Canada's dub master

Observer Writer

Friday, March 22, 2019

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Last Saturday, Canadian electronic-reggae artiste and musician Dubmatix won the Juno Award for Reggae Recording of The Year, for the album Sly & Robbie Meet Dubmatix: Overdubbed . During his acceptance speech at the ceremony in London, Ontario, he paid homage to foundation reggae musicians and artistes who came to Canada from Jamaica in the late 1960s.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer's Splash, Dubmatix, whose real name is Jesse King, explained why it was important to acknowledge those reggae pioneers.

“As an artiste in reggae it's immensely important to know the history of how Jamaican music and culture was shaped. Who were part of its development and who the artistes, producers, writers, record store owners, labels are, as it's a direct link from Jamaica to Toronto to Canada. So, you need to go back to the rise and growth of mento to ska, rocksteady and onwards, and all of the people that were part of the scene,” he said.

Jamaican musicians such as saxophonists JoJo Bennett and Headley Bennett and keyboardist Jackie Mittoo, Trinidadian guitarist Lynn Taitt, and artistes including Alton Ellis, Leroy Brown, Leroy Sibbles, Willi Williams and Johnny Osbourne, moved to Canada from Jamaica during the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were instrumental in spreading the reggae culture there.

“The Canadian reggae scene has been vibrant since the 1960s and '70s. There are always peaks and valleys of popularity and opportunity; most significant when it was beginning. There were no outlets, no media, no radio, limited clubs. These outlets took time and were slow to open up, yet over the years a strong scene has grown across Canada with a lot of incredible talent such as the nominees at this year's Juno Awards: Exco Levi, Kafinal, Blessed and Chelsea Stewart,” Dubmatix explained. “If you look back over the years, you have to start with bands and artistes from the late 60s/70s — The Cougars (Paul and Jay Douglas), Jackie Mittoo, Stranger Cole, Leroy Sibbles,Truth & Rights, Willi Williams, Karl Mullings who was an integral part of the reggae scene and development, Jerry Brown and Summer Records, Messenjah, Sattalites, and Leroy Brown and a vast array of other artistes and bands that have been part of the Canadian reggae music fabric,” he added.

Toronto-bred, Dubmatix is the son of Canadian jazz keyboardist Bill King. As a child, he played drums and later studied guitar and piano; he also played bass in his high school orchestra.

Dubmatix released his debut album, Champion Sound Clash, in 2004. He has been nominated for the Juno's Reggae Recording of The Year seven times, winning twice.

“My father, Bill King, was in one of the first integrated reggae bands in Toronto with “Pablo” Paul and Wayne McGhie back in the early '70s'. Pablo, Wayne, Jay Douglas, Jackie Mittoo and others immigrated to Toronto and Canada in the late 60s, bringing reggae and Jamaican culture,” Dubmatix related. “Pablo and the Paul family have been part of our lives since then the early 70s. It was Pablo who handed me the album that helped shape the musical direction and passion I'm part of now — Augustus Pablo's King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown.”

Working with a number of reggae's biggest names fueled Dubmatix' appreciation for Jamaican music.

“I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many of the foundation artistes and legends over the years such as Alton Ellis, Sugar Minott, The Mighty Diamonds, U Roy, Cornell Campbell, Michael Rose, Sly and Robbie, Willi Williams, Linval Thompson, Wayne Smith, Ranking Joe, Pinchers, Horace Andy, and many more,” he said. “All of them are part of the history and development of where music was and the journey it continues forward. And as these foundation artistes and producers age and slowly leave us, so does the opportunity to learn and know their story and history. I want to know about the past; who was part of it, how did it come to be, what was the process. Knowing the past helps you know where you're going and how you got there.”

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