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King Tubby meets the upsetter at the grass roots of dub: some thoughts on the early history and influence of dub reggae

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2007
JournalPopular Music History
Journal number3
Volume2
Number of pages22
Pages309-331
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

There can be few aficionados of electronic dance music who have not come across the term ‘dub’. Its ubiquity within contemporary dance cultures is conspicuous. However, its roots lie not in contemporary dance music per se, nor within Anglo-American, white, middle-class cultures, but within the ska and reggae sound system culture that emerged in Jamaica in the 1960s. ‘Dub’ refers to a process of deconstruction, by which the engineer strips music down to its basic rhythm components, introduces novel elements, and thereby provides a new interpretation of the material. While such processes are very common within contemporary electronic music, their origins are not well known and often misunderstood. Focusing on the work of King Tubby and Lee Perry, this article maps the emergence of dub and, in so doing, both indicates its wider significance and posits a particular understanding of its genesis. Whilst it is recognized that the early history of dub is complex, being the result of a confluence of various streams of Jamaican musical creativity, and whilst key figures such as Joe Gibbs, Errol Thompson, Sylvan Morris, and Augustus Pablo need to be discussed in any comprehensive account, the article argues that its genesis can be traced to one engineer in particular, King Tubby.