Legendary reggae outfit UB40 are heading to town on the last weekend in February. The Brummie band, led by Duncan Campbell, will play at the Big Grill at Emirates Golf Club on Friday, part of the Dubai Food Festival.

When we caught up with Duncan ahead of the gig, he said UB40 fans can expect to hear old favourites like Can’t Help Falling in Love, as well as tracks from their latest album, the country-tinged Getting Over the Storm.

We also quizzed Duncan on the controversy surrounding his estranged brother (and the band’s former frontman) Ali Campbell’s decision to tour again under the UB40 name – including an upcoming gig at the Irish Village in April.

Will you get some free time to enjoy Dubai while you’re here? I really don’t know about that – I just go where I’m told [laughs].

Do you find going on the road becomes more gruelling as the years go by? It’s a privilege to be able to do what we do. I’d be loath to complain about it, we all have a great time.

What can fans expect on the day? We’ve got our new album out, called Getting Over the Storm, so we will be playing quite a lot of tracks from the new album. People have made a bit of a fuss about it as if it is a real departure, but I think country music and reggae music have been in each other’s pockets for a very long time. We still stick very much to a UB40 reggae format.

What has the reaction from the fans been like? It has gone down really well. I think it’s a bit of a grower. I think a lot of people were taken aback maybe at first listen, but the feedback from fans has been very good. It was a nice opportunity to do something else. Country music is not really known about in Britain, whereas there is a massive country music scene in America.

Do you have a favourite track on the new album? [Laughing] If I could ever remember the name of a song I probably would… If You Ever Have Forever in Mind, I think that’s my favourite.

Do you mind performing the old hits that pre-date your time in the band? I’ve always been a fan. It’s been a privilege for me to be able to jump in and do this and get the reaction I’ve had. Obviously I prefer to do the stuff that I’ve done myself, but the reaction that we get from performing the original stuff is un-matchable. I enjoy all of it.

Beyond your Dubai gig, what else is coming up for the band? We’re set for a good year ahead. We are hoping after the British and European dates to take the tour to America. We’re finishing at The Institute in Birmingham, the old Digbeth Civic Hall. That’s actually where my Dad had his folk club for 13 years. It’s a smaller venue than we normally play. We’ve decided to play smaller venues, but more of them.

What’s your take on the current situation – with Ali also set to perform in Dubai under the UB40 name? It’s all very strange. This happened a long time ago, it has been seven years now since I joined. I don’t know why all of a sudden he’s chosen to launch a rival UB40. He hasn’t been in contact with me since he left.

It must be upsetting? I was very close to Ali. When I was first offered the job… I thought about it for two minutes, told him [Ali] about the offer, and [said that] if he minded, I wouldn’t do it. He said to go ahead. He didn’t think it was a problem at that point. But since then he has been un-contactable. When Ali left to pursue a solo career I thought that was a logical and exciting next step. I’ve always been a fan. Things didn’t work out and now he thinks he can recapture the UB40 brand. It’s like somebody who got divorced six years ago deciding to take it back.


The Big Grill, Emirates Golf Club, Emirates Hills, Dubai, February 28 from 2pm, Dhs295. Taxi: Emirates Golf Club.