Dub music is perhaps just as traditional in its approach as various forms of folk music. As appreciators and makers of the form will testify, it is a music that is firmly rooted in its past, weighted down by its foundations. This applies of course to many other forms of music such as Blues, Klezma, and Rebetika, to name just three. However through a number of radical changes in technology and production techniques Dub is changing in terms of how it is created, made and shared. This is due to a number of parallel and at times disjointed developments, such as the emergence and dominance of the internet, the evolution of more accessible/less pricey digital music production software and being able to DJ from laptops with MP3 files. In this paper I will address these changes by referring to processes of convergence and blurring in the production and sharing of the music. This will be done through a case study of virtual PC remixer Manwel T from Malta, as well as reflections on the Dub innovator himself, King Tubby, and more generically on reggae music as a form in technological osmosis. In conclusion connections will be made to ‘medium’ theory (McLuhan, 1964) to Dub and how the music is constantly moving forward yet still staying grounded in its traditional past.
The studio as a business, as a unit of production and commerce, has experienced a dramatic change. The ‘survivors’ have undergone a process of commercial re-adjustment largely due to the rise in home and or virtual recording environments1. Following Napster in 1999 and the generic Peer-2-Peer file transfer culture it created, along with the dominance of MP3s much of the recorded output from these settings tends to be shared via the internet for free. This has redefined the industry as we knew it, hence the paying to consume via major music labels formula has become for many people, history (Dobie, 2004).
Traditional studios still exist however, albeit in reduced numbers and they will carry on existing in my opinion just like vinyl records will carry on spinning on some (but fewer) turntables around the world. What remains is a process of re-adjustment and convergence (McQuail, 2010). Different tools and platforms for making, sharing, playing and listening to music have evolved out of a combination of traditions and new philosophies. This is evident as a marketing line in the sale of many audio recording products. For example, on the website of ‘CEntrance’ a company that ‘develops, licenses and distributes cutting-edge audio products worldwide’ they say:
The line between recording and playback is quickly blurring. And so is the line between professional and amateur. Technology has made new products smaller, feature-rich and more affordable. When anyone can record their music and offer it on the web for the whole world to enjoy, there is suddenly little difference between musicians and listeners. The music industry is rapidly converging and new market opportunities are being created every day. (Goodman: 2011, p.1)
This process of blurring is nothing new. DJs from many genres of music have always had this double role of playing music to an audience and constantly listening to it. ‘Workers’ within the music industry itself have also acted as ‘cultural intermediaries’ a term borrowed from Bordieu by Negus to explain the unique position these people occupy, between artist and audience (Negus, 1997, pg 62). With the advent of the digital technology and the internet this process of closeness between creators, audiences, and their tools of production has become a lot more direct, hands on and accessible.
Reflecting on DJ’ing software programs as an example, programs such as Virtual DJ or Traktor (to name just two) have totally revolutionized the way many people engage in the practice and art of DJ’ing. Some purists advocate playing only vinyl on turntables as a more authentic activity in search of a real or imagined ‘warmer’ sound acoustically. Taken as a form of dogma, this practice will never change and is indeed even determined by the particular forms of music still being heavily vinyl oriented. This applies to some forms of Dub and reggae and is even argued for on actual vinyl releases. Macka B’s satirical critique of MP3 based reggae DJ’s on ‘Never Play a 45’ is a strong reflection of this view. Simultaneously, working from a laptop with DJ software and tracks as MP3 on a hard disk or USB is also seen as a more practical, in terms of space and weight, and economically viable, method given that many people download for free. On a theoretical level Bolter and Grusin (1999) labelled this process as “remediation”– an approach which cast older analogue technology in direct competition with newer digital platforms. But these two poles, the vinyl ‘Luddite’ and cyber download computer ‘geek’ can also be seen as stereotypes. Some DJs use all three formats, Vinyl, CD and MP3 and others, who play in specific genres of music, such as Hip-Hop or Dub and Reggae, use programs such as Traktor or Serato with an external MIDI controller. Witnessing for example, Steve Vibronics play a set in Nicosia Cyprus earlier this year I was amazed to see the Dub producer turn up vinyl-less, and yet his set sounded just as good, through the substantial Roots Crew sound system2. At this particular event it is also worth considering how Vibronics also used various tools for DJ’ing. An external sound card, microphone, a MIDI controller, and laptop playing audio files that had been mastered only at a higher resolution rate of 320kbps3.
