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Jamaica, the land of Reggae and EDM

Published:Monday | October 19, 2015 | 10:04 AMCurtis Campbell
Lloyd 'King Jammy' James

Following the recent revelation by Billboard.com that the EDM genre is a product of Jamaica, legendary producer King Jammys, who said he knew this all along, blames local media and historians for not documenting the history of Jamaican music.

The producer-selector who was also singled out by Billboard.com as one of the pioneers of electronic music, said in the formative years of Jamaican music, the media was focused on politicians and not the persons producing art.

King Jammys also said he has been touring for many years, hired by international promoters to play EDM and Dub music.

"Every year I go out and play this genre. Jamaicans don't cherish the history of the music and what we did. The historians only cherish politicians and not the hard work we put in, so the people don't know," he told The Gleaner, while encouraging Jamaican acts to capitalise on EDM music.

Billboard.com, which traced the origins of EDM music to the late great Jamaican producer-selector King Tubby, pointed out that EDM DJs are following his blueprint.

"EDM DJs who dissect and otherwise manipulate their tracks while playing live, are following an innovation established by the brilliant Jamaican engineer, sound system owner-selector, the late King Tubby (born Osbourne Ruddock). While working as a disc cutter for Duke Reid and using a two-track recording console, Tubby eliminated vocal and instrumental segments, sometimes stripping a song down to a single thunderous bass line - which he embellished with echo and reverb effects - in a process called dub. Because of his expertise with electronics, Tubby was able to recreate the dub effects live on his sound system, something no one had ever heard, making his set the most popular of the early 70s," Billboard.com noted in its article.

EDM music is currently estimated as being worth billions. However, there are no notable Jamaican artistes who practice the genre religiously, aside from collaborations with Major Lazer. Songs such Busy Signal's Bumaye, Damian Marley's Make It Bun Dem featuring Skrillix, Sean Paul's One Wine and Come On To Me, are of the few efforts featuring Jamaican artistes. Notably, all the singles mentioned are produced by foreigners.

Veteran journalist and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Dr Dennis Howard, confirms that EDM belongs to Jamaica, however, he steered clear of the reasons why the genre was not documented in Jamaica's history books like reggae and dancehall.

Instead, he provided The Gleaner with his own tracking of the EDM genre, taking us to the island's ghetto laboratories.

"EDM is a direct offshoot of dub which was pioneered by King Tubby, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Melvyn Morris, Keith Hudson and Clive Chin, among others. King Tubby invented the concept of the remix and with the associated production techniques developed by Tubby and Perry - a new way of song composition, an appreciation became evident. All early examples of EDM such as house music, ambient, trance synthpop, drum and bass and techno, had their origins in the ghetto laboratories of Kingston's concrete jungles led by the likes of King Tubby, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Errol Thompson, and Augustus Pablo," he said.

Howard, who is also playing his role in documenting Jamaican music by writing books such as 'Ranting from Inside The Dancehall', released in November of 2012, sought to break down the properties of EDM to shed more light on its origin in Jamaica.

"The drum and bass aesthetic and bass culture are enduring aspects of EDM. With techniques such as the build up, the bass drop, sampling, deep bass and the primacy of the drums - essentials ingredients of EDM - all have their roots in the work of Tubby and Perry. EDM also borrows from digital dancehall, which is among the first EDM in the mid 1980s. Kingston became the epicenter of the electronic music revolution when keyboard player Noel Davy, along with Wayne Smith and King Jammy, reintroduced the preset sample of Eddie Cochran's Something Else, on his Casio MT40 keyboard to the world as digital dancehall music. In the process, they jump-started the digital age of Jamaican music. All genres that fall under the EDM category such as dubstep, grime, trap drill, garage, techno, house, reggaeton, zimdancehall, qwaito and ambient, are pro-genies of dub and dancehall," Dr Howard said.

Still on the topic of why the genre was not claimed or documented by Jamaicans until Billboard decided to post their article, events coordinator Jason Newman, who is behind the production of Jamaica's first EDM festival, Paradise Lost, said more respect should be given to the pioneers of Jamaican music.

"We should appreciate Jamaica and the music all over again. King Jammys is still alive, so I would urge the young to start the celebration and give him a tap on the back at this moment, because if it wasn't for King Tubbys, King Jammys and those guys, that 6.9-billion dollar EDM market out there would not have existed. They decided to create sounds and with that, we got electronic music," he said.