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Stylistic origins Reggae - Ska - Rocksteady - Ambient
Cultural origins 1967-1968, Jamaica
Typical instruments Mixing desk
Mainstream popularity Mid 1970s to Early 1990s
Derivative forms Dancehall
Dub poetry
Fusion genres
Dubtronica - Dubstep
Other topics
List of dub artists

Dub is either an instrumental[1] subgenre of reggae music,[2] or a separate genre of music[3] that involves revisions of existing songs.[4] The dub sound consists predominantly of instrumental remixes of existing recordings and is achieved by significantly manipulating and reshaping the recordings, usually by removing the vocals from an existing music piece, emphasizing the drum and bass parts (this stripped down track is sometimes referred to as a 'riddim'). Other techniques include dynamically adding extensive echo, reverb, panoramic delay, and occasional dubbing of vocal or instrumental snippets from the original version. Dub also sometimes features electronically generated sound effects, or the use of distinctive instruments such as the melodica.

Dub was pioneered by Osbourne Ruddock, Lee Perry, Errol Thompson and others[2] in the late 1960s. Similar experiments with recordings at the mixing desk were also done by producers Clive Chin and Herman Chin Loy.[5] These producers, especially Ruddock and Perry, looked upon the mixing desk as an instrument, manipulating tracks to come up with something new and different.

Dub has influenced many genres of music, including rock (mostly significantly the sub-genre of post-punk and other kinds of punk[6]), pop,[7] hip hop,[6] disco and, later, house[8], techno[8], ambient[8], trip hop[8]; it has become a base for jungle/drum'n'bass[9][10] and dubstep.[11] Today, the word 'dub' is used widely to describe the re-formatting of music of various genres into typically instrumental, rhythm-centric adaptations.


The term

The verb dub is defined as making a copy of one recording to another. The process used by Jamaican producers when making dubs was to use previously recorded material, modify the material, and subsequently record it to a new master mix, in effect transferring or "dubbing" the material.[12] The term dub had multiple meanings in Jamaica around the time of the music's origin. One of the most frequent meanings was denotation of either a form of erotic dance, or sexual intercourse;[13] such usage is frequently present in names of reggae songs, for instance, of The Silvertones' "Dub the Pum Pum" (where pum pum is Jamaican slang for female genitalia), Big Joe and Fay's "Dub a Dawta" (dawta is Jamaican slang for girlfriend). I-Roy's "Sister Maggie Breast" features several references on sex:

I man a-dub it on the side
Say little sister you can run but you can't hide
Slip you got to slide you got to open your crothes wide
Peace and love abide

Some musicians, for instance Bob Marley and The Wailers, had their own meaning of the term dub. In concert, the order "dub this one!" meant "put an emphasis on bass and drums". Drummer Sly Dunbar points to a similar interpretation, relating the term dubwise to using only drums and bass.[12] Another possible source was the term dub plate, as suggested by Augustus Pablo.[14] John Corbett has suggested that dub could derive from duppie, a Jamaican patois word for ghost, as illustrated by Burning Spear having named the dub version of his "Marcus Garvey" album "Garvey's Ghost", and by Lee Perry stating that dub is "the ghost in me coming out".[15]


Music of Jamaica

Kumina - Niyabinghi - Mento - Ska - Rocksteady - Reggae - Sound systems - Lovers rock - Dub - Dancehall - Dub poetry - Toasting - Raggamuffin - Roots reggae - Reggae fusion

Anglophone Caribbean music
Anguilla - Antigua and Barbuda - Bahamas - Barbados - Bermuda - Caymans - Grenada - Jamaica - Montserrat - St. Kitts and Nevis - St. Vincent and the Grenadines - Trinidad and Tobago - Turks and Caicos - Virgin Islands
Other Caribbean music
Aruba and the Dutch Antilles - Cuba - Dominica - Dominican Republic - Haiti - Hawaii - Martinique and Guadeloupe - Puerto Rico - St. Lucia - United States - United Kingdom

Dub music is characterized as a "version" or "double"[16] of an existing song, often instrumental, using B-sides of 45 RPM records and typically emphasizing the drums and bass for a sound popular in local sound systems. The instrumental tracks are typically drenched in sound effects such as echo, reverberation, with instruments and vocals dropping in and out of the mix. Another hallmark of the dub sound is the massive low-pitched bass guitar. The music sometimes features other noises, such as birds singing, thunder and lightning, water flowing, and producers shouting instructions at the musicians. It can be further augmented by live DJs. The many-layered sounds with varying echoes and volumes are often said to create soundscapes, or sound sculptures, drawing attention to the shape and depth of the space between sounds as well as to the sounds themselves. There is usually a distinctly organic feel to the music, even though the effects are electronically created.[16][17 ]

