Coppershot Music: surviving the system for 25 years
Starting as a team of three music lovers, Coppershot Music Sound System was the brainchild of Matthew Gray, Shaun Anderson, and Jason ‘Jig Zag’ Henriques. What does it take to transform an idea to an actual sound system in Jamaica? Well, Gray may tell you that back in 1994, it took real talent and drive.
“Nowadays, it apparently only takes a laptop and somebody to make noise on a microphone, but when we started, disc jockeys had to pay their dues by learning the music from the actual composition, timing, and energy to be consistent,” Gray told The Sunday Gleaner.
He could not be prouder of the sound system’s epic journey from a high school “hype thing” to a worldwide, respected music provider. And in 2019, Coppershot Music Sound System has arrived at an exciting milestone, having transitioned into work that has gone from being viewed as “not an actual profession” to a career that has afforded talented people to travel and gain familiarity with the global entertainment atmosphere. The exact date of its launch is a bit blurry, but everything else is clear.
“When a person is doing something they love, it becomes hard to even tell that 25 years have passed. It is not until I actually sit down and count back the years that the reality of it shows. It still feels fresh and enticing to face some new challenges in the business,” Gray said about dedicating so many years to the sound.
The challenges he touched on span technological advancements while simultaneously negotiating cost of services to match competition from other sound systems and disc jockeys and, not to mention, holding a group of, currently, more than 10 different personalities together – which probably proved to be one of the hardest – that helped to build the dynamic character of the full sound.
He noted that some companies do not make it to five years much less to be around and be relevant after a period of time. In celebration of this historic milestone, Coppershot selectors have charted their most prolific year yet, with the zenith being an anniversary party, which, according to Gray’s business partner and friend, Anderson – who is known in dancehall circles as Copper Shaun – adds to the milestone as a first.
“Over the years, our supporters have encouraged the team to host celebratory events, but it never came to fruition. There is no way we could make the 25th year pass without connecting with the same people who helped to build us,” Anderson said, commenting on its extravagant celebration slated for Saturday, December 7, at the premium Caymanas Golf Club venue.
He added: “It’s a big year, a significant year. It is going to be a night of celebration, and we really want our guests to experience a good time with the sound and its friends, some of whom are artistes we invited to perform. Though not necessarily a stage show, it will have that element.”
Copper Shaun would modestly say that many of his years on the sound were devoted to the road as the right hand of the Grammy Award-winning Sean Paul (the brother of Coppershot’s other founding member Jig Zag).
He said: “Sean Paul’s schedule evolved into jet-setting. The full tours that set off in 2006-2007 required me to travel more, and that’s probably the earliest changes the sound had to come to terms with.”
Yet, they survived, by integrating and introducing new disc jockeys Marc Chin and Blaine ‘Cutty’ Nesbitt. Coppershot skyrocketed from school functions to major parties and stages, not only across the local entertainment landscape, but overseas.
“We did not know what to expect but had to find the formula to make it work. At the end of the day, it was still our livelihood at stake,” Copper Shaun shared.
He recalls those transitional years as being the greatest of challenges; clients were used to Copper Shaun and were not biased towards hiring another DJ from the team, putting the sound at a loss. Unlike today, where social media makes the process of rebranding easier, he said, then that the resources and platforms were not available at the fingertips.
Marc Chin joined in quickly to add: “Showcasing talent was more personal, to be active to have the name out there because there were several individuals competing for the same spot. And the one thing about the music or entertainment industry overall is that it is unforgiving. A person can be on top today, and by tomorrow, nobody remembers the name.”
Luckily for Coppershot Sound, it became a household name, and one year after the overwhelming change, it was named the first Jamaican sound system to tour the Middle East through Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai.
Chin said: “It opened us to different cultures, playing for different societies internationally, and educated Cutty and me on adapting to diverse people and spaces. Getting, also, past the idea that a sound [system] was one that provided equipment as well, the music business saw a renaissance, and there are lots of ‘sounds’ or DJ teams that have emerged but have not made it.”
The sound system operators said that as time continues to fly, so do the members, and once the adrenaline is pumping, they plan to carry on its legacy for as long as possible.