Rastafari, Roots, Reggae
Sound System Culture
Sound System culture emerged in the late 1960s. By the end of the 1970s every major city across Britain boasted of its own spread of Middle-weight, Heavy-weight and Super Heavy-Weight Sound Systems that would play in large community halls, Pub halls, Clubs and in the Blues and Shebeens (house parties). Creating, belonging to or following a "sound" was generally the order of the day. Sound Systems enabled many aspiring artists, MC’s and musicians to gain publicity at national and International levels. The now "household name" entrepeneur, Levi Roots, came to fame musically through this route. Of the many that created a national name for themselves the legacies of Sir Coxsone and Jah Shaka endure.
Sound Systems were famous for the art of securing exclusive Dub Plate’s (test pressings of vinyl made on acetate) with deep roots messages from various high profile Rastafari artists such as Bob Marley, Burning Spear and Dennis Brown. It was these messages, delivered at high wattage with wardrobe sized speaker boxes, which the community would gather to hear at venues, to be purged of negative emotions and be emboldened further into a sense of identity and solidarity with others going through similar experiences.
Sound System culture was a protective space for Rastafari youths and those who embraced the cultural/ancestral messages. The dancing style, or ‘Skanking’ as it was known, was in fact an African form of expression and it was only at these venues that people could feel entirely free to express themselves.
The heavy driving bass resonated with the uncompromising attitudes of Rastafari youths and their felt need to retain a spiritual compass and identity. Deep pulsating rhythms overlaid with syncopated higher Hertz frequencies of other instrumentation acted as a healing balm to the devoted followers.
The woes of living in a society that seemed to alienate Black youth on every level - from school to the work-place - could be unburdened through the charged atmosphere of solidarity felt at these musical gatherings. The film "Babylon", released in 1980, places the Sound System in the middle of a community's challenges, woes and survival strategies.