'Playing reggae is a way of life'

'Playing reggae is a way of life'
When 60 somethings and teenagers dance to the same tunes, you know the performers are extraordinary. Such was the scene at the concert organised by Cleartrip Local at Catholic Club where four time Grammy nominee ‘UB40’ enthralled the audience.

The legendary British reggae and pop band have not lost any of their charm from when they started out 38 years ago.
Robin Campbell and Brian Travers spoke to Rajitha Menon about music through the years.
 
How did the journey to stardom begin?

Robin: When ‘Steel Pulse’ had the very first reggae album at number one in the British charts in the late 1970s, we knew that there was commercial potential in the music. When we released our first album ‘Red Red Wine’ in 1980, it spent over 90 weeks in the top 50. We didn't know how big it would be internationally.  It so turned out that our career in America hadn't really taken off until ‘Red Red Wine’ became a massive hit.
 
And how has the journey been over the years?

Robin:Over the years we saw a lot of highs and a few lows. Even today, people turn up in huge numbers to hear us play. Playing reggae is a way of life for us. And the great thing about being a musician is you get better over time.
 
Any time when you felt fame was a hindrance?

Robin: It's easy to become a rock star casualty from over indulgence. Your family keep you grounded and that is what you need when you make a living the way we do. It is natural that bands sometimes let ego get in the way. But we need to remember that there are so many who would jump on the opportunity to make music but may not get it.  

Favourite show till date?

Robin: There have been so many. Playing to the biggest crowd ever in South Africa to celebrate the release of Nelson Mandela was a momentous one. It was great to be a part of that historic moment. Another unforgettable experience was playing at Madison Square Gardens in New York, with a number one single and album in the American charts.
 
What enabled this band to stick around for so long?

Brian: We all started making music to show our love for reggae and that continues. There have been some changes, however with a similar style of music, one brother replacing the other was a smooth transition. It is the chemistry of the players together that keeps the integrity of sound intact.
 
How has the music world changed from when you started out till now?

Brian: While initially musical success was determined by record sales, now everything is on the internet. And there are a lot of challenges and opportunities that came with this change. However, people still turn up for shows and performances and that’s good. It shows that it is still about music.

Thoughts about India?

Brian: We haven’t got much time to explore the country. The food is the best part our tour till now though it is not alien. We are from Birmingham, which is known as ‘Little India’ and Curry masala is our national food (laughs). So it feels like home.
 
If there was one thing about the global music industry you would change, what would be it?
Brian:  I would make it easier for younger artistes to get a break and give them more opportunities to showcase their talent. I wouldn’t change the digitisation of music, even though it means loss of revenue for artistes, because when music becomes too commercial, it loses meaning.

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