A more detailed discussion on the technical differences between vinyl, CD and MP3 (and other ) formats is I feel beyond the parameters of the present paper. Although many people prefer Mp3s for DJ’ing, their quality is questionable considering the bit rate for a higher quality Mp3 is 320kpbs whereas for a CD it is three times that rate. CD’s are also that much more difficult and finicky to work with in many live DJ settings – especially when considering the size of the text on a CD cover in often dimly lit conditions of working as a DJ. At the same time vinyl remains a key heuristic tool and symbol for Dub and Reggae music DJs as a mark of authenticity and resistance to change. At least three Reggae sound system DJs I know personally in Cyprus refuse to use any other format except for vinyl. One of these, Selector Red I from Limasol even advertises his reggae events as ‘Vinyl Only’ which allows him to distinguish himself from other similar events as a “more authentic reggae DJ” (interview with Selector Red I, April 2011).
From the previous example of Steve Vibronics and possibly many others what we are witnessing is convergence, a process which always happens when any new media/format/methodology emerges. I want to be clear here though, people who remain in the analogue domain do so largely for aesthetic reasons, and those favouring cheaper and often free options may be doing so out of economic necessity. Beyond how this is happening with I would now like to explore how convergence manifests itself from a view of symbiosis, where analogue created files are accessed online by remixers/producers in different locations using digital platforms to remix songs. Home based virtual and big studios are encountering each other in a kind of production symbiosis, a co-existence of sorts where the two mix and interact, exchange, create and re-create.
Background on Manwel T and Methodological concerns
The Dub PC Remixer and net label creator Manwel T from Malta and his encounters with works from a diverse group of people, including Paul Simon, Alpha & Omega, Dub Colossus and Dubmatix is an active example of this – see Appendix 1 for a full list of re-mixes.
Exploring Manwel’s history in music production provided a rich case study studio convergence and the possible motivations behind his choices of equipment and production techniques. Methodologically a series of questions were exchanged by email from January to November 2011 with Manwel T. This provided detailed information and interesting dialogues on the music he makes. I also had an opportunity to meet him, some years earlier, in 2006, when I was on a family holiday in Malta. At the time he agreed to be interviewed through my digital camera. The interview was informal with an open ended no-script approach. That session in many ways sparked off the idea for this paper with a unique character from Malta. I have also known Manwel for the best part of two decades in my capacity as a reggae radio DJ and independent recording artist. We have a fairly long history in a sense and this made our exchanges far less formal and more in-depth. I also feel being two radio DJs from small islands in the Mediterranean specializing in reggae eventually led us to artistic collaboration on a number or remixes and tracks and this gave a different kind of reflexivity and naturalness to the research conducted on the current paper. Methodologically, as a form of ethnographic research deploying a grounded theory approach, where I sought to find themes and illuminary insights from interview data dialogues, and reflections on Dub music, and this kind of task had to be open ended.
I found this tricky however due to the processual nature of conducting research and the constraints and freedoms of writing up. In the process of writing an abstract for presentation at ARP San Francisco 2011, which was then developed into a paper that became a PowerPoint that returned to being a finished paper for this Journal, many ideas were chopped and changed. Starting out as an ethnographic account on Manwel T as an exponent of symbiotic remixing (analogue meets digital) I also found myself considering added dynamics, such as the history of Dub as a genre, its main originators and how the music evolved with technology. It soon became clear that what flowed was in many ways more than just ethnography but a wider set of reflections on the past, present and future of Dub. In other words while this paper has started out on convergence, namely analogue merging/engaging with digital, I found myself developing it into, as a result of my grounded theory approach, an intellectual and cultural mash-up of sorts, from King Tubby to Manwel T via Marshall McLuhan. This may make a disjointed argument, as there is a continuous back-and -forthness between these three distinct research sources. However this came about naturally through a number of connections on how Dub music is made as a medium which I will argue relies on certain production tools and techniques where the makers of the music become one with their tools, as an extension of the production process itself.
As Manwel T was the start of this process, I will begin with sharing parts of dialogues with the re-mixer/producer by exploring how and why he become a re-mixer/producer and what were his key motivations.
