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Suns of Dub x Masia One: The Groove Thief Interview
 
Thanks to the kind efforts of Heavy Hongkong, I was given the opportunity to interview Jamaican roots revivalists Addis Pablo and Ras Jammy (of Suns of Dub), as well as eclectic Singaporean/Canadian vocalist Masia One, in advance of their upcoming show together this Saturday evening 06/09/14 at Basmati in Sheung Wan.
 
Basmati…? Dub music at an Indian restaurant in Hong Kong? Yes! For Heavy Hongkong, it’s a return to their original stomping grounds – since Sammy’s Kitchen used to occupy a space in the same building – while also showing the ingenuity successful underground music promotion in this city requires. Just like the artists’ approach to music, it’s all about employing the successes of the past to forge a new future:
 
Suns of Dub – who have risen to international tours, a Major Lazer-presented mixtape, and widespread acclaim within the past few years – are continuing the mission and musical legacy of Addis’ father, famed melodica player and producer Augustus Pablo.
 


 
Masia One has spent the past decade running her own record label, releasing several well-received albums, and collaborating with a wide variety of artists.
 

 
The Groove Thief: What are you enjoying most as you tour Asia?
 
Ras Jammy: We enjoy the people, their reactions and endless interests in our music and lifestyle. It is always good to be in a different place with different people of different cultures, and having the opportunity to experience a bit of their way of life and thinking. [So] performing has been good as the people love the vibes… [and] the food is a tour for itself!
 
TGT: What’re your thoughts on the underground Asian music scene? What is it lacking in contrast to North America, and how best can local promoters further development here?
 
Masia One: There is a heavy influence of Western music, but the underground scene is growing, innovating new sounds with multi-media expressions and producing a lot of tremendous musicians and producers.  For the underground Asian artists, I think it is important for us to always remember that music is not a competition, but an expression and chance to work together and learn from one another.  Often Asian environments are competitive.  I think the improvement can come from the side of promoters (especially club and mainstream promoters) to encourage original music over covers of Western music, and take on roles as taste makers - taking risks with innovative artists and challenging the public to discover new sounds and experiences.  There is a stereotype that Asian markets just want pop and mainstream music, but when we have presented something different, people have been very engaged and I have gained new followings as a result.
 
TGT: What is so special about the Rockers International [Augustus Pablo’s record label] sound? Why continue Rockers in 2014?
 
Addis Pablo: Rockers International has always been a sound representing the creative expression of a set of musicians, producers, engineers, and the people. It’s a sound of the people coming from many walks of life – at the same time appealing to people from many walks of life – through the use of instruments [and] vocals to express a Livity, or lifestyle, which is in harmony with nature. And [it is] a missionary works to express the message of Rastafari in 2014. It’s important to express this sound just like in any time because the works of Rockers International is to be spread across the four corners of the world, and in 2014 technology is more advanced then it was in the initial stages of the Rockers International sound being brought forward by my father and his fellow singers and players of instruments. So for me [and] my brother Ras Jammy to be representing these works of this solid foundation in this modern time plays a significant role in continuing the works. And, more importantly, introducing or showcasing these works to a young generation, which may have not got the chance to witness or experience the performances of the original Rockers. And for the older generation, who may have experienced the performances, it can be a nostalgic moment which could only be experienced through the sound which Suns of Dub is presenting in this time.
 
TGT: You’re known for your eclectic collaborations, including tracks with both former Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist John Frusciante and bassologist ill.Gates. How does your sound and aesthetic connect with Suns of Dub?
 
Masia One: I think spending time as a songwriter in LA had me writing a lot of pop music.  Moving to Jamaica and connecting with the Suns of Dub has been a wonderful opportunity to make music that allows me to express ideas, messages and feelings from the heart again rather than what will be the best “hook” to sell the song.  My brother played me a lot of Peter Tosh, Toots & The Maytals, and Bob Marley when I was a kid - this is almost a reconnection with what made me first fall in love with music.
 
TGT: Obviously the legacy of Augustus Pablo looms large over the Suns of Dub project. What tracks would you recommend to someone less familiar with the crucial role he played in the development of roots reggae, particularly in regards to the “Far East” sound?
 
Addis Pablo: Well, I would recommend tracks such as: Java, East of the River Nile, and Cassava Piece.
 



 
TGT: Can you name a few artists that you love from Jamaica at the moment?
 
Ras Jammy: Many artists are now showing promise and there is a new wave of talent sweeping the place. We rate them all, basically, but for particular reasons we favor these: Hempress Sativa, Masicka, Jesse Royal, Dre Island, Exile di Brave, and many from the J.O.E collective (Micah Shemaiah, Chronixx, etc.).
 
Thanks so much to Addis Pablo, Masia One, and Ras Jammy for the Q&A session. Appreciated, and much respect. And Hong Kong - see you all at the show!
 
