errol dunkley

Interview: Jamaica born Errol Dunkley on Gregory Isaacs, learning from Prince Buster, thoughts on rastafarianism and 2022 UK tour dates

In Reggae & Dancehall by Vanessa Felix

At 71 years of age, Kingston, Jamaica-born Errol Dunkley is 14 albums deep with a rich history of working with Gregory Isaacs, Third World, and crafted his trade under the guidance of Prince Buster! Learn more about how his sound was loved by both Jamaican and British audiences, and see below for live tour dates!

Interview by Vanessa Felix

In the early 1970s, how did you form record labels African Museum and Sliver Ring, and what was the concept behind the names? 

Well, in the early 1970s, myself and Gregory Isaacs decided to form African Museum. It was used to record our own material and produce music for reggae artists. As years went by it was time to focus on my growth to become a singer… This involved producing my own tracks that I assisted independently on a record label named Silver Ring. Sliver Ring was a record label assigned by me but I still worked with my friend Gregory Isaacs in the Reggae scene. 

At what age did you start recording in the studio?  

Prince Buster taught me how to record music in a studio in Jamaica at the age of 11. 

At what age did you arrive in London?  

I arrived in London at the age of 22  

When did you notice your music changed London’s brit reggae scene?  

London’s Brit reggae scene changed when hits like ‘OK Fred’ was released. While I was living in Jamaica, I never realised people started listening to my music in England. The humbleness and recognition allowed me to be signed by Shelly Records when I arrived in London. This was an important time of my life because Shelly Records rebranded their name to Third World before migrating to America.  

Did it take you by surprise when ‘OK Fred’ became a big hit in the UK single charts and not just in the reggae scene?  

Of course, I knew it was predicted to become a big hit, and I am also proud to talk about my memories of how ‘OK Fred’ reached America, not just in the UK charts. Well, to begin with, I recorded a work of art in Jamaica titled ‘OK Fred’. This album was a masterpiece it went on to be managed by World Enterprise Records and Warner Bros. Warner Bros offered to license ‘OK Fred’ from myself and World Enterprise Records which lead the album to be promoted on a record label called Scope.

How and why did you decide to produce a remake of the song ‘A Little Way Different?  

A Little Way Different was an album track written by me. My idea was to produce a collection of songs for an album I was working on with Sonia Pottinger. After the release of the album, it grasped the attention of Dennis Bovell, who recommended a remake of the song because he loved and understood what it represented. The concept of the song is about three young kings known as Reggae child stars (Dennis Brown, Delroy Wilson and myself). At this stage of our career, people did say all three of us had similar distinctive voices.  

What shows will you be taking part in this year?  

I am currently focusing on the Kool Runnings UK and European tour this year. It began in the summer and ends in the winter season. The dates are:  

  • 29th August outside London  
  • 4th September at London – London Fox and Firkin presents Errol Dunkley Kool Runnings Tour – 316 Lewisham High St, SE13 6JZ  
  • 10th September at Nottingham  
  • 30th September at Manchester Academy  
  • 2nd October at Great Yarmouth 
  • 20th October at Bristol Fullmoon  
  • 11th November at Paris France   
  • 12th November in Belgium  

Do you have any exciting material to be released this year?  

I have a brand new album called ‘Kool Runnings’. So far my idea is to use my tour as a platform for marketing new music to the fans and record companies.   

How many albums and singles have you written, and have you done many duets?  

Not a lot of people may not know this. On my own, I have written 20 albums and recorded 7 singles on vinyl. Furthermore, if I worked alongside an artist for a duet the person I will have in mind has to be Marcia Griffins.  

Many reggae artists are involved in the Rastafarian cult. What are your thoughts on this?     

I haven’t got a problem with the Rastafarian culture as I am a rastaman from birth. But I love to sing romantic and real songs.