Dub

Dub is a genre of music which grew out of reggae music in the 1960s, and is commonly considered a subgenre, though it has developed to extend beyond the scope of reggae. Music in this genre consists predominantly of instrumental remixes of existing recordings and is achieved by significantly manipulating and reshaping the recordings, usually by removing the vocals from an existing music piece, emphasizing the drum and bassparts (this stripped down track is sometimes referred to as a ‘riddim‘). Other techniques include dynamically adding extensive echoreverb, panoramic delay, and occasional dubbing of vocal or instrumental snippets from the original version or other works.

 

Dub was pioneered by Osbourne “King Tubby” RuddockLee “Scratch” PerryErrol Thompson and others in the late 1960s. Similar experiments with recordings at the mixing desk outside of the dancehall environment were also done by producers Clive Chin and Herman Chin Loy. These producers, especially Ruddock and Perry, looked upon the mixing desk as an instrument, manipulating tracks to come up with something new and different. Dub has influenced many genres of music, including rock (most significantly the sub-genre of post-punk and other kinds of punkpophip hop,  disco, and later house,  technoambient, and trip hop. Dub has become a basis for the genres of jungle/drum and bass anddubstep.

 

The verb dub is defined as making a copy of one recording to another. The process of using previously recorded material, modifying the material, and subsequently recording it to a new master mix, in effect doubling or “dubbing” the material, was utilized by Jamaican producers when making dubs. The term dub had multiple meanings in Jamaica around the time of the music’s origin. The most frequent meanings referred to either a form of erotic dance or sexual intercourse; such usage is frequently present in names of reggae songs, for instance, of The Silvertones‘ “Dub the Pum Pum” (where pum pum is Jamaican slang for female genitalia), Big Joe and Fay’s “Dub a Dawta” (dawta is Jamaican slang for girlfriend). I-Roy‘s “Sister Maggie Breast” features several references on sex:

I man a-dub it on the side
Say little sister you can run but you can’t hide
Slip you got to slide you got to open your crotches wide
Peace and love abide

Some musicians, for instance Bob Marley and The Wailers, had alternative meanings for the term dub. In concert, the order “dub this one!” meant “put an emphasis on bass and drums”. Drummer Sly Dunbar points to a similar interpretation, relating the term dubwise to using only drums and bass. Another possible source was the term dub plate, as suggested by Augustus Pablo. John Corbett has suggested that dub could derive from duppie, a Jamaican patois word for ghost, as referenced by Burning Spear having named the dub version of his Marcus Garveyalbum Garvey’s Ghost, and by Lee Perry stating that dub is “the ghost in me coming out”

 

Dub music is characterized by a “version” or “double” of an existing song, often instrumental, using B-sides of 45 RPM records and typically emphasizing the drums and bass for a sound popular in local sound systems. The instrumental tracks are typically drenched in sound effects such as echoreverberation, with instruments and vocals dropping in and out of the mix. Another hallmark of the dub sound is the prominent use of bass guitar. The music sometimes features other noises, such as birds singing, thunder and lightning, water flowing, and producers shouting instructions at the musicians. It can be further augmented by live DJs. The many-layered sounds with varying echoes and volumes are often said to create soundscapes, or sound sculptures, drawing attention to the shape and depth of the space between sounds as well as to the sounds themselves. There is usually a distinctly organic feel to the music, even though the effects are electronically created.

 

Often these tracks are used for “toasters” rapping heavily rhymed and alliterative lyrics. These are called “DJ Versions”. In forms of sound system based reggae, the performer using a microphone is referred to as the “DJ” or “deejay” (where in other genres, this performer might be termed the “MC”, meaning “Master of Ceremonies”, or alternately, the later developed slang terms: “Microphone Commander” or “Mic Control”), and the person choosing the music and operating the turntables is called the “selector” (sometimes referred to as the DJ in other genres).

 

A major reason for producing multiple versions was economic; a record producer could use a recording he owned to produce numerous versions from a single studio session. A version was also an opportunity for a producer or remix engineer to experiment and express their more creative side. The version was typically the B-side of a single, and used for experimenting and providing something for DJs to talk over, while the A-side was more often dedicated to the original vocal-oriented track. In the 1970s, LP albums of dub tracks were produced, often simply the dub version of an existing vocal LP, but sometimes a selection of original instrumental tracks produced in dub style for which no vocals existed.

