Written by Dutty Bookman
Portrayals of the excessively violent, highly comical or downright ridiculous aspects of Jamaican culture have become routine in popular culture. Thankfully, there is another side to this equation. Ample opportunities abound for people to witness and participate in the traditions that power us as a people. Once they see and feel the roots for themselves, they quickly realize that respect is due. One such event, Dubwise Jamaica, has risen to take its place in this category.
The concept is an ongoing partnership between two Rastafari bredrins, Rory 'Yaadcore' Cha and Jason Panton, with early and continuous visionary guidance from a third, Oje 'Protoje' Ollivierre. And the idea was simple enough: to reintroduce authentic roots dub reggae music in spaces accessible to mainstream audiences. And to do it with love. No bad-up, no joke t'ing, nothing to ridicule. Just shelling dance with the powers of His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I.
The fact that the entertainment terrain has changed quite a bit since days gone by has been no deterrent for the team. They simply recognized that the vehicle for the roots ethos needed upgrading. So while Dubwise Jamaica did not reinvent the wheel when it began in 2013, it did change the tires in a sense. Since then, it has received consistent support from ones within the reggae community, from foundation personalities like Ilawi (Jah Love Sound), Rory (Stone Love), Prince Alla, Fred Locks and General Pecos, straight forward to today's rising revivalists.
Now, in a semi-franchise fashion, a whole Dubwise Jamaica network is taking root - pun intended - in various cities across hills and valleys and distant lands. For me to be entrusted with marshaling the Washington DC outpost means that I now naturally have a greater appreciation for what Yaady and JP are doing. Knowing the brand's beginnings, it has been a joy to witness some of its expansion up close and personal. I have repeatedly seen this duo, a brilliant selector and a genius marketing mind (who can also chat mic wicked), approach the brand's challenges from their different perspectives, only to find a unified way forward in true Ras Tafari spirit and grace. They both, and each, have many wisdoms to share through the experience, as the reasonings below will show.
Bookman: After establishing Dubwise Jamaica as a recognizable weekly event, you both decided to take it outside of Jamaica. Why?
Yaadcore: For many reasons, the main one being just to share and preserve our Jamaican roots reggae music. The places the brand has expanded to whether weekly monthly or random dates are lacking this energy, especially coming from Jamaica.
Jason: The mission for Dubwise is to spread roots, reggae, dub, culture music to the masses and provide a space and balance with other musical genres penetrating society and the minds of the youth. With that mission we only could have one outcome: spread the dub wisely!
Bookman: Dubwise has now been established firmly in Miami (weekly) and Washington DC (bi-weekly), and events have already happened in places like New York, Atlanta, Puerto Rico and Trinidad & Tobago. Is there a specific criteria that factors into deciding whether or not a new location is added to the Dubwise Jamaica network?
Yaadcore: Yes there are specifications which may differ for the separate places depending on the circumstances.
Jason: It's Jah works. The right partnerships are apparent. After a conversation or few with ones who have expressed interest, we figure out the math and the intention. If the two things connect, then you see another Dubwise rise.
Bookman: Yaady, you have a very specific style of delivery when you perform to Dubwise audiences. What is the feeling that you try to leave people with?
Yaadcore: Feeling of joy and appreciation for themselves and the creator while full-joying reggae music in a high energy.
Bookman: You did entire Dubwise Jamaica tours in Europe and East Africa. Did you notice any significant similarities or differences between European and African audiences, or even how roots music was received in each of those places?
Yaadcore: Too much comparisons. They both love and respect the message and vibrations the music brings. One Heart, One Aim, One Destiny.
Bookman: JP, you have creative control over the visual branding of the Dubwise brand. What has been your vision for the look and feel?
Jason: Simply just trying to create something that is cool and forward, and hopefully someone will put it in a book one day and say this was pretty cool stuff they did back in 2013, '14, '15, '16 and so on.
Bookman: Being that you live in Miami and naturally have a greater degree of control over how Dubwise Miami operates, what insights would you share about how to introduce roots music and culture to an American audience, especially in places like Miami where people are generally more interested in hype and high energy than they are interested in the mental/spiritual frequency that the roots/dub sound generally offers?
Jason: Great thing about Miami... it is a city of recent immigrants, so they are more receptive to that Afro-Caribbean sound, the rhythm and the groove. Reggae music is everyone's music and when it hits you feel no pain, so really it's just for the DJs to select songs that carry a nice riddim and melody, so the people can tune in. Once they have them dancing, the word-sound call and response emanating from speakers and emcees generally get the people going. I think Miami, although high energy, is a perfect place to have roots reggae due to the blending of cultures.
Bookman: Washington DC has a committed but small roots community that supports the Dubwise brand wholeheartedly but we have been working with a space that was previously unused. Therefore, there is no regular "happy hour" crowd that hangs out at the bar like in Miami when I played as a guest selector with you guys this past summer. So my question is, being that Dubwise is attempting to affect the mainstream entertainment scene and orient more non-rootical people to the culture, what approach would you take in a situation like Washington's? How would you balance the need for a more diverse audience with the need to stay authentic and satisfy a core audience that comes to enjoy deep roots?
Jason: I really think a good DJ who can read the crowd and play for the room within the roots and culture style will ultimately figure out the balance and musical selections that will work for that particular locale. The only condition is it must be roots reggae culture so, within that, plenty of music exists to move hearts, minds and feet.
Bookman: What's the end game? In other words, do both of you envision a particular kind of expansion of the brand at the moment? How will it stand apart from the average event when all is said and done?
Yaadcore: As time goes by, different promoters from different places link with the interest of using the whole 'Dubwise Jamaica' branding along with booking me. This being the case, the circumstance really decides how much and how fast the expansion takes place. The event will keep doing what it has been doing to get to this point and whatever else it needs to provide the best time while vibing to the conscious vibrations of Rastafari frequency.
Jason: In some cities you do have events in which roots and culture is played, however the aim for Dubwise is not exclusively to keep a Rastafari session. We don't run a wire fence. We welcome all those who want to attend a conscious reggae party, and love the message and word sound in the music. Ultimately, what we play is music inspired by the King of Kings and the revelation thereof. We want Dubwise to serve as an entry point for the youth and other like-minded people to have a place and space to learn the music, hopefully internalize the message and carry it forward. How can "forward" have an end (game)?
Dubwise Jamaica online:
Dutty Bookman is an author and selector who coined the popular term "Reggae Revival." Visit his official website and blog, Duttyism.