Words by DJ Shirkhan
Along with Sammy K., his partner in Malmo, Sweden’s Safari Sound, DJ Shirkhan has been a staple on our Mixtape Mondays column, thanks to Safari’s steady stream of consistent, high-quality mixes. One of the top reggae/dancehall DJs in Sweden, Shirkhan also goes back a few years with the LargeUp team. Knowing his extensive knowledge of the music and culture, we passed him the baton for this week’s Throwback Thursday.
As a kid that immigrated to Sweden from Iran in the early ’90s, I faced lots of changes and shocking moments. One of them was the fact that there where TV channels that showed music videos 24/7. Where I came from, music was basically illegal as it opposed the theocracy that ruled the nation—so, of course I started to love this forbidden fruit immediately. Pretty early I fell in love with hip-hop culture, which, before my migration to the far west, I had no clue of what it was. Via hip hop and programs such as Yo! MTV Raps, I was introduced to dancehall and reggae music, as the hosts used to squeeze in a little Shabba, Louie Rankin or Super Cat now and then. I found dancehall much more powerful than rap and started investigating this genre a bit more.
Around the mid ’90s, I was all hooked up with Jamaican music and it was during this same period that I found a cassette of the first Born Jamericans album, Kids From Foreign, at a friend’s house. The title itself attracted me and when I heard the stuff I was sold. This was the best thing I had ever heard! I managed to get myself a copy of the cassette and today I still know nearly all of the lyrics on that album by heart.
A few EPs and singles later, Born Jamericans released their second album, Yardcore. I got myself a copy of the vinyl and felt like I was the king of the world. My favorite song on the album was and still is “Gotta Get Mine,” which featured Mad Lion, of “Take It Easy” and BDP fame, and Sleepy Wonder, a deejay from Jamaica by way of NYC who would later go on to record with Thievery Corporation. The song was a gritty, hip-hop/dancehall update of British-Jamaican R&B singer Junior Giscombe’s all-time classic “Mama Used to Say,” in which the artists discussed their by-any-means-necessary approach to life. Appropriately, the video was shot in a boxing gym. Maybe I should mention that during this period, hip-hop was huge in Sweden–especially in the southern parts where I lived–and people did not really pay much attention to dancehall music. Many didn’t even know what it was. This resulted in my friends picking on me and teasing me for listening to this “weird” music that they couldn’t understand anything of. This was around ’97 and ’98. Today, the same guys listen to Born Jamericans and dancehall from the same era and ask me why I never introduced them to this stuff back then. So this is a dedication to the very same people and everybody else who love the groundbreaking style that Born Jamericans presented in the mid-90´s. It was a favorite back then and it still is a favorite!