• Aug11

    “Producing a traditional Dub Reggae track in 6 steps”

    This page will give you a basic idea of what producing Dub is about. Since Dub is an artform which evolved from the recording techniques available in Jamaica back in the seventies the equipment used in this example is from that period too. Of course nowadays you can use modern equipment which offers far more possibilities especially when it comes to editing and controlling details of the production (hard disc recording, mixing automation, ..). It is felt by some producers however that real dub must be mixed by hand in real time as a “direct-to-tape mixing performance”. After getting an overview on this page you can find more information about individual aspects of the recording process in the specialised chapters.

    1. Get the following equipment:

    • multitrack tape machine
    • mixing console
    • amplifier and speakers to monitor your music
    • a second recording device to capture your final mix
    • effect units: delay, reverb
    • cables to connect everything
    • instruments & players: drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, horns, percussion, vocals

    2. Record a song or at least a basic arrangement.

    Make sure each instrument or instrument group is recorded on an individual track of your tape.

    3. Start by making a basic mix: Set the levels and equalizing for each track on the mixing desk so that all elements are well balanced. (This alone is an art in itself, but this site is about Dub not about general recording techniques so we won’t go into details here.)

    4. Run the song and switch on and off individual tracks during the song. typical settings are:

    • All tracks switched on
    • Just drums & bass
    • All tracks except drums & bass
    • Voices are usually only thrown into the mix occasionally.

    5. Use the different effects on the individual tracks.

    typical techniques are:

    • Connect the effects to the auxiliary sends of your mixing desk. Thus you can apply an effect to a single track only.
    • Set delay times to match the song speed (use whole beat, half beat, tripplet timing.. very typical: one and a half beat)
    • Reverb or echo on the snare drum; not everytime but once in a while
    • Change the delay time during the song – this leads to echoes bouncing up and down in pitch (only on analog delay units).
    • Echo on the offbeat guitar: Open the aux send slowly over 2 bars letting the echoes accumulate until they start to overcrowd the sound then switch off the offbeat track. The delays will go on for a while and fade out.
    • Make sure the sound stays crisp: keep bass and drums dominant; Don’t open all aux sends at once.

    6. Repeat the whole mix many times and listen to the recorded dubs afterwards. Then select the best version.

  • Apr15

    “Mrs. Booker was the matriarch of a movement so powerful that the mystical qualities of the Marley musical legacy remain strong and potent”

    Cedella Booker, mother of Jamaica’s reggae legend Bob Marley, looks at his picture during the 20th anniversary of his death, at her home in Nine Mile, St.

  • Apr15

    “Made in Jamaica” is a powerful portrait of the leaders of the reggae music Movement, and how Reggae has become a worldwide phenomenon. The film showcases performances by the best Reggae and Dance Hall artists ever assembled. From their native ghetto to international fame, “Made in Jamaica” is the story of the artists who represent the Jamaican Dream.

    The film presents, in order, themes of the Jamaican music :

    Crime and violence of the ghetto
    The political responsibility
    History of Slavery and Colonisation
    Legacy of Bob Marley and Salvation trough music
    Music, recording studio and thousands of artists
    Religion and Rastafarism
    Sex and Music
    Women and their role
    Message of Hope for a better life

    It is the story of how a small island nation of only three million people took their pain and misery and turned those emotions into songs that resonate around the world. Reggae is Jamaica’s blues: a music of both desperation and hope.

    Reggae music sprang into life in the 70’s. It was the first time that a third world country had made its voice heard on such a large scale. Instantly recognizable, the reggae sound is a celebration of life itself. Now a new generation of reggae artists has emerged and its fathers are still in Jamaica.

    The Dance Hall, emerging from reggae, is drawing large crowds across the globe. At its origin, the Dance Hall concept is heavily influenced by religious overtones. Like rap music, Dance Hall’s message is powerful and straightforward, with lyrics about sex, violence, and social issues, including much on women’s rights.

    http://www.madeinjamaicamovie.com/synopsis.php

  • Apr5

    Marked ‘The Year of the Great,’ 2008’s staging of the Annual New Jersey Reggaefest promises to be the biggest and best yet, with a rare U.S. performance from royal Reggae empress Queen I-frica, as well as highly anticipated performances from the greats of Reggae and Dancehall from yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

    Known as the “Fiyah Muma” Queen I-frica, who scored her first hit single with “Below the Waist,” in 2007, has emerged as one of Roots Reggae’s foremost conscious stars, stirring controversy and social awareness by addressing incest and child molestation on her follow up chart-topping single “Daddy,” and the dangers of Jamaica’s latest skin bleaching trend with “Mi Nah Rub.” The daughter of legendary Reggae singer Derrick Morgan, I-frica is looking forward to making her Tri-State area debut. I-frica’s manager, legendary Roots singjay Tony Rebel, confirms that the Queen is ready for ‘the year of the great’ NJ Reggaefest.

