Vinyl-heads rejoice! Marley’s Tuff Gong label is re-opening its pressing plant in Kingston.
Nearly a decade after vinyl suffered a terminal decline in Jamaica, Tuff Gong International has announced the refurbishment of its fabled Kingston pressing plant, heralding a return to vinyl production on an island long obsessed with the 7-inch single. Since the overhaul is being carried out by SunPress, the bespoke vinyl production service that revamped Joe Gibbs’ old Florida pressing plant, reggae lovers can rest assured that the revitalised Tuff Gong press will yield high-quality product better suited to reggae’s bass-heavy spectrum. “Rebuilding the Tuff Gong vinyl pressing plant in Kingston is a dream coming to life,” says Dan Yashiv, the SunPress staff member spearheading the project. “We expect to be pressing records on at least four presses in Kingston during 2018, with a mix of 12-inch and 7-inch presses, some originally purchased by Bob Marley. There are more vintage manual presses at the space, too, so we are looking into potentially increasing that number to seven or eight presses.” The location of the plant on Marcus Garvey Drive is particularly steeped in musical history, being the site of the island’s very first pressing plant, established in 1957 by Ken Khouri of Federal Records. Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid and Prince Buster all made use of the facility in the ska years, with engineer Graeme Goodall using diluted coconut oil to clean its Finebilt machines. Federal maintained a loyal customer base thereafter, with the vast majority of Studio One’s output being pressed there, and the Wailers made use of Khouri’s facility, too, once they established Tuff Gong in 1971. Marley had concrete plans to enter into record pressing himself but was unable to realise Tuff Gong’s expansion before his death from cancer in 1981. The following year, Rita Marley purchased Federal and moved Tuff Gong to the Marcus Garvey Drive compound. In the new millennium, despite vinyl’s wan in gs t atus in Jamaica, Tuff Gong remained the most active pressing plant on the island, handling product for Studio One, Joe Gibbs, Winston Riley, Tappa Zukie and other high-profile producers, as well as issuing Tuff Gong’s own material. But dwindling sales, and the high cost of maintaining the machines, meant that everything ground to a halt around 10 years ago; even the local sound systems had abandoned the vinyl format, something that would have been unthinkable before. Thankfully, the dramatic upsurge in demand in recent years has seen vinyl back on the menu, with Vinyl Thursdays and Inner City Dub among the many weekly Kingston sessions that now run with twin record decks. “A laptop is very convenient, but it comes at a great cost,” says Noel Harper of Killamansound jaro system, who salutes the return of vinyl pressing in Jamaica. “The sound that you would get from vinyl, I can’t find one laptop that could sound as good.” “The vinyl thing is growing worldwide and reggae is a part of it,” adds Gabre Selassie of the popular Kingston Dub Club. “It’s just logical that it would grow.”
Selector sweet!: (clockwise from top right) Bob looks upon a disc from the historic Tuff Gong record plant; more singles from the label’s vault.
“VINYL – I CAN’T FIND ONE LAPTOP THAT COULD SOUND AS GOOD.”