Equiknoxx music powered by Redbull, helps spread J’can culture abroad
Gavin 'Gavsborg' Blair, Jordan 'Time Cow' Chung, Shanique Marie, Bobby Blackbird and Kemikal Splash make up Equiknoxx Music. These contributors share an ideal - that dancehall music is potently universal from its roots to branches, and that real reward comes when they have successfully introduced this fundamental ideal to new audiences.
On October 17, Equiknoxx Music went to Amsterdam; there, they headlined an event at which Red Bull 'curated' dancehall.
"We found out it was Red Bull after the fact. We were invited by someone we already knew - through a mutual friend," Gavsborg said.
"It started a couple years ago with Red Bull locally, then internationally, because it's a large company with an eye on music all over the world," Gavsborg told The Gleaner.
The relationship between Red Bull and Equiknoxx is like the relationships forged by the energy drink brand with other music, sports and entertainment spaces. In that relationship, Equiknoxx found that the connection allows for deeper interaction with dancehall fans and access to uncharted territories.
"We've been placed with the responsibility to make people aware. Sometimes we're the first people from Jamaica someone has ever seen. There are people who don't know that ska is from Jamaica or that when they use techno and are drenching with reverb, it's dub and it's from Jamaica," Gavin 'Gavsborg' Blair told The Gleaner.
Gavsborg relayed an interaction with a record collector in Berlin, whose collection was in the thousands, but he had no idea of Vybz Kartel.
"There is a lot of untouched territory. We're picking up where King Tubby and people like that left off. It's deeper than the reggae festival. On the surface they are electronic music festivals, but truly they are just a space away from dancehall."
"It goes back to the word 'curation'. We can go as far as saying, once anyone sets up a sound system, they are emulating Jamaica's sound system culture," Gavsborg continued.
With Jamaican sound pervading the global airwaves, Shanique, who sings with Equiknoxx doesn't believe that international interest in Jamaican music ever completely waned. She said: "the interest has always been there, for the magic that comes out of Jamaica. When we are performing, to see how intensely the people are affected, it's magnetic. And it's something that's been happening over time."
"Various things have been popping up. Take one instance a couple months ago, [Redbull] offered us a studio to use in London for a week, just to go in there and use it. It was catered, there was an engineer there that we had at our disposal," Gavsborg shared.
Equiknoxx Music rocketed to popularity in 2010, after the release of local hits, Jim Screechie and Sky Daggering. Relative silence on the local scene implied that the producers were no longer in the game. The team merely expanded the scope of their productionshying away from the standard of Jamaican dancehall distribution.
"It wasn't a break, but it might feel that way," Bobby Blackbird said. "We weren't doing juggling riddims. The culture of dancehall is limited in terms of how people make money," Blackbird added.
Throwback to the '90s, Blackbird recalled the standard production line, where multiple artistes 'voiced' on one riddim, which was then peddled to distributors.
"Music doesn't work like that anymore you'll find the musicians have changed genres or changed position; they don't work or live in Jamaica anymore, because the structure is no longer there. So we wanted to find new ways to spread the craft and get it heard. We took a different approach. Not strictly financial, but very experimental," he said.
In 2016, Equiknoxx Music released their debut instrumental dancehall album called Bird Sound Power. Their follow-up project is more ongoing. Every month, the group hosts The Equiknoxx Show on NTS Radio. Equiknoxx collaborates with JACAP and JaRIA to book some of their guests.
The fifth episode so far features dancehall star Hawkeye, and is available for listening on nts.live.