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Reggae stalwart El Numero Uno promises a Christmas treat

HOST WITH THE MOST: Bobo - all smiles, suited and booted.

SINCE THE new millennium, Bobo El Numero Uno has become a household name across many black Caribbean households in the UK.

A well-respected DJ who’s graced numerous platforms including Eurojam, RJR London, CFM, Climax radio, Charity radio, Fusion and now, award-winning station Supreme FM, Bobo is the gift that keeps on giving.

Moreover, the Jamaican entertainer - who claims Africa as his true and rightful home - remains one of Britain's most sought after event hosts, fronting productions such as One Love Festival in front of thousands of people.

Fresh from emceeing duties at the Winter Reggae Fever, featuring platinum recording artist Gyptian, Bobo dropped by Life & Style ahead of his annual Champagne Ball, for a quick chat with Nadine White.

Life & Style: You joined the military not long after leaving school. What was that experience like?

Bobo: Yes, I served in the RAF, where I did six years as a personnel administrator. It was a good time and taught me a lot of things such as resilience, discipline, systematic thinking and the importance of stability.

I learned about determination, tenacity and punctuality. Since being discharged, these are principles which I’ve taken with me, moving forward.

L&S: When exactly did you fall in love with music?

B: You don’t grow up where I did, Jones Town - Kingston 12, without hearing music playing everywhere! A lot of great artists come from this area.

In the 1960s, my father, Powie, started a record label with his business partner Roland (Alphanso) called Roland & Powie. They produced artists such as The Maytals, Delroy Wilson and Owen Gray. So, I was always immersed in the music.

Then, during school days, my classmates and I started a sound, called Silver Tone. When I entered the military during the 1980s, I presented the weekly ‘Reggae Review’ show for the Gibralta Broadcasting Corporation (GBC).

I always say I was born to be involved in music.

L&S: You’re the host of Reggae Star Factor, a relatively new, reggae talent search show featuring icons such as Carroll Thompson and Judith Jacob as judges. What made you decide to get onboard?

B: When the show’s executives called me to be a part of it – I was happy to. It means a lot to me, to be able to have a hand in nurturing the next generation of reggae talent in the UK.

Past Reggae Star Factor contestants are doing well: Imani, Chardel (Rhoden), Jo Caesar and Aleighcia Scott, for instance. We travel up and down the country, auditioning people for the show.

For the (vast) amount of artists out there, there can never be enough platforms to help them towards success.

L&S: Talent shows have always been important. It’s a little-known fact that Bob Marley entered the Jamaica Festival Song competition in 1971, but lost to Eric Donaldson’s ‘Cherry Oh Baby’. Dancehall kings Beenie man and Yellowman both competed in the Tastee Talent Trail, as did Nadine Sutherland plus many more.

B: Exactly, and now there’s Rising Stars and Magnum Kings & Queens. The late John Holt got his break through the talent show circuit. Looking at the UK - there's X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice (UK).

L&S: We name-checked some legendary artists, just now. What are your top 5 reggae songs, of all time, and why?

B: Oh, what a question! My favourite artists of all-time are Bob Marley and Dennis Brown. I'd say anything from their catalogues, as well as Alton Ellis, John Holt and Gregory Isaacs’. Of course, there are a lot of songs to choose from but those would be my pick.


GOOD VIBES: The Champagne ball has been going strong for almost two decades.

L&S: Taking it up to the time, who are you listening to at the moment?

B:Chronixx is one. I like his lyrics, sound and, most importantly, the conscious message he brings.

The fact that his music doesn’t sound like anything else out there reminds me of Bob Marley; it isn’t like 15 different artists on one riddim (whose songs might all sound similar). As for female singers; I think Jah 9 and Queen Omega are great!

L&S: For those who don't know, how long has the Champagne Ball been running?

B: It actually began in 1991 out in Jamaica, Portmore, in the back-yard of my dad’s house which I grew up in. The place ended up being ram! I had to go to the wholesalers to top up on drinks because we’d run out quite quickly into the night!

It wasn’t until the year 2000 that I launched the Champagne Ball over here. So, 17 years concurrently in the UK.

L&S: Why did you start this event?

B: The reason, across both 1991 in Jamaica and 2000 in England, is the same. I realised that on Christmas night there was nowhere to go out and enjoy yourself! People would typically throw Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve parties but none on the 25th.

There was a need which is being supplied through the Champagne Ball. Years down the line, people now know the brand and understand that there’ll be getting a good experience for their money.

L&S: Each year, a guest artist passes performs at the ball. You’re remaining tight-lipped about who it’ll be next Monday.

B: (Laughs) Yes! The artist always adds an extra spice to the party. We’ve had Gregory Isaacs, Luciano, Maxi Priest, Mykal Rose, Pinchers, Dawn Penn, to name a few.

This is an occasion where people can get dressed up, hear good music, enjoy themselves. Each year I collaborate with brands and do lots of give-aways. VP Records have always been in my corner and this year, there’ll be supplying CDs and DVDs for people to take home. There’ll also be gifts from Ann Summers, Victoria’s Secret, travel vouchers and much more.

L&S: In the current climate, where black music and culture is perceived to be getting a fight in the UK, have you experienced any challenges in staging the annual champagne ball in the midst of this?

B: The main challenge would be finding venues. Back in the day, we had more venues. We seem to have taken steps back, in that respect. There are more Banqueting Halls available to us than clubs now, and they are expensive to hire.

So I’ve had to move around a lot and search for places to have this event. Over the years, we’ve had it at Visions night club, Seebo night club, If Bar. This year, we’re at the Couples Banqueting Hall.

We generally cater to a mature crowd because the younger crowd seem to want to settle their differences with violence, and this is what the police are clamping down on and how we’ve come to lose so many venues.

L&S: Any message for the patrons?

B: Expect a night of pure elegance and sophistication. Come out on Christmas night and dance off some of those calories!

Bobo El Numero Uno’s Champagne Ball will be taking place on Monday 25th December. Tickets are available from usual outlets and www.shoobs.com.

Catch Bobo on Supreme FM on Saturdays from 4-6pm (GMT) and Sundays from 6-8pm (GMT)

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