It’s long been something that’s irked us at Louder Than War (well, definitely me anyway – Guy) that from the popular music press to underground music blogs reggae and dub largely get overlooked. In an attempt to address this Louder Than War contacted someone who we know is passionate about both these genres to see if he’d like to write occasional features on what is now known as digidub (see below for an explanation of what the term ‘digidub’ means). His answer was “Yes” and so it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the first in what we hope will be a long run of Digidub blogs.
Before we get started, the one thing I should clear up, and the thing that Louder in War didnât seem to realise when inviting me to write a regular blog about digidub, is that the only person who knows less than me about musical genres and what music fits into which pigeonhole is somebody born with no ears. Regardless of how many years Iâve been writing about music or talking about it on the radio my fundamental flaw is that I consistently feel like a fraud. Instead of understanding the nuances that make a genre, “I just sit and bang on about how we shouldnât restrict artists by making generalisations or by putting them in a box with a label on.”.
So when I get asked âwhatâs digidub then?â my answer is invariably âdub made on laptopsâ, which sounds rather cool despite the fact Iâm not even entirely sure where reggae becomes dub, or whether digital reggae is a different genre altogether. Either way, what I do know is that this genre, or this style of music, is essentially contemporary music that sounds like it came out of Kingston in the 1970s, despite having been made utilising modern production techniques.
It is also a style of music that is immensely popular in pockets across the globe. When I did a show on NTS Radio a few months back (click HERE to listen to it), the tunes started in Ipswich, and quickly went via Trinidad & Tobago, Japan, Brazil, Eastern Europe, Sweden and touched on arguably the best dub track of the decade so far, which is Gorgon Soundâs âFind Jah Wayâ (see below) the first release on Bristol label Peng! Sounds, who have been almost putting on fantastic nights in the city for some time now.
The other city in the UK that has fantastic nights is Glasgow, and specifically Walk n Skank, run by Mungoâs Hi-Fi, whose own label Scotch Bonnet provides the UKâs best source of the worldâs digidub vinyl through their shop (special mention to Jah Waggyâs as well). Mungoâs have been producing riddims for more than a decade, but have been on a remarkable run of form over the past two years, with last yearâs release of fantastic LP Forward Ever (Mungo’s Hi Fi â Forward Ever), and a constant stream of vinyl releases that have been burning a hole in my pocket where money used to be.
As pioneers of this type of music, I reached out to Doug Paine from Mungoâs to explain how he interprets the sounds the band makes, and how it fits into a global network of soundsystems, producers and MCs that make up a fascinating sound that, whilst original, takes lessons from one of the most innovative and interesting eras in music history – one that is chronically overlooked by alternative music websites and publications.
âWe make forward-thinking reggae music, following in the soundsystem tradition, taking in a spectrum of Jamaican influenced music including ska, roots, rub-a-dub and dancehall and giving it a contemporary feel, although that’s fairly long-winded. We love our vocals too much to say we make dub, while digidub speaks to me of the 90s, and digital reggae brings to mind more of the 8-bit sound championed by Jahtari among others. It might be easier to put us in the bass music category, but I’ll happily let journalists worry about the exact wording.
âEvery town, every country has its own unique story to tell, and it always comes back to dedicated crews of people wanting to share their passion for the music. In terms of reggae soundsystems, the scene in Glasgow has experienced rapid growth recently for which we are only partly responsible, and this growth seems to mirrored in towns like Dundee and Aberdeen where a couple of years ago you could never have imagined big reggae dances popping off. The story is similar but different for towns like Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and London, which have a longer history of soundsystems, but where the scene has transitioned to the ‘underground mainstream’ and this can be seen in the growth of the next generation of festivals such as Outlook and Boomtown.â
The list of collaborators with Mungoâs is extensive, and if youâre looking to dive into exploration of this music, you should check out Pupajim, YT, Mr Williamz and the person Doug recommends starting with – fellow Glaswegian Soom T (Soom T) and German label Jahtari, âfor the consistently great quality of releases”, and out of their catalogue their collaboration on the Ode 2 a Carrot LP [disrupt â Ode 2 A Carrot] – itâs definitely an album that will be remembered in years to come.â
But Iâll no doubt be discussing Jahtari and Soom T (who now runs the Renegade Masters label with Jahtari main man Disrupt) in much more detail in subsequent posts. For now, Iâll leave you to Doug to sum up the music weâre talking about:
âIt’s all about riddims and vocals. Not always, but often, a great vocal is inspired by a great riddim, and vice versa. This can be done in the studio, but the best melting pot is in the vibes of a session.â
Mungoâs Hi-Fi Inspiration
Related: King Tubby
Unrelated: Herbie Hancock, Harry Belafonte
Three Tracks to check out:
Starting out with digidub, Iâd follow Dougâs recommendation and go to the fantastic Jahtari records. The Jahtarian Dubbers vol.2 compilation [Various Artists â Jahtarian Dubbers Vol. 2] is a good place to start, but in keeping with the subhead above, hereâs three tracks to start with from Mungoâs:
Mungo’s Hi Fi – Bogle 12″
Bogle was released on 12â vinyl earlier this year with MCs I, Bogle and Kenny Knots providing the lyrics. It has the insatiable groove and what I technically call the squelchy bass that personifies this type of music. For me, squelchy bass is equitable to a keyboard solo in raising excitement in a tune, and probably only second to something that makes me laugh.
Mungo’s Hi Fi ft. Skweek a mouse – Di Cheeses (Dutty Diseases riddim)
A six minute song about cheese. Unreleased. I need to put this on a dubplate because every time I play it to people it is universally loved. The riddim is the Dutty Diseases Riddim, which is the basis for the track Computer Age by Mr Williamz [Mungo’s Hi Fi â Computer Age (Feat. Mr Williamz)] which was featured on the Forward Ever LP [Mungo’s Hi Fi â Forward Ever] and on 7â [https://www.scotchbonnet.net/shop/product.php?id_product=527].
Mungoâs Hi-Fi ft Sugar Minott – Scrub a Dub Style
The opening track to the Forward Ever LP [Mungo’s Hi Fi â Forward Ever] features the legendary late singer Sugar Minott, who will feature regularly in this series.
One Recommendation From Mungoâs Hi-Fi
âThe Neo Tokyo Bass label, particularly Kokoro’s productionsâ