Pay tribute to reggae icon DJ Derek and... MiniDiscs

Written by
Jon Cook

If you’ve not yet made it down to Spiritland – the King’s Cross café, bar, studio and shop built around an impossibly high-end sound system – this very special Sunday evening session should be all the excuse you need.

From 5pm till late, reggae selector Count Skylarkin will be playing and talking through the MiniDiscs left to him by his good friend, the truly legendary DJ Derek who passed away in 2015, aged 73. MiniDiscs? Yes, MiniDiscs. In the late ’90s, Derek transferred his lovingly compiled, decades-old vinyl collection of reggae, ska, dub, soul and jive to the now-defunct format, back when it was being promoted as the future of music. Derek sold his records and, from that day, he would turn up at his gigs across the UK and Europe, as well as his home city of Bristol, with a box of hand-labelled MiniDiscs, ready to shell the dancefloor.

Unfortunately, Derek backed the wrong horse and it wasn’t long before MiniDiscs went the way of Betamax and LaserDiscs – straight into landfill, basically. But Derek persisted and, although the strange format didn’t affect his shrewd choices, inimitable on-mic patter and ability to tear up pretty much any crowd, it made him a glorious anomaly in the vinyl-obsessed world of reggae and sound system music.

So, while Derek has moved on to the big reggae dance in the sky, his music and MiniDisc collection live on in the careful hands of Count Skylarkin and the bi-monthly Derek’s Island Discs sessions at Spiritland. Head down from 5pm this Sunday to catch Skylarkin linking up a MiniDisc player to the incredible Audiophile sound system and sharing his memories of the great man.

Derek’s Island Discs begins at Spiritland on Sun Jun 4.

Love retro audio formats? Brian Shimkovitz shares the origins of Awesome Tapes From Africa.

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