Greetings everyone, on the 8th of March BFR (BASS FOUNDATION ROOTS) Sound System left Delhi for Imphal and after exciting performances at Imphal, Diphu & Haflong we have finally arrived in Meghalaya. We start with a gig on 24th March at NSCA Stadium.
And then we perform in Nongstoin on 27th March, Rymbai on 30th March and a surprise April Fools Day gig.
We’ve recorded a 45 minutes mix that you can listen to and / or download
This mix includes a lot of dubplates. Dubplates are exclusive songs that we record with artists from Jamaica. These are customized versions of popular tunes or sometimes completely unique songs that you would only be able to hear on our system. Dubplates are an important part of Jamaican sound system culture. In the digital age, where every song and video is a buttons press away I feel this continues to be meaningful. While many of the songs we play are widely available and you can find them on youtube, there are some which you will only get to hear if you come to a sound system session. You will only hear them on a big sound system and as part of a crowd. Reggae music is not primarily intended for private listening.
Dubplates also give me a chance to customize songs for the Indian context and many times we ask artists to give special shout outs. The mix also includes some live singing by Begum X and myself. This is common for sound system sessions. All the records we play contain an instrumental on the b side so its common to flip the record and sing or freestyle over the b side instrumental version. This means that if there are MC’s at a session, they can listen to the song and prepare something in their head or try out their lyrics and then come up to us and request us to play the instrumental. This practice is called Rub A Dub and used to be very common for sound system sessions. Most of the big reggae and dancehall artists and singers before the internet era would have started out in this way.
Jamaican Sound System Culture, much like Jamaican popular music has had a tremendous impact on global music culture. The extent of it often goes unacknowledged. Most modern dance music used conventions that were pioneered in reggae or dub and if you go to any music festival in the UK I can say with confidence that was it not for Black Jamaican music culture, what you see would be very different.
Sound Systems began in the 1950’s in the ghettos of Kinston Jamaica. Reggae has in many way always been an underclass thing. Early soundmen would load a truck with handmade heavy duty speakers and turntables and organize street parties that would play ska, rocksteady or reggae. The people’s music. Unlike commercial music venues of the time that were oriented towards American R’n’B. In the 1970’s, the era depicted in Beth Lesser’s (http://www.bethlesser.com) photographs, live bands began to recede and sound systems became immensely popular. BFR Sound System goes back directly to this tradition and many of the tunes and artists that you hear on our system come from this era.
Building the Soundsystem: The Journey
It took us over one year to build this soundsystem. Apart from the two small speakers on top of the stack which I built, all the boxes were handbuilt by a single person, Taus. He did not take help from anyone except his partner Ginger and every cut of ply wood, every screw and every drop of glue was done by him. For me, It was a steep learning curve. From the onset, the support and love that we received from people from India and abroad has been overwhelming, starting from the crowdfunding campaign, thanks to which we now have state-of-the-art equipment.
One year after building the soundsystem, shows continue to be dynamic and experimental; with some questions keep plague us along the way like “How will people react to Afro-Caribbean music? How will they react to the power of the speakers? Often, before shows we can be quite nervous and don’t quite know what to expect.
The whole purpose of building our own soundsystem was the freedom to take the music outside of commercial spaces, and do more community-oriented dances,, Making a sound system session happen is a 12 hour work day for us. You drive to location, carry heavy speakers, and set up the stack. We also carry banners and lights and set up a book stall wherever we play. After set-up, we play for up to 5 hours, and then pack everything back into our van.
Yet, these sessions up until today have filled me with tremendous joy. I feel I’m finally able to play the music I love for people in the way that I want. The best dances for me happen in the open, in community spaces or ideally in a natural setting. We have everything we need, and only need a generator.”
On What We Look Forward to Most During the Tour
I look forward to having hour-long soundsystem sessions in beautiful locations. For people to experience this music for the first time, and for all of this to contribute to community-building. This is the first time we are going all the way with our system, but we intend to come back every year. I want to work on an alternative touring circuit, connect with people who are interested in having reggae and soundsystem events in their areas, and organise shows directly with people.
In the future, Delhi Sultanate aims to increasingly crowdsource events, to hold extended independent tours.
Delhi Sultanate is also starting a Whatsapp group for people from the region, so that direct communication between patrons and dancers is possible; this is how some of the guerrilla gigs will be announced and organised. Those interested in being a part of the dances can email their phone numbers to [email protected]