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JAMDOWN VERSHUN AT 35 Dancehall Days

General Justice (at right) with Ky-Mani Marley
General Justice (at right) with Ky-Mani Marley

Could you set the scene for us as far as the origins of Jamdown Vershun go, 35 years ago?

I arrived in Perth in December, 1978, and having grown up in the UK, could not believe that there was no contemporary blaq music  being played live or on the radio. Then, three months later, Bob Marley & The Wailers hit Perth.  I found out that there was a new  university FM station, 92.1fm and met a few other people who were into reggae. I met John Briggs  who was working at 78s, the only record shop that carried any reggae. He was also producing a radio comedy show  on 92.1FM with Tim Walker and Cliff Gillam, they were just getting into reggae. William Jamison, Dave Cooper and Graham Hilton joined us and the seven of us went to the then 6UVS 92.1FM and submitted an application to produce a  reggae radio show. They let us produce three test programs and, much to our surprise, agreed to let us continue. The original name for the show was Vershun Galore, when 6UVS-FM became RTRFM we changed the name to Jamdown Vershun.

What was the knowledge like of reggae in Perth at the time? Was there a ‘scene’?

There was definitely no reggae scene at all. Just a few isolated people who were just getting into reggae. Also, it was really hard to start off with as there was very little information on the subject.

I believe you’re one of the few people to have interviewed Bob Marley? I presume it went better than George Negus’ one did?

I did not interview Bob. The Wailers came to Perth a couple of months before Jamdown started. I went to the Entertainment Centre and after the show managed to get backstage and met Bob. I started raving about how good it was to hear  live reggae and the fact that no one played reggae in Australia. Bob gave me some advice, he said, ‘Cap, you should become a DJ and play the reggae ‘. I took his advice . I did interview Peter Tosh about three years later when he came to Perth and Bunny Wailer and  Bob’s wife Rita Marley on my first trip to Jamaica in 1984.

How many contributing presenters have taken part over the years? Any you’d like to shout out to?

The original seven lasted till about ’88, then it was just me and I started to bring others in and training them up. I made a list a few years ago and there have been over 50 people; some only stayed a few weeks or months some stayed for years. Like to big up Wayne and Shonna  in the late ’80s,  Alpha T  and Kanga Vibes who were there for most of  early ’90s, Jamaicans David and Wayne Murrey  from 1996 to 2002, Zimbabwean DJJah Clint and my daughter  Miss Tickle from 2004-07, who all contributed. The best  of course is the present team with  Mumma Trees and DJ Simba.

What for you have been the highlights over the years?

Too many. The amazing guests we have had in the studio; my friend Sir Viv Richards who has been into the show six or seven times, Jah Sahka, Earl 16, Mutaburuka, Benjamin Zephaniah, Anthony B, Gyptian, Bushman, Luciano, etc… the list goes on and on .

Also, some of the great shows we have put on. Mainly though, it’s  just being able to play music you love and that great feeling when you play a new track and someone rings up and thanks you for playing it. That’s such a buzz.

Describe the WA reggae scene as it stands now…

The reggae/dancehall scene has had highs and lows over the last 35 years. Right now it’s definitely on an upswing. A lot more people in Perth are into it and know what’s hip and there are  a remarkable amount of good DJs, bands and vocalists around at the moment.

Can you describe the line-up of the bands/DJs at the 35th party in terms of Jamdown Vershun’s ethos towards music?

We tried to put together a bill that would represent a few of the many sub genres of reggae. We have foundation Jamaican Music from  The Isolites who play ska/rocksteady and Jamaican calypso known as mento. The Weapon Is Sound  are a dub band, Souljah Kaptives are a traditional roots reggae band. Cera Kymarnie & Lioness Movement play modern reggae i.e., onedrop, and have divine voices. Then we have PaPa Flava who hails from Ghana and sings both dancehall and onedrop.   Dancehall Producer Benn Madz has had  worldwide exposure and success with some of the riddems he has produced in Perth and will be bringing his vocalist Miss Eve… and then there’s the Jamdown team Mumma Trees, Simba and I with The Jah Wisdom Sound  and we will finish the night off.

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