Manwel T – how & why/motivations
Manwel T began his encounters with reggae music on a radio show called ‘Reggae Club’ which was aired on Radio Malta (1989-2005). Radio gave him a different kind of richness and depth of knowledge as well as a worldwide data base of contacts. He also published the first edition of Reggae World Fanzine in 1990. This lasted just 4 issues. In many ways with such a background and connections it was a fairly natural progression for Manwel to morph from being a specialist reggae radio selector to a remixer and producer of Dub music in 2006. Digging deeper into his background some other biographic aspects are significant. Manwel explains:
I studied electronics at school, and learned to play around with the bass, drums and percussion but got most enjoyment when I stood behind the mixing desk during some live gigs by local reggae band Mind’s Eye that was late 80’s or early 90’s. I also did some analogue recordings on a small mixing desk in 1986 (on cassette tape) of a local rock group playing live in my garage studio! During this time I also mixed some basic Dub versions by The Wailers. That was in 1993 on my small mixing desk. At that time I was a Bob Marley collector, used to collect all his releases, concerts, interviews, unreleased songs, etc. There used to be a Marley/Wailers collectors fanzine, I made some contacts through that ‘zine and we started swapping cassettes – was amazed what tapes people had – this particular tape featured The Wailers during their Lee Perry sessions. It was recorded in split stereo (bass & drums on the right, guitars & keyboards on the left) so it was possible to Dub mix the tunes on basic equipment! This was it – I was hooked – I want to do Dub – but I didn’t have a proper studio! (Interview with Manwel T, 2011)
The main reason for not having a ‘proper’ studio in the early 1990’s was a lack of funding for investing in analogue equipment. On buying his first PC in 1999, things started to change gradually. The Radio Show, ‘Reggae Club’ kept him very busy until 2005 when it was stopped. In 2006, with much more free time he started doing his first Dub mixes on PC.
Manwel T admits he is not the world’s greatest musician. Recognizing his limitations he set out to engage in music production initially as a remixer. Below he outlines his sources of inspiration and how the PC eventually became his instrument:
I am not a great musician so the only way to do Dub was to remix other artists. That’s how it was in the beginning anyway, I am like a modern day King Tubby, Lee Perry, Prince Jammy, or Scientist! These great Dub artists can’t really play music – their instrument was the mixing board, mine is the PC! (Interview with Manwel T, 2011)
The King Tubby reference made me wonder if that sound of the 1970’s produced in such a practical and yet innovative way by the originator of Dub music could ever be touched by a laptop remixer. The question I know is self-evident but Manwel answered in a way that was categorically honest and challenging by saying “No, not the same sound but you can come very close if you know what you’re doing and you actually want to do that! “
King Tubby rewind the Dub
I would like to delve a little into who King Tubby was and why he is such a big inspiration to contemporary Dub producers. As Dub Caravan told me very concisely in a Facebook exchange: ‘A lesson from King Tubby… don’t get too much equipment…. just make the best with what u have’4.
King Tubby, born Osbourne Ruddock, was given the nickname not for his size or due to the weightiness of the sounds he produced but because of his love of everything related to valve and tube technology at that time. The late Mikey Dread stated “King Tubby truly understood sound in a scientific sense. He knew how the circuits worked and what the electrons did. That’s why he could do what he did” (Du Noyer, p 356-7, 2003).
Osbourne Ruddock’s engagement with music in Jamaica began in the 1950’s when the first sound systems emerged. As a technician he found himself in demand. Tubby is often credited to be the creator of the remix. What distinguished his music was its sonics through the use of delay and echo effects, often on snippets of vocals or an instrument such as guitar chops or horns and the technique of stripping everything to the foundation, the drum and bass sounds. These two ingredients are the main elements of reggae music and King Tubby gave things a much more earthy and yet ethereal almost other-worldly sound. As Lee Perry once said “Some People call it Dub. I call it X-Ray Music” (Lee Perry, 1998).
In trying to get to grips with this idea, I listened over and over again to many Tubby’s releases of this era and came to the conclusion that the vocals, Dubbed out in a lengthy shimmering echoes act as a kind of introduction to the re-entry of the rhythm in the compositions. This in many ways is a complete reversal from popular music writing convention, where a rhythm tends to build up or layer the ground, step by step, for a vocalist to sing and express themselves through a verse chorus kind of structure. This rawness was created often with basic and dated analogue equipment due to the limited budgets available to the emerging Jamaican producers at that time. For example King Tubby used a Fisher Spacexpander delay unit; a relic of the 1960’s which he used to produce music in the 1970’s (The Interruptor: 2012). Also given his background as a radio technician the equipment was adapted and customized to make different sounds. In this sense King Tubby is a living manifestation of Marshall McLuhan’s hugely popular and yet often misunderstood quote ‘the medium is the message’. I will not focus in depth on the ‘message’ as that will take us on different tracks. I would however agree with Federman’s view that the message and McLuhan are often misunderstood:
A McLuhan message always tells us to look beyond the obvious and seek the non obvious changes or effects that are enabled, enhanced, accelerated or extended by the new thing. (Federman: 2004, p.2)
