probably didn’t know it as a big man. So you just have to listen to what they have to say. You can determine from that whether what they say is right or wrong. So, if you want to take on to what they say, it’s cool. If you don’t want to take on to it, you leave it alone.