Once in a while I find myself pulling out my dub and reggae records: Lee “Scratch” Perry’s ‘Ape-ology,’ The Congos’ ‘Heart of the Congo,’ Augustus Pablo’s ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown,’ and even that glory hogging egomaniac Bob Marley, who just couldn’t live without the toe (I’ll quantify soon). I don’t listen to these records for the same reasons that hippie stoner burnouts do, which is primarily for the sake of wearing Birkenstocks and drug rugs to more occasions. I have always loved the music’s textures: the melodies swirling into one another all tied together through one very simple and elegant beat. It is very heady music, indeed, but it’s also very musical music.
Some people don’t understand the difference between dub and reggae music so I’m going to put it down for you. Reggae was a music that combined traditional Jamaican elements with the pop and rock music coming from the States. Dub borrows its name from the practice of dubbing instrumental, rhythmic versions of reggae songs to the B sides of 45 rpm singles. Basically, reggae requires a band and dub needs studio wizards. Reggae mostly has singing dub mostly doesn’t. That process of dubbing over reggae bands led to some of 1970s Jamaica’s best releases like ‘King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown’ and Keith Hudson’s ‘Rebel Dub.’
Dub is experimental music at heart. It requires the producer to sit in the studio for days on end searching for new sounds and precious rhythms. That sonic joie de vivre can be felt in every aspect of the sound if you really let yourself dive into this music. On the flip side, there was nothing experimental about Bob Marley. In fact, I had grown disdainful of Bob Marley; he had been ruined by the legions of frat boys playing “No Woman, No Cry” at keg parties when all of a sudden the white guy with dreadlocks deciphering Marley’s lyrics pukes all over your Nikes (True story). But last year I read a brilliant and violent book, Jamaican American novelist Marlon James’s ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings.’ The book follows Bob Marley’s attempted murderers in the days leading up to their assassination attempt on his life. It got me thinking about Marley again. Here was a guy who just loved having fun, loved soccer, loved women, and loved playing music being elevated to the status of a deity, certainly in his home country and even in the U.S. in some respects. But he was up to the task, and when you hear some of his songs you realize why he was the musical ambassador of Jamaica to the U.S. The man had the gift of connecting. There is concert footage of Bob on Youttube that will still make you feel like he’s singing right to you. Few have ever been able to command a stage and elicit that kind of joy from an audience. But the pressure that man felt must have been intense. It would be like if Kanye West was born in a third world country and was tasked with not just being a symbol of hope for his people, but immediately being forced to become a political figure. Bob Marley literally woke up one day to find that the weight all of Jamaica was sitting on his shoulders, and he just wanted to play.
Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287
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