    “Yeah, this is I-frica’s first time appearing in the Tri-State area, since she has become famous,” states Rebel, who scored his first of many big hits in 1990 with “Fresh Vegetable” and has since gone on to found record label and management firm Flames Productions. “She is really looking forward to coming to New Jersey for the ReggaeFest; the Tri-State area is definitely a huge market that has been waiting for her, and she is more than ready to deliver.”

    “Last year, we had to turn people away because the venue was totally sold-out, filled to capacity,” states NJ Reggaefest organizer Casey “G City” Rankine. “This year again, with Queen I-frica, Beenie, Ninja, and the return of Bounty, it is sure to be even bigger than last year.”

    Vintage Reggae lovers will be treated to acclaimed crooners Barrington Levy and Carlton Livingston. Top contending newcomers Flippa Mafia, who is riding high with the single “Dem Yah and Dem Yah” and his starring role in the film What Goes Around, Etana, and Demarco whose anthems “Fallen Soldiers” and “Duppy Know Who Fi Frighten” have made him a dominating force in Dancehall this year, will make their NJ Reggaefest debut.

    “Two Thousand Eight is our 8th year as New Jersey’s premiere outdoor festival celebrating the sound and culture of Reggae,” says G City. “With a line-up that includes so many of the Dancehall/Reggae greats and upcoming greats, we had to nickname 2008’s Reggae Fest, ‘the year of the great.'”

    Set for Sunday, September 21st , the event is sure to have the Dancehall aficionados reeling. The NJ Reggaefest is also the only summer festival that Bounty Killer’s scores of die-hard Tri-State fans will get a chance to see the ‘Warlord’ live in action, as this is the only outdoor staging that he will be doing in the area for 2008.

    The Reggae News Agency

    www.riddimjamaica.net | www.riddimja.com

  • Mar8

    THE HISTORY OF DUB REGGAE

    The word ‘dub’ today is used to describe a genre of music that consists predominantly of instrumental re-mixes of existing recordings. These re-mixes radically manipulated and reshape the recording(through the use of sound effects). The production and mixing process is not used just to replicate the live performance of the recording artist, but audio effects and studio ‘trickery’ are seen as an integral part of the music. The roots of ‘dub’ can be traced back to Jamaica in the late 1960s, where it is widely accepted that Osbourne Ruddock pioneered the style(1). Ruddock turned the mixing desk into an instrument, with the Deejay or mixer playing the role of the artist or performer. These early ‘Dub’ examples can be looked upon as the prelude to many dance and pop music genres(2).

    Jamaican music has always borrowed heavily from U.S. popular music form adapting this music to give Jamaica its own unique variations(3). During the forties ‘Big Band’ music was very popular in Jamaica, with swing bands touring all over the country playing at local dance halls, but by the 1950’s these ‘Big Bands’ were starting to be superceded by smaller, ‘more dynamic, optimistic’ (4) bop and rhythm and blues groups. Jamaicans traveling to America in search of work were exposed to this new kind of music, which fitted in perfectly with America’s postwar optimism. It was not only being played live but also through large sound systems, and this trend soon followed to Jamaica. Sound system operators started appearing in the ghetto areas of Jamaica’s capital Kingston, holding dances in large open spaces called ‘lawns’. These operators would also tour the country districts of Jamaica in direct competition with the big bands. These sound systems soon took over in the dance halls, because for many people who didn’t own a radio, it was the only way to hear the new R&B music. ‘Sound systems were also cheaper to employ than a dozen musicians and a ‘sound’ took no break’ (5). By the middle of the 1950s, Duke Reid and Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd had become two of the premier sound system operators in Jamaica.

