Sound System Revival

Dub Stuy launch party. Brooklyn, October 2012.

October saw the American dub-reggae-based sound-system scene get its profile raised with the launch party for Dub-Stuy Records, the Brooklyn label launched by Quoc “Q-Mastah” Pham’s Sound Liberation Front crew. But as Vice tech-site Motherboard notes, the party was really centered around the debut of the deluxe 15,000-watt sound system that SLF has spent the past year building and tweaking.

As the video below shows, it’s a rig that both merits a U-Haul and easily handles the bass genres unleashed on it during that night by local roots-dub selector Dave Hahn of Dub is a Weapon, U.S. dubsteppers Joe Nice and Double Tiger of True Nature, and outernational tropicalistas like Matt Shadetek and Atropolis from the Dutty Artz crew, with original U.K. sound-system MC Brother Culture on the mic.

The origins of sound system praxis in Jamaica starting in the 1950s was mostly about ghetto combat. For a generation, crews brought their engineer-crafted speaker boxes into local halls and wired them up to face each other in battle, with exclusive dubplates on hand and a well-spoken MC on the mic, hyping the crowd to declare their sound the champion sound, ie the loudest and bassiest with the best tunes.



But as those origins have faded into history (and as music-nerd budgets have shrunken), dubwise DJ crews across the world have come to rely on mass-manufactured in-house club sound systems to present their material, while harkening back to the olden days by simply calling themselves “sound systems” or “sounds.” In a way, this has rendered “sound system” an item of nostalgia to be revived on a rarified basis. The powerful, wood-finished 12-box system that Pham and co. have put together represents the best in subversive craft—a premium work of art that takes intense labor to assemble and directly channels the mood of its environment.

 Ron Nachmann.

Photograph courtesy of Dub-Stuy Records.

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