The Music Man

Broadcaster Dermot Hussey to receive national award

BY Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter

Sunday, August 12, 2018

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On Monday, October 15, National Heroes Day, broadcaster and musicologist Dermot Hugh Hussey will be among those to be invested with the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer (OD) during the presentation of National Honours and Awards at King's House.

Hussey is a veteran broadcaster, having first started in local radio in the late 1960s on RJR, and has subsequently shared his talents on the now defunct JBC FM as well as KLAS FM 89. He can still be heard locally on Newstalk 93 FM, where he hosts The Sunday Riff. He will be recognised for his service to radio broadcasting and the promotion of Jamaican music.

Hussey recalled that he had just returned home in 1967 after pursuing a course of study at the London School of Film Technology organised by the BBC, when Graham Binns the general manager at RJR, having heard about how well Hussey had done in the course asked him if he would consider a career in radio.

“I jumped at the opportunity and began a programme called Jazz Unlimited. Jazz was the first music I fell in love with as a youngster. And I have kept doing radio ever since. I don't see myself as a selector or radio disc jock, but rather as a communicator who uses music as my primary tool.”

Hussey's foray into broadcasting came at a time when the musical taste of a still freshly independent Jamaica was evolving rapidly. Ska had paved the way for rocksteady and reggae was appearing on the horizon. He admitted to the Sunday Observer that despite the shifting tides, he would still be able to capture the ear of the nation.

“At JBC I hosted a programme called Rhythm Section, which examined the essential elements of Reggae, focussing on the music of emerging acts such as Steel Pulse and Aswad, while embracing all musical forms. I have never seen music in narrow terms. I have always strived to view it from a broad, almost diasporic point of view. Only recently, on the prompting of my daughter, I traced my roots on Ancestry DNA and found out that I am 72 per cent African and 26 per cent European. That must explain my outlook, as I am driven by streams which are part of my DNA which lead me to an openness to other musical styles.”

Hussey is based in the United States, having been made an offer back in 2002 by the then burgeoning satellite platform, XM Radio, an opportunity he noted was too good to pass up.

“I was invited to Washington for an interview and at the end of it they said, “How soon can you start”. I said three months, came back to Jamaica, packed and returned. I could not pass on this opportunity. The experience has been great... interesting. The satellite network is national and I am heard in 50 states, and XM's subscriber tally is at 20 million. I host The Joint, Monday to Friday 3:00 to 9:00 pm, which gives listeners a taste of Jamaican culture through reggae, ska, dancehall... the full range of our music, from the foundation to contemporary,” Hussey explained.

He is pleased with the direction reggae music is heading with the injection of talent from new-generation 'reggae revival' acts such as Protoje, Chronixx, Dre Island and Jah 9.

“I'm glad it has happened. For the music to grow, it has to evolve with new players and voices coming to the fore in the same way that Bob Marley and The Wailers did in their time. It is now a global music and American groups are now playing reggae and dominating charts with great songs and great production. What these young artistes are showing is that Jamaica is still the home of this music.”

Hussey is looking forward to receiving his national honour in October and plans to make the trip.

“I was surprised when I heard. I was looking on Facebook and saw Barbara Blake-Hannah noting that she was pleased to be honoured along with her friends, and included on that list of her friend was my name... it was pleasing,” he noted.

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