Often these tracks are used for "toasters" rapping heavily rhymed and alliterative lyrics. These are called "DJ Versions". In forms of sound system based reggae, the performer using a microphone is referred to as the "DJ" or "deejay" (where in other genres, this performer might be termed the "MC", meaning "Master of Ceremonies", "Microphone Commander" or "Mic Control"), and the person choosing the music and operating the turntables is called the "selector" (sometimes referred to as the DJ in other genres).

A major reason for producing multiple versions was economic: a record producer could use a recording he owned to produce numerous versions from a single studio session. A version was also an opportunity for a producer or remix engineer to experiment and vent their more creative side. The version was typically the B-side of a single, and used for experimenting and providing something for DJs to talk over, while the A-side was more often the dedicated to the original vocal-oriented track. In the 1970s, LP albums of dub tracks were produced, often simply the dub version of an existing vocal LP, but sometimes a selection of original instrumental tracks produced in dub style for which no vocals existed.[18]


Dub music and toasting introduced a new era of creativity in reggae music. From their beginning, toasting and dub music developed together and influenced each other. The development of sound system culture influenced the development of studio techniques in Jamaica,[19] and the earliest DJs, including Duke Reid and Prince Buster among others, were toasting over instrumental versions of reggae and developing instrumental reggae music.[20]

"Versions" and experiments with studio mixing (Late 1960s)

In 1968, Kingston, Jamaica sound system operator Ruddy Redwood went to Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio to cut a one-off dub plate. Engineer Byron Smith left the vocal track out by accident, but Redwood kept the result and played it at his next dance with his deejay Wassy toasting over the rhythm.[21] The instrumental record excited the people at the sound system and they started singing lyrics of the vocal track over the instrumental. The invention was a success, and Ruddy needed to play the instrumental continuously for half an hour to an hour that day.[22] The next day Byron Lee who was a witness to this, told King Tubby that they needed to make some more instrumental tracks, as "them people love" them, and they dubbed out vocals from "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" by Slim Smith. The resulted instrumental track wasn't just a track without a voice, because of King Tubby's innovate approach - he interchanged the vocals and the instrumental, playing the vocals first, then playing the riddim, then mixing them together. From this point on, they started to call such tracks "versions".[22] Another source puts 1967 and not 1968 as the initial year of the practice of putting instrumental versions of reggae tracks to the B-side of records.[23]

At Studio One the initial motivation to experiment with instrumental tracks and studio mixing was correcting the riddim until it had a "feel", so a singer, for instrance, could comfortably sing over it.[22]

Another reason to experiment with mixing was rivalry among sound systems. Sound systems' sound men wanted the tracks they played at dances to be slightly different each time, so they would order numerous copies of the same record from a studio, each with a different mix.[24]

Evolution of dub as a sub-genre (1970s)

While some have tried to attribute the "invention" of dub music to a single person, by 1973, through the efforts of several independent and competitive innovators, engineers, and producers, instrumental reggae "versions" from various studios had evolved into "dub" as a sub-genre of reggae.

Errol Thompson engineered the first strictly instrumental reggae album, entitled The Undertaker by Derrick Harriott and the Crystalites, which was released in 1970. This innovative album credits "Sound Effects" to Derrick Harriott.

In 1973, at least three producers, Lee "Scratch" Perry and the Aquarius studio engineer/producer team of Herman Chin Loy and Errol Thompson simultaneously recognized that there was an active market for this new "dub" sound and consequently they started to release the first albums strictly consisting of dub. Lee Perry released Blackboard Jungle Dub in the spring of 1973. It is considered a landmark recording of this genre.

In 1974, Keith Hudson released his classic Pick a Dub, widely considered to have been the first deliberately thematic dub album, with tracks specifically mixed in the dub style for the purpose of appearing together on an LP, and King Tubby released his two debut albums King Tubby Meets the Upsetter at the Grass Roots of Dub and Surrounded by the Dreads at the National Arena.

Recent history (1980-Present)

Dub has continued to evolve, its popularity waxing and waning with changes in musical fashion. Almost all reggae singles still carry an instrumental version on the B-side and these are still used by the sound systems as a blank canvas for live singers and DJs. Rastafari DJ Kyle Fartley was one of the original innovators of modern dub heard today.

