Around the explosive, political and musically transitional period of the late ’60s, America, Jamaica and England were affected by a new production technique that first reared its head in Jamaican studios. Special effects units like delays, echoes, and reverbs had gained popularity through producers like Osbourne (King Tubby) Ruddock, who owned a sound system and cut acetates at Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle Studio. By accidentally leaving out parts of the vocal mix to a song, Ruddock stumbled upon a new formula that offered more options for performing studio magic. He took this new mix with him to a dance, and played the recognizable version first. Then he played his ‘accident,’ and the dub mix was born. Not only did he blow the people away that night; he ran back into the studio to do it again.

In the 1970s when a single was released, it was often answered by another record that gave the second artists’ commentary on the first record. Sometimes, many spin-off versions came out of this technique, known as toasting. This form of rapping caught on later in the United States via the concrete jungles of New York City. On many Rap mixtapes and CDs, artists would modify toasting by ‘dissing’ each other when they had beef among themselves. Though some of the product was hard to find, fans ate up the resulting, often-exclusive releases anyway. Toasting utilized catch-phrases that incorporated the sharp Jamaican dialect–it added a rhythmically expressive, deep melodic quality to Reggae music. When many of my fellow Jamaicans speak, their accents often make them sound like the music: quite rhythmic, quite expressive, quite melodious, quite harmonic, and quite textural. Some popular Jamaican phrases follow:

Babylon – hard living, trouble My yute – homeboy

Bwoyfren’ – boyfriend N’yam – eat food

Cool runnin’s – it’s all good ‘Ole on a likkle – wait just a minute

Cho’ – never mind Oonu – you all

Diy’yah – over here Pickney – children

Frock – a dress Redi dress – showing out

Is fi’ mi – it’s mine Roll tide – keep it moving

Good good – that’s fine Selectah – a DJ

Gweh – get out of my face S’mody – somebody

Gwine – going Soccamibassa – dressed poorly

Gyalfren’ – girlfriend Tegereg – troublesome; a P.I.T.A.

Leggo beas’ – wild, unruly Tump you – hit you

Maahgah – skinny Whe’ mek? – why?

Dialects of Jamaican ‘patois’ can be spoken fast, slow, or moderately. Some of the diction is easier to understand than others because it may depend upon which region of Jamaica one is from. Some people may have emotional inflections in their speech patterns, while others may have musical ones. One thing for sure is that unless you can’t hear, you will definitely know it when a person from the islands is talking or singing…’yah, mon.’ But even without vocals, this underground Dub music of Jamaica was still shaping itself into a more defined entity. By 1973, ‘King Tubby’ Ruddock was experimenting with instrumental versions of songs by manipulating sounds on the tracks. His equipment contained a disc-cutter, mixing console, tape machines and effects units. He worked with the top producers on the island to compose and release the dub album “Blackboard Jungle.”

Instrumental versions of songs soon showed up on the B-sides of singles, called ‘dub mixes.’ Whether tracks were abruptly punched-in with buttons or smoothly faded-in with the sliding fader, they were still given a heavy dose of sound effects. In some cases, interesting effects were created by running a looped tape over the heads of a tape machine. To facilitate this method, a section of the tape was identified for ‘surgery’ or ‘splicing.’ Splicing occurs by putting the section of tape on a ‘chopping block’ with vertical and diagonal grooves etched into it. The grooves guided a razor blade as it sliced the tape at the beginning and end of the section to be cut. The two ends of the isolated tape were then taped together and run through the tape rollers, which passed the tape over the three heads (erase, record and playback) in a repeated, looped manner.

The playback head picked up the signal and played it till the ‘stop’ button was depressed. If the splice wasn’t precise, this procedure could become tedious and time-consuming. This method may not have caught on in the fast-paced world of ‘put it together quick’ Rap music, but sampling sure did. Electronically-made sounds and sampling went on to become worldwide phenomena. Like tape looping, Jamaicans used sampling to create new music such as Dancehall Reggae. You’ll want to see the chapter “What Makes Music” in the forthcoming “Musicology 102” for more on sampling. If the info in that chapter tweaks your interest, we’ll be covering more studio techniques that you may find interesting in the sequel to that book, “Musicology 103.”

Dub remixes were released as a standard configuration by the mid ’70s, and DJ’s constantly played them in the clubs. The open relationship between the United States and Jamaica allowed new styles and trends to drift between the two cultures. By the end of the decade, Rap music made its introduction by creatively looping drum and bass lines with a rhythmic (non-melodic) vocal track and new sounds. Rap brought showmanship to a new level by using the techniques of Jamaican Dancehalls and sound systems, courtesy of innovative DJs like Kool Herc. In case you may have forgotten, we opened up the book chapter by talking about the DJ who brought thunder to the clubs. ‘Big ups’ to these unsung heroes–they changed the era’s musical protocol by breaking down music and remixing it. In America, R&B, Funk, Jazz and Dance music were also broken down and rebuilt; adding anticipation, excitement and exhilaration to physical activity (dancing) and other types of live performances.

By yanam49

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