 

Dub music and toasting introduced a new era of creativity in reggae music. From their beginning, toasting and dub music developed together and influenced each other. The development of sound system culture influenced the development of studio techniques in Jamaica, and the earliest DJs, including Duke Reid and Prince Buster among others, were toasting over instrumental versions of reggae and developing instrumental reggae music.

 

n 1968, Kingston, Jamaica sound system operator Rudolph “Ruddy” Redwood went to Duke Reid‘s Treasure Isle studio to cut a one-off dub plate of The Paragons hit “On The Beach”. Engineer Byron Smith left the vocal track out by accident, but Redwood kept the result and played it at his next dance with his deejay Wassy toasting over the rhythm. The instrumental record excited the people at the sound system and they started singing lyrics of the vocal track over the instrumental. The invention was a success, and Ruddy needed to play the instrumental continuously for half an hour to an hour that day. The next day Bunny Lee who was a witness to this, told King Tubby that they needed to make some more instrumental tracks, as “them people love” them, and they dubbed out vocals from “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by Slim Smith. Because of King Tubby’s innovative approach, the resulting instrumental track was more than just a track without a voice – King Tubby interchanged the vocals and the instrumental, playing the vocals first, then playing the riddim, then mixing them together. From this point on, they started to call such tracks “versions”. Another source puts 1967 and not 1968 as the initial year of the practice of putting instrumental versions of reggae tracks to the B-side of records.

 

At Studio One the initial motivation to experiment with instrumental tracks and studio mixing was correcting the riddim until it had a “feel”, so a singer, for instance, could comfortably sing over it.

 

Another reason to experiment with mixing was rivalry among sound systems. Sound systems’ sound men wanted the tracks they played at dances to be slightly different each time, so they would order numerous copies of the same record from a studio, each with a different mix.

 

By 1973, through the efforts of several independent and competitive innovators, engineers, and producers, instrumental reggae “versions” from various studios had evolved into “dub” as a sub-genre of reggae.

 

Errol Thompson engineered the first strictly instrumental reggae album, entitled The Undertaker by Derrick Harriott and the Crystallites. This album was released in 1970. This innovative album credits “Sound Effects” to Derrick Harriott.

 

In 1973, at least three producers, Lee “Scratch” Perry and the Aquarius studio engineer/producer team of Herman Chin Loy and Errol Thompson simultaneously recognized that there was an active market for this new “dub” sound and consequently they started to release the first albums strictly consisting of dub. Lee Perry released Blackboard Jungle Dub in the spring of 1973. It is considered a landmark recording of this genre.

 

In 1974, Keith Hudson released his classic Pick a Dub, widely considered to have been the first deliberately thematic dub album, with tracks specifically mixed in the dub style for the purpose of appearing together on an LP, and King Tubby released his two debut albums At the Grass Roots of Dub and Surrounded by the Dreads at the National Arena.

 

Dub has continued to evolve, its popularity waxing and waning with changes in musical fashion. Almost all reggae singles still carry an instrumental version on the B-side and these are still used by the sound systems as a blank canvas for live singers and DJs.

 

In 1981 the Japanese band Mute Beat would create dub music using live instruments such as trumpets rather than studio equipment, and became a precursor to the acid jazzambient and trip hop music genres. They collaborated with numerous Jamaican artists such as King Tubby, Lee Perry and Gladstone Anderson amongst others and became a large influence upon future dub musicians.

 

In the 1980s, Britain became a new centre for dub production with Mikey DreadMad Professor and Jah Shaka being the most famous. It was also the time when dub made its influence known in the work of harder edged, experimental producers such as Mikey Dread with UB40 and The Clash, Adrian Sherwood and the roster of artists on his On-U Sound label. Many bands characterized as post-punk were heavily influenced by dub. Better-known bands such as The PoliceThe Clash and UB40 helped popularize Dub, with UB40s Present Arms In Dub album being the first dub album to hit the UK top 40.

 

Side by side with Reggae at this time (early 1980s) running B side dub mixes, American post-disco/R&B 12 inch singles started to arrive with alternative dub mixes (records such as The Peech Boys‘ “Don’t Make Me Wait,” Toney Lee‘s “Reach Up,” and many more artists on labels such as Prelude, RFC, and West End. Often these dub versions raised the beat of the record and made them easier to mix together one after the other, or to pick out key sections to play over other records, heightening the dancefloor effect.

