Do you ever stop to think about how global and permeating the electronic bass music scene has become? Here’s a thought: the club nights, the DJs, the producers, the MCs, the labels, the remixes, the army of fans, the culture, the jargon, the equipment and the infrastructure of dance culture from London to Detroit all would not exist as we know it today had it not been for one tiny island – Jamaica.
This may seem as obvious as the nose on your face, but there’s a truth to it that most dance music fans don’t even realize or think about. Well over fifty years ago set to a complicated political backdrop, the music lovers of Jamaica mixed the early r’n’b and blues they heard being broadcast on Florida radio stations with their own music and ideologies. This melting pot gave birth to a distinctly unique musical language known as reggae. Before long there was a thriving scene of bands on the island that facilitated the opening of recording studios, particularly in Kingston, to capture this musical phenomenon. One of the most famous was Studio One founded by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd whose very first recording session took place in 1957.
Within ten years producers at these studios had started to experiment with the recordings of these bands, taking out the vocals and emphasizing the drum and bass tracks or the ‘riddim’. Known as dubs, these ground-breaking productions were pioneered by the likes of King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry and often involved extensive reverb, echo and delay effects as well as cut up vocal or instrumental samples from the original versions. These were among the first people to look at the recording studio as instrument in its own right and paved the way for the modern concepts of an electronic producer and the remix.
These instrumental dubs with their heavy drums and bass were pressed to vinyl (dubplates) and were played by DJs (selectors) on big sound systems set up in the street. These earliest incarnations of club nights didn’t have Facebook to promote their nights but instead relied on word of mouth – who had the biggest sound system and the best dubs? The notion of an MC also came out of all this with people on microphones “toasting” and hyping the crowd over the largely instrumental tunes. Here we are fifty years later witnessing the exact same thing at summer festivals and nightclubs. Respect!
*** On a related note, if you are interested in checking out some quality roots reggae and dub – make sure you get down to JUMBO MUMBO. Run by Erther and Ben Osbourne, Jumbo Mumbo is a new monthly reggae event taking place at the Rumpus Room in the West End. From all accounts the first one was awesome. Hit the image below for info on upcoming events…