    In 1954 Ken Khouri started Jamaica’s first record company ‘Federal Records’ pressing licenced copies of American recordings, as well as a few local artists. Following his lead in this Duke Reid and Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd both held their own recording sessions, recording Jamaican artists for exclusive play on their own sound systems in the hope of gaining the upper hand in the highly competitive business. Duke Reid recorded Derrick Morgan and Eric Morris for sound system play. Reid, whose set(6) played at ‘S-Corner’ on Spanish Town Road, even titled Derrick Morgan’s first tune ‘Lover Boy’ as ‘S-Corner Rock’ when it was played on the sound system as an exclusive acetate recording. Clement Dodd also had his first recording session in this year, recording over a dozen tracks with artists like Alton Ellis and Eddie Perkins, Theophilius Beckford, Beresford Ricketts and Lascelles Perkins.(7)

    Young Jamaicans during the early sixties had been drawn to the major cities in search of work. They had not found it, and the mood of the ghetto areas had started to deteriorate. These youths or ‘Rude boys’ as they were called, started forming into political gangs from different ghetto’s throughout Kingston. ‘Rude boys connected with the so-called ‘underworld’, a layer of people who lived outside the law, and who had always patronized Jamaican dance music'(8). The ‘Rude boys’ connection with the dance halls, as well as their style of dancing (which was slower and more menacing) changed the style of music being played from the more up tempo Ska(9) to the slower Rock Steady beat(10) . While many producers(11) have claimed to have pioneered the ‘Rock Steady’ groove it was Duke Reid who capitalized on it, recording and releasing several tunes by a variety of performers in this new style.

    The ‘Rock Steady’ phase lasted little more than a year, and although Duke Reid and ‘Coxone’ Dodds had dominated Jamaican music for well over a decade, three other producers, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Bunny Lee and Osbourne Ruddock (all of whom had worked for either Ried or Dodds at sometime) dictated the pace of Jamaican music in the seventies and beyond.

    Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry ( or Rainford Hugh Perry) was born in 1936 in Kendal, a small town in the rural parish of Hanover, in the northwest of Jamaica. Perry arrived in Kingston in the late 1950s, and immediately tried to enter the music business. He started working for Coxsone Dodd as a ‘gopher, bouncer, spy, talent scout, uncredited songwriter and eventually performer'(12) Perry left Coxsone’s employ after a disagreement over payment, moving to a new label (Amalgamated) set up by Joel Gibson, where he recorded an early reggae hit called ‘People Funny Boy’ (which was a verbal attack aimed at his previous employer ‘Coxsone”.) Perry became well known as a producer and was instrumental in Bob Mailey and the Wailers early success. He linked up with Mailey and the Wailers in 1969, beginning a collaboration that resulted in ‘definitive versions of some of the Wailers strongest work'(13). Perry, through his work as an artist, producer and engineer, has been one of the main people responsible in shaping the sound of Jamaican music over the last forty years(14).

    Osbourne Ruddock (better known as King Tubby) was born in 1941 in Kingston, and worked as an electronics engineer (repairing radios and televisions) though out the 1960s. He owned a sound system (called ‘Home Town Hi-Fi’) by 1968, and used unique echo and reverb effects which set him aside from the competition. During this time, he also worked for Duke Reid at Treasure Isle Studio as the master cutter, cutting acetates(15). These ‘one off’ disc were designed to gain a competitive edge over rival sound system operators via their exclusivity. Ruddock was mixing one of these ‘dub’ versions when he accidently left out portions of the vocal track from the recording. On listening back, he decided he liked the effect of just having the bed track by itself and played it on his sound system.

    He took it to a dance and played the vocal, which everybody knew, then played the dub plate of this rhythm track and people couldn’t believe it.(16)

    These new ‘versions’ of popular songs (combined with the unique effects of his sound system) soon saw Tubby’s ‘Hometown Hi-fi’ become extremely popular(17). In addition Tubby had started working along side deejay Edwart Beckford, known in the dance hall as U Roy, who had begun answering the vocal sentiments of the singers with his own brand of outrageous jive talk. This vocal style known as ‘toasting’ is widely accepted as a precursor to ‘rapping’ (18).
    In 1972 Ruddock set up a tiny studio at 18 Bromilly Avenue in Waterhouse (a district in Kingston), he began to experiment with these instrumental recordings using various home built electronic effect devices such as reverb, delay and equalizers, and started to further manipulate the sound of these instrumental songs. He acquired a disc-cutter and a two-track tape machine, and using his home made mixer, started working closely with producers like Bunny Lee and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Together with Perry he made the stereo dub album ‘Blackboard Jungle’ in 1973.