 

From the 1980s forward, dub has been influenced by, and has in turn influenced, technoDubtronica / Dub technojungledrum and bassdubstephouse musicpunk and post-punktrip hop,ambient music, and hip hop, with many electronic dub or dubtronica tracks, as well as Ambient dub, produced by nontraditional rastafarian musicians from these other genres. Musicians such asCulture ClubBill LaswellJah WobbleLeftfieldMassive AttackAlmamegrettaThe ClashBeastie Boys and others demonstrate clear dub influences in their respective genres, and their innovations have in turn influenced the mainstream of the dub genre. In the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia and America, independent record producers continue to produce dub. Before forming The Mars Volta, Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez (members of the post hardcore group At The Drive In), along with friends Ikey Owens and Jeremy Ward, recorded a series of dub albums under the name De Facto. The Polish punk/psychedelic and new wave bands Brygada Kryzys and Republika recorded dub tracks. Yugoslav New Wave outfit Električni Orgazam also experimented with dub music on their album Lišće prekriva Lisabon from year 1982, then bends like Azra, in album Filigranski pločnici which was created also in 1982 and Šarlo Akrobata. Other dub performers include Serbian dub band Black Ark CrewBasque dub band Basque Dub Foundation, and Australian live dub outfit The Sunshine Brothers. In 1987, rock band Soundgarden released a dub version of theOhio Players‘ song “Fopp” alongside a more traditional rock cover of the song. DJs appeared towards the end of the 1990s who specialised in playing music by these musicians, such as the UK’s Unity Dub.

 

Since the inception of dub in the late 1960s, its history has been intertwined with that of the punk rock scene in the UK. The Clash worked on collaborations involving Jamaican dub reggae creators like Lee Scratch Perry (whose “Police & Thieves”, co-written with Junior Murvin, was covered by the Clash on their first album) and Mikey Dread (on the Sandinista album). As well, the English group Ruts DC, a post Malcolm Owen incarnation of the legendary reggae influenced punk group The Ruts, released Rhythm Collision Dub Volume 1 (Roir session), with the expertise of the Mad Professor. Many punk rock bands In the U.S. were exposed to dub via the rasta punk band Bad Brains from D.C., which was established and released their most influential material during the 80s. Dub was adopted by some punk rock groups of the 90s, with bands such as Rancid and NOFX writing original songs in a dub style. Often, bands considered to beska punk play dub influenced songs; one of the first such bands to become popular was Sublime, whose albums featured both dub originals and remixes. They went on to influence more recent American bands such as Rx Bandits and The Long Beach Dub Allstars. In addition, dub influenced some types of pop, including bands such as No Doubt. No Doubt’s second-most recent album, Rock Steady , features an assortment of popular dub sounds like reverb and echoing. As noted by the band themselves, No Doubt is heavily influenced by Jamaican musical aesthetics and production techniques, even recording their Rock Steady album in Kingston, Jamaica, and producing B-sides featuring dub influences on their “Everything In Time B-Sides” album. Some controversy still exists on whether pop-ska bands like No Doubt can regard themselves as a part of dub lineage. Other bands followed in the footsteps of No Doubt, fusing pop-ska and dub influences, such as Save Ferris and Vincent.

 

There are also some British punk bands creating dub music. Capdown released their Civil Disobedients album, featuring the track Dub #1, while Sonic Boom Six and The King Blues take heavy influences from dub, mixing the genre with original punk ethics and attitudes.

 

Traditional dub has survived and some of the originators of dub such as Lee Perry and Mad Professor continue to produce new material. New artists continue to preserve the traditional dub sound, some with slight modifications but with a primary focus on reproducing the original characteristics of the sound in a live environment. Some of those artists include Dubblestandart from Vienna, Austria (who recorded the album “Return from Planet Dub” in collaboration with, and performs live with, Lee Scratch Perry), Liquid Stranger from Sweden, New York City artists including Ticklah, also known as Victor AxelrodVictor RiceEasy Star All-Stars, Dub Trio (who have recorded and performed live with Mike Patton, and are currently touring as the backing band for Matisyahu),Subatomic Sound System (who have remixed material by Lee Scratch Perry and Ari Up), Dub is a WeaponKing Django, Boom One Sound System, Dr. Israel, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squadfrom Rochester, NY, Heavyweight Dub Champion from San Francisco and Colorado, Ott from the UK who has released several influential albums through Twisted Records, Future Pigeon from Los Angeles, German artists like Disrupt and Rootah from the Jahtari label,, Twilight Circus from the Netherlands and Moonlight Dub Experiment from Costa Rica. More eclectic use of dub techniques are apparent in the work of BudNubac, which mixes Cuban bigband with dub techniques. Modern dub producer Ryan Moore has received critical acclaim for his Twilight Circus project.

