It is now easy to enjoy a musical night out every night of the week in Kingston. I don’t mean stage shows with reggae and dancehall stars, or high-priced performances at exclusive night clubs – they happen too infrequently, and at a cost not always within reach of music fans’ pockets.
I refer to the rising popularity of a new breed of free, open-air music events featuring sound systems playing Dub & Rockers – a genre of music with heavy emphasis on drum and bass that was popular in the late 60s and early 70s, when Jamaica’s reggae made the world get ‘irie’. Some of the featured artists of that era include Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Augustos Pablo, Jah Shaka, Bunny Brown, King Tubbys, Black Uhuru, Mikey Dread and many others whose music filled the dance floors of that era one generation ago.
By the time the Monday Blues have worn off and the work desk has cleared somewhat by Tuesday, you can begin your musical nights on Wednesdays at DUBWISE, a session held at the popular Whitebones fish restaurant on Constant Spring Road, where plates of steamed fish and curried lobster are as much a part of the night’s fun as the steady pounding of Dub Music.
On Thursday nights the adventurous venture into Tavern, a small community nestled on the banks of the Hope River just above Papine. There, popular artist and DJ Exile Di Brave hosts VINYL THURSDAYS, a session of exclusively vinyl platters dating back to reggae’s 70s and 80s. With the lights of the riverside community as a twinkling backdrop and a cool breeze blowing through the ackee trees, the event is a favourite stop for Rastas of all ages, both from the Tavern community and visitors, such as a Japanese group led by ISHI whose selection and Patois rap are pure Jamaican roots.
On Friday nights you can stop by veteran guitarist Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith’s INNA DI YARD, where the dub is live with any number of musicians and artists stopping by to lend their arts to the session. On the same night DUB SCHOOL is in session at Veggie Meals On Wheels, the city’s leading Ital restaurant nestled in a corner of Regal Plaza, Cross Roads. VMOW has its own faithful group of supporters who regularly patronize the restaurant, so irie friends are always around to nice up the vibe.
Definitely spend Saturdays at ROCKERS REVALUTION, that takes place outside Kairo Soul Wholesale at Mary Browns Corner, Constant Spring Road. There reggae artist Rseenal D’Artillery and his partner Marianita Sakiya turn their shop into a music venue every Saturday with dub music and live performances by a roster of upcoming artists such as members of his performing group New Reggae Generation (N.R.G.) Makonnen and Iyah Gift. Producers Jordan Armond and Blaise Davis bring their original Natural High Music dubs to the night, while Supa Nova Sound provides the music backing for the performing artists, who have included Original Mikey Dread, Jahson, Dexta Malawi and Exile Di Brave. Kairo Soul Wholesale does a regular and brisk business inside the shop while patrons at the club and restaurant in the plaza sit outside and enjoy the evening’s music and performances.
The ‘Pappa’ of the nightly dub music sessions is Sunday night’s DUB CLUB, hosted by Ras Gabre Selassie at his beautifully decorated venue high up in the Jacks Hills overlooking the lights of Kingston spread out below. Every Sunday night the road is lined with parked cars and the venue packed with the beautiful and irie Kingston bright set, as well as visiting reggae fans from around the world. It’s at Dub Club that you will bump into the new popular young artists like Chronixx or Jesse Royal, relaxing from their summer tour dates with friends they knew before they became world famous.
The return to Dub & Rockers music is a recent trend, that highlights one of the many evolutions Jamaican music has undergone since it’s beginning. Asked to explain the popularity of Dub & Rockers, none of the artists involved have an answer. “Just time,” said one. “It’s original and people always like the original,” said another. But another explains: “Rockers was part of the original sound system culture that helped to create and solidify the sound system culture of Jamaica. It was never gone, it never died in Europe. It’s just that the need for conscious music has grown stronger and conscious people want somewhere to go out at night too.”
Meanwhile, patrons say they ‘love the vibe’ of the Dub & Rockers sessions that offer natural juices, ital food and soy ice-cream refreshments, hand-made craft items like the coconut shell jewelry by Trench Town Cultural Yard or the fashions by Zion Ites. It’s a welcome peaceful vibe, with the sound systems, artists and patrons supporting each other’s events. Pick your night to enjoy some Dub & Rockers, old school style.