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  • Thom Holmes

Dub Electronic

My Book/eBook: Electronic and Experimental Music, sixth edition, Routledge 2020.

My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music


A couple of episodes back I did a podcast called Reggae Loves Electronic Keyboards. I wanted to continue on this Jamaican theme by exploring dub music of the early 1970s to late 1980s. Although dub was an outgrowth of reggae music, literally dubbing out the vocals to create instrumental tracks from popular reggae recordings, it has grown beyond dub as a kind of remixers playground with recorded sound. In this episode, I focus on the originators of dub and the various stages that is took over about twenty years. This evolution was largely inspired by advances in technology, so you will hear in these tracks an evolution from tape to digital recording as well as an increased sophistication in instrumentation from the basic musical instruments of a reggae combo to computer instruments used by producers, engineers, and mixers.


Dub music is largely a music created by producers, engineers, and mixers. They’d drop tracks in and out of a mix, rearrange the order of the tracks, even introduce looping and repetition to reshape the listening experience. In addition, they often include instruments not heard in the original recording, and effects such as echo. Over time, as dub became an established style of its own, dub tracks were often created as new tracks often with vocals, creating increasingly sophisticated tracks that were conceived as a dub style from scratch. Early dub tracks were created quite by accident when vocals were sometimes inadvertently eliminated from a song that was being re-released. The result, an instrumental, landed in a happy groove with the listener and some of the dubs were extended to make them longer and more appropriate for the dance scene. The manipulation of recorded sound makes dub very much a form of electronic music.


In the tracks included in this podcast, we’ll listen to a set of dub recordings in chronological order. We’ll hear examples of King Tubby Ruddock, one of the originators of early dub in the late 1960s, Lee Scratch Perry who did a lot of dub work hand-in-hand with the reggae music produced by his group The Upsetters. Soon, many Jamaican producers had adopted the mixing console as a performative instrument.


Note the wacky electronic sounds that creep into these dub mixes over time. There’s the classic sleng teng sound that was a programmable riff used in the Casio MT-40, a small personal keyboard. The Roland Space Echo also adopted by many producers. Certain musicians, including Wayne Smith, restricted their audio palette to certain riffs and electronic voices, resulting in the almost abstract, detached presence of human beings at all. Then, dub became more sophisticated, adding back musicians. Claudette Brown and Sonia Abel of Love Joys, brought vocals back to the forefront of dub. Augustus Pablo introduced the melodica and by the mid-seventies, you’ll hear trombones and trumpets in abundance. And producers didn’t shy away from making dub versions of super popular hits such as Shaft and the Tijuana Brass. But the mix remained the thing that dub for which dub was noted.


In the playlist for this episode, sometimes the only credits available for a recording are those of the producer or mixer. Not that there no musicians, but dub has been viewed as something that existed entirely apart from the original tracks laid down by musicians. Musicians were ghosts on early dub recordings but came back into the fold as original recordings, intended as dub from the start, began to emerge.


Episode 52

Dub Electronic


Playlist

1. Herman Chin-Loy, “Heavy Duty” from Aquarius Dub (1973 Aquarius). Recorded in Jamaica. Backing Band, The Now Generation Band; Bass, Val Douglas; Drums, Mikey Richards; Guitar, Geoffrey Chung, Mikey Chung; Keyboards, Augustus Pablo, Earl "Wire" Lindo, Robbie Lyn; Melodica, Augustus Pablo; Producer, Herman Chin Loy. 2:56


2. Herman Chin-Loy, “Jah Jah Dub” from Aquarius Dub (1973 Aquarius). Recorded in Jamaica. Backing Band, The Now Generation Band; Bass, Val Douglas; Drums, Mikey Richards; Guitar, Geoffrey Chung, Mikey Chung; Keyboards, Augustus Pablo, Earl "Wire" Lindo, Robbie Lyn; Melodica, Augustus Pablo; Producer, Herman Chin Loy. 2:31


3. Upsetters, “African Skank” from Upsetters 14 Dub Black Board Jungle (1973 Upsetter). Recorded in Jamaica. Produced by Upsetter L. Perry. 3:16