In the 1980s, Britain became a new centre for dub production with Mad Professor and Jah Shaka being the most famous, while Scientist became a standout artist of the era. It was also the time when dub made its influence known in the work of harder edged, experimental producers such as Adrian Sherwood and the roster of artists on his On-U Sound label. Many bands characterized as post-punk were heavily influenced by dub. Better-known bands such as The Police, The Clash and UB40 helped popularize Dub, with UB40's Present Arms In Dub album being the first Rastafarian dub album to hit the UK top 40.

Musical Impact

Influence of Dub on Popular, Electronic, & Dance Music

From the 1990s forward, dub has been influenced by, and has in turn influenced, techno, jungle, drum and bass, dubstep, house music, punk and post-punk, trip hop, ambient music, and hip hop, with many electronic dub or dubtronica tracks, as well as Ambient dub, produced by nontraditional rastafarian musicians from these other genres. Musicians such as Bill Laswell, Jah Wobble, Leftfield, Ott, Massive Attack, Bauhaus, The Clash, The Beastie Boys, Asian Dub Foundation, Killing Joke, PiL, the Disco Biscuits, The Orb, Rhythm & Sound, Pole, Deadbeat, Subatomic Sound System, Underworld, De Facto, Sublime, Thievery Corporation, Bandulu Dub, Kruder & Dorfmeister, DJ Spooky, High Tone, Dub All Sense and others demonstrate clear dub influences in their respective genres, and their innovations have in turn influenced the mainstream of the dub genre. In the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia and America, independent record producers continue to produce dub. Before forming The Mars Volta, Omar and Cedric of the post hardcore group At The Drive In, along with friends Ikey Owens and Jeremy Ward, recorded a series of dub albums under the name De Facto. The Polish punk/psychedelic and new wave bands Brygada Kryzys and Republika recorded dub tracks. Yugoslav New Wave outfit Električni Orgazam also experimented with dub music on their album Lišće Prekriva Lisabon. Other dub performers include Serbian dub band Black Ark Crew, Basque dub band Basque Dub Foundation, and Australian live dub outfit The Sunshine Brothers. In 1987, rock band Soundgarden released a dub version of the Ohio Players' song "Fopp" alongside a more traditional rock cover of the song. DJs appeared towards the end of the 1990s who specialised in playing music by these musicians, such as the UK's Unity Dub.

Influence of Dub on Punk and Rock Music

Since the inception of dub in the 70s, its history has been intertwined with that of the punk rock scene in the UK. The Clash worked on collaborations involving Jamaican dub reggae creators like Lee Scratch Perry(whose "Police & Thieves", co-written with Junior Murvin, was covered by the Clash on their first album) and Mikey Dread (on the Sandinista album). As well, the English group Ruts DC, a post Malcolm Owen incarnation of the legendary reggae influenced punk group The Ruts, released Rhythm Collision Dub Volume 1 (Roir session), with the expertise of the Mad Professor. Many punk rock bands In the U.S. were exposed to dub via the rasta punk band Bad Brains from D.C., which was established and released their most influential material during the 80s. Dub was adopted by the punk rock camp of the 90s, with bands such as Rancid and NOFX writing original songs in a Dub style. Often bands considered to be Ska-Punk play dub influenced songs; one of the first such bands to become popular was Sublime, whose albums featured both dub originals and remixes. They went on to influence more recent American bands such as Rx Bandits and The Long Beach Dub Allstars. In addition, dub influenced some types of pop, including bands such as No Doubt. No Doubt's most recent album, Rock Steady [1], features an assortment of popular dub sounds like reverb and echoing. As noted by the band themselves, No Doubt is heavily influenced by Jamaican musical aesthetics and production techniques, even recording their Rock Steady [2] album in Kingston, Jamaica, and producing B-sides featuring dub influences on their "Everything In Time B-Sides" album. Some controversy still exists on whether pop-ska bands like No Doubt can regard themselves as a part of dub lineage. Other bands followed in the footsteps of No Doubt, fusing pop-ska and dub influences, such as Save Ferris and Vincent.

There are also some British rastafarian punk bands creating dub music. Capdown released their Civil Disobedients album, featuring the track Dub #1, while Sonic Boom Six and The King Blues take heavy rastafarian influences from dub, mixing the genre with original punk ethics and attitudes.

