Sound System Culture: A New Book Reveals Huddersfield’s Hidden Reggae History

The good people at Fader Magazine wrote a great article about a new book on UK sound system culture. Sound System Culture, Celebrating Huddersfield’s Sound Systems focuses on the market town of Huddersfield. Check out Fader’s article below.

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  • Earth Rocker sound system inside Cleopatra’s (later named Silver Sands), Venn Street, Huddersfield, late 1970s. Clockwise from left: Papa Burky (Stephen Burke, operator/selector), Ducky Ranks (Donald Senior, MC), Yellowman (Robert Daley, crew member), Hunter (Brian Chester, crew member), Pumpkin (Errol Allison, crew member) and Greaves (Andy Greaves, MC). One of the biggest and most respected sound systems in the north of England, Earth Rocker was formed in 1975 by Stephen Burke, who was born in Huddersfield to Jamaican parents. The main selector and operator for the sound, Burke is a cabinet maker by trade, and continues to build boxes for sound systems across the UK and Europe to this day. According to writer Noel Hawks, who used to work at Dub Vendor record shop in South London: “One of our top mail-order customers ran a sound in Huddersfield. We used to send him up a box of pre-release singles COD nearly every week. He was so regular I can still recall his address, including the postcode, over thirty years later.” That customer was Stephen Burke. Photo courtesy Stephen Burke

Today the UK’s Notting Hill Carnival will be winding its way through the streets of west London for day two of the annual celebrations, five decades on from the very first event in 1964. A celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture in the UK capital, at its heart is music—steel pan bands, Carnival parties and dozens of sound systems set up in the cordoned-off streets. The UK’s love of sound systems has its roots in the late ’40s when hundreds of people from Jamaica and across the West Indies were invited to move to Britain and help reinvigorate the country following World War II. It was thanks to that first generation of Caribbean settlers that some truly unlikely places went on to become thriving centers of sound system culture—like Huddersfield, a small town in the north of England. In the slideshow above, Al Newman of One Love Books shares a series of fascinating photos from his new title Sound System Culture: Celebrating Huddersfield’s Sound Systems and explains below how the book came to be.

Al Newman: “The Sound System Culture book was conceived by Huddersfield-based historian Mandy Samra as part of a larger heritage project that also included a film and touring exhibition, documenting the rich history of reggae sound systems in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

I was first contacted by Mandy a little under a year ago, just before the exhibition began touring, when she approached me to design the book after seeing one of my previous books, Clarks in Jamaica. I loved the subject and the little-known history of the Huddersfield sounds and ended up getting much more involved in the research and editing, working with Yorkshire soundman Paul Axis’ text, and eventually publishing the book through my company, One Love Books.

In this excerpt from the book, Mandy explains how the project came about: “While never an insider of the sound system scene, I’ve always had an interest in sound systems and around five years ago I first had the idea for this project, but did not know where to begin. One day I was talking with my boiler man, Michael Royal, who revealed that he had been a sound operator for Duke Warrior, a Huddersfield-based sound system that had been active during the 1970s. Two people, who on the surface shared little in common, found a connecting thread in their interest in sound systems.”

We are now looking to expand the project into other UK cities, eventually building up a history of sound systems throughout the whole of the UK.”

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Sound System Culture: Celebrating Huddersfield’s Sound Systems is available now from One Love Books.

Written by: Ruth Saxelby

Article Link: http://www.thefader.com

 

House of Marley’s The Get Together: Kingston Sound System

Growing up in England during the 1990s, filmmaker Wonford St. James spent many nights dancing in the field to the rhythms of a backyard-styled “free party.” A music lover, James studied these English parties back to its roots and instantly fell in love with the Jamaican sound system culture that eventually migrated to the UK in the ’60s. “Anyone who has ever danced in front of large banks of speakers to music being played by a DJ can thank Jamaican sound systems for that experience.” The impact this genre of music had on the world was felt far and wide, from having a hand in the birth of American hip-hop to inspiring audio purveyors to deliver louder, more portable speakers. So when the New York-based creative was asked to produce a video coinciding with the launch of House of Marley’s new Get Together Bluetooth speaker, James immediately decided to visit Kingston. In his short piece, Albert “iLawi” Johnson – regarded as the original selector – becomes our host through this sound system experience, which is a journey to a simpler, more peaceful time. Be sure to also scroll down to read our full interview with the talented Wonford St. James.

For more on House of Marley’s Get Together Bluetooth speaker as well as how you could win your very own, please visit here.

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Wonford St. James and I am a filmmaker living in New York by way of London and Los Angeles.

How did you get into filmmaking?

Through a love of photography, music, cameras, art and life.

What was the goal behind your video?

We went to Jamaica to promote a dance and film it. I wanted to celebrate original Jamaican soundsystem culture and share a glimpse into the source of DJ culture. Jamaican music has had a massive, disproportionate, and well documented impact on global popular culture but the role of the soundsystem in the rise of reggae is not as well told. Anyone who has ever danced in front of large banks of speakers to music being played by a DJ can thank Jamaican soundystems for that experience. I want to shine a little light on the original dancehall scene and the energy, style and attitude that goes along with it.

What was your inspiration?

