Southampton reggae band Ebony Rockers used music to try to tackle racism in the 70s

  • Kerry Swain has been looking back at the impact the group had and how the band's lyrics are still poignant today

As part of Black History Month this October, ITV News Meridian has spoken to a reggae band that used music to try to fight racism in the 1970s.

The Ebony Rockers burst on to the music scene in Southampton in 1979.

It was a politically and socially vibrant time for African-Caribbean young people.

George David, father of singer Craig David, is an original band member and he remembers the racism of their early days.

He explained they could not go to certain places including clubs and pubs.

George David said: "Back in the 80s there wasn't a lot to do within the community, there wasn't many places for African people to actually go, especially young people.

"You had the boys club, church halls and so forth but in the wider community they couldn't go to certain places, it was restricted.

"You couldn't go to certain clubs, pubs or certain areas. So the community was quite tight.

"We found things to amuse ourselves."

George says the music "gave the community a voice" and it was "a format for people to act".

He says we now live in "better times" where there are "more opportunities for young people" and "places for them to go".

Craig with his father George speaking about Black History Month. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Craig David said: "It kinda pains me when I hear my dad talking of a time that I wasn't that privy to and seeing how it was different for me growing up.

"The lifestyle and culture of being brought up in Southampton, I felt very protected and there were community centres and there was the West India Club which was where I performed for the first time.

"To now hear my dad talking about it makes me even more proud that his voice was heard at that time when the environment wasn't actually representative of where it is at the moment. It's always weaved its way into my music."

George said: "There's always more work to do. What I went through then, you could see it. But now, it's hidden."

Craig said: "If you can see it for what it is and it's in front of you, at least you know what you're dealing with at the time.

"Black History Month is really continually shining the light, not only on the great things that are moving within the communities and how far we've come but also shining a light that there is still work to be done.

"We want to get to a point where there isn't a Black History Month, you just want it to have changed. That's really where we're trying to get to."

Ebony Rockers gave a voice to the black community in Southampton. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Ivan Dellimore, vocals, keyboards, songwriter, said: "Most of the band being of West Indian origin there was a lot of racism and trouble with the black young kids, getting work, trouble with the police and everything and I guess as a reggae band we wrote a lot of songs which related to things that were happening in and around Southampton and the country."

The Ebony Rockers were awarded Best Music Film at Portobello Film Festival this year with their songs written more than four decades ago, but which are still relevant today.

Don John, Band manager, said: "Well the truth always comes out, the truth of their songs, the truth of their lyrics - all have got solid messages for young people in their fight against racism and that's something to really be proud of.

"You wouldn't expect young people of that age to be so politically astute but they were and they made a difference then as role models and they make a difference now."

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