    Joe Gibbs of ‘Amalgamated’ soon saw the potential of these instrumentals, and instructed Errol Thompson (Gibb’s engineer at Randy’s ‘Studio 17’) to start putting instrumental/rhythm versions on B-sides of singles, which he called ‘dub’. Tubby bought a four-track mixing board from Dynamic Studio and, with his background in electronics, he was able to specially-customized this equipment to include faders. This enabled him to slide tracks in or out of the mix smoothly, giving Tubby the edge over his rival, Errol Thompson who had to punch tracks in more abruptly, using buttons. In 1974, Tubby started working closely with Bunny Lee, who supplied hundreds of rhythms, and recorded all his hit artists at Ruddock’s studio (including Johnnie Clarke and Cornell Campbell). The studio now contained many effect devices, such as an echo delay which Tubby had made by passing a loop of tape over the heads of an old two-track machine(19). There is general agreement that King Tubby’s most prodigious period was during the mid seventies when working with Bunny Lee(20). With Lee relying on Tubby’s experimentation and expertises of the ‘dub’ re-mix.

    Improvisation was the order of the day; most of Tubby’s dubs were mixed live, with the engineer playing his board like a great jazzman blowing solos on his horn, deconstructing and reinventing the music.(21)

    While Tubby was not an instrumentalist, when recording Lee’s studio band the Aggrovators(22), he was able to use his mixing desk and primitive effect devices as though they were an instrument, on occasion even physically hitting the spring reverb unit to create a thunderclap sound or putting a brief frequency test tone on deep echo into the mix (later he would use sound effects like sirens and gunshots).

    It wasn’t simply the fact that Tubby and his cohorts used reverb and delay effects in their mixes; the difference with Tubby, was that these effects were used to enliven radically re-mixed versions of songs. Tubby, a skilled and resourceful electronics expert, improvised endlessly with his studio equipment.(23)

    Tubby started training other engineers (such as ‘Prince’ Philip Smart,(24) Lloyd James, better known as ‘Prince Jammy'(25)and Overton ‘Scientist’ Brown(26).) in the intricacies of dub.

    In the mid 1970s Jammy would become King Tubby’s leading dub engineer at the Waterhouse studio. During his time at the studio he had mixed most of Bunny Lee’s dub tracks. Then in 1978, Jammy started his own label called ‘Imprint’ and took his first step in record production. By 1985, Jammy had become the dominant Jamaican producer responsible himself for bringing a whole new generation of musicians and mixers into this genre of music.

    As the 1970s came to a close, Overton ‘Scientist’ Brown took over as Tubby’s leading engineer. Brown had first met Osbourne while working in his Televison and radio repair shop. He was given the opportunity to experiment in the recording studio during downtime. Brown would eagerly play what he had done to Tubby, to which Tubby would reply that he thought the work was weak and his apprentice still had much to learn. Years later Tubby admitted he was merely pushing Brown to stretch himself and these early ‘dub’s’ had been excellent.(27)

    ‘Every man who mixed at Tubby’s got his own sound, yet no matter which mixmaster was at the board, the resultant music always bore the authentic stamp of King Tubby’s'(28).

    During the early eighties, King Tubby devoted himself to building his new studio. Completed in 1985, it soon produced its first hit, Anthony Red Rose’s ‘Temper’. It looked as if Tubby was to become a leading producer in Jamaican music, until he was mysteriously gunned down outside his studio in 1986.

    The Jamaican music scene has had very strong links to the United Kingdom since early 1960s. When Jamaican ‘Ska’ artists were signed by English record companies, their music was readily accepted by England’s ‘Mod’ culture of the sixties(29). To some degree it has been these links and support that has made the export of Jamaican music much easier to the rest of the world. The combination of this with the growing popularity of modern dance styles such as ‘Trip hop’, ‘Drum and Bass” and ‘Jungle’, (which are direct decedents of the originanl Jamaican ‘Dub’ music of King Tubby(30)) have brought many new artists and producers from outside of Jamaica to continue in the experimentation and the use of dub in their music. Steve Barrow of Blood and Fire says,

    Tubby was, by any standards, a genius…..he invented Dub – which, as we know, is the pulse that beats through much of today’s dance music from trip-hop to techno. If Lee Perry was the first surrealist of dub, Tubby was definitely the first modernist.(31)

    England now has a large percentage of the total number of artists involved in this genre of music, with many of the leading producers being based there. Adrian Sherwood and The Mad Professor are two of these leading ‘dub’ exponents.

