Entertainment

Dubbing is a must

Gabre Selassie, man behind Kingston Dub Club

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Friday, November 30, 2018

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Every musical movement has a trendy hub. In the case of the much-touted roots-reggae revival in Jamaica, it is the Kingston Dub Club (KDC) run by sound system selector Gabre Selassie.

For the past seven years, Selassie's Skyline Drive home has been the go-to spot for emerging artistes, music producers and booking agents seeking potential acts on shows in Europe, Japan and North America.

A connoisseur of roots-reggae and dub, Selassie (real name Karlyle Lee) holds court over a packed venue every Sunday in the upscale St Andrew neighbourhood. The objective of Kingston Dub Club is introduce music not normally heard on radio to fans.

“Our concept for the KDC was to bring a sense of balance to how music is being played in the dance in Jamaica. We've noticed when we travel that the whole world has two distinct marketplaces when it comes to Jamaican music. There is the best of dancehall and commercial style if that's your thing, but if you love deep, spiritual roots-reggae music they have the best of it also,” Selassie explained in an interview with the Jamaica Observer. “All of these music come mainly from Jamaica, but here in Jamaica people could only have access to the dancehall styles, the roots music was not being highlighted. So it was our intention to try bring a balance at home with the conscious deep roots music so loved worldwide,” he added.

While music from the turntable dominates, a diverse cast has performed at Kingston Dub Club. From 'revivalists' like Jah9, Chronixx and Jesse Royal to veterans Ken Boothe and Max Romeo, and sound system elders such as Jah Shaka out of the United Kingdom.

Playing vinyl records is part of 'Dub Club's allure. The black disc fell out of favour with Jamaican sound system selectors with the advent of compact disc and digital formats, but has made a remarkable comeback in Europe, Japan and the US West Coast where there are thriving sound system scenes.

There is a Dub Club in Los Angeles which is just as popular as Selassie's; there are similar venues in London and Paris. The Kingston version was launched during a challenging period for Jamaican sound systems, as dances were being shut down by police at 2 am, a stipulation of the Noise Abatement Act.

“We wanted to preserve the original sound system culture that has been on the decline since the whole Noise Abatement Act, where sound systems have been selling off their equipment, closing down or opting for a smaller ready-made sound systems, instead of the traditional custom-build 'sound',” Selassie explained. “As a Rastaman we wanted to have a place where we could play spiritual Rastafarian music which has healing powers and uplifts the minds of the people. We have come a long way but we still have objectives that haven't been met.”

Selassie ran afoul of the Noise Abatement Act on April 23 last year. Police went to the Skyline Drive premises at 10:30 pm that evening and requested a permit from him which they say he was unable to present; Selassie and fellow sound system selector Rahay Mooyan were charged with breaching the Noise Abatement Act.

They were cleared of the charges one month later. That has been a blip on Kingston Dub Club's record.

As Karlyle Lee, Selassie started playing music while in prep school, and maintained that interest as a student at St George's College. Initially, the music he played was largely dancehall and party fare but 30 years ago as he became more spiritual, roots-reggae took over his playlist, a policy that persists at Kingston Dub Club.

He is not surprised at his establishment's success.

“I wouldn't say surprised...We are pleased to see the growth so far. We always knew that there was an untapped market for these music in Jamaica,” said Selassie. “For many years we have heard complaints from local and international people about the lack of good conscious roots music here in Jamaica, so we were confident that in time and with a lot of patience it would grow.”

Gabre Selassie will represent Kingston Dub Club at the December 8 Iration Ites Vinyl Series at Bamboo Fence, Windward Road. SJ Yumi and Yumi Hi Power, Yaadcore and 12 Yaad Records, Supa Nova (Dub School), SJ Fire Wayne (Echo One Sound System), DJ Marshmello, DJ DC (Changez Disco), DJ Naoto, and DJ NHM will also participate.

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