Ali Campbell is known to millions around the world as the front man of reggae group UB40. His distinctive voice and ability to imbue the spirit of Jamaican music helped propel the band from the Birmingham dole lines to international recording artists. Their identity with the working class community and political ideals meant that their music was the voice of a generation growing up in the 80s, UB40's song One In Ten became a modern British protest song when it was released.
Over the next 30 years the band would have a string of hits including Don't Break My Heart, I Got You Babe and Kingston Town. Although the bands line up remained unchanged for that time, Ali left the band in 2008 due to internal politics and launched a solo career. Now with fellow UB40 alumni Astro and Mickey Virtue he is finishing a new album and they are going on a world tour including headlining at this years Flashback Festival. A must for any music fan, this years two day Flashback Festival is taking place at the beautiful Nostell Priory. With stunning 18 century architecture and gardens it is the perfect place to hold a two day music festival this summer. Ali and the band will also be appearing alongside Jason Donovan, T'Pau, Heather Small, Heaven 17, The Doctor (Doctor and The Medics) and Go West!
Ali refers to the other remaining members as The Dark Side and says “they are destroying the legacy of UB40.” He continues, “the final straw was the country album. UB40 were the biggest selling reggae band in the world and then they come out with a country album!” He tells me, “I want to reclaim UB40.” UB40s 2013 album Getting Over The Storm had a strong country influence and failed to set the charts alight. The radical genre shift also prompted Astro to leave the band and join with Ali and Mickey. Ali really believes that it was the wrong choice for the remaining members to depart so radically from their roots. “ I started UB40 to promote reggae music and dub, that album was a slap in the face to me and all the fans.” Ali is confidant that with the new album which has the working title Rhythm Method, he can redress the balance with the fans. “We're going to carry the flag for reggae and continue the mission we started all those years ago...Our new album is a perfect example of where reggae has come to today.”
During the life of UB40 reggae as a genre has evolved from being a fairly dominant sound in the charts with the likes of Althea and Donna, Aswad, Pato Banton and Bob Marley to the evolution of hip hop, dub-step and
R & B. “The golden age of reggae was the 70s and 80s but it's cyclical. We've had the Sean Paul and Shaggy period now we're going through Tarras Riley and Mavado period. It's reinventing itself all the time and growing, but it's the influence that's important.” He continues, “all of the contemporary dance music you listen to is all massively influenced by reggae and dub.” You only need to turn on the radio to hear Rhianna, Beyonce, Kesha, Jason Derulo and even Lilly Allen to hear how reggae has informed modern popular music. Having a father who was a folk musician I ask Ali if he was ever felt compelled to go into folk music? He laughs, “there was never enough bass in folk for me.”