    Adrian Sherwood (The producer behind the British On-U sound record label) has since the 1970s recorded many artist from within the ‘dub’ genre, such as Creation Rebel, African Headcharge, Singers & Players and Dub Syndicate. Often wildly experimental with studio techniques, sometimes running whole tracks in reverse, has also attracted artists from outside the realm of ‘dub’ such as Depeche Mode, Nine inch nails, Living Color, Garbage and The Cure, all of who have used Sherwood’s radical approach to mixing to manipulate their material.(32)

    The ‘Mad Professor’ alias Neil Fraser started producing and recording dub music in 1980. Over the past sixteen years he has become one of the premier artists of this genre. One of the most prolific creators in this medium and operating out of a vast studio expanse in Britain, he has released in excess of a 100 Albums, performing re-mixes for such acts as Massive Attack, Sade and Pato Baton. He characteristically uses electronic sounds in his dub such as bleeps, whirs and other electronic machinations.(33)

    ‘Dub’ Recommended Listening

    King Tubby, 1994, Dub gone Crazy(The Evolution of Dub), Blood and Fire.
    Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and King Tubby, 1974,Blackboard Jungle, Upsetter.
    Compilation, 1975, The Roots of Dub, Grounation.
    Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, 1975, Revolution Dub, Cactus .
    Massive Attack vs Mad Professor, 19??, No Protection, Wild Bunch.

    Bibliography

    Larkin, C. (ed.) 1995, The Guinness Encyclopedia of popular Music, vol 1-5, Guinness Publishing, England

    Newspapers and Magazines

    Hawkins, E. 1996 ‘The secret history of Dub-reggae historians delve into the echo chamber“, Eye Weekly, Toronto’s arts Newspaper April 18
    O’Hagan, S. 1997, ‘Blood & Fire‘, The Guardian, November 7.

    Internet

    Dub gone Crazy’, [online},
    http://www.interruptor.ch/dub.html [15th June 1999]
    Islandlife, 1998, ”Early Years Lee Perry The Mighty Upsetter’, [online}, http://www.leeperry.com/life/page5.html[12th April 1999]
    Islandlife,1997, ‘The Story of Jamaican Music’, [online}, http://homepage.oanet.com/sleeper/bio01.htm [10th April 1999]
    Jah, S. ‘King Tubby’, [online},
    http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/1392/kingtubby.html [9th June 1999]
    Niceup, ‘Blood and Fire liner notes’, [online}, http://v-music.com/niceup/writers/steve_barrow/blood_and_fire_liner_notes [15th June 1999]
    On-U Sound, ‘Adrain Sherwood‘ [online},
    http://www.obsolete.com/on-u/sherwood.html [2nd May 1999]
    Sleeper, M, ‘Brief History of Scratch’, [online},
    http://homepage.oanet.com/sleeper/bio01.htm [10th April 1999]
    Smithies, G. ‘Hopeton ‘overton’ Brown (Scientist)‘ [online}, http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/1392/Scientist.html [18th March 1999]
    Spence, D. Jetpack, ‘Back to the Lab with the Mad Professor’, [online}, Http://www.jetpack.com/lounge02/mad_prof/ [22nd July 1999]
    The interrupter, ‘The Dub me Crazy page’, [online}, http://www.interruptor.ch/dub.html[15th June 1999] [9th August 1999]
    Toop,D. ‘Dub by John McCreedy’, [online}, http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/1392/Johnmccreedy.html [15th June 1999]
    Wordup, ‘King Tubby, Scientist & Prince Jammy’, [online}, http://www.merseyworld.com/wordup/wordup4/tubby.html [22nd July 1999]

    Music

    Compilation, 1993, Tough than tough; the story of Jamaican Music, Island Records
    King Tubby, 1994, Dub gone Crazy(The Evolution of Dub), Blood and Fire.