Suns of Dub x Masia One: The Groove Thief Interview

 

Thanks to the kind efforts of Heavy Hongkong, I was given the opportunity to interview Jamaican roots revivalists Addis Pablo and Ras Jammy (of Suns of Dub), as well as eclectic Singaporean/Canadian vocalist Masia One, in advance of their upcoming show together this Saturday evening 06/09/14 at Basmati in Sheung Wan.

 

Basmati…? Dub music at an Indian restaurant in Hong Kong? Yes! For Heavy Hongkong, it’s a return to their original stomping grounds – since Sammy’s Kitchen used to occupy a space in the same building – while also showing the ingenuity successful underground music promotion in this city requires. Just like the artists’ approach to music, it’s all about employing the successes of the past to forge a new future:

 

Suns of Dub – who have risen to international tours, a Major Lazer-presented mixtape, and widespread acclaim within the past few years – are continuing the mission and musical legacy of Addis’ father, famed melodica player and producer Augustus Pablo.

 

 

Masia One has spent the past decade running her own record label, releasing several well-received albums, and collaborating with a wide variety of artists.

 

 

The Groove Thief: What are you enjoying most as you tour Asia?

 

Ras Jammy: We enjoy the people, their reactions and endless interests in our music and lifestyle. It is always good to be in a different place with different people of different cultures, and having the opportunity to experience a bit of their way of life and thinking. [So] performing has been good as the people love the vibes… [and] the food is a tour for itself!

 

TGT: What’re your thoughts on the underground Asian music scene? What is it lacking in contrast to North America, and how best can local promoters further development here?

 

Masia One: There is a heavy influence of Western music, but the underground scene is growing, innovating new sounds with multi-media expressions and producing a lot of tremendous musicians and producers. For the underground Asian artists, I think it is important for us to always remember that music is not a competition, but an expression and chance to work together and learn from one another. Often Asian environments are competitive. I think the improvement can come from the side of promoters (especially club and mainstream promoters) to encourage original music over covers of Western music, and take on roles as taste makers - taking risks with innovative artists and challenging the public to discover new sounds and experiences. There is a stereotype that Asian markets just want pop and mainstream music, but when we have presented something different, people have been very engaged and I have gained new followings as a result.

 

TGT: What is so special about the Rockers International [Augustus Pablo’s record label] sound? Why continue Rockers in 2014?

 

Addis Pablo: Rockers International has always been a sound representing the creative expression of a set of musicians, producers, engineers, and the people. It’s a sound of the people coming from many walks of life – at the same time appealing to people from many walks of life – through the use of instruments [and] vocals to express a Livity, or lifestyle, which is in harmony with nature. And [it is] a missionary works to express the message of Rastafari in 2014. It’s important to express this sound just like in any time because the works of Rockers International is to be spread across the four corners of the world, and in 2014 technology is more advanced then it was in the initial stages of the Rockers International sound being brought forward by my father and his fellow singers and players of instruments. So for me [and] my brother Ras Jammy to be representing these works of this solid foundation in this modern time plays a significant role in continuing the works. And, more importantly, introducing or showcasing these works to a young generation, which may have not got the chance to witness or experience the performances of the original Rockers. And for the older generation, who may have experienced the performances, it can be a nostalgic moment which could only be experienced through the sound which Suns of Dub is presenting in this time.

 

TGT: You’re known for your eclectic collaborations, including tracks with both former Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist John Frusciante and bassologist ill.Gates. How does your sound and aesthetic connect with Suns of Dub?

 

Masia One: I think spending time as a songwriter in LA had me writing a lot of pop music. Moving to Jamaica and connecting with the Suns of Dub has been a wonderful opportunity to make music that allows me to express ideas, messages and feelings from the heart again rather than what will be the best “hook” to sell the song. My brother played me a lot of Peter Tosh, Toots & The Maytals, and Bob Marley when I was a kid - this is almost a reconnection with what made me first fall in love with music.

 

TGT: Obviously the legacy of Augustus Pablo looms large over the Suns of Dub project. What tracks would you recommend to someone less familiar with the crucial role he played in the development of roots reggae, particularly in regards to the “Far East” sound?

 

Addis Pablo: Well, I would recommend tracks such as: Java, East of the River Nile, and Cassava Piece.

 

 

TGT: Can you name a few artists that you love from Jamaica at the moment?

 

Ras Jammy: Many artists are now showing promise and there is a new wave of talent sweeping the place. We rate them all, basically, but for particular reasons we favor these: Hempress Sativa, Masicka, Jesse Royal, Dre Island, Exile di Brave, and many from the J.O.E collective (Micah Shemaiah, Chronixx, etc.).

