Losing sleep over the intricacies of the reggae business? Relief is at hand as Garrett Wheeler interviews Djs Adam Twelve and Suraj.
By Garrett Wheeler
It's no secret: we Santa Cruzans love our reggae. Find us chillin' on a warm summer day and chances are Bob Marley's going to be making his rounds on the CD player. But how many of us are true reggaeheads, following the current of Jamaican music that streams from the Caribbean to the mainland? Do the majority of us who call ourselves reggae fans really understand the inner workings of the reggae industry? If you're like me, the answer is no, flat out. So I thought I'd do all you rasta-wannabes a favor and seek out those knowledgeable on the subject. From the recording studio to the dance hall, and straight through to Santa Cruz, DJs Adam Twelve (Adam Kimball) and Suraj (Clint Biddle) are in the know--and now we are too.
Mūz: There seems to be some confusion about the happenings of reggae music ...
SURAJ: Yeah, I've talked to a lot of people who are really into reggae, and even follow a lot of the new artists, but still don't really know the culture. Once you get into it you realize there's this whole world that you never really knew about, with sound systems and dub-plates ...
Wait, wait--what's a sound system?
ADAM 12: A lot of DJs will form a group, called a sound system. It started in the late '60s in Jamaica, when people would bring speakers out and have open, free parties. Eventually the DJs grouped together. Sound systems are how artists in Jamaica get started, before they start working with producers or on record labels.
Jamaican artists can have a career without aligning with a label?
ADAM 12: The Jamaican music industry works a lot differently than the American industry. Here, an artist will get picked up by a label and get signed and only work with that label. In Jamaica, artists work with individual producers, so they aren't bound to one label. Artists don't get paid that much, because the producers own the music and the artist will just get paid once to voice a tune over the producer's beat. To make money, they do what's called a dub plate.
OK, and a dub plate is what?
SURAJ: Basically, a dub plate is when a producer gets an artist with a big song to collaborate with him, and kind of personalize the song.
ADAM 12: The artist will sing a rendition of the song but switch it up and talk about the producer's sound system. As a DJ and producer, building a collection of dub-plates is how you get recognition. It can be expensive, but it's an investment. For the artist, dub plates are really crucial because it's not like most artists are getting money coming in from the same tune over and over.
SURAJ: There's also a lot of competition in Jamaica to get on a sound system, and get on a producer's track. If a producer makes a hot beat in Jamaica, as it circulates, there's competition for artists to get on that beat, especially if the producer's well known. It can be an artist's only hope to get recognition, and eventually make money off their music. It's a tough system, but it keeps the scene really fresh.
I'll be the first to say: thanks for clearing that up, fellas.
Send a letter to the editor about this story.