What I will explore however is the ‘medium’ as an extension of our ‘body or senses of mind’ (Federman, 2004). The medium in Dub is the tools and how they are used as an extension of the producer’s imagination and body. King Tubby was the first person in the genre who used equipment as an extension of his body and mind. In this sense it is not so much what equipment is used but what sounds are made with it and how it is used, essentially how equipment is ‘played’ and how that becomes an extension of the person making the music. Generally people trying to make Dub naively for the first time may consider adding echo and delay on the whole track. This would be a big mistake because it is the qualitative use of equipment which counts and not the overall effect on the mix. As BMG, a contemporary Dub maker states in the Dub Scrolls web forum:
Technically, classic Dub uses 3 main effects: tape echo, analog phasing and spring reverb. The order of the effects depends on your mood. No Dub player lets the efx unit stay in the same position for a whole track, Dub is about playing the efx unit. King Tubby was the maestro of the echoplex, Lee Perry could play the Bi-Phase and Space Echo like no other. get inside the effects and learn how to turn the knobs so the music comes alive. You can’t automate this and no plug-in can truely immitate tape delay feedback and if you aren’t using analog pre 80s efx, then you are just a step cousin of Dub. (Dub Scrolls, 2011)
Tubby’s distinct sound became a cultural template and blueprint for future producers of Dub. King Tubby also encouraged and developed many other producers. He was a mentor to Phillip Smart, Prince Jammy and The Scientist for example, and to return to my case study, also a great inspiration to Manwel T, who if he could find some audio stems from King Tubby, would love to do some remixes of the Dub originator. Despite the purist stance of BMG in the last line of the quote above, the question of whether the Dub of decades gone by, produced largely through analogue equipment and production techniques can be remixed and recut by virtual laptop producers of today who use largely digital equipment and methods is in many ways a worn out debate that should be taken away from the technical sphere and put in the more rational arena of production intent. In other words, as Manwel T stated, if “you actually want to do that! “ to replicate that King Tubby ‘sound’ then it is possible if you know what you are doing. But there is something more to these issues in terms of how sounds have developed generally in reggae and Dub in specific, and how by living in the this imagined interpretation of the past, many people involved with Dub, as DJs, musicians, producers, appreciators and academics, may be in some ways missing key links about how the music has evolved as linked to the generic shift in studio production from analogue to digital technology.
In answering this question I think we have to explore a number of issues which are relatively speaking linked but also autonomous in their own ways. These consider Dub and more widely Reggae music as a form that has evolved and not remained static. The music is as I will argue has been empowered by changes in production technology creating a state of osmosis between analogue and digital production methods.
Osmosis and the Forwardness of Dub and Reggae
To many people Dub is music only from that 1970’s era, when analogue tools and how they were ‘played’ ruled the day. This purist stance however tends to ignore the monumental impact of technological change in studio production across all genres, but in terms of reggae this change became a formal war of words between producers and advocates of ‘analogue’ versus ‘digital’ techniques. In fact ‘digital’ was not just a production method; it became a new sub-genre of reggae by the mid-1980’s getting its name from the digital synthesizers which dominated its sound. It was I would argue just as revolutionary in essence sonically as the Echoplex and Space Delay had been for Dub in the 1970’s. Against this radical backdrop it is interesting to consider what happened to King Tubby when the digital era emerged in reggae music production, after 1985, when his former protégé Prince now renamed King Jammy, unleashed a song called ‘Under Mi Sleng Teng’ sung by Wayne Smith. The ‘Sleng Teng’ sound had the rather cheesy Casio MT40 keyboard as its central ingredient and it literally spawned hundreds of versions5. For many it was a far cry from Jammy’s earlier works but in some ways almost it is a natural progression, considering how digital and futuristic Dub music had become since the start of the 1980’s. The Scientist for example released a number of works, often themed, which went far beyond existing Dub conventions, such as “Scientist Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires” and “Scientist Encounters Pac-Man”. The impact of the ‘Sleng Teng’ then was insurmountable. There was nothing new to the concept of a version in reggae music. Howard argues the version can be traced back the early days of the music itself and Duke Reid’s instrumental b-sides (Howard, ARP, 2008). However ‘Sleng Teng’ was different because it was made on digital equipment and spawned so many versions, as so many people at that time had Casio keyboards, thus making it easier to emulate it in emerging home studios. In a production and rhythmic sense the song went ‘viral’ long before Facebook, Twitter and Youtube existed. The sureness of its success was its weight in terms of sub sonic frequencies, the trance-like hypnotic repetition of its addictive chorus and hook line sung in tight harmonies by Wayne Smith and how this fitted perfectly with an equally hypnotic beat. This pioneering synthesis also had a lyrical content about marijuana, a re-coded subject matter now called ‘Sleng Teng’ that had been visited on countless reggae tunes before and it felt like a sonic version of taking the drug, with the warning ‘weighing my brain – no cocaine, I don’t wanna I don’t wanna go insane’. Jammy unleashed the song on 23rd February in a sound clash against Scorpio Sound System in Jamaica (Jahtari, 2011) and for many people, reggae music, in a sound clash way, would never be the same.