 

Thanks so much to Addis Pablo, Masia One, and Ras Jammy for the Q&A session. Appreciated, and much respect. And Hong Kong - see you all at the show!

 

Showcasing an inclusive approach - proving that musical peace is at least a reality in the Middle East - Israel’s Zvuloon Dub System combines Jamaican and Ethiopian influences to produce a potent and timeless album. The vocals, sung in Amharic, Tigrinya, and Gurage, come from lead singer Yalo as well as several guests, while the rest of the band bring a clear and confident knowledge of classic roots reggae.
 
From the opening bars of the instrumental “Alemitu,” it is obvious that this album has been lovingly crafted, with a strong sense of purpose and respect. After a slow lead-in with horns triumphant, the groove arrives alongside a dynamic keyboard solo. On “Tenesh Kelbe Lay,” another nice rhythm provides the platform for the intoxicating vocals. Hypnotic, yet far more dance than drone, this shows influences of the dub tradition rather than being true dub from an engineering perspective.
 
“Sab Sam” is a catchy track, sounding similar to some of the more triumphant work of Amadou & Mariam in structure and vocal styling. From there, “Man Begelagelgni” chills things out a bit, allowing a nice walking bass line to shine through before “Ney Denun Tieshe,” which features the wonderfully wavering guest vocals of legendary Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed amidst more tight horn lines. Then “Yehoden Aweteche Lengeresh,” bearing some influence from Zap Pow’s “Last War” riddim, returns the album firmly to the Jamaican fold.
 
“Tsbukti Fetret” includes an elegant East African melody on the krar, a traditional instrument that appears on several other tracks as well, while a solid skanking guitar propels the rhythm. Hinting more at rocksteady than reggae, “Endemenesh” - with Zemene Melesse on mic duties - leads into the funky and upbeat “Zelel Zelel” splendidly, before the sparse and almost melancholy “Yene Almaz” closes out the album. Here it’s the masinko, a single-stringed bowed lute, that harkens back to the Ethiopian musical tradition.
 
Through and through, this is world music in the most transcendent and intriguing of ways. An impressive work of musical fusion, Anbessa Dub is spirited and spiritual:
 
Anbessa Dub by Zvuloon Dub System
 
Showcasing an inclusive approach - proving that musical peace is at least a reality in the Middle East - Israel’s Zvuloon Dub System combines Jamaican and Ethiopian influences to produce a potent and timeless album. The vocals, sung in Amharic, Tigrinya, and Gurage, come from lead singer Yalo as well as several guests, while the rest of the band bring a clear and confident knowledge of classic roots reggae.

 

From the opening bars of the instrumental “Alemitu,” it is obvious that this album has been lovingly crafted, with a strong sense of purpose and respect. After a slow lead-in with horns triumphant, the groove arrives alongside a dynamic keyboard solo. On “Tenesh Kelbe Lay,” another nice rhythm provides the platform for the intoxicating vocals. Hypnotic, yet far more dance than drone, this shows influences of the dub tradition rather than being true dub from an engineering perspective.

 

“Sab Sam” is a catchy track, sounding similar to some of the more triumphant work of Amadou & Mariam in structure and vocal styling. From there, “Man Begelagelgni” chills things out a bit, allowing a nice walking bass line to shine through before “Ney Denun Tieshe,” which features the wonderfully wavering guest vocals of legendary Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed amidst more tight horn lines. Then “Yehoden Aweteche Lengeresh,” bearing some influence from Zap Pow’s “Last War” riddim, returns the album firmly to the Jamaican fold.

 

“Tsbukti Fetret” includes an elegant East African melody on the krar, a traditional instrument that appears on several other tracks as well, while a solid skanking guitar propels the rhythm. Hinting more at rocksteady than reggae, “Endemenesh” - with Zemene Melesse on mic duties - leads into the funky and upbeat “Zelel Zelel” splendidly, before the sparse and almost melancholy “Yene Almaz” closes out the album. Here it’s the masinko, a single-stringed bowed lute, that harkens back to the Ethiopian musical tradition.

 

Through and through, this is world music in the most transcendent and intriguing of ways. An impressive work of musical fusion, Anbessa Dub is spirited and spiritual:

 

 

The Giants, it seems, are actually trying to be humble. With Reel 1 & 2 - Adapted Chapter, they’ve successfully taken on many of reggae’s most famous riddims, dubbing them not into spatial oblivion, but rather as funky instrumentals primed for the dance. Consistent in quality, and with several standout tracks: this is an impressive album. What about naming the originals you ask? Well, we all need homework from time to time! (EDIT: or you can check out this Spotify playlist direct from The Giants!)
 