    Endnotes

    1. See Larkin(1995, pp 1252-1254, 2307-2308), Barrows(1993, p16)
    2.
    3. ‘The Story of Jamaican Music’: http://www.islandlife.com/tough/1.html
    4. Barrows(1993, p6)
    5. ‘The Story of Jamaican Music’: http://www.islandlife.com/tough/2.html
    6. Set is another name for a sound system performance in Jamaica
    7. Barrows(1993, p 10)
    8. Barrows(1993, p 14)
    9. ‘Ska’ is a generic title for Jamaican music recorded between 1961-1967. A fast dance style of music, ‘vigorous’,’extravert’ and ‘jerky’ which exaggerates the after beat or up beat. Commonly assumed to be derived from the Miami and New Orleans ‘jump’ beat of the late fifties, known in England originally as ‘Blue beat’ to the ‘mod’ culture who adopted the music.(Larkin 1995,p3810)
    10. ‘Rock Steady’ is a slow groove based music that gives the vocalist room to ‘stamp his personality on a song,’ a Jamaican version of the American soul music of the mid to late sixities. The bass lines have distinct breaks in their rhythm, (something that has become characterized in Jamaican music from this point hence) coming in shorter patterns of notes. The after beat or up beat being emphasized by the guitar and drums.(Larkin 1995, p3538)
    11. ‘Roy Shirley with ‘Hold Them’ in 1966 for producer Joel Gibson. Derrick Morgan with “Tougher Than Tough” for Leslie Kong the same year, and Alton Ellis sang ‘Girl I’ve Got A Date’ for producer Duke Reid.’ (‘The Story of Jamaican Music’: http://www.islandlife.com/tough/6.html)
    12. ‘Brief History of Scratch’, http://homepage.oanet.com/sleeper/bio01.htm
    13. ‘Early Years Lee Perry The Mighty Upsetter’ http://www.leeperry.com/life/page5.html
    14. Larkin 1995, p3227-3228.
    15. The U.S. expression for these acetate (one-off soft wax discs) singles was ‘Dub’. The term ‘Dub’ can be traced back to the 1950s (Hawkins, 1996).
    16. Barrow (cited in Hawkins,1996)
    17. http://v-music.com/niceup/writers/steve_barrow/blood_and_fire_liner_notes
    18. Barrows(1993,page15);Larkin (1995, p2307)
    19. Barrows (cited in 1994,’Dub Gone Crazy(The Evolution of Dub at King Tubby’s 1975-1979)‘, Blood & Fire)
    20. Larkin 1995, p2307;
    McCreedy (cited in http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/1392/JohnMcCready.html );
    http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/1392/kingtubby.html
    21. Barrow (Cited http://www.interruptor.ch/dub.html)
    22. Bunny Lee’s Aggrovators were Robbie Shakespeare(Bass), Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis (Drums), Earl”Chinna’ Smith (Lead guitar), Ansel Collins (piano), Bernard Ellis (trumpet), Vin Gordon (trombone), Tommy McCook (tenor saxophone) and Lennox Brown (alto saxophone).
    23. ‘King Tubby, Scientist & Prince Jammy’
    http://www.merseyworld.com/wordup/wordup4/tubby.html
    24. Philip Smart went to the U.S. and today he runs the top Reggae Studio HCF on Long Island.
    25. Prince Jammy, ‘the undisputed king of computerized, digital reggae music'(Larkin 1995, p2302-2303), from the mid 1980s King Jammy would dominate and control the sound of reggae, with the introduction of new computerized drum beats and rhythm.
    26. Overton ‘Scientist’ Brown was second generation Jamaican dub mixer and a rival to Prince Jammy. Notable for his theme albums (with lurid cover art) on which he would meet and vanquish protagonists from off-world regions:( ie Scientist Meets The Space Invaders, Scientist Encounters Pac Man). Such meetings, derived from the rivalry of the sound clash, are central to the mythology of dub. For origins, see King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub (http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/1392/Scientist.html)
    27. http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/1392/Scientist.html
    28. http://NiceUp.com/writers/steve_barrow/blood_and_fire_liner_notes
    29. Barrows,1993, p11
    30. See Larkin(1995, pp 1252-1254, 2307-2308), Barrows(1993, p16)
    31. Barrows (cited Sean O’Hagan, The Guardian, November 7, 1997)
    32. http://www.obsolete.com/on-u/sherwood.html
    33. Http://www.jetpack.com/lounge02/mad_prof/

  • Mar15

    I was allowed to creep into the studio just as the last tune of David Rodigan’s Kiss 100 show was playing out. Chezidek’s ‘Want To See Love Again’ was on the turntable, Rodigan bantered with his guest Dave Hendley and I have to admit I felt truly honoured just to be there.

    This may seem a rather starry eyed reaction, but even someone who hasn’t listened to the show for years would sense that something special was happening in that studio each week. Rodigan may broadcast from a glossy, corporate West End HQ which Kiss shares with bastions of radio mediocrity like Magic FM, but the atmosphere in his little space at that moment felt more like the back stage area after a gig. Don’t worry I’m not talking about an entourage or rock star excesses, merely the amount of energy emanating from this veteran DJ. He clearly continues to give his all to every show, to enjoy every minute and to feel a genuine satisfaction with his two hours work.

    Rodigan, alongside Sting International, has recently put together a compilation entitled ‘KIngs Of Reggae’. The record company are keen for him to promote the album and I could immediately see why. Still very much in broadcasting mode and firing on all cylinders he launches into the sales pitch whilst simultaneously packing away after his show.

