Celebrating the Legacy of Dub Reggae Music in London

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Roar writer Scarlett Yu reviews the Dub London: Bassline of a City display, held in the Museum of London.

In commemoration of dub reggae music’s great legacy across the capital, a striking display Dub London: Bassline of a City is exclusively held in the Museum of London, starting on the 2nd of October. It is a temporary exhibition offering free entry to lovers and enthusiasts of dub reggae from all over the world, serving as a comforting haven for people to join the unison of music amidst the unusual crisis of the pandemic.

With the supportive help of Papa Face of Dub Vendor Reggae Specialist, the display is purposefully designed as a record shop, highlighting some of the most representative dub reggae artists, including over 150 recordings. In addition, the physical background of the display incorporates various historic photographs from renowned photographers, such as Dennis Morris and Charlie Phillips, to create a strong aura of contemporary dub reggae that was built upon years of history and rich culture. As a whole, this magnificent display exudes the pure essence of dub reggae with an overlapping presentation of visual photography, appearing as bright splashing colours and an extensive collection of songs. People who love dub reggae will be profoundly struck by the deliberate display that emits a reminiscent sense of dub reggae music, existing at the heart of London for decades.

For those who aren’t familiar with the origins of dub reggae, and are wondering why it is such an important aspect of shaping the landscape of London’s music, there’s one thing you need to take account of. Dub refers to the electronic music people are familiar with in modern society; the kind of technologically based music that extensively appears in popular youth culture. It’s generally known as one of the most influential sub genre of reggae music, which was the primary sound system in Jamaica in the 1960s. Its influence extends to the musical roots of the Caribbean island when it hasn’t stabilised its conception of what kind of music it represented. When a professional group of Jamaican recording engineers and producers reinvented this native music into a dub-filled sensation, dub music quickly gained ground among the masses and became an instant music phenomenon for its amplification and vibration of sound through the solid mix of bass and drums.

Many have argued over who is responsible for this influential music, yet it is important to acknowledge that dub wasn’t solely created by one man, but a rich range of Jamaica music producers, all of whom encountered inspirational musical scenes in separate places, conclusively pushing them to the creation of dub reggae. Still, it’s noticeable that one of the key elements of producing dub reggae music was the presence of recording studios. No one would have thought that such enormous music phenomenon had been derived from a small recording studio. Yet it is important to point out that dub reggae was originally conceived with the idea of turning a recording studio into a music instrument for people to create a sound system of electronic sounds; a site for harnessing the power of creativity and imagination ingrained in human nature.

Thus, the legacy of dub reggae stems from a seemingly inconspicuous, tiny studio, as it made drastic influences on the political, cultural, and social foundation of many communities and cities worldwide. Without the creation of dub music, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the instant sensation and immersive excitement of mainstream pop music, such as the widely popular rap among modern youths, garage, grime, punk, hip-hop, and so many other genres. Dub reggae is the pioneering figure of the prevailing music culture in modern society; the reason for the wild prevalence of electronic dance music, further constructing the mass’s perception of modern music as we know it.

Dub London: Bassline of a City in the Museum of London opened on the 2nd of October, after unfortunate delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a place where you’ll find a rich collection of personal stories, memories and notable objects, linking to the original discovery of dub music in Jamaica’s reggae and the 60-year long history of how it made a spiritual impact on multiple areas of culture, politics and social lifestyle in the capital. Its  tightly knitted resonance with modern mainstream music may be more significant than you’ll ever imagine. The deep spirituality it innately exudes is inexplicable, and will continue to be a forceful phenomenon for later generations.

The display is in collaboration with a multitude of renowned figures from the industry, including Mad Professor, Rastafari Movement UK, and Sisters in Sound. All the effort and hard work have been put in to offer people an unforgettable experience of being immersed in the charisma and attraction of a musical legacy.

The display is available until 31st January 2021. You can read more about it here.

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