THE WORLD is a very difficult place at the moment, and while I wish you all safe keeping and wellness to you and yours, unfortunately we lost a leading light in the reggae and dancehall world recently.
Robert Dixon, or Bobby Digital as he became popularly known, was instrumental in revolutionising and elevating reggae and dancehall as we know it. Sadly, he passed away last week due to complications with a kidney condition, aged just 59.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time with him in 2018 on a trip to Jamaica. For an avid music nerd like me this was literally like going to a musical Mecca!
His catalogue reads like a who’s who of reggae and dancehall over the last thirty years, and some of the most seminal singles and albums of the genre came from his small studio in Rons Road in Kingston.
He was born in capital, the third of five children, and he had a keen interest in music and the construction of it. A keen follower of sound system culture, he was an integral part of the Heatwave Sound System from the district.
This association with Heatwave led to a chance to work with a giant of the industry, King Jammys.
“I knew the person started Heatwave Sound in the local area and he asked me to come in and tune up the system for him. When I got there he told me of this young man who was keen to come in and work alongside me and learn.
“I was Ok with that as I needed some help in the studio. Bobby came to the studio first thing Monday morning, and once he was part of our set up he virtually lived here – he as here all the time and learned his craft by cutting dub plates before moving on to recording and mixing vocals for Pat Kelly and producer Bunny “Striker” Lee”, Jammys reminisced.
That diligence and dedication to learning and honing his craft certainly paid off, and in 1988 he branched out on his own, setting up his own studio, label and distribution service. “Digital B” was born, and the iconic yellow and white labels became a staple of any discerning record buyers portfolio.
It was certainly a haunt for the very best in the business to work in – from the Grammy winning Shabba Ranks, to Cocoa Tea, Sizzla, Admiral Tibet, Morgan Heritage and Garnett Silk – Bobby was an incredible talent finder and someone who could not only spot it, but nurture and hone it to fully maximise the possibilities and scope of anyone he worked with. Whether it was in dancehall or reggae, the parameters were always pushed to the very limit, and this quality extended his peers to also try and achieve new heights for the music and the culture.
One of the best examples of the was the seminal “Da Real Thing” album from Sizzla. Released eighteen years ago, this was an incredibly well rounded set which brought a young Miguel Collins to new heights.
The whole album still sounds fresh in 2020, and the meticulous nature in which it was completed has become Jamaican music folklore. It is this attention to detail that set him apart from other producers.
He was never about seeking fame, limelight or notoriety for his efforts. His calling card was always his work – no hype needed. This was a quality that was also appreciated by artists and set an example for others who admired his output.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time with him in 2018 on a trip to Jamaica. For an avid music nerd like me this was literally like going to a musical Mecca! As I stood around the small, compact studio and yard, I thought about some of the legendary moments and sessions that happened in this small corner of Hughenden, just off the Molynes Rd, and how this humble man has helped to create and initiate a lot of the soundtrack to my musical journey.
Bobby was welcoming, always had a story and a great orator. Whilst he was very reserved, when he was around you he made you feel at home.
His natural energy and willingness to extend a musical hand to people became well known, and there are a lot of selectors, artists and DJ’s who have used his work to enhance their reputations in a show, dance or party!
His natural understanding of the music and the culture – and I mean every element of it – separated him from others.
He knew what would sound good on radio, his riddims always slapped in a dance and the quality was always second to none.
He is without doubt one of the pioneers and cornerstones of the music we love, and his music will be celebrated and revered for generations to come.
Salute, Digital B.