How Kenyan Soundsystem Culture is on the rise at the Seventh Edition of Reggae In The Sun

Nairobi Underground How Kenyan Soundsystem Culture is on the rise at the Seventh Edition of Reggae In The Sun

MCs, dubplates and reggae is taking over the mainstream…

Twice a year in Nairobi, The GoDown Arts Centre is transformed. The cars take second place. The vast stage towers with speakers and lights and the bitumen becomes the dancefloor, under the sun, encircled with the red, gold and green decorated food tents.

The best roots reggae bands back artists in between deejay (backed by MCs) sets. The event, Reggae In The Sun, is hosted by MCs Phillipo and Princess Wakesho. The live set performances feature WeN Music and her band, Heartical Spence backed by the Mystiq Redemption Band straight from backing Everton Blender, Jah Lyric with the Roots Connection Band, Frankie Dee as well as Zikki, a rising star who Jah Lyric shared the stage with and Natty Konshaz grace the stage.

Soundsystem Clash…

In the UK, Red Bull presents the London Culture Clash, in Jamaica, Reggae Sumfest packs the Soundclash dancehall night and on the sea, Jamrock Reggae Cruise presents the Clash in The Sea. According to The Billboard, the sound system clash, is a contest between two (or more) sound systems (also called sets) vying for musical supremacy. Developed within economically depressed areas in Kingston in the late 1940s, early sound systems consisted of a turntable, amplifiers and towering speaker boxes, custom built to establish an identifiable, far reaching sound while emphasizing a deep bass. Sound systems employed selectors that chose the tunes and deejays whose cleverly rhymed introductions to each record created the art of toasting or deejaying, which became essential to clashing victories. The selectors’ need for new, exclusive music to attract audiences and defeat an opponent was a major catalyst in the development of Jamaica’s recording industry.

At Reggae In The Sun, we did not have a clash night but Empire Sound (celebrating 10 years) led selector, ZJ Heno’s dub plate set, sparks the growth of the Soundsystem culture in Nairobi. From international dubs voiced by Kabaka Pyramid and the rising Original Koffee, to a homegrown voiced dub plate by Fena Gitu, ZJ Heno, MC Advice and Empire Sound, rule the night.

Soundsystem business…

Soundsystem culture has been known to create business, community, but also create great music. Without the culture, there is no reggae/dancehall. Although the culture is heavily rooted in competition, but it also creates family and bonding. At Reggae In The Sun, we watched DJs Dido Ranks, Shiqx, Elvin, Double Trouble and as the event closed, Muzikal Sheriff of Rastyle Sound, backed by the lively MC/ DJ Teargas of Empire Sound. We even saw at one point different soundsystems on one stage. Agugu Gaga, Rastyle and Empire Sound all shared one stage, at intervals paying tribute to another fallen yet lively MC, MC Patoka.

While DJs, bands and artists reunite, reggae’s roots still run deep, in love and in unity. MC Teargas hands me his latest mixtape and his branded t-shirt inscribed, “Baba Dede Sacco.” What a night.

Reggae In The Sun organizers have always known for ever that if you have a good sound and good music, people come. This Soundsystem culture is on the rise.

Photo Credits: The GoDownArts Centre