Sound Clash

sound clash

A Sound clash is a musical competition where crew members from opposing reggae sound systems pit their skills against each other. Sound clashes take place in a variety of venues, both indoors and outdoors. Primarily featuring reggae (or dancehall) music, the object is to beat or ‘kill’ their competitors. In the early days of sound clashes, in Jamaican dancehall culture, sound systems would bring their own sound equipment–heavy bass sounds (that can be heard miles away) are especially important. A strong selection of contemporary, popular dubs is necessary also; sometimes sound systems paid artists for the exclusive use of dubs. Usually the Sound systems in the sound clash will play for a set time, perhaps 30 minutes before switching. This time interval gets shorter and shorter, so when playing returns to one sound again, they may only play a shorter time. Near the end of the clash they go song on song or ‘Dub fi dub.’

In Jamaica, sound clashes with their ‘violently martial ethos’ date back at least to the 1950s, when sound systems like Tom the Great Sebastian and Duke Reid’s the Trojan clashed in the old Back-O-Wall neighborhood of Kingston (now Tivoli Gardens). Sometimes these clashes were violent, with one system destroying the other system’s equipment. Sound clashes are an integral part of black culture in London as portrayed in the cult movie Babylon, at the same time that real-life sound systems such as Jah Shaka and Ital Lion were competing for supremacy in Deptford which is in The London Borough of Lewisham a traditional West-Indian area of South London.

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