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Exploring The Roots Of Dance: Part 2 – Dub

Last week we shared the first instalment of our newest blog series, documenting some of the most significant cultural movements in music. This series is just a sneak peek of our Production Analysis module, a part of the BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering degree course. We’ll be covering everything from the roots of Disco to Sample Culture, DIY Culture, Hip-Hop and more, discussing their effect on music culture and electronic music as we understand it today. In this edition, we take a look at the godfather of all things bass – Dub.

Dub was instrumental in the evolution of modern Dance culture, being born out of genres like ska, rocksteady and roots. More recent movements such as Drum and Bass, Grime, Techno, Hip-Hop, Jungle and Dubstep owe themselves almost entirely to the founding fathers of Dub. During the 60’s & 70’s a lot of studio engineers began to re-mix B-sides of reggae singles, dropping out the vocals and emphasising the instrumental texture of the song. These ‘Versions’ allowed DJs to “toast”, or MC, over the record at local dance halls. The first Dub singles began to appear in the early 70’s, the first track of this nature being Dub pioneer King Tubby’s ‘Psalm Of Dub’. Tubby had accidentally discovered the appeal of stripping back a song’s vocal track and chopping elements in and out of the mix. In 1973 Tubby partnered with legendary producer Lee “Scratch” Perry to produce the first Dub album, Blackboard Jungle. It paved the way for the genre to expand rapidly, giving birth to a whole generation of Dub innovators. One of the most notable, Augustus Pablo, brought the melodica to dub in his seminal ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’, engineered by King Tubby.

Dub was originally a part of the 70’s sound clash culture in Jamaica, where two or more sound systems (such as Tubby’s, Coxsone, Studio 1, Channel One and Trojan) would compete against each other for top ranking. Dub’s rise was meteoric and soon took over in Jamaican dance halls. Producers, engineers & musicians like Lee ‘Scratch Perry’, Augustus Pablo and King Tubby used relatively limited facilities to cut their ‘versions’ or Dubs of more commercially successful reggae or rocksteady tracks which ‘Selectors’ would use in their sound clashes. Musicians like these would use a mixing console to employ a variety of sound manipulation techniques – typically heavy reverb, echo and delay – on certain elements of the track whilst dropping instruments and vocals in and out of the mix, creating heavily layered soundscapes driven by a warm, prominent, rolling bass line. The mixing modules on our BA (Hons) Music Production and Sound Engineering degree will give you the opportunity to apply these techniques to your productions on a full 48 channel SSL mixing console, allowing you to cut elements in and out of your tracks and add effects to sounds on the fly.

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s legendary Black Ark Studios

During the 1970’s Dub was also on the rise in Britain. The arrival of ships such as The Windrush in the 1940s brought with them hundreds of West-Indian immigrants and an influx of Caribbean culture to the streets of London. These immigrants mainly settled in Brixton, South London and Ladbroke Grove in West London, the latter being the site of Notting Hill Carnival – a celebration of West-Indian culture. It was at Notting Hill Carnival that the public was really exposed to the Sound System for the first time, as Selectors and DJs set up on street corners. Sound Systems played a variety of different music, ranging from Ska and Rocksteady to Dub and the Rastafari-inspired Roots, depending on a Selectors taste. This helped bring Dub into focus in the UK and by the 1980s a whole new generation of British-born Dub musicians had burst onto the scene. Producers like Mikey Dread, Jah Shaka and Mad Professor made the UK a new centre for Dub Production. Experimental Producers like Mikey Dread and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry went on to work with bands like The Clash, spreading Dub’s influence even further afield and spawning more subgenres.

Notting Hill Carnival in 1973.

From then on Dub’s influence was worldwide. It radically affected electronic music, engineers like King Tubby were some of the first people to really push the boundaries in terms of mixing in more surreal ways, remixing and adding heavy effects to tracks – something easily recognisable in modern electronic music. Over the years Dub and the culture associated with it has influenced genres from Techno, Punk, Trip-Hop and Ambient to Hip-Hop, Jungle and Dubstep. It has firmly withstood the test of time, with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and the legendary Saxon Sound System, to name a few, still touring. Not only that, but the 21st century has seen a whole new wave of young Dub enthusiasts and Sound Systems in the UK and worldwide, such as Mungo’s Hi-Fi and Lionpulse Sound, joining veterans like Aba Shanti-I and Channel One. The scene is still very much alive.  

At Point Blank, we go over all of the content you would need to cover to employ key musical and production techniques to your own music, whether you want to make Dub, Hip-Hop, Jungle, Techno or anything else for that matter. Our BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering Degree can provide you with the tools necessary to take your productions above and beyond. With modules on Sound design, Mixing, DAWs, Composition, Djing, Music Business, Engineering, Mastering and more you will leave us overflowing with knowledge, kick starting your career in music and leaving you in good stead moving forwards. Using our London studios incredible facilities, you will have access to all sorts of hardware, from synthesisers and samplers to full recording booths. For a virtual tour, click here.

Studio 1 at Point Blank London, featuring a 48-Channel SSL mixing console.

For further information on our degree course or any of our courses, contact our Course Advisors here or call 0207 729 488 or, if you’re in the USA, give us a call on 323 282 7660. If you’re calling internationally, use the number +44 20 7729 4884. Want to see firsthand the amazing facilities offered by Point Blank? You can book a space on one of our studio tours by heading here.

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