An Introduction To Dub Reggae
The young music lovers of Jamaica in the late 1960's would hear the latest tunes by attending dancehall parties where sound systems like 'Ruddy's Supreme' and 'Tubby's Home Town Hi-Fi' would play the reggae dancehall records of the day.
'Tubby's Home Town Hi-Fi' was run and built by King Tubby himself. Tubby, born Osbourne Ruddock in 1941, was probably one of the first sound engineers to add echo and reverb to the tunes he played at the dancehalls.
Tubby was already cutting discs for Duke Reid of Treasure Isle Records during the day, and it must have been a logical step for him to start adding some of his own sound treatment to the rocksteady tunes. These versions were then played at the dances by Tubby's Home Town Hi-Fi.
It was only a matter of time before other sound systems began to pick up on Tubby's original style and began to produce and play 'dub plates' of their own.
Using only very simple and often home made sound equipment (basic tape delay units for echo, spring reverb and some primitive phasing all on a four track mixing desk) these engineers began to shape a sound unlike anything ever heard before.
King Tubby was the first to add the 'scat' style vocals of the mighty U Roy to the mix thus creating the dub 'version'.
Producers and engineers like King Tubby, Prince Jammy, Lee 'scratch' Perry, Scientist and Augustus Pablo built a style of music which has influenced every form of dance music to this day.
A four on the floor beat sets the pace of the music with the original tune stripped down to its bare bones. A massive 'phat' bass line drives the rhythm along with notes so low you can feel it in your guts.
Almost at random, guitars, organs, horns, pianos, vocals, sometimes even doorbells and pop-up toasters are cut and pasted into the mix and left hanging drenched in reverb and echo. Phased cymbals and hi-hats crash in and out creating psychedelic effects with mind blowing results.
This music has always been popular with smokers.
These tunes completely mashed up the dancehalls and reggae music was changed forever.
America was the first to recognise the popularity of the music and soon issued 'versions' of their own. These tunes were often poor imitations lacking the vitality and spirit of the Jamaican originals.
Due to the very close knit nature of the Jamaican reggae scene many great sound engineers often emerged from the same source.
Producer Bunny 'Striker' Lee had his own studios where King Tubby and Prince Jammy (The Sorcerers Apprentice) would be making the dub plates almost in a production line fashion. These records were produced very quickly with the artists, dj's, musicians and engineers working flat out to keep the studio costs down to a minimum.
Artists of the day like Cornell Campbell, Johnny Clarke, Delroy Wilson, Leroy Smart and Horace Andy were all recorded and engineered by Tubby. The vocals would often be dropped over the rhythm tracks of classic Treasure Isle or Coxsone tunes which were built in studios like Randy's, Dynamic and the now legendary Channel One.
The tracks were then deconstructed and reassembled for the dub. The icing on the cake was the inclusion of the dj chat on top of the version from masters of the genre like Dr. Alimantado, U Roy, Big Youth, Tappa Zukie, Prince Far I, Jah Stitch and Prince Jazzbo.
Dub albums began to appear around the mid seventies and with better distribution found increasing interest in America and Europe.
Albums by Lee Perry, Joe Gibbs and King Tubby were embraced by black and white audiences for the first time. The UK punk rock scene openly acknowledged the influence of dub reggae with bands like The Clash and The Slits drawing heavily from the sound. Reggae singles were regularly played at punk clubs and the strong bond between the two musical styles has never been fully examined. Some classic modern music was produced at this time.
Bob Marley released 'Punky Reggae Party'.
Lee Perry produced The Clash.
The music really speaks for its self.
As technology got better and cheaper the sound began to get cleaned up and for many it lost something. The restrictions of the earlier work seem to give the music a quality unlike any other. The mistakes and the bleeding of other instruments on the tracks just fits into the music perfectly. It would sound terrible anywhere else. In dub it is almost spiritual. The Rastafarian praises to Jah run throughout this music.
There is a huge debt owed to the pioneers of dub reggae. The reggae music of Jamaica in the 1970's is a gift to be treasured forever. That a small island could produce music with such limited resources is truly remarkable. But don't just take my word for it, go and listen to some.
Anything by King Tubby.
Anything by Prince Jammy.
Anything by Lee Perry or The Upsetters.
Augustus pablo. King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown.
Joe Gibbs. African Dub Chapter One, Two and Three.
Anything by Scientist.
Check the dates on anything you might consider buying, after 1980 it all tends to get a bit digital - but that's another chapter in it's self.
Listen and enjoy.
Harry O – tMx 23 – 02/06