Babylon Burning

Babylon Burning - Coming to CRN in April

cyates, 9th March 2016

JesseThe CBAA is proud to announce the addition of PBS's Jamaican reggae and dancehall music program Babylon Burning to the Community Radio Network program grid.

"Since 1979, PBS has been broadcasting specialist music programs to the wider Melbourne metropolitan community," says Owen McKern, Program Manager at PBS. "Many of our long-running programs have become institutions within their particular niche areas of music, and some have become internationally recognised. For the last 17 years, Jesse I has been presenting a specialist reggae program on PBS. Last year, Babylon Burning was recognised nationally with a CBAA Award for Excellence in Music Programming. In many ways, Babylon Burning represents the very best PBS has to offer. In Jesse I, we have a broadcaster who is deeply immersed in the music community he represents and is also strongly committed to the values of community radio. The program is thoroughly researched and within the show Jesse continually finds ways to directly engage with his substantial audience. Taking Babylon Burning to a national audience through the Community Radio Network will give stations and audiences around Australia access to a truly great reggae radio program."

CRN asked Jesse I some questions about what listeners can expect from Babylon Burning, which is coming to the CRN 22:00 AEST/AEDT Fridays, debuting 1 April, 2016. 

Can you tell us a little about the beginning of the show, and how you got started at PBS?

Babylon Burning began as Chant Down Babylon in 1997, on student broadcaster SRA (now SYN). I was an 18-year-old reggae addict at the time, and I simply wanted to share my passion and help the music spread as much as I could. I joined PBS in 1998 as a regular guest on Jah Lloyd's Ragga Roots and Dub program from midnight - 2am on Monday nights, before eventually taking over the timeslot in 1999. Only a few months later, the show moved to the Saturday 3 - 5pm timeslot, where it continued to broadcast for many years before moving to 5 - 7pm and changing name to Babylon Burning

Can you tell us how you developed your relationship with reggae?

I was first exposed to reggae when visiting my uncle in the USA in 1993. He lived in a cabin in the woods of northern California, and used to blast this bass-heavy "reggae" stuff all the time. Gradually, I started to get into it, and before too long it replaced hip-hop as my favourite music, before eventually taking over my entire life. 

Does Babylon Burning exclusively play music from Jamaica?

Not at all! In fact, my personal favourite reggae band of all time is Midnite from St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands, where a lot of amazing roots reggae comes from these days. I regularly play productions from around the world (particularly Europe), but Jamaican reggae is always my first love, and the cornerstone of Babylon Burning.

What does the modern music of Jamaica sound like?

It is extremely varied, and very hard to generalise about. The two main styles of Jamaican music are reggae and dancehall, and both contain a multitude of sub-styles and different sounds, some of which refer back to Jamaican music from different eras, and some of which are very progressive and sound unlike anything that has come before. Recent years have seen the emergence of a "roots revival" out of Jamaica though, which I particularly love - the dread roots aesthetic and themes of the 70s with a contemporary freshness that's very exciting.

Can you tell us about winning the CBAA Award for the program in 2015?

Obviously it is always great to get the recognition of your peers, so I was pretty chuffed. Moreover, reggae is a very misunderstood genre, often regarded as a bit of a joke in Australia, so I'm not really used to people outside of the core reggae scene actually taking the program seriously! That said, I definitely take it seriously, and devote a huge amount of time to it every week, and it's great to know that people appreciate it.

Can you name five tracks that will give us an idea of the kind of music that you think personifies Babylon Burning?

Burning Spear - Door Peep

The Wailers - Concrete Jungle

Midnite - Ras For A Reason

Sizzla - Dem A Wonder

Chronixx - Here Comes Trouble

Babylon Burning is broadcast in Melbourne on PBS FM and PBS Digital.

For CRN subscribers:

  • Babylon Burning (55"50) is broadcast/distributed by CRN Fridays from 22:00 to 22:55:50 EST/EDT, and is available for DDN capture
  • Begins on CRN 1 April, 2016
  • For more information contact CRN staff on 02 9310 2999 or email [email protected]

Not a CRN subscriber, but want to find out more about getting content like this for your station? Read more here.

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While Jamaica may be the origin and heartland of all things reggae, dub, and dancehall, its riddims can be found in virtually every pocket of the globe, often rehashed by new mutant combinations and styles.


Does your station have a reggae/roots show that could be suitable for weekly national distribution?


Tuesday, 8 March, is International Women's Day and we're celebrating with special content on the Community Radio Network (CRN) and Amrap's AirIt, as well stations programming their own celebrations around the country.