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<nettime> Sound System Politics: Bass Culture
Paul D. Miller on Thu, 13 Apr 2006 22:48:14 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Sound System Politics: Bass Culture


These are the liner notes to a Box Set CD I've done with Trojan Records.

Trojan Records is a legendary record label
started by Arthur "Duke" Reid in Kingston,
Jamaica in the late 1960's. It's archive
encompasses some of the most renowned Jamaican
artists in history, and the box set I've compiled
for Trojan Records is a slice of material from
their catalog. It's a double CD with out takes
and extremely rare versions of Jamaican material
from the last 40 years.

Paul aka Dj Spooky

Liner notes for Trojan records:

In Fine Style: Dj Spooky Presents 50,000 Volts of Trojan Records

Heel up, Wheel up, come back, rewind: Trojan Records
by Paul D. Miller

When Trojan records asked me to do a "selections"
from their archive, one of the first things that
went through my mind was this: how do you mix a
music that changed the world? It's been about
sixty years since Jamaica has become an
independent country, and it seems like the music
that comes from this tiny island in the Caribbean
is having more of an impact than ever. Trojan
records founder, Arthur "Duke" Reid, used to
drive "Trojan" trucks around Kingston with huge
speakers blasting his soundsystem, and that's the
urban legend of how the name of the soundsystem
cum record label started. "Duke" was a former
policeman, and it comes as no surprise that the
ruff and "rude" sounds of the Kingston
underground were the staple of his sound. Trojan
Ltd. was  car company that made sturdy trucks
that were to become the staple of the colonial
market export of cars. The metaphor of Trojan, a
car company, mapped onto the Greek legend of
Troy, is as fitting as any fiction. The Trojans
of ancient Greece were a royal line founded by
Zeus and Electra, and if the myths of the past
are any thing to keep in mind when we think of
Jamaica, you can see the update: Trojan horses,
stealth units, sound systems that were able to be
in plain site, while changing the cultural
operating system o fthe entire world.

Soundsystems were portable discos, mobile
platforms for different styles. They were the
preferred method of spreading a style because
they were nomadic in a way that the monumental
clubs of the U.S. and U.K. couldn't dream of.
=46rom the vantage point of the 21st century, they
can only be viewed as the predecessor of the
ipod. Portability, quickness, stealth copies of
hit songs, "versions" - all of this leads us to
the idea of remix culture and "mash-ups" that are
the digital world inheritance from these analog
media. With the material that I selected for this
compilation, I wanted to avoid the obvious songs
of Jamaican history, and focus on the more
esoteric materials that collectors and producers
could relate to. For example, when the Prodigy
sampled Max Romeo and The Upsetter's 1976 "I
Chase The Devil (Lucifer)" I thought it would be
a good start to think about how the same sample
popped up on Kayne West's production of Jay Z's
hit "Lucifer" - I think you'll relate to the out
take version I included in the compilation with
Lee "Scratch" Perry's version "Disco Devil." With
people like Lee "Scratch" Perry and his staple of
singers like Susan Cadogan (a former librarian!),
you can hear the heat of a Kingston nite in songs
like her hit "Fever" and her 1974 smash single
"Hurt So Good" a cover version of Millie
Jackson's song by the same name. When you hear
Copyright law in Jamaica was never tight -
everything was a copy of something else, and you
can think of the whole culture as a shareware
update, a software source for the rest of the
world to upload. And if you stretch your ears,
you can see the future of digital music in the
drum machine riddim of "Sleng Teng" - a rhythm
made at King Jammy's on a Casio MT-40 home
keyboard. Just think: reggae is the expression of
a nation under immense pressure - from IMF loans,
from colonialism's after affects, the falling
price of bauxite and its relationship to a Third
World economy based solely on natural products
like sugar cane and bananas=8A Jamaica created its
own economy in sound with the relentless bass
pressure of an island where music, and access to
the right styles and sounds could make or break
your career. The pressure to find the right
rhythms created a hothouse of innovation. Can you
imagine the world without Bob Marley - well, he
used to screen records as a clerk for Coxsone
soundsystem. He'd literally screen through the
sounds of the current day to tell Coxsone which
records to copy! Today with artists like
Matisyahu in Brooklyn doing Hasidic Jewish
versions of reggae, to stuff like Japan's
"Ranking Taxi" to all sorts of stuff coming out
of Brazil, India, Tunisia, Germany, France=8A the
list goes on. You get the idea. Before hip-hop
was global, the Jamaican scene had somehow, on
the down-low, followed the idea of diaspora. The
logic of diaspora - of taking music from a region
and spreading it across the world - is reggae's
core essence, and when I put this mix together, I
wanted to go from my downtown NYC to London and
Kingston, to parts of the world I'd forgotten and
the most distant places of my record collection.
I used to go to Jamaica every summer when I was a
kid, and some of my earliest memories of visiting
relatives and friends, cousins and uncles and
aunts, was of my mother and sister reminding me
of the links between the island and America. I
want you to feel history when you listen to this
mix and think about how sampling, making new
music from old, came from the idea of versioning
- think about the sound system battles of Duke
Reid, Sir Coxsone, Prince Buster, as a forerunner
to MC and Dj battles in hip-hop, and think about
Kool Herc's sound system as a stepping stone for
"Planet Rock." Just think about how strange the
world would be if we didn't have this music of
the islands. It just makes you remember that this
whole planet is just an island too.  This mix is
a mixture of the old, the new, and the in
between, and that's kind of the point. Dj culture
in the 21st century is as much about the sound
system as the playlist, the Ipod revolution has
brought us back to the era of the single, and the
album as many of us knew it when we were kids in
the ancient late 1980's has come back - in the
form of a downloadable media file. I wanted to
make a mix that reflected that: old and new, if
there's one thing that reggae has told us, it's
all about that pressure drop! Enjoy!!!
Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid NYC 2006





CD 1
1. Disco Devil by Lee "Scratch" Perry
2. Lama Lava by Augustus Pablo
3. 007 Shanty Town  by Desmond Dekker
4. Funky, Funky Reggae by Dave & Ansel Collins
5. Shades Of Hudson by Dennis Alcapone & Kieth Hudson
6. Come Together by The Israelites
7. Old Fashion Way by Ken Booth and Kieth Hudson
8. Rain by Bruce Ruffin
9. Your Ace From Outer Space by U-Roy
10. Sweet Like Candy by Winston Williams
11. The Rooster by Tommy McCook & His Band
12. The Trial Of Pama Dice by Lloyd/Dice/Mum
13. Daughter Whole Lotta Sugar Down Deh by Jah Berry
14. Fever	by Susan Cadogan
15. Skinhead Moonstomp by Symarip
16. Morning Sun by Al Barry & The Cimarons
17. Save Me by Bob Andy & Marcia Griffiths
18. Rudy A Message To You by Dandy Livingstone
19. James Bond by The Selecter
20 Rough Rider (Live) by The Special Beat
21. Ghost Town (Live) by The Specials
22. Mirror In The Bathroom (Live) by The Special Beat
23. The Russians Are Coming (Take Five) by Val Bennett



CD 2:

1.The Great Musical Battle by Derrick Morgan
2. Reform Institute by Gregory Isaac's All Stars
3. Popcorn by The Upsetters
4. Brother Noah by The Shadows
5. King Tubby's Explosion Dub by King Tubby
6. Dynamic Fashion Way by U-Roy
7. A Yah We Deh by Barrington Levy




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