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No music business without sound systems - Tony Myers keeps Jam One, others in shape

Published:Monday | March 19, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
A mural in homage to the sound system at Jam One's Minott Terrace, St Andrew, base.
Tony Myers (left) and Alanna 'Bonjay' Stuart with some of Jam One sound system's speaker boxes.
Tony Myers of Jam One sound system and chairman of the Jamaica Sound System Federation at his base on Minott Terrace, off Chisholm Avenue, St Andrew.

There are two sound system speaker boxes, with 'Jam' inscribed on them, close to each other at the Jam One sound system base on Minott Terrace off Chisholm Avenue, St Andrew. One, of course, belongs to Jam One, the sound system operated by Tony Myers, the name being a contraction of 'Jamaica's Number one'. The other has a few more letters, to make it 'Jammy's'.

The two boxes being in the same space without it being a date where they are slated to play together, is an indication of Myers' role in the sound system business, as he can reel off a list of sound systems whose equipment he has worked on. They include the sound of the famed Passa Passa street dance at its peak, Swatch International, U-Roy's Stur-Gav, and Black Scorpio. It was another sound system, 4x4 Exodus, which got him into building sturdy carrying cases, a business which has borne multiple fruits.

Myers, who heads the Jamaica Sound System Federation, is adamant about their role in the business of Jamaican popular music.


built up carefully


"Without the sound system there is no music business, because it teach the youth to sing and deejay and how to reach the crowd. These youth leave from them bathroom (in reference to the converted space for some home studios) to stardom. When them go pon stage, what them do? Pull up! A de bathroom-pull up," Myers said. "Them cyaa sing to help themself. Without ProTools, them cyaa put it together."

He is also critical of selectors who do not know their craft.

"The next thing come in was the CD player," he said, describing how previously a sound system's record collection was built up carefully over time, with some of the proceeds from each date reinvested in.

"Now, from a reflector - they are not selectors - start play, him no know one song, who sing it."

Myers laughs as he says that in building the 15 record cases for 4x4 Exodus, "me do it with hacksaw", his hands feeling the pressure. These days, as he makes cases and speaker boxes (he says "from you tell me what you want, I can make it") it is the whine of an electric saw which cuts through the activity of a set-up where there is an electronics sales and repair shop, a bar and, to one side, a car wash.

Many times, there is another sound as well - Jam One's sound being refined to the finest quality. When The Gleaner visited, though, it was still as Myers worked through a few bugs in his head before turning it on. He provides the sound and consoles for the Boom All-Star Clash, which takes place weekly along Olympic Way, St Andrew.

"The sound system travel in the truck, and the other day we play with Swatch and I hear something," Myers said. No matter how long you have the system, it have to tune after a certain time," he said.