 

In 2012, Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras went to Jamaica to collaborate with the reggae vocal group The Congos. Together, they released the album Icon Give Thank. Sun Araw’s music is generally considered to fall under the categories of experimental musicpsychedelic rock or drone music. However within the tie-dye, beach fuzz sound of Icon Give Thank, the influences of dub music can be apparent. Araw utilizes musical techniques like looping and sampling, which were pioneered in the 1960’s by Jamaican Dub producers such as Lee “Scratch” Perry and King Tubby. Underneath the dizzying overlap of sounds in Icon Give Thank, one can also hear faded sound clips and lengthy vocal samples of The Congos. In an interview with Tiny Mix Tapes writer M. Hugh Steeply, Sun Araw elaborates on his influences, musical style and heavy use of sampling:

 

“An organ idea from Steve Reich‘s “Four Organs,” or a guitar tone off a Big Star record, or a rhythmic idea from The Pyramids, or something like that becomes the wrapping for the idea that came from basking [in] the glow. It’s important to me that the idea itself comes from beyond all that, but once the idea has been retrieved, it’s a joyful celebration to deck it out in subtle hints and tributes to music, film, any cultural artifacts that I love. Those artifacts get fused with zones you’ve placed them in, and become important, glowing iconography in the mythology, and they help you find your way back there when you want to go.”

 

Sun Araw’s account of the philosophy and drive behind his music seems to echo the process and purpose of Dub (which was originally composed of instrumental remixes and which also served as material for other artists to work with and remix anew, See “Characteristics”). Much like early Dub artists, Sun Araw repurposes sounds, creates timeless soundscapes, and technically manipulates his instruments and electronic equipment. His collaboration with The Congos can be heard as a subtle tribute to Dub, or a representation of Dub’s influence and journey across genres.

 

Dub went on to play a role in inspiring many genres of electronic music, such as dubstep and Oldschool jungle. The name “dubstep” originated from the common use of dub elements fused with2-step garage and because both traditional dub and dubstep are often played at a similar tempo. Jungle, a related genre, originated in the early 1990s when producers of breakbeat hardcore began incorporating dub elements, such as reggae elements and deep basslines that ran at half the speed to the drum track. The more experimental releases of UK garage producers contributed to early dubstep, and sought to incorporate elements of dub reggae into the South London-based 2-step subgenre. Dubstep rhythms are usually syncopated, and often incorporate triplets and theOne drop rhythm common to traditional reggae, a reference to the genre’s Dub music influences. Most modern dubstep has strayed away from these dub and 2-step influences and now goes for a more aggressive and distorted sound taking more influence from Hip hop and Electronic dance music.

 

Dub music is in conversation with the cultural aesthetic of Afrofuturism. Having emerged from Jamaica, this genre is regarded as the product of Diaspora peoples, whose culture reflects the experience of dislocation, alienation and remembrance. Through the creation of `space-filling soundscapes, faded echoes, and repetition within musical tracks, Dub artists are able to tap into such Afrofuturist concepts as the nonlinearity of time and the projection of past sounds into an unknown future space. In a 1982 essay, Luke Ehrlich describes Dub through this particular scope: “With dub, Jamaican music spaced out completely. If reggae is Africa in the New World, then dub must be Africa on the moon; it’s the psychedelic music I expected to hear in the ‘60s and didn’t. The bass and drums conjure up a dark, vast space, a musical portrait of outer space, with sounds suspended like glowing planets or the fragments of instruments careening by, leaving trails like comets and meteors. Dub is a kaleidoscopic musical montage which takes sounds originally intended as interlocking parts of another arrangement and using them as raw material, converts them into new and different sounds; then, in its own rhythm and format, it continually reshuffles these new sounds into unusual juxtapositions