BBC - The Story of Reggae - Dub

  • Reggae music stripped back to the bass ‘n’ drum foundation and rebuilt to reveal tunes you never knew existed.
  • No dub… no remix culture… no Fatboy Slim… no Zero 7… in fact not much at all
  • 25 years on King Tubby remains dub’s rightful ruler.
  • In cyberpunk novel "Neuromancer" Rastafarian space colonies orbit the earth. Smokin', floating and listening to….dub.
King Tubby Augustus Pablo
Strip reggae – any sort of reggae – back to its essence and you’ll be back to the bass and drum, the groundation of everything that happens in the music. But if you then rebuild on that bass and drum with the imagination, the invention and the sheer mixing board dexterity of King Tubby, Lee Perry or Scientist, you’ll be dubbing.

The art of dub is more than merely remixing, although remix culture is an extension of the dubmasters craft, it’s redefining a tune by taking its essential elements and rebalancing them in a way that gives the finished article a whole different meaning but still exists within the same parameters. Witness the Augustus Pablo/King Tubby classic "King Tubby’s Meets Rockers Uptown", an edgy, altogether dangerous three minutes that was once the cool lovers rock of Jacob Miller’s "Baby I love You So".

Dub began in Kingston in the late 1960s, when deejays were looking for gaps in records’ vocal performances to toast both their sound system and their selves. "Version" was the name given to these instrumental sides, but, thanks to the 1970s’ rapidly developing studio technology, where was the challenge in simply dropping the vocals in and out?

Filters, faders and multi-track recording allowed any component part of the tune to be pushed backwards and forwards in the mix, while the echo chamber and reverb unit brought a whole new dimension to what they’d sound like when they got there. Suddenly, the mixing desk was the most important instrument in the studio and the man who could operate it was the biggest star. King Tubby’s, Scientist, King Jammy’s, Joe Gibbs & Errol T, Lee Perry, Mikey Dread, Gussie Clarke … it was this generation of Jamaican dubmasters that paved the way the way for today’s superstar remixers such as Fatboy Slim, Armand Van Helden and Masters At Work. Dub also had a major influence on the likes of Massive Attack, Mouse On Mars and a whole generation of sonic terrorists. .

Next chapter: Toasting & MCs