Mentor, Tubby and protégé Jammy were now competing forces as studios and producers. King Tubby’s response in 1986 to the emergent digital sound was a haunting song called ‘Tempo’ sung by Anthony Red Rose, released on Tubby’s Firehouse Label. The music for the song was made entirely digitally. Where ‘Sleng Teng’ had a nervy kind of dramatic urgency, ‘Tempo’ ground the rhythm down to a much slower and more lingering pace. By referring to these two songs what I am arguing is Pioneer – Tubby and Mentor – Jammy had fully embraced the digital sounds of dancehall reggae by the mid-1980’s, sounds which were markedly different from what both these producers and label owners were releasing in the 1970’s. In many ways then the debate over analogue versus digital sounds is merely an academic one seeing as the producers who had pioneered the Dub sound in the 1970’s, namely Tubby and Jammy, had now turned their attention to the minimalism of digitally synthesized productions. This trend also shows that for many Jamaican producers the move from analogue to digital was a natural progression, and the two platforms/methodologies often converged. I would even argue that outside of dance music genres such as Techno/House and some early Hip-Hop songs Reggae as music has always been linked to radical changes in production tools and methods6. Every 10 years or so a new sound and method comes across in Reggae music which many people emulate, copy and develop further, and these changes are often linked with production tools and how they are used. Drum machines for example can be traced way back in the early 1970’s to songs such as ‘So Jah Say’ by Bob Marley and The Wailers, and ‘SoulFire’ by Lee Perry. Sly & Robbie, a powerhouse reggae production duo who have done literally thousands of recording sessions epitomize this tendency for production revolutions signalling significant landmarks in the music’s history. ‘Herbman Hustling’ for example by Sugar Minott, released in 1984 had Sly Dunbar programming a drum machine. Sly’s use of electronic drum kits on tour with Black Uhuru in the 1980’s also took reggae drumming to another level. And later in the 1990’s the duo known as ‘The Riddim Twins’ aka Sly & Robbie would take digital sounds to a new generation of people with ‘Murder She Wrote’ by Chakademus & Pliers. I would also like to go back again to the origin of digital sounds in reggae. ‘Sleng Teng’ can be viewed as the tune that tipped the balance, as the one that sent many reggae producers ballistically digital but the process itself was gradual. It did not happen overnight. It started from the emergence of machines in the studio doing rhythm in songs to songs that had a more electronic/synthesized sound, like ‘Herbman Hustling’ or ‘Rub A Dub Soldier’ by Paul Blake & The Bloodfire Posse (1984). Reggae in this sense is not viewed as a static form of music but as a genre in a constant state of osmosis.
Many of these changes in the sounds of reggae signalled the start of a debate in reggae circles between ‘digital’ and ‘analogue’ production techniques. The ‘digital’ arena being dominated largely by producers with labels churning out dozens of versions of the same riddims en masse for various people to sing and chat over; and the analogue by a more ‘old skool’ analogue tape and production studio techniques. The digital era was in many ways the most version-galore period of reggae dancehall music. One only has to look at a web site such as http://www.jamrid.com to fully comprehend how digital sounds spawned hundreds of versions. Analogue reggae producers have kept up with working on tape even to this date but as Digital Audio Workstations became more accessible and affordable, the high prices of analogue tapes and retro equipment forced people to at least converge or switch totally to digital. In many ways its is also a question of what we do with equipment to make sounds, even what we do with digital plug-ins to replicate those early Dub sounds of the 1970’s. What then have Dub purists, who remain in the analogue domain think of productions by Manwel T. As the remixer states:
I had some opposition, not too much! I always try to go for a late 70s/early 80s natural reggae feel so my mixes are not too far out anyway! I can mention dozens of Mad Professor tracks, for example, which were mixed on an analogue desk that sound much stranger than my stuff because he was always into wild electronic effects! (Interview with Manwel T, 2011)
Around 1990 I interviewed the Mad Professor aka Neil Frazer a producer known for his roots reggae, lovers rock and Dub productions (Hip Hop Connection UK, 1991). Sitting in the well equipped Ariwa Studios in South London, Neil told me how it was then impossible for any one working from a home studio, with limited equipment to produce the same kind of Dub sound he could get from the vast analogue based studio he possessed. At the time it was a view which I shared, being more of a Dub purist then than I am now. But something also happened to the Mad Professor. His sounds became increasingly digital! Later releases such as ‘The Dub Mi Crazy’ series and Dub excursions for the Robotics had a fast pace digital sound, often also associated with The New Age Steppers and the On-U-Sound of Adrian Sherwood and emerging new music genres such as drum & bass. These also evolved into sub-genres of Dub such as ‘New Age Steppers’ and ‘New Age Digital Steppers’ both sub-genres being clear examples of how the music in terms of sounds is defined by the tools made to producer in the medium itself.
