Reasoning with Lampa Dread Image

by Federico Di Puma

If the music from Jamaica is now quite popular in Italy and all over Europe Lampa Dread is one of the main reasons.

Born in 1962, he is one of the founding members of One Love Hi Powa, the first real sound system ever born in Italy. Throughout the years, One Love has become one of the most important European sounds worldwide; recognized with dances in every places of Europe, USA, Jamaica, Canada, Japan and even South Africa with appearances on all the biggest sound system events: Riddim  Clash, Death Before Dishonor, Fully Loaded, World Clash, UK Cup Clash.


In 2010 they won the Most Popular Sound System at the prestigious IRAWMA - the International Reggae & World Music Awards.

Lampa and the One Love family have been relevant in the history of Rototom since day one, and even if the Festival was forced to move to Spain, Lampa is on the Main Stage every year to entertain the crowd with his selection.

We had the opportunity to sit with him while chilling on a sunny afternoon outside the Rototom Radio.


JAmusic: Greetings Lampa, thanks for your time. We are in the afternoon of the sixth day here at Rototom, how has the Festival been so far?

LD:Greetings! I’d say really well, as it has always been since it moved to Spain. Here, it has acquired a well-rooted dimension; both at the structure and program level. Everything is going good and the rain we had yesterday wasn’t that bad, it just brought back the memory to Osoppo for a while but then the night went great as the others.


JAmusic: What do you think of Chronixx’s show here in Benicassim?

LD: Man it was great! I knew it already because we produced one of his shows in Rome a year ago, so I knew what to expect but I found him much more experienced. I mean it’s a natural process and he had quite a year with two European tours, important shows in Jamaica and the Dread and Terrible Project, and he’s just at the beginning of his career. His performance at Rototom has been of a very high level in my opinion, with even greater moments when he had guests on stage like Kabaka and the part with Jah9 and Jesse Royal which was definitely epic. Probably one of the moments with the biggest intensity of this edition so far. We had lots of big shows but that moment definitely deserved 5 stars.


JAmusic: Talking about guests it’s great to see how many artists decide to spend more than one day here, Kabaka for example played on the Main Stage on the first day but then he’s present every night in the Dub Academy or making special appearances on the Main Stage.

LD:Well Rototom has always been like that; when it’s possible they try to have the artists here for a few days. This has always been a policy of Rototom - to host the artists for more days so that they can experience the Festival but also that it’s easier for interactions between artists to happen. The other night for example Luciano was at the Dub Academy because Iration Steppas and Mikey General – who is his brethren – were there, and so he took the mic and sang because that’s part of the life of these musicians: to make music in situations like this, free. And we are lucky these combinations happen quite often and happened a lot in the history of Rototom.


JAmusic: You were the first to build a real sound system in Italy, where did the need and the will to have an authentic sound come from?

LD: We can say it was a natural need. When we started our approach to the Jamaican culture we realized how much the sound system had and still has a crucial importance: sometimes we found ourselves organizing an event and having technical problems and then we went to Jamaica or London and realized that this music needs to be fully experienced a system that can emphasize the bassline, then it immediately became a natural need. And it brought its fruits because from the first day we used our sound we set an example that many have followed and today in Italy I don’t even know how many sound system we have.


JAmusic: You celebrated in December the 20 years anniversary of One Love…

LD:Yeah now it’s 21 years of the actual sound system but the crew has been together since 1990, when we were part of the Onda Rossa Posse.

JAmusic: …and of these 25 years you’ve lived a large part in Jamaica when you had the One Love Records international distribution, how was your typical day there?

LD: Working there the days were always quite busy. So, early awake in the morning, mail, orders, and then the day was about following the orders of the clients, checking the new releases, contacting the distributions agencies, checking if we had the music and re-order what was over, always keeping in touch with the producers and the artists. Plus, having a sound I was often in the studio for the dubsessions for us and for other sounds when the dubplate business was not entirely in the hands of internet.

JAmusic: A few years ago you came to back to Italy.

LD:Yes, and that was because the recording industry in Jamaica crashed and that put us in a difficult situation, so one by one we had to come back to Italy. I couldn’t keep the activity alive and therefore sustain myself and so that was the main reason.


JAmusic: And was it easy to come back to Italy? Or you had to adapt for a while having been in Jamaica for so long?

LD:Well Italy has always been home, and it has always been the reason why we worked in Jamaica, we were there because we were a reality in Italy and we wanted to create a sort of a bridge. Back in Italy I keep on doing what I used to do in Jamaica. Maybe I select music a bit more here but there are always things to do, and I mean also in the sense of spread information and knowledge because in the years when I was away it seems to me we had some deficit, and some misunderstanding appeared. So yes, I try to contribute with what I know to create consciousness about this music and culture and its messages so that we can understand which are the ones we can relate with and which aren’t simply because being Europeans and Italians we come from a different culture. And we should never forget that.


JAmusic: On this topic, a few years ago you took part at a Reggae University lesson in Bergamo, Italy, which is something that happens also here at Rototom.

LD:Yes and the guys from Bergamo took the inspiration for the idea from the Festival: to try have a broader foundation, so that the ones who approach themselves with this music can have a full and complete idea of what it is. Let me just make an example: recently Dancehall music has been considered a specific musical genre, so that someone thinks that dancehall would only mean “bum bum bum” and fast fast riddims. But dancehall is not that, is a different thing: dancehall music was born in 1962 with ska and then evolved with rocksteady, reggae, rub-a-dub and with what we call dancehall music today.


JAmusic: Ken Boothe said something like that on the Rototom stage a few years ago…

LD:Yes! Many artists said that even in the Reggae University: Ken Boothe, Bunny Lee and many more have always said that dancehall music is the Jamaican music, whatever name you put to Jamaican music is dancehall music. It’s not only Sean Paul: Alton Ellis made dancehall music, Ken Boothe is a dancehall artist, even Bob Marley played dancehall music because his music makes us dance! Here, at the Dub Academy they do dancehall every night, and at the Ska Club is the same. Ska was the first style of dancing, it was music to dance, and if you don’t dance with ska…it’s not a different thing it’s dancehall music.

JAmusic: Going back to One Love Hi Powa; you’ve played on some of the most important stages: Amazura New York, Fully Loaded and many more, and you’ve been one of the first European sound system to do that. How was the reception you got from an audience that probably didn’t know much about you?

LD: Oh it was amazing. You see, as they say in Jamaica “if you’re bad you’re bad”! You come and play heavy, you get the reaction from what you do not from where you come from or from what is the colour of your skin. Let’s not forget that the motto of Jamaica is “Out of many one people”, and that should put whoever relates to Jamaica and its music on a positive vibe. There’s hostility for those who oppress, but that’s exactly the same here for us.


JAmusic: When are we going to see One Love clash again?

LD:We can never say…we had a few requests that were never finalized for reasons independent from our will. If they ask us to clash we definitely don’t back out, it’s something that is part of the game.


JAmusic: And in the clash arena you should have a few more trophies in my opinion.

LD:Well some cups are there at home but yes in a few clash they stole us the trophy, we are famous for being robbed but we’ll get even.


JAmusic: What are the future plans for One Love Hi Powa?

LD:We have a monthly night in Rome where we went back to play on our sound system. We do it only once a month because the dancehall scene in Rome is full of crews so it’s good to leave some space for everyone. Before we used to be almost the only sound playing in Rome, now it’s not like this anymore and that’s a great thing: we are only happy that there many more sound systems now, it means that what we have done was good, that we have sowed well. Being a pioneer I can only be satisfied. A PIONEER, not a veteran, veterans are retired, I’m not.

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