The Wondrous World of Kingston Dub Club
Article and photos By Marcus Bird
The first time I went to the Kingston ‘Dub Club’, it was with a few friends from the States who had heard about it through some other people staying in town for a few days. After turning off the top of Hope Road in Papine, we drove up a long, dark stretch of hill road unlit by streetlights for most of the journey, before parking and walking through a thick enclave of trees on a man-made path to get to the destination with the assistance of a flash light. This was exciting to say the least, because once you reach within fifty feet of the event hall, you can hear the music rumbling in the atmosphere.
Dub Club for me is like a step into a looking glass version of Kingston. In a country that is built on post-colonial ideologies, in day to day life there are many obvious class differences between people, relative to color or manner of speech. These things are called classism, and colorism, where by groups are demarcated by complexion and association, which high school one went to, which area one lives in and so forth. At the Dub Club, these lines blur significantly, as people from all walks of life, sit back, relax and enjoy the music in close proximity; drink to the beautiful backdrop of nighttime Kingston, or dance in step by an arrangement of massive speakers that have come to represent any significant Jamaican dance hall. Tonight I am driving to Dub Club alone, enjoying the crispness of the coming Christmas breeze, needing a reason to step outside of reality for a few hours. Unlike the first time I went, the road that was previously blocked has now been fixed, and I walk past a steady stream of cars leading to venue. I smile inwardly as I hear the music rumble in the distance, and the voice of resident selector Gabre Selassie echo to the universe, “I like it! Da one deh, do you like it? One more time!”
To me, Dub music is fuel, and that raw, resounding bassline layered on a hard set of vocals or beautifully crooned lyrics is one of Jamaica’s best gifts to the world. A person doesn’t need to speak English to be moved by the rhythms of Dub, nor does one need to know every song that plays. The resonance of the music is enough, and the masterful spinning of the DJs that hold residence up in the hills of Kingston week after week know how to keep and hold the crowd. But another thing about Dub Club is not just the mixed variety of whomever from society or abroad comes through, but also musicians. It is not uncommon to see the hottest acts in Jamaica, casually standing in a corner with their friends, puffing a spliff or sharing a drink. The is the real heart of Dub Club, because in a busy artistic world these people like me, step away from the mental deluge in a space where they can ‘ease off’ and relax. This is where Dub Club becomes its own little world, it’s own little island perched on a hillside with Kingston’s lights flashing far, far below.
After walking in tonight I see a significant crowd, and remember that they are having a concert. The likes of Chronixx and Jah9 draw large numbers, and i’m happy to be around the bodies of people at the ready and anticipating. Usually on a weekend like this, i’ll grab a drink and stand in a corner somewhere, drifting through the universe of my own mind, separated from it all by the rhythmic vibrations. But tonight I roam a little, taking pictures and capturing some of the mood. As immense talents like Mark Wonder and Max Romeo perform I see people like me, stepping into this reggae looking-glass, lost in time.
I’ve made better relationships with people from France, Italy, Germany and Japan here. It is a place where many of the people that work here in various occupations who are not Jamaican can take a breather, speak in their own language, and very few eyes will be watching them. As I’m walking back to the main deck, I see a Japanese fellow I know, Hiro. “Marcus! Me glad fi see you man! You came!” I laugh and shake his hand. It was last week he mentioned the concert to me, and I said i’d definitely be here. I chat a few words to his friends, which make them laugh, because it isn’t common for them to hear a Jamaican man speak Japanese. In addition to the steady influx of foreigners to this location, what I believe draws people here week after week is this reality of a place that hasn’t existed in this form in some time. Where both younger and older folks listen to real reggae for hours on end. The Dub Club, a place somewhere between this reality and the next.
I’m tired tonight, despite the speed with which I walk around and take pictures. A lot has been weighing on my spirit, and as usual, Dub Club gives me a recharge, a refuel. It is one of my spiritual gas stations where I buy only premium gas in the form of good music.
The night ends for me with Chronixx’s performance. After seeing him previously in Central park, performing to a crowd of thousands, I see no difference in his passion up here, to a crowd of a few hundred. I listen to the lyrics hang around for a while, and then leave the venue, all the while hearing that bass roar in my system, giving me a reason to come back next week to Dub Club, this place between places.
Marcus is the author of three novels, Naked As The Day (set in Tokyo), Sex Drugs & Jerk Chicken and Berlin Vanilla, all available on Amazon. If you liked this article please hit ‘recommend’ or please share the article.