Conclusion Moving Forward with a nod to the past
People can use whatever gear they want to produce a sound, particularly nowadays. With limited budgets and facilities and an array of changes in technology it is much easier to follow, replicate and adapt the sounds of past Dub productions. The working environment now is that much more virtual and accessible to people through the web 2.0 and digital work station revolutions (Hajimichael, 2011). Convergence is happening on a number of levels. Studio interfaces, analogue and digital, linked through largely a-synchronous collaborations and remixes occur. Manwel T has mixed a number of tracks in his discography like this, taken from original stems recorded on analogue equipment remixed through a digital PC. Sounds are also explored through sampling, programming and digital re-processing. For example, Dub Caravan the virtual producer and remixer rebuilds whole Dub-rhythms and arrangements by some times using samples recorded through analogue equipment by the renowned Jamaican drummer Style Scott. We can even reproduce the ‘warm’ sound of vinyl in a replicated manner through digital equipment and plug-ins. Despite all of these radical changes Neil Perch of Zion Train throws a philosophical spanner in the works:
You can use plug-ins and many people do. But if you go back, perhaps even way back, you might find some one playing the drums or twiddling the knobs on the machines. At some point in the cycle of the plug-in some one actually played something, someone actually did something.’ (Interview with Neil Perch, 2011)
In so many ways this takes us back to McLuhan and the notion that the medium is like a tool, an extension of the human body, which people use to make and mould things with, and at some point in the production chain, dominated largely by machines and computer screens, the human touch is just as important as it always was. In making Dub music in these contemporary virtual and digital times there is a characteristic for many contemporary producers and re-mixers to give a nod of appreciation to the past perhaps by being locked in it. McLuhan’s timeless quote comes to mind here:
The past went that-a-way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future. (McLuhan, 1997)
The real point is to march forward into the future with an eye to reflection on the past, as long as that reflection does not become like an obsession or a fetish on the way things are and have always been. A re-mix by Manwel T often has this kind of forward quality by taking sounds to another level but retaining a sense of the original form a little, as a subliminal reminder or signifier of what has preceded. If the point with Dub music was to stay locked in that past, of say the 1970’s then how come advocates of this approach do not move on, when the pioneers themselves, such as the late King Tubby and King Jammy did. Dub as a genre has now evolved into a worldwide network which expands across so many cultures and countries but retains its rootsy ethereal sounds by constantly pushing the envelope with technology and defying existing practices of pop manufactured formulas. It is a music that will in my opinion always stay grounded otherwise it will lose its foundation and its point of existence. I cannot foresee Dub ever topping the pop charts mainly because the music has never been intentionally popular. It has however transmuted, transformed and become a vast tree of musical knowledge, firmly rooted, but with its branches spreading out in different ways. There will always be people making new sounds with echoes and reference points to the past, sometimes obviously linked and at other times more tenuous and challenging. On this final reflective note, I would like to share a piece of music through YouTube, re-mixed by Manwel T, originally recorded by Alpha & Omega, which I am featured on as a spoken word vocalist which I believe reflects that ‘spirit’of McLuhan. The clip can be viewed at the following web site
At the same time however, I would argue this kind of reflection on the past, should not become a form of fetish in itself and for itself. One cannot analyze how any musician has developed without placing them in the wider context of their music genre, and by this I mean Reggae and Dub as they now stand, with various kinds of sub-genres, mutations and variations. Making music is still a craft as it always was always will be. What has changed is the technology, the speed, the interconnectedness, increased participation, the accessibility and price of acquiring ‘in the box tools’ – as opposed to more expensive vintage ‘out of the box’ equipment. The latest computer hardware and software in this sense teams up with vintage dub effects, both’ in the box’ and at times where affordable ‘out’ of it. Convergence then is nothing new as it has always been happening, and in this age of change, blurring and resistance to change, all we are living through is another chapter of Dub music.
I would like to thank Manwel T in Malta his vital insights and dialogues in researching this paper, and Felix ‘Dub Caravan’ Adnane from Dread Camel Studios in London for reading the first draft and the feedback.
- This was stressed by Steve Albini in his illuminating presentation at The Art of Record Production in Leeds, 2010.