4. Upsetters, “V/S Panta Rock” from Upsetters 14 Dub Black Board Jungle (1973 Upsetter). Recorded in Jamaica. Produced and Arranged By Lee Perry; Engineer, King Tubby, Lee Perry; Bass, Aston "Family Man" Barrett; Drums, Benbow; Melodica, Augustus Pablo; Organ, Touter, Winston Wright; Trombone – Ron Wilson; Trumpet – Bobby Ellis. 3:33


5. Derrick & The Crystalites, “Lion Dub” (theme from Shaft) from Derrick Harriott Presents Scrub A Dub Reggae (1974 Crystal Records). Recorded and mixed in Jamaica. Engineer, Brother George; Produced and written by Derrick Harriott. 3:39


6. Augustus Pablo, “The Big Rip Off” from Ital Dub (1974 Starapple). Recorded in Jamaica. Engineer, King Tubby, Ronald Logan, Sylvan Morris; Mixed By King Tubby (Dub Master); Produced by Tommy Cowan, Warrick Lyn; Written by, Melodica, Augustus Pablo. 3:14


7. Augustus Pablo, “Rockers Meets King Tubbys In A Fire House” from Rockers Meets King Tubbys In A Fire House (1980 Shanachie). Recorded in Jamaica. Backing Band, Rockers All Stars Bass, Bugsy; Junior Dan, Michael Taylor, Robby Shakespear; Drum, Albert Malawi, Leroy Wallace; Mickey Boo; Horns, Deadly Headely; Lead Guitar, Dalton Brownie, Earl (Chinna) Smith; Mixed By, Augustus Pablo, King Tubbys; Prince Jammys; Organ, Piano, String Ensemble, Melodica, Augustus Pablo; Percussion, Jah Levi, Jah Teo, Sticky; Arranged By, Augustus Pablo, H. Swaby; Michael McGeachy Rhythm Guitar, Cleon; Fazal Prendergas. 4:36


8. Jah Shaka, “Verse 6” from Commandments Of Dub (1982 Jah Shaka Music). Recorded in Jamaica. Bass, Hughie Issachar, Shaka; Drums, Errol Drummie, Wazair (Black Brother); Effects, Shaka; Lead Guitar, Hughie Issachar, Tony Benjamin; Mastered By, John Hassall; Melodica, Hughie Issachar; Mixed by, Jah Shaka, Neil Frazer (Professor); Organ, Errol Drummie, Wazair; Percussion, Bongos, Dan, Shaka Joseph, Wazair; Piano, Dudley, Shaka, Wazair, Produced by Jah Shaka; Rhythm Guitar, Hughie Issachar, Tony Benjamin; Xylophone, Joseph. 4:46


9. Mad Professor, “Beyond The Realms Of Dub” from Beyond The Realms Of Dub (Dub Me Crazy! The Second Chapter) (1982 Ariwa). Produced by Mad Professor; Bass, drums, piano, Garnett Cross; Organ, Synth, Errol Reid; Percussion – Jah Shaka. 7:13


10.Love Joys, “All I Can Say” from Lovers Rock Reggae Style (1983 Wackies). Recorded in Jamaica. Written by, Vocals, Claudette Brown, Sonia Abel; Backing Band, Wackie's Rhythm Force; Bass, Jah T.;Bass, Guitar, Jerry Harris; Bass Keyboards, Clive Hunt; Drums, Clive Plummer, Fabian Cooke Engineer, Levy, Barnes, Delahaye; Executive-Producer, Lloyd & Lloyd Prod. Inc.; Guitar, Keyboards, Barry V.; Horns, Rolando Alphonso; Keyboards, Owen Stewart; Percussion, Ras Menilik; Producer, Bullwackie. 8:33


11.Love Joys, “One Draw” from Lovers Rock Reggae Style (1983 Wackies). Recorded in Jamaica. Written by, Vocals, Claudette Brown, Sonia Abel; Backing Band, Wackie's Rhythm Force; Bass, Jah T.;Bass, Guitar, Jerry Harris; Bass Keyboards, Clive Hunt; Drums, Clive Plummer, Fabian Cooke Engineer, Levy, Barnes, Delahaye; Executive-Producer, Lloyd & Lloyd Prod. Inc.; Guitar, Keyboards, Barry V.; Horns, Rolando Alphonso; Keyboards, Owen Stewart; Percussion, Ras Menilik; Producer, Bullwackie. 7:21


