My late father would have probably taken out his vinyl record player and played a few of their records had he been alive and knew his youngest child had an interview with UB40 bandmates lined-up. I remember him singing Red Red Wine to my mother one Sunday afternoon. When the song is played on radio, I smile.
With such a beautiful memory how could I not grab the opportunity to speak to one of the most successful bands?
Original band members Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue are the most successful UK reggae band and have been producing hits since 1979. In 2008, lead singer and founder Campbell left the group to pursue a solo career but the musicians got back together in 2013 and started touring again to perform their classic hits such as Kingston Town, (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You, Homely Girl and Cherry Oh Baby alongside new songs.
In 2014, they released their critically acclaimed Silhouette album and have released their latest offering, A Real Labour of Love.
In celebration of their 25th anniversary, UB40 with Ali, Astro & Mickey will jetting to South Africa as part of their world tour which has seen them perform in Nigeria, Dubai and South America.
It has been 25 years, what has been the secret to the success of UB40?
I don’t think there is a secret to longevity; what has played in our favour is the genre of music we make. Reggae was only 11 years old when we started singing it, it was very young and people did not know about it. We are seeing now how reggae is influencing other genres across the world and how all the new artists are playing with reggae.
What are you looking forward to the most about returning to South Africa?
South Africa has a special place in our hearts. During apartheid we boycotted South Africa because of the government and its policies. The first time we performed was to 80 000 people, which was incredible. We have been back about a dozen times and every time we come back, we have a lekker time. I am looking forward to having a good time and spending some time in Cape Town.
What songs will you be performing?
We have a new album out so we will be performing a few tracks from it but we are not self-indulgent. For us, it’s all about our fans and we know what they want to listen to.
We will be performing some of our greatest hits that people love the most. What’s interesting about the people who come to our shows is that there are often four generations in one family who all enjoy our music, so it’s important that we cater to everyone.
With more than 40 hit singles and 30 albums, which songs are some of your favourites?
The lyrics on I Won’t Close My Eyes, which is off our fourth studio album, are my favourite. It’s a song about staying positive and never giving up. Everyone needs to hear that now and again. Another one is Sing Our Own Song; it is a protest song and we produced it before Nelson Mandela was released. When we performed it, not just in South Africa but across the world, we had people screaming “Amandla Awethu” because that one line in the song is so powerful.
Who are you listening to?
I am really enjoying Raging Fyah. I love their music. They are a Jamaican reggae band who aren’t involved in gangster rap. They are conscious about the world we live in and that speaks in their lyrics. UB40 started off as a protest band with conscious lyrics and we don’t see a lot of that now, yet we have so many issues in the world. We look forward to the time this will happen again.
How would you describe the musical journey of UB40?
Oh, wow! It has been long, obviously, but extremely fascinating and fulfilling. We started with a niche genre that now dominates radio stations. We are glad that we played a small role in promoting reggae.
Tuesday, May 15
Grand Arena, GrandWest
Ticket Price: R460 – R860
Thursday, May 17
Ticket Price: R290-R745
Saturday, May 19
Sun Arena, Time Square
Ticket Price: R460-R915
Tickets available from www.bigconcerts.co.za
Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue of UB40 have recently performed in Nigeria, Dubai and South America. UB40 are the most successful UK reggae band and have been producing hits since 1979.