    “It’s a London and New York perspective because Sting is an established club DJ who lives in New York and built some great rhythms with Shaggy back in the day. It’s also his view from a Dancehall aspect and mine from a more classical aspect. Put the two together and you’ve got ‘Kings Of Reggae’. I took it to mean “kings” in the sense that it was classic tunes. Also there’s a queen on there, Marcia Griffiths, and a couple of current tunes.”

    It’s the more recent choices that I’m particularly interested in. What does his selection of Chuck Fender and Richie Spice’s ‘Freedom’ and Gentleman, Barrington Levy and Daddy Rings ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’ tell us about Rodigan’s view of the current Reggae market?

    “I thought Barrington Levy, Daddy Rings and Gentleman was an interesting mixture. Gentleman is a relatively new recording artist within the history of music. He’s without doubt the most popular German Reggae star. He’s passionate about his music and what he does is very real. I think he’s a significant artist, in terms of his contribution to the music and that’s a very good song. I thought that ‘Freedom’ was a nice reference because Chuck Fender and Richie Spice are two of the most recent new wave of Roots Reggae artists and the tune utilises a classic Bob Marley rhythm. It’s Big League’s take on ‘Sun Is Shining’. They re-built the rhythm, it wasn’t a loop, they actually played it back. Noticeable by his absence from the album is Bob Marley, but that was simply for licensing reasons with the Marley estate. Which is problematic.”

    I had wondered if ‘Freedom’ had been chosen because Seanie B’s Big League production team are a UK based outfit, but Rodigan makes it clear that this hasn’t been a priority. A compilation that accurately reflects recent developments in Reggae shouldn’t be overly concerned with finding a place for modern British music.

    “Sadly, very little is happening in UK Reggae at the moment. It’s very disappointing. The youths don’t seem to be able to relate to Reggae in the way that they do in Europe. France, Italy, Germany, Sweden… Czechoslovakia! A true underground, cult phenomena is going on in Europe for Reggae music. In every major town and city in those countries you’ll find soundsystem crews and fraternities cutting dubplates and everything. In England there are hardly any that I’m aware of. It just seems that, for whatever reason, the youth are more interested in creating their own type or brand of music. They don’t seem to have the fever for Reggae. There’s no interest at that street level. Consequently where’s the new Aswad? The new Peter Hunnigale? the new Capital Letters? The new Steel Pulse? The whole British Reggae movement that we had in the seventies and into the eighties is really a historical reference now.”

    Rodigan is a trained actor and a natural performer, which is useful both on radio and when making speeches during a soundclash. He is famously articulate and so fluent that he barely pauses for breath when he gets going. As UK Reggae’s most celebrated ambassador he must be very used to questions about its apparent decline and can deliver his lines without hesitation. I wondered if there was any place in his script for the UK Dub scene?

    “It’s been there for as long as I can remember. Jah Shaka, and Aba-Shanti who does a similar thing. In recent years it has encompassed a more cosmopolitan audience than it did originally. If you go to those dances you’ll see people from all sorts of social backgrounds and classes. That’s interesting; but they’re not really making a lot of new music on that scene. I’m aware of Disciples work and what they do is very good, also there’s the Mad Professor…but who else is there? If there is anyone else then tell me about it. I’ll play anything I hear that’s interesting, but there’s so little of it.”

    An image of the racks of ten inch releases by Gussie P, Conscious Sounds, Vibronics, Blakamix and all the others that sell in Dub Vendor passed through my mind as I heard this. I also remembered a previous interview where he’d appeared to sidestep a question about UK Dub with the noncommittal response that it was “interesting, if a bit heavy sometimes”. Was there something he wasn’t telling us? In fact he’s not someone you need to interrogate. He seemed to feel duty bound to try his utmost with any question I wanted to ask.

    “It is very heavy. I’m a fan of a good melody and vocals. I’m a mug for a good voice, a good rhythm, a nice chord change and sweet harmonies. If I don’t get enough of that I go into withdrawal. I like Dub within reason. If its too extreme, if its too mind-bending, if it totally does my brain in because the bass sound is so severe that I feel a nausea, then that is excessive. I enjoy a good Studio One Dub, or a good King Tubby’s Dub that’s restrained. Too crazy and off the radar and it does my head in, I get lost. I can appreciate it, I can understand it and see what’s going on but if I’m not feeling it, I’m not feeling it. I’m on the outside looking in. That’s not to criticise it, it’s just my take on it. Too heavy is a way to describe an extreme version of anything.”