“Adapted Chapter Dub” features a warm skanking guitar, before allowing a sample to make The Giants’ mission clear: ‘strictly rub a dub.’ Bringing the groove to the front, “Crafty Dub” is at times sparse and at times swirling and busy, with cascading keys nicely reappearing throughout. The short “Honey Dub” pushes the bpm up just a bit, before “Brixton Prison Dub” takes a darker percussion-laden approach to a familiar tune, which makes the bursting horns a mid-way surprise.
 
“Earth Dub” allows its riddim to slowly assemble, teasing with pieces until the melody-line finally - though temporarily - emerges from the shadowy haze, at times almost hinting at industrial mechanization. “Old Time Dub” gives away its origins immediately via a few very familiar words from Triston Palmer, yet the tune itself lets the horn move to the front-and-center, reverberating with power even as the rhythm section evaporates.
 
As a spoken ‘Irie’ echoes, “Rocking Miss D Dub” rides a short, tight groove, revealing some engaging layers along the way. Then “Drum Song Dub” - the most uptempo on the whole album - shows off a few classic tricks of dub engineering (lasers and spring reverb) while featuring a haunting theme. “House Of Parliament Dub” initially sounds formal, with calling horns, which makes the restrained breakdown and buildup even better.
 
The delicate “Rain Dub” gives way to the chaotic “Mash Dub,” where reverberation reigns supreme. The horns return, cut short and emphasizing the echo, on the appropriately-titled “Drifting Dub.” While announced as ‘strictly drum n bass,’ “Bad Boy Dub” ventures into some jazzy guitar to bring its disparate elements together smoothly. “Dedication To Flabba Dub” does feature a powerful bass-line, giving a nice nod to a legend while also leading nicely into the horn-line of “You Don’t Remember Dub.” “Night Fall Down” seems to imply that the album is winding down; in reality the slow - yet groovy - tune is merely setting up the expected ambling bass on an excellent closing statement in the form of “World Jam Dub.”
 
It’s safe to say that while most of these are going to be familiar to the average dub/reggae connoisseur, there’s far more here than just updated covers of known versions… these are modern and updated interpretations recorded in loving classic analog style. Tune in now, this 18-track is even a free lossless download:
 
Reel 1 & 2 - Adapted Chapter by The Giants
 
The Giants, it seems, are actually trying to be humble. With Reel 1 & 2 - Adapted Chapter, they’ve successfully taken on many of reggae’s most famous riddims, dubbing them not into spatial oblivion, but rather as funky instrumentals primed for the dance. Consistent in quality, and with several standout tracks: this is an impressive album. What about naming the originals you ask? Well, we all need homework from time to time! (EDIT: or you can check out this Spotify playlist direct from The Giants!)

 

“Adapted Chapter Dub” features a warm skanking guitar, before allowing a sample to make The Giants’ mission clear: ‘strictly rub a dub.’ Bringing the groove to the front, “Crafty Dub” is at times sparse and at times swirling and busy, with cascading keys nicely reappearing throughout. The short “Honey Dub” pushes the bpm up just a bit, before “Brixton Prison Dub” takes a darker percussion-laden approach to a familiar tune, which makes the bursting horns a mid-way surprise.

 

“Earth Dub” allows its riddim to slowly assemble, teasing with pieces until the melody-line finally - though temporarily - emerges from the shadowy haze, at times almost hinting at industrial mechanization. “Old Time Dub” gives away its origins immediately via a few very familiar words from Triston Palmer, yet the tune itself lets the horn move to the front-and-center, reverberating with power even as the rhythm section evaporates.

 

As a spoken ‘Irie’ echoes, “Rocking Miss D Dub” rides a short, tight groove, revealing some engaging layers along the way. Then “Drum Song Dub” - the most uptempo on the whole album - shows off a few classic tricks of dub engineering (lasers and spring reverb) while featuring a haunting theme. “House Of Parliament Dub” initially sounds formal, with calling horns, which makes the restrained breakdown and buildup even better.

 

The delicate “Rain Dub” gives way to the chaotic “Mash Dub,” where reverberation reigns supreme. The horns return, cut short and emphasizing the echo, on the appropriately-titled “Drifting Dub.” While announced as ‘strictly drum n bass,’ “Bad Boy Dub” ventures into some jazzy guitar to bring its disparate elements together smoothly. “Dedication To Flabba Dub” does feature a powerful bass-line, giving a nice nod to a legend while also leading nicely into the horn-line of “You Don’t Remember Dub.” “Night Fall Down” seems to imply that the album is winding down; in reality the slow - yet groovy - tune is merely setting up the expected ambling bass on an excellent closing statement in the form of “World Jam Dub.”

 

It’s safe to say that while most of these are going to be familiar to the average dub/reggae connoisseur, there’s far more here than just updated covers of known versions… these are modern and updated interpretations recorded in loving classic analog style. Tune in now, this 18-track is even a free lossless download: