Journey to Realghettostoriez
Greetings fellow die-hard Sound System and Dancehall aficionados! I would like to share with you my musical journey of discovery from boy to adulthood and the inspiration behind my website.
I was born in London to a Jamaican father and Dominican (not the Dominican Republic) mother. My dad was an avid music fan and I grew up listening to most of the American and Caribbean music genres – Calypso, Compa, Reggae, Blues, Soul, RnB, Jazz with a bit of country and western thrown in once in a while! My dad possessed a huge catalogue of music and played the sounds on his pride and joy – the ultimate top of the range home sound system – a Realistic 10 band graphic an equalizer and amplifier, Techniques Turntable, and double deck Tape Recorder. An Uher Reel to Reel professional Recorder and two tall, black, awesome Heathkit speakers with a deep round bassline that rumbled like a genuine Sound System at our parties. That is where my love of music started, at home, my yard.
My first memory of taking an interest in a particular type of music was listening to Compa music, which hails from my mother’s birthplace, played by a very popular group called Gramax. When I grew out of them the late great Jimi Hendrix’s music caught my attention. I was blown away seeing a black man, dressed like a hippy, playing rock music using his teeth and tongue– very different from the norm! I was awestruck – I even started drawing pictures of him with his guitar – I was 8yrs old. But the best was yet to come.
It was my parents trip to Jamaica in the early 1980s that created and cemented my love for Sound Systems and Reggae. You see my dad brought back some albums and 45’s featuring artist like General Echo, Madoo, Barrington Levy and Errol Scorcher and I started to appreciate Dancehall Reggae Music. I just loved the vibrant sound coming through my father’s powerful Sound System, the way the Rhythms pounded my chest. I just wanted to hear more of these sounds so I tuned into London’s Capital Radio every Saturday night, to listen to David Rodigan’s Reggae show. At 9yrs old, supervised by my Parents, I listened to Rodigan’s late night show which showcased the best in Dancehall Reggae Music fresh from Jamaica. I used my pocket money to purchase TDK 90 or 60-minute tapes and recorded Rodigan’s show religiously on my father’s tape deck. Dancehall Reggae Music was exciting and more interesting to me especially artists like Jah Thomas, Ranking Toyan and Lone ranger. I took an interest in the Music wherever it took place.
Summertime weekends in London, during the 1980s, were marked by regular live Music events in local parks, came alive with artists performing all day. The atmosphere was electric – Music, Caribbean people, young and not so young, listening, dancing, as one. I remember hearing the guys live on the Mike DJing (better known as toasting at the time) and thinking wow so this is what artists do when they are not in the recording studio! The DJs brought to life the music I had lovingly recorded from the radio. The artist who ignited my love of Dancehall came on the scene with a blast.
King Yellow Man was my idol and I could say I was a true, official, Dancehall fan. Dancehall brought me closer to the Jamaican side of my Caribbean heritage and kept me closer to the culture. My very first Dancehall album was Mad Over Me by King Yellow Man, bought at Dub Vendor record store in West London. Over the years King Yellow Man albums kept coming, including the live albums featuring Ranking Toyan and a host of other Dancehall artists such as Peter Metro, Welton Irie, Johnny Ringo and Nicodemus toasting on the Popular Jamaican sound systems at the time such as Gemini, Aces Intl, King Sturgav, and Lees Unlimited.
In 1984, I spent 6 weeks in Jamaica during the school summer break. I was a mere 4 years old when I visited Jamaica for the first time. So returning to Jamaica at 10 years old was like a first visit as I remembered so little. I was so excited landing at Norman Manley airport, stepping out of the plane and feeling the heat and humidity, like a slap on the face, as the sun belted down mercilessly but the feeling of sheer joy of being in Jamaica was overwhelming and that never left me.
Jamaica the beautiful land, beautiful people, beautiful Reggae and Dancehall Music – her gift to the world, that I had grown up loving. It was apparent to me during my visit just how big the Sound System culture was. It was everywhere. On the streets, every lamp-post, every wall was covered with bright colourful posters advertising past and upcoming dances around the island. The killer sound at that time was Killamanjaro no doubt about it. Everywhere I looked there was a poster advertising a dance with killamanjaro headlining. I found this very interesting as prior to coming to Jamaica I had vaguely heard of killamanjaro and never actually heard their Music. Staying in Kingston I got a clear picture of who were the top artists on the island as I left London thinking it was all about Yellow Man. He ruled in London but in Jamaica speaking to the locals and hearing the Music on the radio or blaring out of cars and record stores: Brigadier Jerry, Josie Wales and Charlie Chaplin were just as hot and in many people’s eyes, hotter. I discovered artist unknown to me before such as the late great Early B and Super Cat who were also making an impact on the island DJing with the fabulously popular Killamanjaro sound.I was fortunate to be staying in Tavern the home of a big sound system called Black Star and its resident DJ Brigadier Jerry(artist) who coincidentally lived on the same avenue as my grandmother. I actually got to experience an hour of a real, raw Jamaican dance in the heart of the ghetto in its full integrity. Black Star was niceing up the local community in a tenement yard, a regular spot where Sound Systems played. Black Star had gigantic black Speakers which towered above me, dotted around the yard. The Sound System was heavy, with a monster Bassline that made my dad’s set sound like a whimpering baby. Danny Dread, Bruk Back, Tonto Irie passed the mike back and forth between them as they made lyrics on the spot riding the Dancehall instrumental rhythms while Smokey Joe the selector mixed them down. I recall the ladies there on the scene, the champion bubblers dressed in leather miniskirts, leather pants and polka dot frocks and wet Jerry Curl hairdos doing the latest dance moves – Horseman’s caddy, Rocking Dolly, and cool and deadly were the favourites. It was another memorable experience for me – raw Jamaican Dancehall Sound System Culture in its purest form, my first exposure to the culture at a young age. I returned to the UK but longing to return to Jamaica. I was absolutely mesmerised by its beauty and Culture. The memories of that visit and experiencing Jamaican Sound Systems in it birthplace stayed with me to this day.
I returned to London with my first ever Sound Tape from Jamaica, given to by a relative. Aces Int’l featuring Charlie Chaplin and King Yellow Man. To date, that Tape is still exclusive and never shared online. At that point my Sound Tape collecting began. I had them posted or brought over from Jamaica on my visits or I purchased them from mailing vendors in London. I remember my first ever Sound Tape I bought: killamanjaro in Cinema 2 featuring King Yellow Man, Super Cat, Early B and others. By the early ‘90s, my collection of Sound Tapes was huge. I had them all: Stereo One, King Jammys, Stone Love, Inner city, Metro media, Body Guard, Silver hawk, Bass odyssey, King addies. Unfortunately, I lost a few classics during the Sound Tape era which really drove me up the wall and I made a vow never to lend my tapes to anyone, only trade for trade. During the Sound Tape era, I hustled Sound Tapes for a period of time but due to pressing personal commitments I couldn’t take hustling Tapes seriously so I stopped. As we came into the noughties Sound Tapes were less popular due to the rise of the digital CD era. Collecting sound tapes became less frequent as the Music became less exciting. However, regardless of the change of environment and the decline in the quality of the music I still love it and remain in touch with Dancehall Sound System Culture. My website realghettostoriez.com is the testament to that fact.
I have been an ardent collector of Dancehall Sound Tapes from boyhood and has never lost its power to move me. In 2008, I realised that if I could build a website I would be able to share my love of Dancehall Music and Culture with the world. In summer 2009 whilst working for a graphics company. In conversation with one of the manager’s, he mentioned his intention to build websites using a user-friendly website building platform. That was just what I needed to start my project. After much hard work and despite setbacks, I built my website and called it dancehallbizniz.com. That’s how it all started. Unfortunately in 2011 culprits disrupted my website. They know who they are. It was a major setback because my website was flourishing on the net. I was very, very, disappointed. This setback made me stronger and determined to go forward. I rebuilt my website, this time using a more advanced platform. A major challenge was naming my new website. It was whilst I was brainstorming for a name that inspiration came from an old Stone Love Mixtape and Baby Chams big hit Real Ghetto Story, playing in the background. Got it! That’s the one! yep!! That’s the name I wanted, but I added a twist calling it realghettostoriez.
My catalogue of Sound System audio is myself expressing the history of Dancehall sound system culture from the 1980s to- date which started in the Jamaican ghettos, showing the transition from island music to the world and changes in the music over many years. So I confirmed realghettostoriez.com as the official new name of my website and was back online with a much stronger website with solid security. I started sharing my audio and my customers came back, happy to be back in action and since then there’s no stopping realghettostoriez.com. My site is growing in popularity and there’s much more to come.
So, to break it down and to confirm, realghettostoriez is a London based music blog portraying the Dancehall Reggae sound system culture and to provide its audience with the best of the genre from the legendary oldies to current, up and coming sound systems worldwide. Featured sound systems include the immortal Stone Love, Bass Odyssey, Rebel Squad, Killamanjaro, King Jammys, Nasheen Fire, Loveline Muzik, Slingerz and many more. Ultimately Realghettostoriez is a tribute to the creators of the mighty Jamaican Dancehall Reggae Sound Systems born in the impoverished ghettos of Kingston.