Festival Coverage

Reggae-dub Music at Moogfest 2016

I was lucky enough to attend
several panels, or “conversations” as they were called at the festival when I
went to Moogfest. They were all very inspiring; the speakers really knew their
topics and I enjoyed learning about topics I otherwise would never have read
about. One of the panels I attended on Friday was about reggae-dub music and
its cultural significance. I decided to go to this panel because I have always
enjoyed reggae-dub music and its offshoots; I grew up on Bob Marley, the
Police, and Sublime. Since I did not know too much about this musical style, it
seemed to be the perfect panel to see.

conversation was headed by four influential dub musicians and producers,
Laurent “Tippy” Alfred, Lister Hewan-Lowe, Ras Kush, and the Mad Professor.
Alfred is a producer and audio engineer, who hails from St. Croix. He co-owns I
Grade Records, which he launched in 2001. Hewan-Lowe was born in Jamaica in the
1950’s. Throughout the 1970’s he worked for Island Records, before launching
his own label, Clappers, in the 1980’s. Ras Kush is a producer for the record
company Black Redemption Label. The Mad Professor was a very interesting
character. He told the audience that he got into electronics as child by
wondering how his radio, one of the few electronic devices in his house hold,
worked. When his mother left, he deconstructed the radio, to his mother’s
dismay. Even though he was in trouble when his mother returned, he was inspired
to go to the library and read more. By the time he was 10, he had already built
amps and radios. Today, he is one second generation dub’s biggest producers.

here’s a little history of dub music. Dub is a subgenre of reggae that evolved
in the 1960’s. It is different than original reggae music because it is made
through remixing, editing, and manipulating existing tracks and songs. One
aspect of dub music that the panelists emphasized over and over was “sound
system culture”. It became relevant in the 1950’s in the ghettos of Kingston,
where the inhabitants would throw parties in the streets, playing music from
turntables. As Hewan-Lowe said during the talk, “dub gave a voice to the
voiceless.” The original DJs of these parties played rhythm and blues, but as
time progressed, they began to create their own music with its own local sound.
Soon, DJs became more popular than live musicians. Dub music has always had a
do-it-yourself nature. Improvisation and original sound are incredibly
important. Dub began to gain popularity outside of the Caribbean in the 1970’s,
when Jamaican immigrants moved to England. Jamaican immigrants also brought
their music to New York City, where their influence would forever change the
hip-hop scene. These immigrants brought the idea of remixing the beat to
hip-hip, which revolutionized the industry. Unfortunately, as dub helped create
budding genres like hip-hop and EDM, it lost its original qualities. The
spontaneous sound system culture was lost to DJ culture, a similar offshoot in
the U.S. that favored preorder sets over spur of the moments, feeling the music
kind of sets.

really learned a great deal from this panel. The four men who spoke at the
panel were incredibly inspiring. I would suggest googling them for a more full
biography. In addition, I would check out the movie Rockers. During the panel, we were shown clips from the film
because it gave a visual representation of what sound system culture looked
like 40-50 years ago. To finish off my post, I would like to share a few quotes
from the panelists that I jotted down.

“You might only have a bucket, but you can make it into a
drum”- Alfred on the DIY nature of dub music.

“Everyday items can become revolutionized. European,
Japanese instruments can be revolutionized in the hands of the right
musicians”- Alfred

“I am not from Jamaica, I am from planet Earth.”- Hewan-Lowe

Written by Co-Public Affairs Director, Marissa Jerden