Custom Search 1

Tyrone Melody: 'Dancehall is about love, not war and crime'

PUSHING THE SCENE: Tyrone Melody, always a champion of Birmingham, is getting ready to preside over celebrations to mark 50 years of reggae – but he’s well aware that the sound system scene is constantly changing

AS A young kid from London I was never happy just to stay in my hometown of White City.

Me and my friends used to travel to carnivals like St Pauls in Bristol, Luton and – probably one of my faves back then – Birmingham.

I can vividly remember one of my carnival trips seeing a very small selector on very big sound by the name of Luv Injection. As a young DJ myself, I was keen to know who was trying to take the uniqueness that I thought I had.

It’s been a few years now and Tyrone Melody and myself have both grown up. We became colleagues and friends – and he has become my “go-to” person if I’m in need of something in Birmingham.

I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this, but to me he has grown into the Mayor for the streets. He represents his hometown and flies the flag for Birmingham wherever he goes.

In true Tyrone fashion, he was hard to pin down. On my first call he said: “Seani, I’m testing out my sound, let’s talk later.”

Later was 9.30pm, became 10.30pm, and then he went missing. It was around midnight that I got that call with the thick Brummie accent mixed with a splash of patois: “It’s only ’cos it’s you, Sean, only ’cos it’s you.”

He tells me, with the twang in full effect: “I’ve been holding it down in Birmingham since 1985.

“My mum knew someone who had a radio station, and she knew I had a passion for music. From there I became the youngest radio DJ in Birmingham and up stepped Tyrone Melody!”

The history and prevalent role that Birmingham has played in the development of reggae goes without question, and it is a hugely significant centre for touring as well as the development of artists and sound systems.

Luv Injection had an international reputation, and a lot of it was down to Tyrone. “I was really interested in sound system culture and wanted to be in a sound. Winston and Zukie [from Luv Injection] are my uncles, but don’t think I got a pass to be part of the set-up!

“I was told in no uncertain terms by Winston that the only way I could be part of the sound was if I finished school and passed my exams with good grades. As a grown-up now I can appreciate that from him, and I will always be grateful for them conditions.”

Good grounding indeed. Within the 33-year career to date, Tyrone has been a key figure in keeping Birmingham relevant on so many levels, and it is a task that he relishes. “Even though I have been doing this for so long, I give thanks at the opportunities that have come along. I remember being that schoolkid who had a dream to work in music, and to still be doing to this day I just have to give thanks.”

Pushing the scene, encouraging artists and DJs, linking with the stars when they are in town – it’s all Tyrone. One of his next projects comes in October, when he presents some of the city’s freshest talent as part of the 50th Anniversary of Reggae celebrations put on by Punch Records.

So wearing his various hats I wanted to know how he viewed today’s scenes.

Firstly, as a DJ: “If you are an old school person like me you could look at today’s scene and think it’s kinda mad, but there are youngsters coming into the business who are pushing it on and if you don’t work with it you can be easily left behind – and I’m not gonna let that happen to me.”

How about as a sound system man?

“The sound scene today has drastically changed. Previously if someone played a tune and you thought your dub was better you would openly play and say that. Now, you have all kinda genres being played and very few real DJs. As I said before, you have to work with it and try to fit in.”

It seems there are parallels with what is going on in Birmingham to what is happening in the capital in the areas of club nights and support for the music.

“We are feeling it the same way here,” he says. “It’s hard for dancehall. They make all kinds of excuses and give us terrible venues or even worse security, then the music and genre get stigmatised.

“The music is about love, but these people make it look like war and crime, and it’s not that.” Preach! His generational train keeps chugging on. Tyrone’s son is now in his sound and the guidance once given to him is now being passed onto the next gen.

“I feed off their young boy energy and vibes, and it’s up to me to make sure they learn the ropes from the core,” he explains. “It’s a role I take very seriously.” His son had better get good grades!

Tyrone Melody Presents: Birmingham’s New Wave takes place on October 22 at Birmingham’s Hare & Hounds. For more info, go to punchbass.com.

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Facebook Comments