Gopthal hailed for Trojan work


Gopthal hailed for Trojan work

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

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At the time of his death at age 58 in 1997, Lee Gopthal's contribution to reggae was on its way to obscurity, even in the United Kingdom where he was once identified with the development of Jamaican music.

On February 25, Gopthal, a co-founder of Trojan Records, will be honoured for his trailblazing achievements. He is among 25 recipients of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association's (JaRIA) annual awards.

In 2018, the Kingston-born Gopthal was lauded in the UK where Trojan's 50th anniversary was celebrated along with a number of events. The former accountant played a major role in introducing the music of Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, The Pioneers, Dave Barker and Ansell Collins and Ken Boothe to British fans.

Songs like Wonderful World, Beautiful People by Cliff, Israelites by Dekker and The Aces, Longshot (The Pioneers), Double Barrell (Barker and Collins) and Boothe's Everything I Own, were distributed in that country by Trojan.

Valerie Gopthal Haines is Lee Gopthal's daughter; he and his British wife, Beryl, also had a son, Martin. Valerie, three years older than her brother, said, “It is a great honour for our dad to be receiving this award, and we are all so delighted that he is being recognised for his achievements as founder of the iconic record label Trojan Records.”

She added, “His love, passion and energy for reggae music shone through everything that he achieved, and we cannot be more proud of the legacy that he has created which lives on today and will continue to live on for generations to come.”

Gopthal Haines, 55, spoke to the Jamaica Observer from Singapore where she lives. She admits that although her family knew of her father's involvement in the music industry, they were never immersed in details.

From Constant Spring in St Andrew, Gopthal was of East Indian heritage. He moved to the UK in 1952 and studied accounting, which was his line of work before getting involved in the music business through small shops that distributed rocksteady music from Jamaica to the UK's growing West Indian community.

As demand for Jamaican music grew beyond Caribbean demographics, Gopthal and Island Records head Chris Blackwell started Trojan Records. The company had a steady flow of well-received songs by London-based Jamaican acts like Dandy Livingston, Nicky Thomas and Tony Tribe ,which helped make Trojan the Motown of Jamaican music in the UK.

Gopthal's tenure with the label ended in the late 1970s when it began experiencing financial troubles. He left the music business and got involved in insurance.

His children visited Jamaica twice when they were “very young” but won't attend the JaRIA Awards at Little Theatre in Kingston. Junior Lincoln, a JaRIA director and Gopthal's close friend, will accept on his behalf.

Valerie Gopthal Haines believes even her father would be surprised at the lasting impact of Trojan, which is currently owned by music industry conglomerate, BMG.

“The name Trojan is synonymous with Jamaican music the world over; it changed lives, breaking down global cultural barriers to unite people into the multicultural society we see today,” she said. “If only our dad knew what we all know today! He was selling records and building a business to make a living, and wouldn't even have begun to imagine the extensive monument of sound and powerful force that he was creating.”

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