Leo Cripps’ new show to explore the Caribbean world and far beyond

Photo: Hayley Muir)

Leo Cripps was 13 years old when someone donated a whole pile of band instruments to his school. His teacher asked the gregarious teenager which one he’d like to play. “I pointed to one, I didn’t even know what it was,” Leo says. “I found out later it was a trumpet.”

That moment started a lifelong obsession for the Jamaican youngster. He and his classmates would come to school at 6 a.m. every morning, to play their instruments. They practiced during recess and after school. “For us, band was everything,” he says. “It kicked off a huge, huge, interest for me.”

He ultimately entered a music contest and won the grand prize: entrance into the Jamaica School of Music. It plunged him into a new level of musical discovery. “I realized that music is never just by itself, it comes with history, with geography, with a story.”

Leo also became serious about studying ethnocultural music, exploring far beyond the classical training he had. “I started delving into different cultural music all over the world,” he says, “I wanted to know as much as I could.”

When he was 21, Leo immigrated with his family to Calgary. In January. “It was the first time I’d ever seen snow! I woke up the next morning and went outside and played in it,” he laughs.

The young trumpet player continued his musical journey, achieving a Bachelor of Music from the University of Calgary and graduating from the Broadcast Journalism Program at Mount Royal University.

His life shifted in 1985 during a call in to Roots Revival, a CJSW radio show that he loved.

“I used to phone in, talk to the host and request songs, and one day he got mad at me and said, ‘if you know so damn much, why don’t you come in and do the show yourself?’ And then he said, ‘seriously, you know a lot about reggae music, why don’t you do the show?’ I came in and before you knew it, I was doing the show.”

He would host the show, later renamed Caribbean LinkUp, for 25 years. He also starting DJing at a popular weekly reggae night at the Republik Nightclub and founded the Calgary ReggaeFest, in 2004.

“I just accidentally got into all of these things,” he says. “I fell in love with helping promote the music, getting the music out.”

A long-time CKUA listener, Leo says he’s delighted to have the chance to continue that over the CKUA airwaves with his new show, Journeys.

As always, he’ll be spotlighting Caribbean music, including reggae, calypso, dancehall, mento and soca but he’ll also be spinning tracks from around the planet.

When asked what listeners can expect, he starts laughing. “Oh boy, everything,” he says. “They’re going to hear jazz, they’re going to hear country. It’s not just a reggae show, it’s going to be a journey each time. We’ll be travelling to places mentally, culturally and spiritually. We’re going to fit it all in.”

Check it out for yourself! Journeys is now on the air, Saturdays from 1 – 3 pm.