- I witnessed this at an event I took part on April 9th 2011 at ‘The Caves’ Venue in Nicosia. Youtube video link at http://youtu.be/lWplPeYOnPI includes highlights of the session with Steven Vibronics working off a laptop.
- It is perhaps negotiable if Steve Vibronics performs like this in say Birmingham where he might use vinyl to DJ with. So using this kind of set up in Cyprus may have been more practical considering each box of vinyl records weighs around 40 kilos, and having to put these through as cargo on a flight from the UK to and from Cyprus would have been risky, as many records could be damaged in transit and pricey given how much extra baggage he might have been charged for on the flights.
- Dub Caravan 28/9/2011 online exchange Facebook
- There are 380 versions according to this source but as an avid vinyl collector of the genre I would estimate the figure is far higher and possibly over 1,000 given the vast amount of digital download remixes that exist today online http://riddims.frenkieh.com/show/riddims/18/page_10/
- Specific drum machines and synths were commonly used in Detroit Techno, such as the Roland TR-909 and early tunes by Afrika Bambaataa’s ‘Planet Rock’ (1982) fused with Electro. Early Hip-Hop used the Roland 808 – particularly for its kick drum sounds.
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Appendix 1 – Manwel T Re-Mixes
001 – Kris Naphtali – Voice Of Ancients (Manwel T Mix)
002 – Alpha & Omega – Trample (Manwel T Mix)
003 – Dubmatix – Dirt, Dust & Sand (Manwel T Mix)
004 – Kris Naphtali – What’s Wrong (Manwel T Mix)
005 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Barebone Dub (Manwel T Mix)
006 – Urban Dub – Caliente Frio (Manwel T Mix)
007 – Urban Dub – Plastic City (Manwel T Mix)
008 – General Smiley – Bother Me (Manwel T Mix)
009 – Messian Dread – Dub Culture (Manwel T Mix)
010 – General Smiley – Wolf (Manwel T Mix)
011 – Messian Dread – Old Skool Dub (Manwel T Mix)
012 – Messian Dread – How Could I Leave Jah (Manwel T Mix)
013 – Messian Dread – One Drop (Manwel T Mix)
014 – Messian Dread – Earth Rightful Ruler (Manwel T Mix)
015 – Alpha & Omega – This Is My Prayer (Manwel T Mix)
016 – Kris Naphtali – What’s Wrong (Manwel T Mix 2)
017 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Selassie I Dub (Manwel T Mix)
018 – Kris Naphtali – Orders Of Truth & Right (Manwel T Mix)
019 – Kris Naphtali – Orders Of Truth & Right (Manwel T Mix 2)
020 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Selassie I Dub (Manwel T Mix 2)
021 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Barebone Dub (Manwel T Mix 2)
022 – Dubmatix – Dirt, Dust & Sand (Manwel T Mix 2)
023 – Alpha & Omega – This Is My Prayer (Manwel T Mix 2)
024 – Alpha & Omega – Trample (Manwel T Mix 2)
025 – Urban Dub – Caliente Frio (Manwel T Mix 2)
026 – Urban Dub – Plastic City (Manwel T Mix 2)
027 – Soul Remedy – Spiritual (Manwel T Mix)
028 – Soul Remedy – Spiritual (Manwel T Mix 2)
029 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Back To My Dub (Manwel T Mix)
030 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Back To My Dub (Manwel T Mix 2)
031 – Hotdrop – Thirsty (Manwel T Mix)
032 – Hotdrop – Thirsty (Manwel T Mix 2)
033 – Boom Tony – Yes Iyah
034 – Slackers – Rude And Reckless (Manwel T Mix)
035 – Slackers – Rude And Reckless (Manwel T Mix 2)
036 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Prince Thierry Jingle (Manwel T Mix)
037 – Haji Mike – Party At Ledra (Manwel T Mix)
038 – Haji Mike – Party At Ledra (Manwel T Mix 2)
039 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Trod On Dub (Manwel T Mix)
040 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Trod On Dub (Manwel T Mix 2)
041 – Zion Train – Forward Ever (Manwel T Mix)
042 – Zion Train – Forward Ever (Manwel T Mix 2)
043 – Zion Train – What A Situation (Manwel T Mix)
