Sound System En Masse: Bringing Music Back To The Yard

It was back in October 2014 when reggae/dub DJ Dakta Dub first told me about a rather unique idea he had brewing, to bring the music of the resplendent isle that is Jamaica to otherwise relatively unexplored spaces in India – “In general, venues [in India] where we can play our style of music have been challenging to find,” he mentioned to me on the phone, “so we want to set up a stage in a playground, and showcase to school kids how reggae music and Sound System culture happens! We are starting a Wishberry campaign, want to get the community involved, and hope to get this started in January”.

Dakta Dub

Dakta Dub

Seeing these words become a reality and this dream finding its roots is a beautiful thing – a few months later and his Wishberry campaign Sound System En Masse is in full swing, supported by artists like Delhi Sultanate, Reggae Rajahs, and King Jassim. The aim is to recreate the sound system experience, bringing this music back to the streets, to public spaces, to the yard, exposing school children, their parents, and people of the neighbourhood to the vibes of reggae and dub music. Performing artists will include Delhi Sultanate, Begum X, Reggae Rajahs, King Jassim, Dakta Dub and Raj Verma, with young musicians from different schools performing along side them, out in the open and filling the streets.

Reggae Rajahs

Reggae Rajahs

In fact, the concept of the sound system has always been about filling public spaces with the sounds of this music, and first emerged in the down town ghetto areas of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1950’s. A sound system setup would typically consist of a generator, turntables and massive speakers that the troupe of sound engineers, DJs and performers/MCs would set up in the streets, with a selector selecting the records that would be played, a deejay or toaster rapping or chanting over a rhythm, and the whole neighbourhood community coming together for a mad street party. Early pioneers included sound systems like Tom The Great Sebastian – founded by Tom Wong, with Duke Vin as his selector and Count Machuki – considered the first deejay, or toaster. The first ever sound clash – a musical duel between two rival sound systems – took place in Kingston between Tom The Great Sebastian and Count Nick (aka Count Nick The Champ) – with Tom emerging the victor.

This is the colourful history the Monkey Foundation seeks to revive and keep alive with initiatives like Sound System En Masse – bringing the word, and the sounds, to India. With just 5 days remaining in the campaign, the initiative has managed to raise Rs. 1, 10, 360 to date – with the ultimate goal of 1.64 lakhs. If the target isn’t reached, all the money goes back to donors, and Sound System En Masse doesn’t happen.

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Nirupama Belliappa

Nirupama is a musician, TV presenter, photographer, and the instrumentalist/vocalist for the popular electronica live act BLaNK - the winners of MTV's Ultimate DJ Championship. An accomplished journalist, she is a features writer at IndiEarth. Follow her on instagram: @nipsiandthedeepseas Facebook:

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