Growing up in England in the ’90s I spent a lot of time dancing all night in fields at “free parties,” so I’ve had traces of sound systems in my blood from an early age. As British house music evolved through that decade, I got heavily into the Jungle scene that blew up coming out of the early rave days. Jungle added the core ingredients of Jamaican dancehall into rave culture to create a uniquely British sound and subculture. You had rolling basslines and chopped out breaks bouncing along with MCs toasting over the music. Incredible and inspiring times. Going to Jamaica to make this little film was like a trip to Mecca.

How does House of Marley differ from other brands?

House of Marley has the opportunity to authentically celebrate a man and an island place with one of the world’s greatest musical heritage. Reggae imagery and attitudes have been brandalized far too often through diluted and distorted expressions of the culture. I hope that House of Marley are able to shine a new light on the subject that is creative and constructive.

What are you most excited about with your relationship with House of Marley?

It’s an exciting young brand with a great team behind it. I would love to take this project to the next level and work with the House of Marley team on a longer format film that explores the evolution and journey of sound system culture, from its roots in Jamaica across the world by way of hip-hop, house and heavy bass.

When you were approached about the project, what was the direction given and then how did you approach your execution/interpretation?

We were asked to create a film that spoke to the idea of an idea being shared; how ‘one’ becomes ‘many.’ This brief alongside a portable speaker made of wood with the Marley name on it immediately pointed me in the direction of Jamaica.

How influential has music been in your creative evolution?

Music has been the central part of my life and creative journey. The reason I live in New York is hip-hop.

What was it like traveling abroad? What were some of your favorite moments and what was some adversity you faced?

We were blessed to work with original selector and music man Albert ‘iLawi’ Johnson on this project who graciously welcomed us into his home to keep the dance at his yard. With iLawi as our guide we cut a blessed path through Kingston, uptown and down. My favorite moment was when the needle hit the first record at the dance. The soundsystem crackled and boomed into life and the place started bouncing. Alongside iLawi, we were blessed with a local producer Michelle Serieux who ensured that the only adversity we faced was whether we were going to run out of Red Stripe before the Guinness arrived.

What type of camera did you use for the film?

We shot the film on an old Canon camera using 8mm color film. These cameras are small, compact, and create a texture and warmth that fits perfectly with the story we were there to capture. The records crackle as the film rolls.

How receptive were the locals to being captured on film?

Jamaicans are lively, proud and beautiful people who are happy to get up in your face, so we had no shortage of potential superstars to liven up the dance.

Author: Robert Marshall

*Originally posted on HYPEBEAST

House of Marley’s The Get Together: Kingston Freestyle

When House of Marley recruited PSYOP to reinterpret Bob Marley’s ideals alongside the elegant Get Together Bluetooth Speaker, the character animator-turned-filmmaker looked to his love for dance hall videos and Japanese anime for inspiration. “For The Get Together I wanted to characterize the affect of music and how a good vibe can multiply from person to suddenly a whole block party.” Scored to Major Lazer’s “Watch Out For This (Bumaye),” Ding handed out the bamboo-constructed speaker and captured the infectious free spirit of Jamaica take hold of those around him. After checking out the short film above be sure to read through our full interview with the director below.

For more on House of Marley’s Get Together Bluetooth speaker as well as how you could win your very own please visit here.

 

Can you introduce yourself?

Hello, my name is Gerald Ding I am a Director at Psyop in New York and live in the Lower East Side with my wife and our French Bulldog, his name is Bob.

How did you get into filmmaking?

I started as a character animator and was so focussed on owning a series of shots as my part for a project. To me that was like my first chance at being a storyteller, but I wanted to tell the whole story in my own way and not just a piece of it.

What was the goal behind your video? What was your inspiration?

A lot of times in advertising when there’s a product, brands usually characterize what they’re selling and try to give it a personality. For The Get Together I wanted to characterize the affect of music and how a good vibe can multiply from from person to suddenly a whole block party. I really loved Dance Hall videos and Japanese Anime so I mashed them together this time.

How does House of Marley differ from other brands?

Almost every brand, especially in the beginning, tries to build content for what they’re selling while Marley House is built on the spirit of Bob Marley and Reggae music culture.

What are you most excited about your relationship with House of Marley?

I’m proud that I got to collaborate with Gabe and Tracey, friends I’ve known for years but never had a chance to work with, and on a project that visually encompasses many of my favorite things.

When you were approached about the project, what was the direction given and then how did you approach your execution/interpretation?

The creative brief was very open and trusting, they wanted to know how I’d interpret Bob Marley’s ideals without making him as the focus, and how do we portray one becoming many. I know that Psyop was in this mix since were known for a certain visual storytelling and look, but I wanted push this idea I’ve had going on in my head and see how it’d actually look like.

How influential has music been in your creative evolution?

I love the match cut style in Major Lazer’s Get Free video it’s awesome, so is the song to. When I imagined the 3 stories I wanted to show, nothing else seemed to work so perfectly as Major Lazer did, so we edited with “Watch Out For This (Bumaye)” and couldn’t imagine anything else.

How different is film directing from strictly animating?

It’s a different kind of trust when you’re working with your artists and crew but the storytelling aspect is the same to me. In film I’m collaborating with cinematographers and actors and other crew members that are going to give me a performance that may or may not turn out the way I saw it in my mind. It’s a different kind of collaboration that becomes something different or even better than I imagined it in the beginning. This could be the same for animation also but outcome is much more refined and honed in, basically each frame can be manipulated and I have complete control if there’s enough time

Author: Robert Marshall

*Originally posted on HYPEBEAST