21st Century Dub in the Roots Tradition

Traditional dub has survived and some of the originators of dub such as Lee Perry and Mad Professor continue to produce new material. New artists continue to preserve the traditional dub sound, some with slight modifications but with a primary focus on reproducing the original characteristics of the sound in a live environment. Some of those artists include Dubblestandart from Vienna, Austria (who recorded the album "Return from Planet Dub" in collaboration with, and performs live with, Lee Scratch Perry), New York City artists including Ticklah, also known as Victor Axlrod and Victor Rice, Easy Star All-Stars, Subatomic Sound System(who have remixed material by Lee Scratch Perry and Ari Up), Dub is a Weapon, King Django, and Dr. Israel, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad from Rochester, NY, Heavyweight Dub Champion from San Francisco and Colorado, Future Pigeon from Los Angeles, German artists like Disrupt and Rootah from the Jahtari label, and Twilight Dub Circus from the Netherlands. More eclectic use of dub techniques are apparent in the work of BudNubac, which mixes Cuban bigband with dub techniques. Lee Perry and Mad Professor continue to produce new material. Modern dub producer Ryan "Party" Moore has received critical acclaim for his Twilight Circus project.

Heavyweight Dub Champion, has been headlining festivals in the United States and gaining recognition in Europe. Denver's Westword Magazine awarded their debut album, Survival Guide For The End Of Time, "Best Local Recording" for Colorado in 2003 and describes their style as "a shamanistic wall of hip hop dubtronica".[25] The band is a concept band and has pushed the envelope of the genre, although, according to the LA Weekly, "Their genius is the great virtue of 70's dub: never overdoing it."[26]

Dub and the Dubstep Movement

A recent evolution in dub is a genre of electronic music called dubstep. Dubstep's early roots are in the more experimental releases of UK garage producers, seeking to incorporate elements of dub reggae into the South London-based 2-step subgenre. Dubstep rhythms are usually syncopated, and often shuffled or incorporating triplets. The tempo usually falls around 70 beats per minute, though it is almost always produced in half time around 140. Dubstep rhythms typically do not follow the four-to-the-floor pattern common to many other styles of electronic dance music, but instead tend to skip beats and repeat sets of two bars rather than single bars.

Impact on Remixing

'Dub' has become a term for almost any musical piece that "Utilizes the remixing of prerecorded sound as a mode of artistic expression." Taking the separate entities of a musical track and remixing them into a completely new selection has become a popular process, and can be found in a variety of genres ranging anywhere from hip-hop remixes and mash-ups to metal.

See also


  1. ^ Jesus dub: theology, music and social change, p.1
  2. ^ a b Dub: soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae, p.2
  3. ^ A History of Rock Music: 1951-2000, p.120
  4. ^ Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press,2006 (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)
  5. ^ Larkin, Colin: "The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae", 1998, Virgin Books, ISBN 0-7535-0242-9
  6. ^ a b Dub: soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae, p.3
  7. ^ Dub: soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae, p.4
  8. ^ a b c d Dub: soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae, p.1
  9. ^ Living through pop, p.107
  10. ^ Discographies: dance music, culture and the politics of sound, p.79
  11. ^ Multi-Ethnic Britain 2000+: New Perspectives in Literature, Film and the Arts, p.263
  12. ^ a b Dub: soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae, p.62
  13. ^ Dub: soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae, p.61
  14. ^ Great Spirits: Portraits of Life-Changing World Music Artists, p.140
  15. ^ Dub, Scratch, and the Black Star, 21C, (24), 1997
  16. ^ a b Toop, David. "“Ocean of Sound"".  
  17. ^ Eshun, Kodwo. "“More Brilliant Than the Sun"".  
  18. ^ History of Dub
  19. ^ Dub: soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae
  20. ^ Cut 'n' mix: culture, identity, and Caribbean music , p.83
  21. ^ Dacks, David (2007). "“Dub Voyage"". Exclaim! Magazine. Retrieved 2007-09-18.  
  22. ^ a b c Dub: soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae, p.52
  23. ^ Caribbean popular music: an encyclopedia of reggae, mento, ska, rock steady, p.94
  24. ^ Dub: soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae, p.53
  25. ^
  26. ^

Further reading

  • Du Noyer, Paul (2003). "Dub". The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. New York City: Billboard Books. pp. 356–357. ISBN 0-8230-7869-8.  
  • Veal, Michael E. (2007). Dub: Songscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.
  • Cox and Warner, eds. Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. Continuum: 2004.[3] "Replicant: On Dub" by David Toop; Chapter 51, Pages 355-356.

External links

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