King Tub­bys meets Rock­ers Up­town

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Donal Di­neen

The golden era of Ja­maican mu­sic is filled with flam­boy­ant show­men, re­luc­tant stars and shady souls, but per­haps none is more enig­matic than the master of dub him­self, King Tubby.

Some­how, I had al­ways pic­tured him as a ro­tund over­lord rul­ing his do­main from a be­jew­elled throne, but in fact he was slim as a whip­pet and the Tubby moniker came from his Mother’s maiden name Tub­man.

Tubbby’s ground­break­ing stu­dio work which would el­e­vate the mix­ing en­gi­neer to a creative sta­tus on a par with the per­former and pro­ducer had hum­ble ori­gins. He started out as a ra­dio re­pair man at a time when the ma­jor sound sys­tems were rul­ing the roost in Kingston. His spe­cial­ity – build­ing trans­form­ers to sta­bilise the elec­tri­cal cur­rent – made him a vi­tal cog in the wheel. If the mu­sic stopped, may­hem en­sued and King Tubby was the re­pair man with the Mi­das touch.

When he got crowned King Tubby is a mys­tery, but he started his own sound sys­tem Hometown Hi-fi in 1958 and with the ad­di­tion of U Roy as the set’s star toaster, they moved quickly into the ma­jor league. The sound sys­tem be­came a crowd favourite through­out the hey­days of the Six­ties – not just due to the high qual­ity of the au­dio but also be­cause of the in­no­va­tive echo and re­verb ef­fects that drove the dancers wild.

It was these highly orig­i­nal touches that be­came his stu­dio trade­mark and drew ev­ery­one to his door at 18 Dromilly Av­enue, where he even­tu­ally set about cre­at­ing his own sound by at­tach­ing var­i­ous ef­fects units cob­bled to­gether from old de­vices and new tech­nolo­gies to his rudi­men­tary mix­ing board. Tubby could then play the mix­ing desk like an in­stru­ment, dub­bing out parts at will. A new sound was in town. The birth of dub.

The ad­di­tion of a vo­cal booth in 1974 meant he could also voice his tracks – and it was here that he recorded Au­gus­tus Pablo in full flow which is the ic­ing of the cake on this won­der­ful LP. The gen­e­sis of in­di­vid­ual sounds is a mys­tery. There are so many strands to ex­plore and there is deep mag­i­cal think­ing at work. Bet­ter not over­think it but let it was over you like a cool Kingston breeze.

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