Words by Jesse Serwer
Photos by Martei Korley and Kolya Barnes
Strictly roots and culture vibrations, with no slackness. Tunes played in a dubwise style, for their full duration, with messages of upliftment delivered live over the mic.
In December 2013, Yaadcore, the Jamaican selector known for his Reggae Aroma mixtape series, began holding a weekly, Wednesday-night session inside Kingston’s Whitebones Grill with the principles listed above.
Though it wasn’t the only series in town driven by a similar mission (it was inspired by Kingston Dub Club, Gabre Selassie’s Sunday night session in uptown Kingston, at which Yaadcore had been a frequent guest) Dubwise Jamaica quickly became a magnet for similarly-minded selectors, including such foundation DJs as Rory Gilligan of Stone Love and Danny Dread of Stereo Mars and Volcano sound system fame. Jamaica’s young reggae stars Chronixx, Protoje, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal and Micah Shemaiah were among its earliest supporters, passing through both as performers and just to hol’ a vibes, and it soon attracted veteran artists like Lutan Fyah, Mikey General and even Ninjaman, as well as international acts like Pressure Busspipe (St. Thomas) and Ziggi Recado (St. Eustatius).
A year and a half after its launch, Dubwise Jamaica has become an international brand representing what many see as a return to a more pure and natural style of playing reggae (as opposed to the fast-paced juggling style preferred by most of today’s Jamaican DJs). Last month, Yaadcore teamed with selectors Corey Chase and DJ Rampage to launch Dubwise Miami, a weekly session at Coyo Taco in the Wynwood Arts district. Although Yaadcore’s schedule only permits him to appear in Miami about once a month, each Wednesday night the backroom of the fashionable taqueria becomes the “Coyo Dub Lounge,” attracting a loyal crowd as well as fellow DJs (house DJ Armand Van Helden is a regular) and artists (Kabaka Pyramid dropped in last Wednesday to perform).
“It’s kind of been dub church for the loyal patrons,” Chase says of Dubwise’s introduction to Miami. “It’s not about bashment, it is about holding a communal meditation with like-minded individuals. The glue is a positive vibration and energy.”
Fresh back from Europe, Ethiopia and Kenya, Yaadcore is bringing Dubwise sessions New York City, Washington DC and Puerto Rico (San Jaun, Santurce and Rincon) over the next few days, before relaunching Dubwise Jamaica in a new location following a brief hiatus. In a sense, these are tour dates for a DJ who is currently in high demand. That would be one way of looking at it. In Yaadcore’s view, he’s laying a foundation for a movement that can spread consciousness and upliftment through roots music whether he’s in the building or not. Ahead of tonight’s launch of Dubwise New York (at 326 Butler St., in Brooklyn) with DJ Gringo, we spoke with Yaadcore about the Kingston session that’s become a worldwide movement.
LargeUp: What led you to start Dubwise?
Yaadcore: What led me to start Dubwise was I only had one place to play roots music in Jamaica for like one year, after I decided to stick to roots and culture selection. I only had one place, which was Kingston Dub Club. After a time mi just decide I need fi start up my own event, and I linked up with my partner, Jason Panton. Bless up, Jason Panton.
LU: For someone who’s never been, explain the difference in how you play records at a Dubwise event versus a DJ juggling reggae?
Yaadcore: We play the song a little bit longer. Almost every song is played to the end. From time to time, you can hear the part 2 selection, which would be the dub version, or side B where an artist is being toasted on the riddim. You can even get three versions of a tune—vocal, dub and riddim.
LU: What impact have events like Dubwise and also Kingston Dub Club had on reggae music in Jamaica?
Yaadcore: Well, the impact is that it is now accepted—it is more appreciated—to go to a session and hear strictly reggae music all night, roots music, giving praises to His Imperial Majesty, uplifting music. It has been over 20 years since we can keep a roots dance as consistent and frequently attended like Dubwise, Kingston Dub Club and all of these other roots events that have been popping over the past year or two.
LU: Today, people want music—and everything in general—fast. Do you feel that you’re counteracting this in a way? You’re playing older music and for longer.
Yaadcore: We definitely counteract that style of selecting music because, first of all, what’s the sense of playing a song for 30 seconds. Secondly, we like fi keep the tempo pon a certain level. You know seh, the message travel through a certain frequency and it resonate with man in a certain frequency better. That’s why we find fi reggae music is best to deliver the message of upliftment, the message of reverence. We just keep it original and keep it real.
LU: What are some of the specific—let’s say five—records that you would say best embody the spirit of Dubwise.
LU: You recently launched a weekly Dubwise Miami, and now I see Dubwise events popping up in NY, DC, all over. Are these going to be regularly kept events like the one in Miami?
Yaadcore: We are hoping to keep it consistent, definitely not a weekly but from a month to anytime longer than a month is possible. We definitely want to keep it going.
LU: How do you decide which opportunities fit the brand? If someone wants to work with you to start Dubwise in their city, what must they bring to the table?
Yaadcore: If somebody is interested in being associated with the brand or to keep an event with the brand Dubwise then just link up. and we discuss the potential and possibilities.