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IN THE JAMAICAN DANCEHALL  CHAPTER 1 – Is there an actual #1 Sound in Jamaica?

            Who is the actual number one sound system currently in Jamaica? Or, is the Dancehall public not bothered anymore?

            The original Dancehall culture as we know it seems a distant memory to many sound system enthusiasts. However, with a few international clashes still going on in various countries, it is evident that the culture is alive and well. But is there an actual number one sound in the country itself?

            Many of the sound systems entering these clashes overseas are not typically classified as a Jamaican sound system. Though it may be owned by Jamaicans with at least one Jamaican DJ playing for them, that doesn’t quite stipulate it being Jamaican. Hence, they can’t or shouldn’t be included in this discussion.

            Some followers from the earlier clashing days will argue that there is no number one sound system in Jamaica now for clashing or probably even stopped going out to hear the ones still active but based on their preferences from back in the days, they may say Bass Odyssey or Stone Love is still number one in their book. Apart from the annual, commercially inclined, corporate clashes like Boom All Star Sound Clash and Guinness Sounds Of Greatness, both held in Kingston, no other known clashes are really kept. Can we really use such competitions to determine the number one sound system in Jamaica?

            Let’s analyse this together. The last Guinness Sounds Of Greatness winner was No Limit from Clarendon in December 2016 against Heavy Weight, with the other two semifinalists being Fire Shane and Shadrock. Familiar with any of them? Then, in the recently concluded Boom All Star Sound Clash, held in May, saw a Japanese sound system, Yardbeat, defeat one of Jamaica’s top sound system, Bass Odyssey, in the finals. Still, think there is a number one sound system in Jamaica?

            Several entities are trying to keep this unique culture alive, like the Sumfest Heavyweight Clash occurring for the first time at this year’s staging of Reggae Sumfest. It will include the winners from both clashes plus invitees from New York, Soul Supreme, and Germany, Warrior Sound International. What if Soul Supreme or Warrior Sound wins? Will either of them be regarded as the number one sound system in Jamaica just because it is being held here in Montego Bay this July? Can’t be; they are not Jamaicans.

            Overseas, many clashes are held all over the world. The main events, like the Red Bull Culture Clash, held in London, barely has Jamaican sound systems entering each year. The only international sound clash with actual Jamaican sound systems competing is the Irish and Chin promoted World Clash in New York but it hasn’t been maintaining consistency recently with a two-year hiatus in 2014 and 2015. Their Rumble series consist of qualifying competitions in various countries, excluding Jamaica, which sees the winners vying against each other at World Clash in New York. It is then, it seems, a Jamaican sound system is invited to participate in hopes of winning the title. Waiting to hear of any announcement for a 2017 staging as the US Rumble, CA Rumble, UK Rumble and Euro Rumble have all concluded with the winners waiting for World Clash 2017.

            Many local supporters will have varying personal opinions of their own. Some will say Stone Love or Bass Odyssey is number one. The younger fans will say Coppershot or Chromatic, even though they are not known for clashing. Renaissance carried a buzz at a certain point, especially with the uptown crowd and in the corporate circles. Then there are the newer sets with Mixplosion, 007 Mobile Sound and Diamond League. Of course, there are the many top selectors over the years who have either gone on to have incredible solo careers like Tony Matterhorn, Sky Juice and Richie Feelings, or start their own sound systems like Ricky Trooper with Sound Trooper and Fire Links with his Fire Sound. Then there are the duos like Boom Boom & Harry Hype and Team Shella with Ikel Marvelous & Flabba Dabba; all of whom still have their clashing powers and are more than capable of entering any clash, and likely win, if the need arises.

            This article, as you may have noticed, is mainly concerned with those of the Kingston & St. Andrew areas, as well as the Portmore and Spanish Town regions of St. Catherine. Reason being, Kingston and these surrounding areas is the mecca of Dancehall culture and on the basis that most of the more recent clashing events are held by corporate Jamaica, which mainly consists of more “town” sound systems nowadays.

            However, as what was stated in a previous article, not many of this generation are necessarily concerned with clashes anymore, or interested in determining a number one sound system, as the older folks do. They prefer specific parties to attend and promoters tend to go for who is carrying the swing at the moment to pull a crowd. Basically, the Dancehall public really isn’t bothered by this anymore, but for the few who do, it is really just a matter of personal preference and not necessarily a general consensus of sorts. It is up to you to decide and therefore answer the question of who is the number one sound system, in your opinion, in Jamaica today.

            Weigh in your thoughts.

               Written by: Ms. Lesley Hayles

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