Episode XXX: Dub Mix

Episode XXX : Dub Mix (Click link to hear the program)

The term “dub” has many meanings. A dub is most simply a copy of an existing recording. In Jamaican slang, it’s an erotic dance, and this double meaning is exploited shamelessly by dub musicians and producers. Some believe that the term came to represent the particular sonic qualities of dub music through the Jamaican patois word “duppie,” which translates to “ghost,” a meaning supported by groups such as Burning Spear, who named the dub version of their album, Marcus Garvey, a masterpiece in its own right, Garvey’s Ghost. Lee “Scratch” Perry once famously stated that dub is “the ghost in [him] coming through.”

Dub can be defined most clearly by its skeletal, stripped down aesthetic, in which a pre-existing reggae song is stripped of its vocals, horns, and sound effects to reveal the negative space between the two most fundamental components of the reggae sound–drums and baseline. Occasionally a producer will mix in fragments of the vocal track, but often with heavy reverb, panoramic delay, and echo. It all came about when a few sound engineers at Treasure Isle Records in Kingston, Jamaica were experimenting with the levels of a pre-existing reggae song, and, accidentally removing the vocals, invented dub.

This minimalistic aesthetic of drum and bass has been appropriated by countless musicians in different genres. In the second half of this mix you will hear a few of examples of British music which takes the simplistic, consistent rhythmic qualities of dub and adds them into the equation of experimental music (Mark Stewart and the Maffia), trip-hop (Massive Attack), punk rock (The Clash), and modern minimal electronica (Burial).

While listening to this episode, remember that while reggae is renowned for its upbeat, perennially positive vibe even while discussing the ills of contemporary society and the deep scars left by colonialism and slavery, dub tends to sonically explores a darker, more ghostly side of the reggae paradigm. The message is often anti-colonial or anti-imperialist, and makes frequent reference to influential Pan-African leaders such as Marcus Garvey.

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The playlist:

1. Ali Baba Riddim Dub – John Holt, King Tubby, & Augustus Pablo

2. Dub Along – Lee “Scratch” Perry & The Upsetters

3. Fisherman – The Congos

4. Seconds Away – Scientist

5. The Height of Dub – Tommy McCook & The Agrovators

6. Middle East Dub – The Skatalites

7. Reflections – BlackBeard

8. Jerusalem – Mark Stewart and the Maffia

9. (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais – The Clash

10. Five Man Army – Massive Attack (and Horace Andy)

11. Music Dub – Horace Andy

12. Distant Lights – Burial

13. Many Moods of Coxsone – Sir Coxsone Sound

14. Farther East of Jack – Burning Spear