Come and be happy at The Bowl
TIPPA Irie has played all over the world during a long career as one of UK reggae’s crowned kings – but the leafy surrounds of Swindon’s Old Town Bowl will be a first.
The Londoner, an early exponent of a quick-fire lyrical style adopted by rapper Busta Rhymes and others, headlines the Reggae Garden festival today.
He rose to fame on Saxon sound system, where he would ‘chat’ over records at heaving parties, but these days is equally happy in muddy fields at outdoor festivals.
Tippa, real name Anthony Henry, said: “I’ve been to some really, weird strange venues. A lot of Glastonbury-type fields and festivals all over the world, but I have never played somewhere like this before. I’m looking forward to it, it should be really interesting.”
The Reggae Garden event launched at The Bell Hotel pub last year and organisers are hoping Tippa’s entertaining, live-wire set will draw the crowds to a bigger venue. The Town Gardens will be another stop on a hectic schedule for the showman, who recently won over fans on a French island.
“It’s all good man,” he said. “I love it. I did Bradford town centre the other day and I like it when people see me perform who haven’t heard my music before. They are like ‘who the hell is this guy?’ but I know as long as the music is good they will support me.”
The well-travelled performer had hits in the 80s and 90s but has collaborated with the Black-Eyed Peas and says his latest album Stick to my Roots is one of his best.
Tippa, 47, said: “The audience can look forward to singing along because I really involve them in what I’m doing on stage. “My lyrics are funny and I’m a kind of cheeky, chappy kind of character.
“But also my songs are very educational, very uplifting and very anti-politics.
“I think people come out to enjoy themselves and be happy and forget about the everyday issues that politicians put us through. I have those lyrics in my songs but I don’t tend to dwell on them.
“I want people to laugh and enjoy themselves and appreciate my skills as a lyricist.”
Tippa has witnessed a growth in the popularity of reggae at festivals across the world but believes the genre is still being largely ignored by the mainstream radio stations.
“I’ve had a lot of hit tunes and I’ve been consistent,” he said. “But I would have had more hit tunes if they were played on the right station. I’m booked until next year but people still ask if I’m still doing music. I’ve been asked if I’m retired. I’m out there but I’m not being put in people’s faces, so they think nothing’s happening.”
Radio or no radio, one of British reggae’s strongest voices is set to shine in Swindon today.
l Reggae Garden takes place on Saturday between midday and 8pm. Tickets are priced £15 for adults and £5 for under-12s with under-fives free. Visit www.thereggaegarden.com or www.theticketsellers.co.uk or call Forum on 01793 480 051.