12.Jah Shaka, “Zion Chant Dub” from Commandments Of Dub II (1984 Jah Shaka Music). Produced, Arranged by Jah Shaka; Synthesizer Mark Victor; Bass, Byron Duce, Ras Elroy; Bongos, Brother Joseph; Drums, Errol The General, Jah Bunny; Guitar, Mike Dorane, Tony Benjamin; Mastered By Felicity Hassell, John Hassell; Mixed By Mikey Campbell; Percussion, Jah Bunny, Shaka, Norman Grant; Piano, Organ Sgt. Pepper. 4:55


13.Jah Shaka, “Roaring Dub” from Commandments Of Dub II (1984 Jah Shaka Music). Produced, Arranged by Jah Shaka; Synthesizer Mark Victor; Bass, Byron Duce, Ras Elroy; Bongos, Brother Joseph; Drums, Errol The General, Jah Bunny; Guitar, Mike Dorane, Tony Benjamin; Mastered By Felicity Hassell, John Hassell; Mixed By Mikey Campbell; Percussion, Jah Bunny, Shaka, Norman Grant; Piano, Organ Sgt. Pepper. 4:03


14.Wayne Smith, “Under Me Sleng Teng” from Sleng Teng (1982 Greensleeves). Recorded in Jamaica. Musicians, Wycliffe "Steely" Johnson, Cleveland "Clevie" Browne, Super Power All-Stars*, Wayne Smith; Producer, Arranger Prince, Jammy. 4:07


15.Prince Jammy, “Synchro Start” from Computerised Dub (1986 Greensleeves). Recorded in Jamaica. Performers, Steelie & Cleavie, Super Power All-Stars, Wayne Smith; Producer, arranger, Prince Jammy. 2:09


16.Prince Jammy, “Interface” from Computerised Dub (1986 Greensleeves). Recorded in Jamaica. Performers, Steelie & Cleavie, Super Power All-Stars, Wayne Smith; Producer, arranger, Prince Jammy. 2:59


17.Jah Shaka All Stars, Ites Green & Gold” from Jah Shaka Presents Vivian Jones Featuring The Fasimbas, Jah Shaka All Stars ‎– Jah Works (1987 Jah Shaka Music).Producer, Bass, Arranged By, Mixed By, Composed By, Jah Shaka; Bass, Jerry Lions; Bass, Organ, Piano, Synthesizer, Guitar, Black Steel; Bongos, Percussion, The Fasimbas; Drums, Drumton; Mixing, Calvin; Recording Engineer, Leon Marsh; Guitar, Jerry Lions; Piano, Organ, Synthesizer, Gregory; Synthesizer, Organ, Piano, Pepper; Vocals, Vivian Jones; Vocals [Background], Sis Nya. 5:01


18.Steely & Clevie, “At The Top” from At the Top (1988 Black Solidarity). Recorded in Jamaica. Arranged By, Musician, Programmed By Steely & Clevie; Engineer, Bobby Digital, Chris Lane, Dave Kelly, Patrick Ayton, Paul Davidson, Anthony Kelly; Mixed By D. Kelly, P. Davidson; Producer, Ossie Thomas, Phillip Morgan; Saxophone, Dean Fraser; Trumpet, David Madden. 4:01


Background music:

  • Derrick & The Crystalites, “Dubbing the Chariot” from Derrick Harriott Presents Scrub A Dub Reggae (1974 Crystal Records). Recorded and mixed in Jamaica. Engineer, Brother George; Produced and written by Derrick Harriott. 3:57

  • Derrick & The Crystalites, “Medley (Train To Herbsville & Crash Dub)” from Derrick Harriott Presents Scrub A Dub Reggae (1974 Crystal Records). Recorded and mixed in Jamaica. Engineer, Brother George; Produced and written by Derrick Harriott. 3:05



Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.


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NOISE AND NOTATIONS

Electronic and Experimental Music

Notes on the development and continuing history of electronic music, its creators, and the technology.