044 – Zion Train – What A Situation (Manwel T Mix 2)
045 – KoCha – Opening Connection (Manwel T Mix)
046 – KoCha – Opening Connection (Manwel T Mix 2)
047 – KoCha – Murcianists (Manwel T Mix)
048 – KoCha – Murcianists (Manwel T Mix 2)
049 – Phil Harmony – Tonight (Manwel T Mix)
050 – Blaminack – Get Flat (Manwel T Mix)
051 – Blaminack – Future Past 1972 (Manwel T Mix)
052 – Blaminack – Future Past 1982 (Manwel T Mix)
053 – Dr. RemiX – Up 4 Dub (Manwel T Mix)
054 – Dr. RemiX – Up 4 Dub (Manwel T Mix 2)
055 – Dub FX – Visions (Manwel T Mix)
056 – Messian Dread – 99 Dub Street (Manwel T Mix)
057 – Messian Dread – Living Power (Manwel T Mix)
058 – Coldcut – True Skool (Manwel T Mix)
059 – Public Enemy – Amerikan Gangster (Manwel T Mix)
060 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Umtha Welanga (Manwel T Mix)
061 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Umtha Welanga (Manwel T Mix 2)
062 – Manor – Positive (Manwel T Mix)
063 – Juno Gad Allstars – Bird In Hand (Manwel T Mix)
064 – Blaminack – Power And Might (Manwel T Mix)
065 – Dubmatix – Give Thanks & Praises (Manwel T Mix)
066 – Dubmatix – Give Thanks & Praises (Manwel T Mix 2)
067 – Kidz In The Hall – Driving Down The Block (Manwel T Mix)
068 – Don Fe & El Bib – Revolution Days (Manwel T Mix)
069 – Don Fe & El Bib – Revolution Days (Manwel T Dub Plate for Soul Remedy)
070 – Bob Marley – Lively Up Yourself (Manwel T Mix)
071 – Bob Marley – No Woman, No Cry (Manwel T Mix)
072 – Bob Marley – Is This Love (Manwel T Mix)
073 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Umtha Welanga (Manwel T Dub Plate for King Earthquake)
074 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Umtha Welanga (Manwel T Dub Plate for Conscious Radio)
075 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Umtha Welanga (Manwel T Dub Plate for DJ Stryda)
076 – Daddy Rings – Dispensation (Manwel T Mix)
077 – Daddy Rings – Dispensation Dub (Manwel T Mix)
078 – Mr. Basha – This Train (Manwel T Mix)
079 – John Brown’s Body – Zion Triad (Manwel T Mix)
080 – Soul Remedy & Wildfiyah Rootikal – Judgement Come (Manwel T Mix)
081 – Soul Remedy & Wildfiyah Rootikal – World Of Sorrow (Manwel T Mix)
082 – DoobieSound – Mighty Stepper (Manwel T Mix)
083 – Jah Zebi – Leave Those Drugs Alone
084 – Dan I Locks – All Kinda Wall
085 – John Brown’s Body – Ghost Notes (Manwel T Mix)
086 – Alpha & Omega – Whole World’s Gone Mad (Manwel T Mix)
087 – Alpha & Omega – Whole World’s Gone Mad (Manwel T Mix 2)
088 – Jahvisst – Good Morning
089 – Culture Brown & Nu Chilly – Love Is What The Children Want
090 – Mysticman – Fly Away
091 – Haji Mike – Bless
092 – Mysticman – Fly Away Dub (Manwel T Mix)
093 – Nico Royale – Forever Dub (Manwel T Mix)
094 – Dan I Locks – Friend In Weed
095 – Bandulu Dub – Sunshine (Manwel T Mix)
096 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Umtha Welanga (The Manwel T Vuvuzelas Mix)
097 – Black Seeds – Strugglers (Manwel T Mix)
098 – Araka – Oscuridad (Manwel T Mix)
099 – Pepper – Wake Up (Manwel T Mix)
100 – Black Seeds – Slingshot (Manwel T Mix)
101 – Slightly Stoopid – 2 AM (Manwel T Mix)
102 – Alpha & Omega – This Is My Prayer (Manwel T Mix 3)
103 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Don Dub (Manwel T Horns Mix)
104 – Mind’s Eye Dub – Don Dub (Manwel T Melodica Mix)
105 – Bob Marley – Is This Love (Manwel T Mix 2)
106 – Bob Marley – Lively Up Yourself (Manwel T Mix 2)
107 – Bob Marley – No Woman, No Cry (Manwel T Mix 2)
108 – Paul Simon – Love Is Eternal Sacred Love (Manwel T Mix)
109 – Rolling Lion Studio – Rightfull Ruller (Manwel T Mix)
110 – Earlyworm – Crawling From The Roots (Manwel T Mix)
111 – Dubmatix – Inna Eden Dub (Manwel T Mix)
112 – Jah Zohar – Rush Hour (Manwel T Mix)
113 – Delmighty Sounds – Sub Urban (Manwel T Mix)
114 – Bandulu Dub & Hornsman Coyote – Changes (Manwel T Mix)
115 – Jeremy Hofer – Love (Manwel T Mix)