The once and future music of revolution
By Greg Burk
Early dubbists frequently poached backing tracks of tunes designed for vocals. Like nationalizing the bauxite plant — we’re gonna keep the structure, but run it our way and pocket the profits — the notion harmonized with the spirit of the times. In the ’60s, Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs made new meanings by cutting up texts and tapes. And in the ’70s and ’80s, Jacques Derrida got a lot of hippie college profs excited with the notion that you could deconstruct and re-reference words intellectually, without regard for the author’s author-ity.
Jamaican dub is more subversive than Burroughs or Derrida because it’s more populist: The huge bass — designed for irresistible dance action via monster sound systems — goes straight for the body. No Ph.D. required. By rights, it should be on the radio everywhere. If you want to get suspicious, you can speculate about why hip-hop — which hypes materialism and self-destruction — receives 360-degree U.S. exposure, while dub and roots reggae get stuck behind the tofu bin.