    His unfavourable response to “extreme” music sets Rodigan apart from another respected British broadcaster with whom he has sometimes been compared. John Peel made a career of seeking out the most extreme of every type of music. However, there are interesting comparisons which go some way to explaining why both DJs have been so highly respected by generations of music fans. An insatiable appetite for new music seems to be one of the most important.

    ” I still avidly search the market place for songs that sound interesting. I still go to record shops, listen keenly and buy tunes. I dutifully listen to everything that’s sent to me and phone around to find what’s popular. I try very hard to stay in touch.”

    Rodigan is entirely free to choose his own playlist. As a Reggae broadcaster, he does so largely without the attention of record pluggers, PR companies and major labels using corporate power and influence. Untainted by the payola bribery that infects Jamaican radio, Rodigan provides a level playing field, where everyone has an equal chance of airtime.

    “If there’s something new and refreshing out there, that sounds good, it should be played. I’ve often played things I’m not too keen on; but I think, hang on, I know there are people out there who will enjoy it. It’s my duty as a broadcaster to play it if it’s valid within its genre. Just because I don’t like hard Dub, it doesn’t mean I can’t play some eccentric Dub that someone has made, I can still see its’ potential.”

    Whether it’s on radio, in a club or soundclash, as compere at a stage show or simply in person, Rodigan’s enthusiasm is infectious. He simply doesn’t do jaded or cynical. It’s exciting to hear how open he is to new music and other people’s input. Independent producers and anyone else with an opinion take note! There’s no doubt in my mind that a recommendation from Rodigan and a place on his playlist would be of significant benefit to any Reggae release. However when it came to discussing his own influence, he rather modestly became a little more reticent. He doesn’t see himself as particularly powerful and wouldn’t be comfortable sitting within the mainstream of anything.

    “At times I’ve felt like a bit of an oddball. In the sixties me and my friends were into Ska. When Rocksteady kicked in some of them dropped it. When Reggae kicked in and skinheads picked it up, the rest of them got into other things. So I was a bit of a loner. When I first went to college I remember buying the U Roy ‘Version Galore’ album, listening to it in my rooms and everyone went “what’s this? A guy talking over a song, what’s that about?” So I remember being almost in denial. I was a white bloke from a village in Oxfordshire who was obsessed with this music. I felt alone and at odds.”

    Regular listeners will confirm that Rodigan, whilst full of entertaining observations and anecdotes, never says anything to try and make himself sound cool, clever or important. However he now holds an important position within Reggae music. He seemed to forget all about tidying up the studio in order to properly explain how seriously he takes it.

    “I’ve always tried to shoulder my responsibilities and do things properly. I don’t think you can take short cuts to getting things right. I try to cover the full spectrum of the music. From love songs to Dub to whatever. The new releases and the old tunes that have been re-issued. I never try to make the show obscure. I don’t indulge myself in tunes that no-one can buy. I don’t think there’s any point in that. I’m very, very conscious that it’s my duty to help; particularly British Reggae. I’m currently championing Peter Hunnigale’s new album. I’ve championed ‘Smile’ by Suzanne Couch. I’ve championed Lloyd Brown. I’m the last in the food chain before the customer and DJs who think they’re more important than the music have got it completely and utterly wrong. I’ve always firmly believed that. So don’t keep rapping and chatting over the music and spoiling it. Be informative, but don’t be tedious and don’t interrupt the public’s listening pleasure.”

    Rodigan has, without question, stuck to his principles. He has informed, entertained and educated hundreds of thousands of listeners along the way during his three decades in radio. With Kiss now available on-line, on digital TV boxes and the FM dial in an increasing number of areas outside London, Reggae obsessives don’t have to feel like oddballs anymore. This self-confessed trainspotter feels that the only thing that makes him different from any other fan is the fact that the music has become his profession.

    “I’m just one of the thousands of collectors around the world. But in 1978 I was given the opportunity to share my love of the music publicly on the airwaves. It’s rolled on from there, but I’m just as passionate as I ever was. I’m fifty five years of age. I’ve been into this since 1965. Next year is thirty years in broadcasting. I’ve got the fever and there isn’t a known antidote so it’s not going to leave me.”

    As Rodigan himself would say – get your anorak and I’ll meet you at the end of the platform.

    March 2007

    David Rodigan’s website: www.rodigan.com

    Kiss 100’s website: www.totalkiss.com