Words by Marvin Sparks, Photos by Amit & Naroop
Orange Hill Productions are a fresh production outfit from the UK poised to explode on the world with a funky fusion they dub “Electro Bashy.” The duo have already built an extensive musical history. Ras Kwame is known for hosting the HomeGrown Show on BBC Radio 1Xtra and producing UK Garage club classics as M-Dubs; his production partner Jnr Tubby (a/k/a Dialtone), great-nephew of dub pioneer King Tubby, has built beats for American MCs like Lil Wayne and Juelz Santana.
With their first official single “Wine De Best” (which matches versatile dancehall/reggae star Busy Signal with UK wordsmith Kano and hypeman/radio personality/reality TV guy Fatman Scoop) set to drop in the US and internationally next week, and our headphones still scorching from their introductory Electro Bashy: Welcome to Our Sound mixtape, we sent our UK correspondent Marvin Sparks to their North London studio to find out what exactly Electro Bashy is, why Kwame and Tubby feel dancehall needs a shock to the system, and their take on Jamaican music’s undeniable influence on UK black music.
LargeUp: Tell us how the concept of Electro Bashy came about?
Ras Kwame: “Electro Bashy” is the name of how we describe our sound. It’s a new sound, it basically describes what we do which is primarily reggae for the purposes of this act, mixed in with UK bass influences, with a little bit of dance, and you get the Electro Bashy formula.
LU: How did you come up with it?
Jnr Tubby: The reggae we thought wasn’t really matching up with what the new music was doing—like R&B and dance music. Reggae really seems to come out with a formation with whatever sound is around, and that wasn’t really happening, and Ras discovered a way to work with the reggae sound but still in a dance format. And we were like that’s the new sound, the new sound of 21st century reggae.
LU: How did you guys meet?
RK: We’ve known each other for years and years. We’ve always had roots in the UK garage scenes doing production. I used to put records out under the name M-Dubs, which were reggae influenced records anyway with people like Ritchie Dan, Lady Saw, and so on.
JT: I had many garage names. I worked with many garage producers, many garage artists…“Sweet Like Chocolate” was a big remix I did.
RK: The main thing he is known to the scene for is Antonio’s “Hyperfunk.” We both had connections in the UK garage scene, linked up, started talking, swapped ideas. He made a name for himself doing the production thing and stayed with that touring all around the globe. I got into the broadcasting thing, fast forward ten years and we got talking again, then we stumble across this Electro Bashy thing and this is something that we both share a passion for. He is the descendant to the great King Tubby, that’s his great nephew right there. I thought it would be really cool if I could work with a descendant of a music icon. That’s music royalty linking up, so I was like “Yeah, I’m in!” We went to Jamaica in 2010 and it’s been a journey from then.
LU: I’m guessing you made the riddims over here [London] and then took them to Jamaica to do the voicings…
RK: That’s kind of how it began. I linked with Jnr Tubby, we were talking about doing ideas, he was formulating the style, working it out in his head technically. The first warm-up single we put out, “Dan Man,” was actually a riddim we took to Jamaica and was really different than that one we had voiced. When we came back we had a more clear idea for a sound and the name of the project had actually been established. Orange Hill is a mountain in Jamaica. It also describes a strain of particular weed that comes from that side of the mountain.
JT: I had built the main beat that we finally decided on, on top of the actual mountain itself, and we were like “Oh yeah, that’s what the whole thing needs to sound like.”
LU: What are the origins of your interest in reggae and dancehall?
JT: I’m half Jamaican. I was in Jamaica seven years as a youngster, I came over here, then I went over to America working with people like Juelz Santana. They would want reggae influences on their mixtapes. I even did one with Lil Wayne—I Can’t Feel My Face by Juelz Santana. I worked mostly with Juelz Santana and I got to work with him on that project. It wasn’t really big in England and around the world as much as now. It actually leaked, I still have tracks with them that didn’t even get released.
RK: Growing up in Ghana, West Africa—I went to secondary school over there—it’s a reggae mad country. But more on the rootsy side of things, listening to people like Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse. It was through the natural vibe of the place and listening to [David] Rodigan tapes that were circulating like hard currency. He used to do capital radio and a station called BFBS, and those tapes were what we used to listen to and learned DJing from then… and collecting reggae records. In my personal me time, that’s what I listen to really and truly from all the varieties like dub, to the more roots and culture through the dancehall, I love it all. When I started making music somewhere in the early 90’s, I was always drawn to that vibe.
LU: So who does what role within the duo?
RK: The way Orange Hill works is we have a broad spectrum of ideas, and a broad list of people we want to work with. Tubby deals with the more technical side in terms of sitting behind the keyboard, and does his thing. We just bounce ideas around, come up with little melodies and sample ideas, what kind of elements we want to chuck in, until we come up with riddims and from those riddims we pair them up with people from our wish list of artists we want to work with and try to create songs.
Orange Hill and Busy Signal. Photo: Ras Kwame
LU: How did you go about selecting artists?
RK: We did start with a list of guys that we always wanted to work with, a dream collection of artists in modern reggae: I-Octane, Vybz Kartel, RDX, guys that have made big records and play in clubs. We build riddims based around the Electro Bashy vibe, and think of what kind of voices go with it and who you want to work with.
Read on for Part Two, as Orange Hill’s Ras Kwame and Jnr. Tubby talk links in Jamaica, their “supersonic” and “nuts” video with Vybz Kartel and their goals with Electro Bashy.